Most men are terrified of long-distance relationships.
In a world where dating apps are running the romantic economy, college degrees and work opportunities are pulling people out of state and even country, and international relationships are becoming more and more common, you have to know how to make long-distance relationships work for you.
Studies show that 75% of today’s engaged couples were in a long-distance relationship at some point. So if you, like so many guys, can’t stand the idea of a remote romance, it’s time to discuss not only how to manage a long-distance relationship, but how to turn physical distance into emotional closeness.
If you’re at all like I was a few years back, the term “long-distance relationship” seemed like an oxymoron.
For me, a relationship meant closeness, togetherness, passionate kisses, and sex.
The idea of a nightly video call sufficing for a day’s connection and the touch of a button standing in for an embrace just didn’t make sense.
How can you maintain a relationship without physical proximity? What about movie nights, dinner dates, or even just evening walks?
For men, a long-distance relationship can feel like a relationship without any of the qualities of a relationship. In this article, I’m going to use my ten-plus years as a men’s coach to change your perspective on long-distance relationships and provide a few essential tips on how to make your long-distance relationship not only survive, but thrive.
The 5 Challenges of Long-Distance Relationships
Long-distance relationships are challenging–extremely challenging. Denying that would be worse than stupidity.
Maintaining intimacy with another human being with prolonged physical separation is not just difficult, it contradicts everything that humanity has been and done since the dawn of time.
Relationships have always been built on things done together, conversations had together, and time spent together.
Acting as if the ability to send love-laden texts or even face-time across time zones can replace actual human connection is naive and dangerous. The truth is, maintaining a long-distance relationship requires levels of commitment, trust, and maturity that often exceed that required for nurturing an in-person relationship.
Separated soulmates face challenges that traditional couples never even consider. Here are the five biggest:
1. No physical intimacy
I don’t have to tell you that men are physical beings.
We desire touch–both to give and to receive.
One of the biggest challenges men in long-distance relationships face is a lack of physical touch with their woman.
Physical intimacy is an essential part of emotional connection and its lack can leave men feeling empty, impatient, and even resentful.
I’ve worked with men who have given up on one-of-a-kind women because of their need for physical touch.
I’ll tell you what I told them…Instead of abandoning something you’ve worked so hard to get, give yourself and your partner something to look forward to. Find ways to grow. The men who leave good relationships complaining about no physical intimacy rarely don’t regret.
The most successful long-distance couples look for ways to grow from the distance rather than focusing on everything they are missing.
Man up and have some patience and understanding.
2. Jealousy and lack of trust
My skin used to crawl whenever my girlfriend left my sight.
I’d construct all sorts of unrealistic scenarios about her cheating or falling in love with some other guy–scenarios that didn’t just lack sense but denied her the trust she had earned and poisoned her mental image in my mind.
One of the biggest challenges of making a long-distance relationship work is finding ways to overcome jealousy and lack of trust.
That’s not to say that you should trust blindly or ALWAYS give the benefit of the doubt because naiveté can lead to immeasurable pain in the relationship world.
In my experience, however, unfounded jealousy and irrational lack of trust destroy more long-distance relationships than unfaithful women.
Long-distance relationships are exercises in mental fortitude more than anything.
3. The fading of feelings
It’d be fantastic if everything was like it is in Disney.
Soul-mates, happily ever afters, and star-crossed lovers sound so nice to the ear and heart, but more often than not, it’s not that simple.
Most relationships are rife with trust issues, commitment problems, and all manner of difficulties that make romantic relationships feel more like bloody battles than carriage rides into the sunset.
The truth is, feelings do fade sometimes.
Unlike Disney romances, successful relationships are more often a matter of fighting for love than discovering it.
One of the biggest struggles of long-distance dating is remembering why you are with your partner and what you are fighting for.
Long-distance relationships work as long as you fight.
4. The uncertainty of a future
Part of being in a productive relationship is knowing where you are going.
No, you don’t need to know exactly what car you are going to get, the state you are going to move to, or the date of your future marriage. What you need is some direction, future goals, and most of all a plan to SEE EACH OTHER IN PERSON.
Men tend to underestimate the importance of having direction in relationships, especially in long-distance relationships.
This is because, more often than women, men are comfortable relying on their intuition and “going with the flow”.
While being easy-going or relaxed isn’t a vice on its own, when it comes to long-distance relationships, initiative and intentionality are what keep the boat from sinking.
Love isn’t self-sufficient.
Research shows that relationships fall apart when couples don’t respond to emotional signals.
With 93% of communication being nonverbal, your long-distance relationship is at an automatic disadvantage.
When romantic feelings are expressed over text or call, emotional signals can be lost in absent body language or poor cell signals. When disagreements can only be fielded screen-to-screen rather than face-to-face, misunderstanding runs rampant.
