Long-distance relationships can work… but sometimes, couples realize that they just can’t conquer the unique challenges that come with this` distance. “As there are many factors that individuals consider when choosing to stay connected across the miles, there are also valid reasons why others choose to call it quits,” Dr. Ronica Branson, Licensed Mental Health Practitioner, explains. “One thing that is consistently reported as a contributing factor to long-distance relationship breakups, is physical distance. Many people want the chance to reach out and touch somebody’s hand… literally. Although we might want to admit to being struck by ‘love at first sight’ or keeping the connection with a ‘soulmate’ who lives on the other side of the country, distance can be a horse pill to swallow, especially for those who seek an intimate, more physical connection.
So, when you find yourself acknowledging that you are probably not a good candidate for a long-distance relationship, or you’ve decided that this relationship is not meeting your needs, or that you might need to seek comfort in something or someone that’s a little bit more tangible: what can you do to make the breakup a bit more bearable?” Well, first and foremost, you should be honest—both of you deserve to split in an amenable way. Next, you should carry out the breakup in an appropriate and respectable manner. Breakups are never fun, and they’re rarely easy… but time, place, and delivery can make a big difference. So, in deciding how the breakup should be handled, Branson recommends you consider the three I’s: intensity, intimacy, and intention.
Branson says it’s important you think about the intensity of your relationship, which can be measured in more ways than one. “For example, intensity can be categorized by frequency displayed in the time spent talking to or in communication with this individual,” Branson explains. Consider how often you talk to your partner. Some long-distance couples only talk a few times a week, while others text and FaceTime every chance they get. Think about your own communication habits in evaluating how intense your relationship has become. This will get you one step closer to determining how you should go about the breakup.
Next, consider the second “I,” which stands for intimacy. Branson advises you to ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your current level of intimacy?
- How close are you to this other person?
- Were you friends before you were ‘more than friends’? Would you like to stay ‘friends’ after?
- What attachments might this person have to you, and you to them, as a result of your intimacy?
- How much has been given of yourself and how much have they given to you?
Your answers will help you determine the best time and place for the breakup. “In these cases where deep intimate bonds have been formed, or if there is a question of whether or not you want to continue the friendship,” Branson says, “in-person breakups can be more appropriate. Especially for those who may already have intimacy and/or trust issues or are already trying to heal from another event. Saying things face-to-face can add a more personal and respectful touch, if that’s what you’re seeking.”
“Finally, one must look at one’s overall intentions,” says Branson. “Usually, when making the decision to begin a long-distance relationship, both individuals acknowledge that it will take some type of commitment and sacrifice from both parties.” So, let’s get down to the basics: What was the initial agreement, and what were the initial intentions? Additionally, what’s the reason for breaking it off now? Branson says if your relationship is in any way abusive, if problems are typically handled in a negative way, or if you feel uncomfortable/threatened by your significant other, then a phone break up is likely your best bet.
As I mentioned earlier, breakups are never easy… even if you’re the one initiating the breakup. You’ll likely experience pain and other difficult feelings, so be sure to take care of yourself. It will help to practice positive thinking and engage in self-care techniques, as this time is all about bettering yourself. “The healthy response is to focus on you,” Branson says. “Ask yourself, how can I use this as a learning experience? How do these lessons learned help me to enhance my resiliency skills? Additionally, how might I be able to learn how to improve myself before committing to another relationship.”