Are you considering or already in a long distance relationship?

Working in Boston, I have met with lots of clients in these situations (Boston, like many major cities is very transient).

My clients in long distance relationships tend to fall into 2 groups:

  1. The partners have never had much (or any) in-person interaction.
  2. The partners were together for a significant time before the relationship became a long distance one.

Regarding #1:

I encounter a surprising number of clients who have met a person online, or who met a partner briefly–on vacation or visiting a friend–and started a long distance relationship from there.

I notice that in these cases:

  • The client will often idealize the person they are dating.
  • Long distance communication gives each partner the opportunity to screen out the negative parts of themselves that come through via in-person encounters. For example, one won’t know that their long-distance boyfriend is a slob, has smelly breath, or is selfish. Even the way they look can be filtered.

  • There is a longing that can turn into a desperate longing.
  • Partners never get to feel like they need more space. They continually feel they want more of the person they are dating. Because of this…

  • Partners spend an extreme amount of time investing in the long distance relationship, often to the detriment of other relationships.
  • These relationships usually end almost immediately when the partners encounter each other in person.
  • The real person doesn’t live up to the expectations that were formed from a distance.

  • When these relationships end, it can be emotionally devastating, and it doesn’t hurt any less to lose a long distance relationship.
  • In fact, because the partner was so idealized, it can feel like you’ve lost the perfect partner (who never really existed).

Regarding #2

When a relationship starts in-person, moves past the initial infatuation stage and has time to form, we have a different discussion about long distance relationships on our hands. For example:

  • These tend to be easier to manage.
  • Some people (but not all) like the freedom the distance offers.
  • I find that my clients who are young professionals want time to work, time for friends, and want alone time, so the long distance relationship provides a balance of commitment and freedom.

Tips for long distance relationships:

  • Create a time limit on how long the long distance relationship can last (most people don’t want a LD relationship forever, so voice your time limit right away).
  • Schedule encounters: Put down on a calendar when in-person encounters will occur (for instance, one couple decided to meet every 4 weeks, and they took turns visiting each other).
  • Don’t isolate yourself (this is more for the individual’s mental health than the success of the relationship). Too many people in long distance relationships withdraw from others because they feel guilty, or they’re just too preoccupied with their long distance partner.
  • Don’t over-invest. If the relationship hasn’t had time to form in-person, don’t proceed beyond casual long-distance dating. You’re investing in risky stock!

For More Information On Long Distance Relationships

If you want even more information or tips on cultivating success with long distance relationships, consider reading Long Distance Relationships: The Complete Guide by Gregory Guldner.

Anthony Centore

Anthony Centore

Anthony Centore Ph.D. is Founder and CEO at Thriveworks--a counseling practice, focused on premium client care, with 240+ locations across the USA. He is Private Practice Consultant for the American Counseling Association, columnist for Counseling Today magazine, and Author of How to Thrive in Counseling Private Practice. Anthony is a multistate Licensed Professional Counselor and has been quoted in national media sources including The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and CBS Sunday Morning.

Check out “Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book” written by AJ Centore and Taylor Bennett."