When you and your partner live in different cities — or even different countries — a lot of your energy as a couple will be devoted to maintaining your connection. You’ll send an abundance of texts, have standing FaceTime dates, and maybe mail each other a cute letter or two. But even when you do your best to stay in touch, there are a number of mistakes long-distance partners make that can lead to a breakup.
While any type of relationship takes work,
long-distance relationships require a little extra effort and dedication — and it has to come equally from both partners, says Boston-based psychotherapist Angela Ficken. Big issues, like not being on the same page about communication or boundaries, will definitely chip away at your connection. But small issues can have an impact, too.
Even though it’s tough, it is possible for long-distance relationships to thrive, says
Kalley Hartman, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist. If you notice any of the issues listed below, find time to chat — preferably on a video call — so you can talk it out as a duo. “It’s important to acknowledge these challenges and work together as a couple to address any issues that arise,” Hartman tells Bustle.
Here are some mistakes that people can make
in a long-distance relationship, according to experts. 1 You Don’t Have Any Relationship “Rules” Getty Images/Catherine Falls Commercial
Since long-distance relationships can lead to, well, distance, it helps to go in with a clear understanding of what your LDR will look like. In order to stay on the same page, “it's important to have open and honest conversations about what each partner wants and
needs from the relationship,” Ficken says.
That means ensuring you agree on boundaries, communication, and expectations. If you part ways without having agreed on the basics — like how often you’d both like to text or even the
status of the relationship — the resulting misunderstandings and frustrations can lead to a breakup. 2 You Make Assumptions Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill
Relationships that aren’t long-distance are a tad easier to navigate because you get to read body language, make eye contact, and get a sense of how your partner is feeling, and vice versa. Since that’s tougher to do in long-distance relationships, it sets the stage for assumptions, which in turn set the stage for a breakup.
That’s why, according to Hartman, it’s essential that you talk through misunderstandings ASAP before anyone has a chance to get the wrong idea. If you can do this on a video call, even better. Seeing each other while you chat lessens the chance of miscommunication — and it helps you feel closer.
3 You Let Other People’s Opinions Cause Doubt Getty Images/Henglein and Steets
“There are a lot of haters out there when it comes to long-distance relationships,” notes
Samantha Newton, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker and owner of The Therapist Suite PLLC. When you’re in one, chances are your friends and family will express doubts and worries.
According to Newton, they might suggest you date someone who lives closer or express worry that your partner will cheat. And before you know it, you’ll start to feel like they’ve got a point. While it doesn’t hurt to hear them out, these concerns are often more about them than you.
“Be cautious about who you open up to about your relationships and do not allow their personal relationship preferences to place doubt in your mind about your own,” Newton says. If your relationship is happy and strong, that’s all that matters.
4 You Don’t Have A Visit Planned
Not knowing when you're going to see each other again can be really challenging, says
Erin Dierickx, LMFTA, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Erin D Therapy. It can heighten feelings of loneliness, distrust, and doubt — and it’s also just kind of a bummer.
“If at all possible, schedule when you'll see each other next,” Dierickx tells Bustle. “Even if it's months out, having a set date provides hope for the relationship and lessens the discouragement and fear around what may happen in the coming months due to not knowing when you'll see each other next.”
5 You Forget To Schedule Dates
Scheduling date nights is just as important in an LDR as it is in person, so don’t let too many Friday nights go by without doing something fun. Think
HBO watch parties, FaceTime dinner dates, or a long walk while you chat about your week.
"We become closer to others through spending time with them and a great way to do this is through some kind of activity,"
Dr. Alisha Powell, Ph.D., LCSW, a therapist and licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle. "Long distance makes it more challenging, but watching movies, having dinner together, or video chatting while doing the same activity can increase emotional intimacy.” 6 You Miss The Red Flags Red flags are a little easier to miss in long-distance relationships. When you’re in person, you can kind of tell when someone’s pulling away or when you need more communication. But it’s a lot tougher to detect when you’re already miles apart.
They’re also easy to brush off as a side effect of distance, so don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s OK that you don’t text or talk about the future or hang out. “It’s important to pay attention to
warning signs that the relationship is not going well, such as a lack of communication, too much distance, or a decrease in quality time,” Hartman says.
If the relationship is worthwhile, you’ll both be willing to find ways to get back on track.
7 Not Making Time For Intimacy
When was the last time you had
phone sex? If it’s been a minute, it might be time to send a frisky text or two. According to Adina Mahalli, MSW, a certified relationship expert and mental health consultant, this is a fun way to feel closer than you actually are. "Intimacy will be heavily lacking without being in close proximity to one another, so setting time aside to have a ‘date night’ is vital for the relationship," she tells Bustle. Even though you can't physically touch, you can form a strong virtual connection.
If this is something that feels awkward for you and your partner, maybe try starting out via text message, and then working up to more intimate methods like phone and video.
8 You Neglect Your Own Lives
Too much of a good thing can sometimes be a problem. For example, if you're both working hard to create a healthy relationship, it can get to the point where most of your time is spent thinking about each other. While that’s adorable, you need to take care of yourselves, as well as your partnership, in order for it to last.
As Powell says, “It’s important for both partners to have their own lives so that they won’t end up resenting each other." It’s totally OK to put your phone down, take a breather, see friends, or spend some time alone.
9 You Only Talk About Important Things Getty Images/Morsa Images
"Staying open and communicating regularly is very important in a long-distance relationship," Mahalli says. But in addition to the frequency that you connect, the actual things you talk about are important, too. In other words, not everything has to be big and heavy or related to your relationship. In fact, it shouldn’t be.
"Speaking about trivial things that happened during the day is equally important for maintaining a healthy long-distance relationship," she says. Think about it: if you lived with your partner or saw them often, you’d probably share work stories and dumb jokes, and you’d talk about the weather or a dog you saw. These everyday comments are what make a relationship fun — and they build a lasting connection.
Sources: Angela Ficken, psychotherapist Kalley Hartman, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist Samantha Newton, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker Erin Dierickx, LMFTA, licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Alisha Powell, Ph.D., LCSW, therapist and licensed clinical social worker Adina Mahalli, MSW, certified relationship expert, mental health consultant
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This article was originally published on
Aug. 29, 2019