Many of us have been there – work brings us elsewhere and we want to stay with our partners, so we end up in a long-distance relationship. Whether it be school or work, life can carry us in different directions. It may be stating the obvious, but long-distance relationships are not easy. Missing and wanting to be physically close to the person you love is one of the hardest feelings in the world. Here’s the thing, though: there’s a lot you can learn from a long-distance relationship and in many ways they can be healthier than a regular relationship. A long-distance relationship can help us reassess our values and what we want from our partners — it’s just all about perspective and knowing how to make it work.

Often, however, we get into relationships in the first place because we’re lonely and we feel the need to have someone in our love life. Before we make the commitment of a long-distance relationship, we have to understand why we’re in the relationship. Ask yourself this first and foremost – am I in the relationship out of comfort or am I just trying to hold on to the relationship out of insecurity?

When we find ourselves investing so much time in dating someone, it’s normal to want to justify to ourselves that they are worth dedicating more time even when they sometimes don’t align with our values and needs. As a result, we experience something called “cognitive dissonance” — a state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes and adapting to things we may not actually truly want. In order to be happy inside, we have to have a very clear understanding of why we’re in a relationship in the first place so that our actions align with who we are.

If we understand the benefits of having a long-distance relationship, we can have a healthy and loving relationship with our partner. How is that possible, you ask?

Do long-distance relationships work?

In every relationship, but especially a long-distance one, we want to make sure we look for a partner that aligns with our values. Not everyone is going to align with your values, and knowing this before going into a long-distance relationship will assure its success. Long-distance relationships can work beautifully and even have several benefits, so don’t disregard them as a possibility if the opportunity arises, and don’t give up on it if you’re feeling the stress of being in one.

The first benefit is that you get to truly see if they’re the right person for you. Because you have so much time apart and you don’t have a “convenient” relationship, you are forced to communicate more intensely and effectively. You get to also see the many facets in which your partner communicates. Does she walk away from problems or does she confront them? Does she take a moment to step away and respond, or does she react from her emotions? All these things help you to see what kind of person she is. Because you don’t have the physical part of the relationship, it heightens every other aspect of the relationship.

The second major benefit of a long-distance relationship is that it establishes interdependence. Interdependent relationships are when two people, both strong individuals, are involved and don’t sacrifice their values for one another. Distance forces you to maintain your sense of independence — you don’t lose sight of your friendships, your ambitions, or your purpose while being in a relationship. In fact, those prone to being codependent can actually benefit from being in a long-distance dynamic. Interdependence is ultimately the goal of any healthy relationship — maintaining autonomy while also loving someone else, involving your life with hers while also honoring one another’s separateness. Your self esteem then does not depend on your partner and you don’t fear emotional intimacy. There’s mutual respect and support for each other’s personal goals.

The third benefit is that a long-distance relationship creates and tests your discipline. Because you don’t have a physical relationship, there will be celibacy involved, which requires a great deal of self-discipline and control. This forces you to train yourself to not give in to temptation and to, therefore, have greater intimacy in communication with your partner. It also develops a strong sense of trust, which is essential in a relationship.

So yes, as you can see, long-distance relationships can definitely work and they also have several benefits you may not otherwise have in a “normal” relationship.

How to manage long-distance relationships. 6 tips to make it work.

While there are so many great things about being in a long-distance relationship, it can also be one of the most difficult relationship dynamics to be in. It’s really hard to see the positives when you miss someone deeply and don’t have their physical presence. Here are six tips to make it make it work.

1. Schedule things for the future.

When you miss her and just want her to be by your side, it can be really hard because she’s not there physically to be with you. Planning things for the future can help provide the light at the end of the tunnel. It motivates you to look forward to something, and that motivation is really important. So if you can’t see each other for a month or two, then buy your plane tickets in advance. Know when you will see her next. That way it gives you something to think about, something to propel you in the relationship. It also shows your devotion to one another because it shows you’re both trying to make it work. If she is not making the same amount of effort to plan something with you for the future, then that is something to openly communicate – which brings me to my next tip.

2. Communicate your frustrations and be understanding.

Being in a long-distance relationship can be really frustrating because you spend much of your time alone and wanting to be with your partner. All you can do is share your life with her over the phone or on FaceTime and that can feel incredibly isolating. There’s no doubt about it: long-distance relationships take compromise. At the end of the day, the main reason long-distance relationships fail is that all of this frustration builds up without communicating those feelings. When it comes time to communicate the frustration, fingers get pointed and arguments become an attack. The funny part is – most of this frustration is built out of wanting to be with your partner. If you’re able to remember that a long-distance relationship requires teamwork and experiencing these frustrations together, then you can understand that these feelings come from a mutual place of love. It’s important to be understanding and to try to be as empathetic as possible when these arguments happen. Let your frustrations be openly communicated.

