It may seem counterintuitive for us to help couples navigate a long distance break up.
But we ultimately decided that not doing so would be a disservice to the LDR community.
Navigating any relationship requires hard work, commitment, and compromise. But the distance, lack of physical intimacy, and communication challenges a long distance relationship involves can add further strain.
To be clear, being long distance doesn’t necessarily mean a relationship is more likely to fail. In fact, studies have found that long distance relationships have a 58% success rate, while 50% of marriages in America end in divorce.
The End of a Relationship isn’t a Failure
It’s a valuable life lesson and important learning experience.
Even when you know without a doubt that breaking up is the right decision, it won’t change that fact that it’s a very difficult thing to go through.
We’ve noticed a lot of current articles talk in depth about one aspect of a breakup, but neglect to acknowledge that there are so many different stages and layers. Starting from before the subject of a breakup is ever broached and lasting far beyond the final goodbye.
So, we decided to put together a thoughtful guide to navigating a long distance break up, from noticing when it’s time to let go, ending it in the right way, and allowing yourself to let go and move on.
When to Let Go of a Long Distance Relationship
Coming to the realization that your relationship is coming to an end can be a long and confusing process.
When we imagine the reasons why relationships end, they usually involve glaring issues or betrayals: toxic fights, lying, cheating, or manipulation.
But, the majority of the time, the end of a relationship is the result of underlying disconnects that build up over time.
At this point many couples find themselves looking back on the relationship and wondering how they could have missed the red flags.
All relationships have issues, but if you’ve noticed these things regularly happening in yours, it may be a sign it’s time to let go.
You Don’t Feel Invested Anymore
Falling in love with someone changes your priorities. Of course, your partner and spending time with them shoots to the top of your list, but it’s not simply a person who grabs your attention.
The deeper your connection becomes, the more their interests, passions, and preferences become important to you too. When the love and connection is still strong, your thoughts are consumed by them.
You can’t wait to hear about how their day was, what exciting project they’re working on, or what their thoughts are about a decision you’re making in your life.
If you or your partner are becoming less invested, you’re no longer going to have the desire to ask about their day or feel curious about their opinion.
Asking questions may stop altogether, or notice you both zone out when telling each other about something, even if it’s an important or meaningful topic.
Speaking of questions. We’ve put together a list of long distance relationship questions to spark deep and meaningful discussion with your partner.
Conversations that used to stretch on for hours, lasting long after you both should have gone to sleep, now last for a matter of minutes before one of you has a reason they need to hang up.
They no longer consist of meaningful discussions about your dreams for the future, thoughts on current events, or hobbies you’re pursuing, instead they are mostly made up of recounting details about your respective days, or making small talk.
If communication starts to feel repetitive and uninteresting, it’s probably because you both have stopped making an effort to learn new things about each other.
Lack of Commitment
The rock solid regularity of your video chat sessions and amazing date nights have started to fade. You’re spending less quality time together because one or both of you has become increasingly unreliable.
Maybe Sundays were the days you could soak up as much quality time together, free of work or social commitments. But recently, your partner has been cutting FaceTimes short or rescheduling them altogether in favor of going out with friends, or last minute engagements.
At first, the reasons for cancellations seem legitimate, but the more they pile up, the more resentful you start to feel. Leading you to grow increasingly frustrated that you’re holding space in your schedule for nothing.
Questioning why you’re the only one who seems to be putting in effort, and maybe even feeling jealous because you would rather be enjoying time with friends too.
The more often it happens, the less guilty you both feel about not following through on plans. A new precedent has been set in the relationship and it’s become okay to not follow through on commitments.
Putting off Visits
Closing the distance and being reunited are no longer what you look forward to more than anything, and you’ve stopped eagerly counting down the days until you are physically together.
In fact, you may have started to use work or finances as an excuse as to why you can’t book flights or hotel rooms to lock in the next visit.
Even though you may try to tell yourself you genuinely need to put aside more money or focus more on your professional commitments. You simply don’t feel as committed to your relationship, or at least are questioning if it’s worth the sacrifice.
Different Visions of the Future
It’s unlikely that you’re going to be with someone who wants the exact same things out of life as you. Having different dreams and goals can make a relationship dynamic more interesting!
