Is My Long-Distance Relationship Working? How To Know It's Time To Break Up, According To Experts

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Making a long-distance relationship work isn't easy, whether you live five or 500 miles away. If you're social distancing right now, and unable to see your partner for the foreseeable future, you'll want to go into an LDR with a positive mental attitude — but you also have to be realistic.

"Rule number one for making a long-distance relationship work is believing that it's the right answer," relationship coach and founder of Maze of Love, Chris Armstrong, tells Bustle. "As simple as that sounds, the number one killer of long-distance relationships is skepticism. Couples who 'try it' but do not have a lot of confidence in them will turn any snag in the relationship to a rationale for having the skepticism and thus the relationship is always going to be one foot out the door."

You need to think it's going to work — you need to believe it. But how do you balance that with being realistic when things just aren't clicking. Because the truth is, like any relationship, sometimes you just need to let a long-distance relationship go. But how do you know? It's tougher than in a lot of relationships, because you want to think you just need some time together and it'll all work out. But more often than not, you need to be more honest with yourself.

1. They're Not Helping Make It Work

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Relationships always need to go both ways, but especially in long-distance relationships where it's easy to feel isolated. “I think, in any relationship, if I don’t feel honored and made important or prioritized by my partner, that’s not going to be a long-lasting relationship where I get my needs met,” Jeffrey Sumber, MA, MTS, LCPC tells Bustle. “Whether it’s a relationship with your partner living under the same roof or a long-distance one, we all need basic needs met and need to feel special and valued.” They have to be helping make it work.

2. You Feel Far Away

Long-distance is a lot easier if you get the weekend together on a regularly basis. But if you can't stand being physically apart while self-isolating, be honest about how that feels. "You need physical touch," Anita Chlipala, author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love, tells Bustle. "If physical affection is one of your top needs, you risk feeling more unloved without your partner being consistently physically present. You also risk not feeling as satisfied in a relationship without a top need being met." Since there's no way to be in the same place, and the relationship isn't giving you what you need, it may not be working.

3. You Don't Have A Strong Foundation

Sometimes, relationships just aren't as strong as we thought they were. And this can be true in long-distance as much as anything else. "Relationships that already have a solid foundation have a greater likelihood to weather distance and time," Monica Parikh, a dating and relationships coach, tells Bustle. And if you see your relationship isn't that healthy, it's going to make it impossible.

4. It's Eating Up Your Life

Are you spending too many evenings waiting for a Facetime or Zoom that never comes? Compulsively checking Whatsapp? Be honest with how much time this is eating up and how it affects your wellbeing. "Our culture has become one driven towards romantic relationships," Parikh says. "I suggest making your own life your first priority. Develop hobbies, interests and friendships that help you grow into your best self." If you don't have room for that, something's gone wrong.

5. You're Staying For The Wrong Reason

Because we commit to trying long-distance and really believe it, it can be so hard to break it off — it can feel like giving up or not fulfilling a pledge. You knew it would be hard and you agreed anyway, so you have to stick it out— right? But if you're only staying out of stubbornness, it's not enough.

6. You're Not Working On Intimacy

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Just because you've been apart for some time does not mean you can't engage in sexual intimacy. As Carolina Pataky, relationship therapist and co-founder of the Love Discovery Institute, tells Bustle, "Consider headphones, toys, or look into the slew of new virtual sex toys with remote stimulation that are specifically designed to help long-distance relationships engage and broaden their sexual horizons." If you're not putting any effort into your sex life, you run the risk of letting the spark in your relationship die out.

7. Your Communication Is Inconsistent

If your relationship is going to work, Todd Baratz, licensed couples therapist, tells Bustle that it's important to pay attention to specific behavioral signs, like the frequency and consistency of communication. It's hard to feel truly safe and secure in your relationship if your partner is quickly responding to your messages one week, and then going days without responding the next. You don't have to be in contact every single second, but there has to be some consistency. Also, if you've reached a point where you're doing all of the initiating, it may be time to have a talk with your partner about how they're feeling.

8. You're Having Trouble Seeing A Future

Being in a long-distance situation can really test the level of commitment in a relationship. While it's important to look forward to the end of the social distancing, it's also important to look beyond that. Do you see an actual future with them? As Kevin Darné, relationship expert and author of My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany), says, "If you're in a relationship where all that concerns you is right now, there's a good chance it won't be lifetime relationship. There is no 'neutral' here."

9. You're Not Having Meaningful Conversations

It doesn't matter how long you've been together: There's always something new for you to learn about your partner, it just comes down to asking thoughtful questions. "Couples who are mindful of breaking the script away from 'How was your day?' and not limiting their conversations to daily updates are the ones who maintain closeness over long periods of time," Sam Laliberte, relationship expert and co-author of The #LDR Activity Book, tells Bustle. Use the distance to initiate more meaningful conversations.

10. Your Relationship Isn't Bringing Out The Best In You

Not everyone can handle distance in a relationship because it can trigger insecurities. As Isabella Duarte Beham, matchmaker and love coach, tells Bustle, "Usually, our triggers in relationships come from trauma or pain we experienced as children and might signal old wounds that need to be healed." If your relationship leading to unnecessary fights, jealousy, or controlling behavior, bringing negativity into your life, it may be time to think about whether this is really the right situation for you.

11. Trying To Stay In Contact Regularly Feels Like A Chore

Communicating regularly with your partner is key to making your relationship work. If you find that your weekly FaceTime dates are no longer exciting, or that texting them back feels more like a chore, you may be checking out. "A long-distance relationship is a relationship after all, therefore, most of the same rules apply," Baratz says. "If you don't look forward to talking with them, it’s likely that you're no longer connected."

12. You're Feeling Too Tempted

Parikh says couples in LDRs need to ask themselves, "Is each person able to control issues of jealousy, anger, and resentment, especially as the other person builds new friendships and relationships in their new home?"

Unless you've agreed to an open relationship or you're poly, an impulse to act on a wandering eye can be a sign that your relationship isn't working. If you feel really tempted to cheat — emotionally or physically — it may be time to throw in the towel.

Put plainly: Being away from your partner is hard. But if you're honest with yourself about the state of your relationship and if your needs are being met, you won't stay because you feel like you should — you'll stay because you're both happy.

Sources:

Chris Armstrong, relationship coach and founder of Maze of Love

Jeffrey Sumber, psychotherapist and relationship coach

Anita Chlipala, LMFT, author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love

Monica Parikh, a dating and relationships coach

Todd Baratz, sex and relationship therapist

Dr. Carolina Pataky, relationship therapist and co-founder of the Love Discovery Institute

Kevin Darné, relationship expert and author of My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany)

Isabella Duarte Beham, matchmaker and love coach

Sam Laliberte, relationship expert and co-author of The #LDR Activity Book

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