common sticking points in long distance relationships

3 Common Sticking Points in Long Distance Relationships, And How to Talk About Them

Guest Advice, Communication & Conflict Leave a Comment

Myth: Long distance relationships are doomed to fail.
Fact: Long distance relationships are no more doomed to fail than any other relationship.

This may come as a surprise to many, but the stats show that long distance relationships generally end for the same reasons normal relationships do. Does this mean that they’re just as easy to maintain?


Long distance relationships present a unique set of issues. If a couple wants to succeed, they have their work cut out for them. However, with strong communication and a willingness from both sides to put effort in and make it work, long distance relationships can be successful.

Three Things That Can Sink A Long Distance Relationship

When it comes to long distance relationships, there are three things that can have the greatest influence on whether that relationship will succeed or fail. If each of these issues are acknowledged, discussed, and actively worked on, a long distance couple has a great chance of success.

1. Miscommunication

Anyone who reads my articles won’t be surprised to find communication at the top of the list. Without strong communication, any relationship is setting itself up for failure. This is doubly true in a long distance relationship.

First of all, humans do a lot of effective communication through the use of their entire bodies. We hear tones, watch facial expressions; we sympathize with a sad story through the touch of a hand or a hug. When limited just to verbal communication, a lot can be lost.

Webcams can do a lot to help with this, as they allow for facial expression and useful conversational cues using body language. However, when you’re separate from one another, you generally don’t have the chance for regular, uninterrupted and relaxed conversations. You don’t have the opportunity to chime in with a thought, or to be bothered by something and then naturally strike up a conversation about it.

Real-time interaction helps vent frustrations and ease anxiety. In a long distance relationship, communication often has some barriers built in. Across distance it’s easy to miss (or misinterpret) the subtle nuances that characterize deep connections. And conversations—especially when you live in vastly different time zones–must often be planned and timed.

The breaks in between these sort of periodic and scheduled connections give time for doubts and fears to set in, and it may be hours or days before you get a chance to talk and resolve these feelings of insecurity. In the meantime, questions and doubts can form more questions and doubts. Then, what began as low-level insecurity and apprehension may have been transformed into an empty pit of fear, jealousy, and perhaps even hostility.

When this happens, it’s important to have open, honest conversations about this dynamic. Don’t hold back for fear of upsetting your partner or looking silly. Don’t keep secrets, no matter the good intentions. When there are doubts in your mind, talking about the weather for an hour is worthless when compared to five minutes of solid, healthy conversation.

In your current relationship, are you keeping concerns to yourself and making assumptions?

Are you really listening to and understanding your partner’s needs?

2. Disappointment from Unmet Expectations

When you are in a long distance relationship, you spend less time with your partner and more time with your own thoughts. This can create an unrealistic version of the person you’re dating. Then, when they let you down by not living up to your imagined version, it can cause more doubt about the relationship.

Are you expectations for your partner realistic? How do you know? How are you helping your partner obtain an accurate picture of you?

Unrealistic expectations is the relationship killer in this case, not merely the distance. Realizing that your partner is a person, flawed and imperfect, just like you, is a big step in the right direction.

More specifically, really work to maintain realistic goals and expectations for your partner and for yourselves as a team. Acknowledge things about your long distance partner that frustrate you (especially things that may frustrate you more in-person than they do over distance). Also, fairly early in your relationship consider explicitly discussing where is the relationship may be going? Asking and answering questions about what you are looking to get out of the relationship and whether you would ever consider relocating if the relationship became more serious can save you a lot of time and heartache in the long run. When the expectations from both sides are clear, disappointment is easier to avoid.

Are you finding yourself constantly disappointed in your partner? On the other hand, do you float through your days in a dreamy haze, thinking of your partner as perfect? Maybe you need to take a look at your expectations for them to see if they are realistic or if you’re expecting more from your partner than they can give.

When was the last time your were frustrated with your partner? Were your expectations for them clear to your partner or perhaps, were they unaware of your expectations for them?

3. Lacking Necessary Physical Interaction

Physical intimacy is a distinguishing factor in romantic relationships. This aspect is often the greatest difference between the relationship you have with your partner and the friendship you have with anyone else. Whether it’s holding hands, play wrestling, showing affection with back scratches, or just touching your partner when they say something funny, physical touch is a major catalyst in building a bond with your significant other. Hugging, kissing, and other forms of increasingly sexual intimacy build deep connections with your partner.

For many couples, physical intimacy is an integral part of their relationship and one of the biggest frustrations they have with being long distance. If this is your situation, consider getting a bit more creative as you explore your options. Have a look at this article for a detailed discussion of the risks and potential benefits of online sexual contact. And, remember, just as with actual physical intimacy, when trying to work out how to be intimate with one another over a long distance it’s important to communicate well and respect one anothers comfort levels.

How frustrating do you find the physical constraints imposed by being in a long distance relationship? Would you like to explore creative ways to increase your physical intimacy online? Why or why not?

How does being in a long distance relationship influence your physical relationship when you are able to spend time together?

Be Open & Honest

Talk to your partner. Set relationship goals. Plan visits to help alleviate the lack of physical interaction. Most importantly, however, you must be honest and transparent with one another. In a long distance relationship it can be too tempting to sugarcoat because you want to spare each others feelings or impress each other. Remember, however, that to be really close you must be honest.

Your turn: What is one sticking point your own long distance relationship has faced?

What are some ways you’ve found that help you feel closer to your partner?

About the author
Tyler Jacobson is a father, husband, and freelancer, with experience in writing and outreach for parent and organizations that help troubled teen girls. Tyler has offered humor and research backed advice to readers on parenting tactics, problems in education, issues with social media, mental disorders, addiction, and troublesome issues raising teens. Connect with Tyler on: Twitter | Linkedin

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