The concept of “the one” has defined our romantic expectations for a long time. And it inherently entails that the person who you’re supposed to be with can be anywhere in the world.
That’s why, even before the internet, long-distance relationships existed.
People used to mail letters back and forth. And before that, carrier pigeons were used by royalty to communicate their feelings to prospective partners across the oceans.
While such relationships have existed since recorded history, they’ve been quite rare compared to their prominence today, thanks to the internet.
Interestingly, the ease of communication that’s supposed to make a long-distance relationship work is ineffective, and such relationships are falling apart more than ever.
In this post, I will analyze the possible reasons for this.
Long-Distance Relationships: What to Expect
Before forming judgments on how long-distance relationships are different, let’s look at them as regular relationships.
The factor that destroys most relationships is a mismatch of expectations. When two people expect two entirely different things and can’t fulfill their respective partners’ expectations, there is resentment.
And resentment is the number one predictor of divorce, according to Dr. Gottman. Since more people who get into their first long-distance relationship have had a close-proximity relationship or have witnessed one, they set their expectations based on what they have witnessed or experienced.
If you can adjust your expectations before going into the long-distance relationship realm, you can save your relationship.
Here are the challenges you can expect in a long-distance relationship.
When you date someone who lives in a different timezone, staying in touch with them can be difficult. You might hit an important milestone and need your partner to celebrate with you.
But just as you pull out your phone, you realize that your partner is sleeping because it is 3 a.m. where they are.
Similarly, you might find out that your boyfriend or girlfriend was having an emotional breakdown while you were asleep because it was 3 am on your side.
The timezone mismatch can cause indirect anger and resentment. You’re mad at the situation, but that anger can seep into the relationship.
The Solution: Most people try to force two different time zones to coexist. And this can take a toll on their day-to-day lives. You have to accept the limitations of the different time zones. Imagine trying to force a dog to fly.
If you genuinely expect the dog to fly, you’ll get frustrated at yours not flying. Moreover, you’ll fail at making him fly no matter how hard you try.
That’s because dogs’ inability to fly naturally is a fact that cannot be changed. Unfortunately, we assume that the timezone mismatch is somehow malleable.
You cannot expect the same degree of real-time communication as people in the same time zone. Don’t expect it from your partner, and don’t expect it from yourself.
Having Nothing to Talk About
Take a moment to observe any couple you hang out with. It could even be your own parents.
What percentage of the time are they actively talking? An average person spends 30% of their time speaking.
Even if all of it is spent talking to their spouse, they spend only 30% of their waking time doing so. For a live-in couple staying at home all day, silent company makes up 70% of their waking hours.
It is nearly impossible to have silent company in a long-distance relationship. How do long-distance couples get around the need for company? They try to replace it with texting or talking.
Forcing what we do naturally only 30% of the time to be done 100% of the time creates an undue burden of having something to say.
And after a while, we ran out of things to talk about.
The solution: you might have silent zoom sessions that feature no expectation of talking. Both you and your significant other can have the option if you really have something to say. But otherwise, you can just be silent.
There are products like the BOND TOUCH Pair of Bracelets that help people in long-distance relationships communicate with each other without speaking.
These, or touch lamps, can be used to help you feel closer to and in the company of the person you love without forcing them to come up with something interesting to say.
Lack of an End Date
Stoic philosopher Seneca once said, “We suffer more in our imagination than in reality.” It is a human proclivity to assume sameness.
That is why you find people investing in fads. We multiply the present with forever and assume the result to be our reality.
A long-distance relationship is limited in many ways, but if you assume that it will remain a long-distance relationship forever, you will get more frustrated.
In some instances, you might take this anger out on your partner. Another Seneca quote comes to mind here: “He who suffers before it is necessary suffers more than is necessary.”
The Solution: You must stop multiplying the present with perpetuity. Even if there is no end date after which you’ll be physically next to your partner, you cannot assume that you will both live your entire lives physically apart.
Instead, you can focus on small milestones that make a life together far more possible.
For that, you need to have a couple’s talk and discuss which country has more opportunities, is easier to assimilate for the other party, and will require less effort. You can work out a plan and keep track of your progress.
This can help you feel like you’re moving forward even though you experience the same limitations in your daily romantic life.
Is It Possible for Long-Distance Relationships to Last?
Long relationships don’t need to last forever. They need to last long enough until they become close-proximity relationships.
Some people believe that if their partner loves them more than they love the place they are in, then the relationship will transform into close proximity.