You don’t need identical hopes for the future in order to have a successful relationship. But you do need the willingness to make compromises to ensure you’re both getting your needs met and have your priorities respected.
Is there a lack of effort to blend your different visions for the future into something that you both feel excited about? If yes, it might mean there isn’t a future for your relationship.
The Relationship is Less of a Priority
Whether it’s because of drinks after work, friends getting together for dinner, or a last minute slot opening up at the yoga studio that’s always full. The reasons why you aren’t able to make as much time for your partner any more seem endless.
It’s not that your schedules are suddenly booked up, it’s because spending time together has become less of a priority. The video calls that once had you both rushing home are often being put off in favor of ‘anything else’.
If you catch yourself…
- Searching for things to do other than talking to your partner
- Questioning whether to pick up their call or not, or
- Leaving their messages on unread
…then you need to take a step back and ask yourself if this is what you truly want.
You’re Staying Together to Keep Them Happy
Perhaps you’ve already noticed one or more of the signs we’ve discussed, and for months you’ve had a little voice in the back of your head tell you that this person isn’t the one.
But, as certain as you may be that you’re not completely happy in this relationship, you still love and care about your partner and don’t want to hurt them.
While swallowing back the dreaded “we need to talk” may seem like a selfless act in the moment, the relationship is destined to become full of resentment if one person is putting their happiness aside.
Staying together to avoid painful feelings will only be hurting both of you more in the long run.
Unresolved Fighting and Arguing
Arguments are a perfectly normal part of any relationship. Depending on the individuals and their communication styles, some couples may argue and fight more frequently than others.
It’s not about how often you argue, but how you argue. Having consistent yet healthy arguments is possible as long as two situations occur:
- There is a genuine want to understand each other’s perspectives, and
- Work together against the problem instead of being combative with one another.
If you’ve noticed you and your partner are constantly arguing, but lack a desire to change, compromise, or come to any resolution. It’s likely a sign that neither of you wants to, or feels optimistic about being able to, communicate successfully and grow as a couple.
You Aren’t Trying to Make it Work
Many long distance couples will go through periods where their relationships show signs of breaking down.
Those that truly want their relationship to be successful will do whatever is necessary to find a solution to problems they’re facing.
If one or both of you have noticed areas that need improvement, but haven’t worked together to try to make things better, it’s time to ask:
What is truly keeping me in the relationship?
Oftentimes, an attachment to comfort or fear of change leads people to stay in relationships that don’t make them happy.
How to End a Long Distance Relationship
Even once you have complete clarity on the fact you need to let your relationship go, getting to the point of taking action is easier said than done.
You may be struggling to figure out how to end things the right way. Telling yourself you should wait until they’re with family for support, or agonizing over what to say when you do have the conversation.
In the end, there is no “right way” to end a relationship. It’s always going to involve heartbreak, stress, and grief.
What matters most is that you approach it with compassion, clear communication, and consideration for your partner. These tips can help ensure you do so.
End it as Soon as You Know
It’s easy to come up with a million reasons why this isn’t the best time for you and your partner to go through a long distance break up.
Maybe they’ve had a stressful month of school or work and you don’t want to put anything else on their plate. There is no perfect time for it to happen, it will hurt regardless.
While you should be thoughtful about timing, and not spring it on them the night before a deadline or celebration. Putting it off will just prolong the inevitable, and keep you both from starting to heal and move forward.
Do it Over Video
While having a conversation in person is always best, we recognize that may not be realistic for many long distance couples.
You also want to avoid putting your partner in a position where they’ve spent money and taken time off from work. Only to go through a breakup while they’re visiting you and away from their support system.
Video allows you both to be able to pick up on visual cues, feel more connected, and be receptive to each other’s feelings.
We need to be aware of the impact this video call is going to have on your partner. Make sure it takes place when you don’t have any other obligations and can dedicate as much time as needed to the conversation.
Be Clear and Honest About Why
There’s nothing worse than being totally confused by why someone broke up with you. Leaving your partner in this position impacts their ability to move on in a productive way and look back on it as a learning experience.
While you never want to blame or shame, be:
- Direct about why you want to end things
- Sympathetic and kind in your delivery
- Open about what wasn’t working for you, and
- Accountable for your role in the disconnect as well.
