For some couples in long-distance relationships, the miles between them are insignificant. The extra space and freedom might feel refreshing. For others, distance is a breeding ground for resentment and trust issues. Below, Dr. Niloo Dardashti, a New York–based psychologist and relationship expert, shares how to determine which of the two groups you fall into. First, she outlines how to know if you’re ready for a long-distance relationship. Then, she has advice for making it work. Read along for her words of wisdom.
How do I know if I’m ready for long-distance?
Long-distance relationships take a lot of effort, and if both parties aren’t devoted to doing whatever it takes to make it work, the extra effort required to keep up the relationship may be a waste of time and energy. How much do you really feel like your partner is someone you can commit to? On the flip side, how much do you feel like this is someone who can commit to you?
It’s also important to think about how much you trust your partner. “Trust issues get in the way a lot more with long-distance relationships than relationships that aren’t long-distance, because now your imagination is getting involved,” Dr. Dardashti warns. She explains that without the comfort of a partner’s physical presence, it’s easier for a person’s mind to wander and get frustrated with questions like, “What’s he doing all these weekends when he’s alone?” or “What is she doing tonight, if she hasn’t texted me back yet?” Do you trust your partner enough to be able to ward off those anxious thoughts?
Finally, be realistic about your expectations in terms of how often you’ll see each other. Dr. Dardashti tells us that while some people are fine without seeing their partners for long stretches of time, “other people need the physical contact to feel like they are connected.” Figure out how often you’d like to see your partner in an ideal world, then decide how realistic that is, given your finances and schedule. You could both really want the relationship to work, but Dr. Dardashti says that if you’re honest with yourself and know you need to see a partner more often than you can afford to, long-distance may not be the best option.
Okay, I’m ready. Now, how do I make long-distance work?
Once you’ve decided to go forward with your long-distance relationship, your first order of business as a couple should be to agree upon how frequently you’ll be visiting each other. “Are you only going to see each other once every couple months, or are you seeing each other once every couple weeks or so?” Dr. Dardashti advises thinking about whether each option will be enough for you.
After you’ve agreed upon that, the key to making your relationship work is communication. “You don’t have much to lose if you have consistent, clear communication about what’s going on and how you’re both feeling,” she explains. In particular, she highlights the importance of being able to talk about it “if one or both of you start to feel like [something] is not working, instead of just shutting down or acting out in some way to sabotage the relationship or push the other person away.”
Ultimately, Dr. Dardashti stresses the importance of both parties really making an effort to make the relationship work. “It really depends on the relationship. Does [it seem like the] other person is trying? If there is stagnation, I would say after a couple months, you should really rethink it. But if both people are trying to make it work and they are dealing with a few hiccups along the way, then it’s up to them to assess and reassess consistently how things are going.”