I believe many couples asks themselves this question. Either when trying to decide if they should “try long distance” or just split up, during one of the many lonely nights away, or after months, sometimes years, of separation. Ultimately, everyone has to answer this question for themselves, but here are some points that helped me decide:
Before the separation
You have fallen in love – awesome! However, you will soon not be able to spend much time together. Maybe you met on a holiday or while studying abroad, maybe one or both of you are moving away soon to study or work in another town, another country, another continent. Either way, you know you will have to make sacrifices if you want to stay together. Is it worth it?
Before the separation, this question can be very easy to answer if you have known your significant other for a long time. Few people would leave their spouse of 20 years because he or she has to spend some months away. But what about the amazing guy or girl you met only two weeks ago?
- Duration: How long will you be separated? How many significant milestones will you have to master alone?
- Distance: Will you be able to see each other every weekend, every month, or at most once a year? Consider how much travelling you can afford in terms of time and money.
- Personality: Know yourself! Are you good at keeping in touch with people who are far away? Are you happy spending time by yourself, attending events alone etc.?
- Future: This is the hard one. How certain are you (and your partner) that you wo have a future together? If you are entering a long distance relationship “just to see”, you are puting yourself up for a lot of hardship.
If you believe your relationship is worth putting up with the struggle of a long distance relationship – and believe me, it is hard – then you will, after a very tearful goodbye, begin to try and make it work. However, there may come a point at which you doubt your initial decision.
During the separation
You set out with determination, but suddenly, things are a lot harder than you thought. You are exhausted from travelling, possibly broke, tired of spending time alone, missing your other half desperately, and no longer sure if they feel the same way about you as you do about them. Is it still worth it?
Be honest with yourself. Long distance relationships can make people misrable – mine certainly made me deeply unhappy more times than I can count. I repeat: it is hard! But when does difficult become too difficult?
- Alienation: Do you still feel close to your partner? Are you in touch with the person he or she is becoming, do you feel they are in touch with you? Distance can come between people metaphorically as well as literally.
- Happiness: Of course you are unhappy, you are missing your partner. But do you manage to enjoy some time without them, mee friend, do your own thing, or are you absolutely miserable?
- Jealousy: How are you dealing with the lack of control? Many people find that even if they were not previously very jealous, the uncertainty of a long distance relationship can drive them crazy.
If you can deal with all of these, you should be able to continue your long distance relationship. However, if you feel that you have reached a point where the situation has become untenable to you, it is time to do something about it.
Ending the separation
Long distance relationships end in two ways: You separate for good, or you (finally!) are able to be together every day (okay, maybe not every single day, but you wake up in the same bed most mornings). At this point, you are either going through heartbreak, or ecstatic that this days has finally come. Either way, you might be feeling any or all of the following:
- Resentment: Interestingly, no matter whether your relationship endured the distance or not, many resent the partner who caused the separation afterwards. To some extent, this is normal, of course you are angry o have had to go through something difficult, and some of that anger may be directed at your partner. However, if you resent them to the point where it damages your relationship, you should think about what made you choose a long distance relationship in the first place. If you have decided to split up with your long-distance partner (or they have left you), it can seem like all the pain was for nothing, but again, try to remember why you took the risk, and what you learned in the process.
- Anxiety: Especially if you have been long distance for a long time, you might be worried about what your relationship will be like now you are together again. Talk about your fears, it might take some readjusting but if you’ve made it this far, the worst is behind you! Be honest with yourself and give the relationship a chance, but don’t feel you need to hold on to it simply because you “have invested so much”.
- Loss: While long distance is difficult, it also comes with perks. Living together (again) also means you lose some privileges and freedom you might have gotten used to during the time you spent apart. Acknowledge these and allow yourself to grieve this loss. If you feel that your sense of loss is greater than the joy and excitement of finally being with your partner though, you might want to rethink.
For me, maintaining a long distance relationship with my now husband was worth it. We lived in different towns and different countries for the better part of a decade, but are now finally together for good. Some might think this crazy, but we knew very quickly that each other were “the one”, and that we were willing to do whatever it takes to be together. It has been tough at times, incredibly tough, but it was the right decision for us.