Leading up to, the moment of, and for some time after. Having to say goodbye to my partner after a visit was an absolutely painful time. But it is especially so for those of us that suffer from long distance separation anxiety.
Here’s the good news:
Feeling this way means the love and emotional connection we have for our partners is undeniable.
But we NEED to learn how to navigate separation anxiety and be better prepared for it.
Here’s what helped us before, during, and after saying goodbye to reduce feelings of separation anxiety in your long distance relationship.
Tips For Managing Separation Anxiety in Long Distance Relationships
1. Manage your expectations and think about your priorities in life.
Difficult things will come up.
At times, you will miscommunicate, irritate each other, even hurt each other, and it will be an effort to fix that over distance. Expect:
- To struggle and to have some negative feelings emerge.
- Your partner to struggle, and expect to be surprised by what they struggle with.
- Expect these things to come up when it’s awkward to deal with them.
2. Identify the hardest parts of a separation
Be mindful that the hardest parts are the extreme worst and are rarely become reality. The rest of the time will cycle between regular highs and lows but they are manageable.
For me, the worst parts are the two or three days before he leaves, when I see the final goodbye looming.
Once he leaves, boom!
We’ve begun the countdown to the next reunion (assuming we have any idea when he’s getting back)!
The first hour, the first evening, the first weekend alone are hard. Sometimes the middle of a long separation has a unique depression to it, and often the last week feels the longest. Knowing those points are as bad as it gets takes away some of the sting.
3. Set a separation deadline
Setting a deadline means the goodbye doesn’t straggle on and on, smothering everyone with anxiety and grief.
Band-Aid Theory, right?
Limiting time apart is a total no-brainer, but what counts as your “reasonable maximum” will vary from couple to couple.
So find your reasonable maximum. Think about any personal deadlines you need to meet or savings goals you want to achieve to make it all possible.
If you want further help. Check out our closing the distance calculator, which can help you find the optimal date for you and your partner to visit or close the distance for good!
4. Agree your boundaries ahead of time
Talk through how you’ll communicate before you separate, don’t expect to figure it out on the fly. Make sure you understand what your partner needs from you in terms of communication, and make sure you communicate your needs.
- Are you the sort of person that really needs to read a nice juicy email from your loved one every day?
- Does your partner need to hear from you at least once a day, even if you’re okay connecting every two or three days?
- Does your relationship really benefit from visual time on something like a video call, or can you deal with a few days of separation without it being a big deal?
Sure, you’ll probably need to adjust your communication as you go along a bit, but make sure you’ve taken the time to communicate what you need and to learn what your loved one needs from you in return.
Don’t let yourself make assumptions here. Your partner might actually find it easier not to have frequent contact, which isn’t helpful in terms of trying to reduce long distance separation anxiety.
5. Do something nice for your significant other
After they’re gone, take some of that post-visit energy and do something nice for your partner.
This is a great way to do something with all your pent-up emotions and give your partner a real boost when they receive it. Because, chances are, they’ll get your package right around the time they’re starting to hit the post-visit blues too.
6. Schedule something for YOU
Whether it’s a haircut, a lunch date, an assignment, work, whatever— schedule something you need to do for shortly after saying goodbye after a visit.
That helps keep it short and sweet.
I want him to know I’ve got it together when he leaves so he can totally focus on getting it together too, and not worry (too much) about what’s going when he leaves.
7. Make a plan for trouble spots
My trick for the first evening alone is to indulge in some judgment-free TV watching of something he would hate, while eating food he doesn’t like!
Margaritas and a Burn Notice marathon?
I’m not saying I’m glad you’re gone, honey, but since it’s inevitable we should make the best of it.
8. Focus on the short term when long term feels overwhelming
Weekly things to look forward to help a lot for a long separation.
When I was overseas, several of us met for a wine night.
Now that we have kids and live on the other side of the world we do weekly coffee.
9. Treat yourself
I have special foods I only get when he’s gone, like ethnic and vegetarian foods.
It’s a mental counterbalance to keep from feeling sorry for myself.
10. Avoid those couples that survive on public displays of affection
Actually, consider avoiding them the rest of the time, too!
11. Celebrate milestones
- Get a new job
- Finish exams
- Hit an exercise goal
- Reach an anniversary (even monthaversary!)
Celebrate any and every milestone that helps you and your partner to connect. Whether you achieved them together or not.
Research has shown that celebrating anniversaries can help strengthen relationships in a variety of different ways, including increasing admiration for one another.
Doing this consistently will also help draw focus to positive aspects of your relationship, while putting the difficult times into perspective.
How Will You Combat Separation Anxiety?
Nothing will help with unpredictably crappy times. Like when you get bad news and have no way to share it with the one person you want to talk to most.
However, staying focused on the short term and having a plan for rough spots can make the separation seem much more manageable.
In the end, it’s never as bad as I feared, and I’m glad I didn’t let a little long distance separation anxiety get in the way of what’s become turned into an amazing marriage and two astonishingly good-looking kiddos!
If you do find yourself struggling to the point where you can’t dig yourself out. We recommend joining our long distance relationship support group. There you can ask questions and get helpful advice from other couples that have had to navigate separating and find their own ways to reduce anxiety.