Long-distance relationships can last long enough to become live-in relationships, and many people have made it happen.
In fact, the United States has an entire visa category (the K-1 visa) reserved for when such relationships turn into engagements.
But for that to happen, one has to slowly build the kind of deep connection that can make one of the partners uproot their lives to build a new one. The burden of this move is so high that often neither partner is willing to make it.
This is a painful position to be in because the partners love each other but are unable to make the steep sacrifice required.
Why Do Long-Distance Relationships Not Work?
Most close-proximity couples you know would not have thrown away their whole career and local friendships to be with each other.
They were really fortunate not to get their love tested by the burden of starting from scratch.
People have to love their partners far more than the average married couple before they can make it work as a long-distance couple. And ironically, building that type of bond is difficult with someone through online communication alone.
While that sums up why long-distance relationships don’t work, let’s explore individual reasons that make remote relationships fall apart.
Depth of Bond Is Hard
It is very difficult to establish a depth of bond via communication channels that thrive on superficiality. Let’s take the example of a very close friend. Think about someone you were close to and are currently friends with on Facebook.
What is the depth of your communication with them on social media? It is impossible to have a deep discourse on social media because the platforms are meant to keep you on the feed scrolling and giving impressions to advertisers.
Repetitiveness and Boredom
Just look up “boyfriend surprises girlfriend” or “girlfriend surprises boyfriend” on YouTube. How many videos involve an idea that is possible only through close proximity?
According to an analysis of the top 100 results, 97% of the ideas required close proximity, leaving behind different iterations of ordering your significant other a gift or takeout remotely.
Because long-distance partners talk and, in doing so, run out of things to talk about, they can get bored with their monotonous relationship.
Lack of Trust
The final nail in the coffin of a long-distance relationship is the lack of trust that comes with not having a depth of bond.
This can be because of one’s natural trust issues or could be because of the relationship being a long-distance one.
But when the partners are far apart, they don’t have the necessary intimacy to overcome trust issues.
Every challenge feeds into this. For instance, when you’re bored of Smalltalk over Facebook Messages or Telegram, you might find a compliment from a beautiful person more exciting.
This will trigger guilt followed by projection and suspicion regarding your partner’s faithfulness.
What Can You Do to Make a Long-Distance Relationship Work?
While these three things can tear your relationship apart, none of them is without a solution.
As long as you can adjust your expectations and stop forcing the long-distance relationship to do the same things for you that a close-proximity relationship does for the people around you, your relationship has a good chance of surviving.
Here are the three ways you can combat the challenges of remote romance.
Use Absence Strategically
A long-distance relationship has its weaknesses, but it also has its strengths. You might have heard the saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Did I make that up? Hmm…
Unfortunately, long-distance couples let go of this in exchange for a superficial imitation of surface-level communication online.
Since you cannot entirely replace the intimacy of silent companionship, you should avoid using text messages to stay “constantly in touch.”
The breaks filled with complete absence are what will make you look forward to talking to each other whenever you make more time mutually.
Plan Out the Excitement
This might sound like an oxymoron, but, again, you can use the long-distance in your favor.
It is hard to plan a surprise when you are with someone. But if you are dating them from a distance, you can keep them guessing as to what the next surprise will be.
Leave your feedback if you would like a post on different ideas to surprise your boyfriend or girlfriend abroad.
Finally, you need to set things up for trust to be easy. The lack of personal companionship can make deep trust difficult.
Having a friend who can talk you out of assuming the worst-case scenario is one of the most effective ways to inspire trust.
Another is to start small in your life outside of the relationship. Try giving people the benefit of the doubt in low-stakes environments.
Once you build a habit of giving strangers the benefit of the doubt, you’ll be more open to trusting someone you have any degree of romantic bond with.
Get on the Same Page
Finally, you need to make sure your partner knows where you are coming from. If you have a completely different approach to long-distance dating while they are still trying to force the relationship to be an imitation of a close-proximity relationship, there will be more conflict.
You can avoid conflict by simply sharing this post with your partner.
As long as you both know how to approach the relationship, you can put in effort from both sides. As a result, the conflict is minimized, and you can remain mindful of the nature of your relationship and the weaknesses of the medium it is in.
Long-distance relationships have strengths in the form of absence and room to plot excitement, yet these are overlooked in favor of shallow, surface-level communication via texting.
Remote dating doesn’t yield a lasting relationship because long-distance partners try to imitate a close-proximity relationship instead of leaning into the strengths of being in a long-distance relationship.