3. Remember your life goals.

The goals in your life should always come first and often it can be the reason why you’re in a long term relationship in the first place. Maybe you’re working towards something in your career, and she’s across the country going to college – whatever the scenario may be. Never sacrifice your purpose and life ambitions for a relationship. Live each day fully, whether your partner is absent or not. As long as you continue to focus on your goals and on cultivating your own friendships, hobbies, and interests, you will continue to have a healthy interdependent long-distance relationship. This leads me to tip four.

4. Know your long term plan.

It’s important to remember: what is your long term goal for yourself and for each other? If one partner views separation as a temporary hurdle that will lead to a major commitment – whether that be moving in together or engagement – while the other sees it as a simple necessity that can be sustained more long term, then there is bound to be conflict. There has to be a similar long term goal in mind for a long-distance relationship. If there isn’t, a lot of confusion and misunderstanding arise. Having a long term plan makes it clear that you both see one another in each other’s future, what expectations you both have, and what sacrifices you are both willing to make. Talking about it openly will reveal what kind of compromises will result. These discussions have to be out in the open in order to make it work.

5. Know each other’s schedules.

Different time zones, different work schedules, different sleep preferences mean it’s going to be harder to sync up your schedules. Even the most well-intentioned couples have difficulty with this hurdle that results from a distance. When you’re both physically together, it’s obviously easier to naturally get into the groove of each other’s schedules. Make the effort to know when she is at her most energized and when she is able to dedicate time to a private conversation without time limitations. Do you prefer a set time when you communicate, or does it vary day by day? As long as both of you feel like the communication is mutually satisfying for your life schedules, then no resentment or frustration will be built up from not feeling a supportive or convenient relationship.

6. Stay positive.

While it may seem awful to not be physically together, the research shows that there is much to be celebrated by having a long-distance relationship. Remind yourself that being apart reminds you of how much you appreciate her, how grateful you are for her. This will help you to remain positive even in the most difficult scenarios. When you can grow together through a hurdle, you develop a deeper sense of intimacy — and that’s a huge positive.

Long-distance relationship problems: 3 ways to get back on track

When we expect a long-distance relationship to have the same kind of problems a normal relationship would have and we compare them to our past relationships, we run into some serious problems. Long-distance relationships inherently have a completely different dynamic that requires adjusting.

One of the obvious disadvantages of a long-distance relationship is a lack of physical companionship and a sense of loneliness. One way you can overcome this hurdle is by strengthening your communication and giving some thought beforehand to what you want to talk about with her when you video conference or have a phone call. Because you don’t have physical touch, you need to use your words more deliberately. It’s also important to not only rely on technology. One way you can do that is by keeping something physical from your partner with you – a gift they’ve given you, and sending things in the mail that are also more tangible – like care packages and letters. That way you can feel their closeness in a palpable way.

Another problem with a long-distance relationship is that arguments and fights will happen. The difference is that in a normal relationship when an argument happens, you can just go to them and talk to them physically. But in a long-distance relationship: what if they’re not picking up the phone, or you don’t want to pick up the phone? Suddenly there’s the feeling of fight or flight, which creates arguments that involve a lot of reacting from emotions, rather than responding out of a place of taking the space to understand what is creating the anger. Successful arguments always lead to communication. Ask yourself: why am I mad? Why is she mad? This will help you both get back on track.

A lack of trust is also a huge problem that results from a long-distance relationship. Because you don’t have each other to physically be with, the temptation for infidelity is greater. Trust is an important factor of any relationship and trust can erode not just in a romantic affair, but in many other ways. Can you count on your partner to be there when she says she will, and are you there for her, too? Do you remember the things she says to you or is your mind elsewhere? These lapses in attention (on both ends) can lead to an erosion of trust. If you have that solid foundation, then you can develop a mutual trust and not worry about any outside temptation.

Can long-distance relationships work?

I hope that this blog has revealed that long-distance relationships can truly work, even if at times they pose pitfalls. In fact, studies have found that the quality of a long-distance relationship does not differ that much from geographically close relationships. In some cases, it might even be better because they force you to communicate transparently, be on the same page with one another, have a strong sense of trust in one another, live interdependently, and have the same life goals in mind. All it takes is keeping an awareness of all of these aspects. If that isn’t a recipe for a beautiful relationship, what is?

Share your life experiences in the comments below! I always love hearing from you. As always, remember you are loved.

Your coach,

Apollonia Ponti