Without the benefit of face-to-face time together, long-distance couples may find it harder to discern where the relationship stands.
When most of your communication happens via text, phone or video chat — and especially if you’re living in different time zones — it’s not unusual to feel out of sync at times. But is that feeling a temporary blip or a sign that you’re just not on the same page anymore?
We asked couples therapists to share the signs that it might be time to reevaluate your LDR.
1. Talking to your partner feels like a chore rather than something you look forward to.
It’s normal to have a day here and there when you’re not in the mood to chat — maybe you’re exhausted, swamped with work or have other plans. But if catching up with your partner starts feeling like yet another item on your to-do list instead of a bright spot in your day, then it might indicate the LDR isn’t working anymore.
“If you find yourself consistently going to a friend, co-worker or someone else to bounce ideas off of, get support or just chit-chat, and notice communication with your partner dwindling, it may be a sign to rethink how things are going,” couples therapist Jenna Peterson of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching in Broomfield, Colorado, told HuffPost.
2. Or your partner isn’t available to talk when they say they’ll be.
Long-distance pairs have to work extra hard to stay in sync. When you’re not seeing each other in person for months at a time, phone calls and video chats are your only opportunities to connect. Occasionally rescheduling is not a big deal; sometimes things pop up. But if bailing on your phone dates turns into a pattern, it’s worth bringing up your frustrations with your partner.
“Whether you live half a world apart or only a few hours away, you should make consistent effort to remain connected on a regular basis,” said Los Angeles sex therapist Nazanin Moali, host of the podcast “Sexology.” “If you find yourself sitting by the phone for hours or feeling that you must compete to get your partner’s attention, it might be time for you to voice your concern. If your partner does not prioritize the relationship, it might be time for you to move on.”
3. Your partner is always keeping tabs on you.
There’s a stark difference between checking in with you periodically to see what you’re up to and texting you all the time to ask who you’re with and what you’re doing. Questions that border on interrogation can be an indicator of jealousy, insecurity or even toxic controlling behavior.
“Being in an LDR requires a lot of trust. There also has to be an understanding that you each have to lead your own separate lives, which includes going out after work for drinks with co-workers and having lunch with a friend,” said Los Angeles marriage and family therapist Caroline Madden, author of “Fool Me Once: Should I Take Back My Cheating Husband?” “Any sort of pressure that you should be instantly available any time they call or text you should be a warning sign.”
4. Your partner isn’t willing to work through problems in the relationship.
Conflict is inevitable in any partnership — and long-distance couples aren’t immune to the occasional disagreement. But when you try to address these issues with your partner, pay attention to how they respond. Are they committed to talking through them? Or do they routinely brush off your concerns? An unwillingness to address these problems now could indicate they’re not in it for the long haul.
“Being in a relationship requires ongoing communication and commitment to problem-solve the areas of vulnerability and conflict,” Moali said. “However, if you find yourself encountering the same challenges repeatedly and your partner is not taking these concerns seriously, it’s possible that your partner is no longer invested in working through these relationship issues.”
5. The separation becomes too difficult to bear.
“Saying goodbye to your partner and knowing you won’t see them again for a while is really hard and can hurt tremendously,” Peterson said.
“If you find yourself sitting by the phone for hours or feeling that you must compete to get your partner’s attention, it might be time for you to voice your concern.”
– Nazanin Moali, sex therapist
But if the longing and sadness is so overwhelming that you’re having trouble functioning in other areas of your life, consider whether you can realistically handle this type of arrangement.
“If you find that each time you separate you are missing your partner more and more, so much so that it’s impacting your ability to practice self-care or to do what you need to get done in your life, it may be time to rethink if the LDR is right for you,” Peterson said.
6. You don’t talk about your plans for the future.
Once you’ve been together awhile, you should start having conversations about how and when you will shorten the distance — whether that’s eventually living together or moving to the same city. If your LDR is a longer-term thing, hopefully you’ve at least had some discussion about how you’ll visit each other more in the meantime.
“Couples who are forward-moving plan for the future,” Madden said. “You have to plan for how you are going to connect physically in a consistent way.”
So if you’re not having these conversations, it may be a sign the relationship isn’t built to last. Another sign? You two have a plan, but one or both of you keep dragging your feet on executing the necessary steps.
“Like not wanting to change your life to either move to them or have them integrate as part of your life,” Madden said. “You may delay the things you need to do, like looking for a new job.”
7. You’re constantly tempted by the thought of being with other people.
When you’re in a monogamous LDR, a wandering eye that you can’t seem to control may indicate that you’re either not invested in the relationship or that this type of arrangement isn’t the right fit for you. (Couples in open LDRs, however, may choose to establish ground rules about what’s permissible while they’re apart.)
“Of course, it’s normal for people to be attracted to others,” Moali said. “But if you find yourself actively seeking opportunities to be around the attractive co-worker or a neighbor, it might show that you are no longer feeling satisfied in your existing relationship.”
You might think your desire to hook up with someone else is solely the result of the physical distance between you; in other words, if your partner were closer, you wouldn’t be having these thoughts. But, as Madden pointed out, even couples living under the same roof may go through periods of sexlessness for one reason or another.
“Due to pregnancy, young children, work stress or aging parents, one partner might not be available for physical connection,” she said. “Strong couples work through those challenges without going outside the relationship.”
Long-Distance Love is a HuffPost series all about long-distance relationships and how to make them work, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll feature advice for romantic relationships and friendships alike, with tips on how to keep your connection strong despite the distance.