Should I End My Long-Distance Relationship?

Can you live apart forever? A therapist weighs in.
Willie B. Thomas via Getty Images

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Being in a long-distance relationship is not for the faint-hearted. You can often go weeks, months or even years without seeing each other. Maintaining a connection with someone who lives miles away requires a lot of effort, time and consistency. Which is why one of our readers isn’t sure whether she should stay with her partner or call it quits.

Shakira writes in saying: “My boyfriend says he’s unsure about our future and thinks we don’t have [much in] common.

“We have been in a long-distance relationship for three years and haven’t seen each other for two years due to Covid. We finally met this year for three months and we had to separate again for more than three months because of [the] Covid situation, and now he told me he has serious doubts about us.”

So, should Shakira try to make it work?

Psychotherapeutic counsellor Kimberly Tomlinson tells HuffPost UK that “long-distance relationships are hard because proximity can play a part in how we feel about someone or how close we feel to our partner”.

She shares the following advice for Shakira and anyone facing a similar dilemma.

How can we successfully navigate a long-distance relationship?

“Intimacy is important,” says Tomlinson. “And I don’t mean sexual intimacy, because distance makes that hard, but intimacy however it comes is a way for us to feel close to our partner.”

Because of this, she recommends that anyone in a long-distance relationship asks themselves: what other forms of intimacy can we introduce into our relationship?

Part of this comes down to reframing the ‘time’ you spend together.

“Arranging time to spend with each is a must, but that time needs to be genuine,” says Tomlinson.

“Not just being on the phone together while you crack on with your day (which is fine), but putting aside time to reconnect or connect, deepen the relationship, listen and learn about your partner - no matter how much you think you know about them - and state your needs or remind your partner of your needs, because communication is going to be more important than ever.”

Should all long-distance relationships have a clear plan in place?

Tomlinson says: “Not necessarily, but I think it can depend on if the relationship started as long-distance or it became long-distance post getting together, in addition to whether or not both of your end goals align.”

If settling down and living with your partner is important to you or high up on the priority list, then this is something that should be communicated so that both parties know the direction they would like the relationship to go in.

“Knowing this also allows the person to make an informed decision,” adds Tomlinson. “But people can change their minds, so even though they may agree in beginning, circumstances could arise whereby they’d like to continue living apart so it’s about evaluating the importance of that for you.”

When do we know when it’s time to end a long-distance relationship?

“When the things you require from a relationship are no longer present in your relationship,” Tomlinson says.

“If maintaining the relationship feels more like a chore and you having to take time out of your day to speak to that person brings up negative emotions for you.”

She continues: “When the relationship that you started in and the relationship that you’re currently in isn’t the same and the changes have been negative, not positive. If you feel like you’re no longer a priority or important to that person or like there is no space in their life for you and most importantly if you bring all of this up to your partner and nothing changes then it may be time to end the relationship.

“All you can do is try your best and whatever isn’t working you communicate but it’s a two-way street so it requires both of you to actively try and maintain the relationship so if that’s not happening or it’s feeling one-sided then walking away may be best.”

Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.

Rebecca Zisser/HuffPost UK