Listen to Them
After you’ve said your piece, give them the opportunity to process what you’ve said, respond, and ask any questions they may have. Breakups can be highly emotional, so give them space to cry or get angry if needed.
Try not to get defensive, and keep in mind that, even if this is something you’ve been considering for a long time, they might be completely caught off guard.
Have Closure (If Possible)
Be kind, caring, and approach the breakup conversation with love, but make sure not to give false hope or make them think you could be open for a reconnection when you’re not.
In the moment, it may be tempting to leave the door open to soften the blow. The fact is it will only make it harder to move on and make the breakup process drag out.
How to Get Over a Long Distance Relationship
Dealing with a long distance break up doesn’t end after having the conversation.
It’s once the anticipation is over, the adrenaline has worn off, and you’ve finally said goodbye to your partner, that the real work actually begins.
Just remember that the process isn’t linear and it will take time.
These tips will help you to be patient with yourself and treat yourself with kindness while learning how to move on from a long distance relationship.
Make a Clean Break
You don’t need to delete their contact info or unfollow them on social media, but it is extremely difficult to move on from someone who you’re still keeping tabs on.
Going through a separation is the perfect time to take a break from social media in general. If you don’t want to, you should at the very least ‘mute’ their profiles so they don’t pop up on your newsfeed.
Give Yourself Time to Grieve
Even if you made the final decision to end the relationship, it’s still a painful experience.
Make sure to give yourself time to mourn the loss of an important person in your life, and a future you once believed in.
It’s ok to fully feel your emotions.
Cry when you feel sad, get angry when you think about parts of the relationship that upset you, allow yourself to be anxious about the unknown when you feel afraid.
Reconnect With What Makes You Happy
There’s no question that going through a breakup leaves a void in your life. But you can decide to use that to your advantage.
Fill the void in a way that enriches your life and reconnects you with activities or hobbies that make you feel fulfilled and inspired.
Why not pick up an old hobby that you stopped making time for, or sign up for a class to learn something you’ve always thought about doing.
Lean on Your Support System
For a long time, your partner was the first person you called with good news and the only person who could console you when you got bad news.
When that person is no longer a part of your life, you may quickly feel lonely and isolated, and wish for the support they once offered.
Even though your partner may have been your primary source of support. You need to remind yourself that there are so many other people in your life that love you.
Your friends and family want to be there for you! So don’t be afraid to reach out to them for extra support during this transition.
This can also be a great opportunity to reconnect with a loved one who you may have drifted from while you were focused on your relationship.
Focus on Making New Memories
Throughout the course of your relationship, you share a lot of important life experiences and form countless memories together. You may find yourself constantly running from those memories and beginning to avoid places or activities that once brought you joy because they now serve as a painful reminder.
While it’s only natural to want to avoid painful feelings, you don’t need to cut everything that reminds you of them out of your life. Instead, slowly start replacing them with new ones.
If you planned to visit a ‘bucket list’ location with your partner, don’t scrap it. Divert the time, energy and money saving habits you created to visit your partner and continue to use them to book that getaway!
Do you find yourself habitually waking up and reaching for your phone even though there is more “good morning!” text? Create a morning routine with new rituals, like getting out of the house early to stop at your favorite coffee shop before work, or enlisting a friend to be your morning running buddy.
You may have had regular date nights scheduled on a specific day of the week, use that space in your schedule for a new social activity or hobby. Instead of sitting alone and allowing your thoughts to wander back to your relationship you’re using all of your brain power to concentrate on being in the moment.
Take Time to Date Yourself
All the love and attention you used to pour into your partner and relationship can now be turned inward. It’s time to focus on falling in love with yourself as an individual!
Take yourself out to dinner, shopping for new clothes, get a massage, or bring a favorite book and order a nice glass of wine at your favorite bar.
Rushing back into the dating scene before you’re ready will only result in getting into relationships that don’t actually meet your needs. You may also run the risk of becoming codependent.
Now It’s Your Turn
While the decision to end things will never be an easy one, we hope this gives you some confidence on what the right next steps are for you.
If many parts of this article resonated with you, but you still want to make things work with your partner, that’s a possibility as well!
Use this article as a conversation starter to help you be transparent about the issues you’ve noticed, and what you want to work on to strengthen your relationship.