Be wary of the difficulties of staying on the same page with your long-distance partner. Many long-distance relationships fall apart quicker than geographically close relationships because of poor communication rather than a lack of love.
In a long-distance relationship, it often feels as if all the good parts of a relationship are replaced by a few texts a day and the occasional Skype call.
The 4 Positives of Long-Distance Relationships
Throughout my decade-plus as a men’s coach, I’ve seen the sun rise and set on more long-distance relationships than I can count.
During this time, I have had the opportunity to not only help men through the rough patches of their relationships but also analyze what makes them fail and what makes them last.
I’ve come to see these two points as crucial to making a long-distance relationship last.
- The distance has a visible end-point.
- The couple focuses on capitalizing on the potential positives rather than dwelling on the negatives.
The worst mistake you can make as a man is thinking that your relationship can only really grow once you are in physical proximity.
That mindset is the lack of intentionality that drives so many relationships into the dirt. If this mindset rules your life, you are making dating harder than it needs to be.
Here are 4 positives of long-distance:
1. You appreciate time together more
Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
Despite the difficulty, the heartache, and the potential risk of taking your relationship long-distance, the time apart may be the best thing for your future together.
Many couples with fully or partially long-distance relationships find that their relationship quality actually improves after a period of distance. Not only do they find they enjoy their time together more, but they actually stop focusing on their partner’s weaknesses.
If you are beginning to doubt your relationship or take your partner for granted, it may actually be smart to go long-distance for a bit.
I’ve seen a bit of distance save relationships.
2. The validity of your love is tested
The ease of modern life has made dating easy. Without much struggle or opportunity to prove our fortitude and the depth of our character, acting like someone we’re not is easy for a while.
Dinner dates are easy. Coffee dates are easy. Beach walks are easy. You know what isn’t easy though…having the only means of communication with your partner be over the phone. Staying faithful and resisting temptation without direct accountability. Having the patience to build something despite difficulty.
A long-distance relationship isn’t easy and that is the beauty of it. It tests the validity of your love–determines whether or not you are mature enough to be together.
Before committing to this verification test for your love, I will warn you, however…there is a risk involved.
YOU MAY BREAK UP!
Just remember that that may be what you need.
On the other hand, couples who make it through the distance often find their love is cemented when they emerge on the other side.
3. You have time to yourself
Relationships take a ton of time. Period.
One often-overlooked benefit of a long-distance relationship is the time you have to yourself. If your relationship has recently gone long-distance, you will likely be shocked by how much free time you suddenly have.
There is no better time to…
- grow your professional career
- spend more time in the gym
- reconnect with neglected friends or family
- take much-needed relaxation time
Don’t fail to take advantage of your freedom and independence when your romantic relationship has gone long-distance.
4. Allows you to work on communication
If you want to make a long-distance relationship work, you AND your partner have to be master communicators.
If you can master the art of communicating across hundreds of miles, in-person communication will prove a heck of a lot easier.
A massive number of relationships meet their doom because of communication issues. If you are able to avoid emotional distance despite physical distance and feel connected over long periods of time apart, you will likely be able to work through future kinks in your relationship.
Rather than seeing your time apart as a potential rift in your relationship, use it to maximize your communication skills.
Turn Woes into Wins in your Remote Romance
What do people mean when they say “be grateful?”
Think about it.
What does that mean…”be grateful”?
Does it mean that you should be happy no matter what terrible life circumstances you are facing?
No, of course not. “Be grateful” just means that you should try to view your current circumstances in a more positive light.
You should change your…PERSPECTIVE.
Sooner or later, every human being realizes that life is all about perspective. We are each set on this spinning rock with a variety of challenges in front of us. What determines our happiness and success isn’t WHAT challenges are in front of us, but how we handle them and what we take away from them.
Life is about spinning straw into gold–finding ways to grow from non-optimal situations.
Relationships aren’t meant to be long-distance affairs, but if you choose to grow rather than surrender, you can turn long-distance into a net positive.
Life is what you make of it. A positive is only a positive if you make it so. Turning the difficulty of a long-distance relationship into a positive is about focusing on ways you can get closer and grow rather than accepting that things are going to be worse.
There is no such thing as a stagnant relationship.
If a relationship isn’t growing, it’s declining.
All long-distance couples will admit that it’s difficult to stay connected over great distances and long periods of time.
Beyond the struggles of digital communication and the lack of physical intimacy, a long-distance relationship comes with jealousy and lack of trust, a potential loss of feelings, and an uncertain future.
But rather than focusing on these things, choose to see the potential positives. Choose to use the distance as an opportunity to grow–an opportunity to improve your communication, test the validity of your love, and get some time for yourself.
Too many men fail to see the positives of a long-distance relationship and neglect the potential for personal and romantic growth.
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