When to Let Go of a Long-Distance Relationship?

How do you know when it’s time to let go of a long-distance relationship? This is a question that many people struggle with.

According to experts, there are certain signs to look out for that might indicate it’s time to let go:

Jacqueline Burnett-Brown, Ph.D

Jacqueline Burnett-Brown

Marriage and Family Therapist and Psychology Professor, Prosperity Haven Treatment Center

When it is no longer serving its purpose

You know it is time to let go of something in your life when it is no longer serving its purpose or was to serve in the beginning. This sounds simple until that something is a relationship, and that relationship involves two living breathing individuals with hopes, dreams, and feelings.

It is important to recognize that most people form a romantic relationship to meet their needs for companionship, love, intimacy, and a true sense of belonging. This is achievable when the relationship can be nurtured.

However, when the relationship is being nurtured from afar, the needs for companionship, true intimacy, and belonging tend to fall short. Unless one or both partners have money and private jets, seeing one another often enough to achieve or sustain these important elements will simply not happen.

At first, a long-distance relationship may seem exciting unless the relationship was a close distance that suddenly turns long distance due to a career move or some other life change. Sending your lover off to live across the country is not really that exciting.

But, like all new relationships, the new relationship gives a sense of (often false) hope; the possibilities seem endless. At first, you may make it work. You do the travel weekends, and then this begins to wear you down. You begin to argue over who is doing more. Inevitably, those late-night pillow talks on the phone become pillow fights.

A rule of thumb to follow is that if a couple spends more time talking about their relationship than having their relationship, they do not have a relationship. They want a relationship and the one they began with dewy-eyed hopefulness has lost its shine. So they are mourning the loss of the ideal.

When love has a chance to truly grow, it will thrive, and people will do what they must to make it work logistically if at all possible. For love to nurture, it must be present and available.

Related: 13 Tips on How to Make Your Long Distance Relationship Work

Think of a long-distance relationship like a newborn in a neonatal unit. That newborn is missing the essential bonding and attachment that is essential to the relationship with the parents. However, loving parents do what they can to give that newborn what it needs to feel loved.

Eventually, that baby comes home to the parents and, in most cases, can form those attachments through the normal bonding and attachment process that comes through touch, sound, sight, and smell. These sensory elements are essential to the attachment for all human beings.

When the rubber meets the road- literally – it is time for a couple to decide if this is working for them. For some, it does. For some, it is enough. Each individual must ask themselves to be honest in their assessment of whether this relationship is meeting their needs.

If the answer is no, there are three choices:

  • Continue as it is.
  • End it, end it now.
  • Do what is necessary to make it work. Even if that means someone has to make a logistical and career move.

A word of reason here. It is probably not the wisest idea to move across the country or overseas to be with your “one true love” if the relationship did not originate in an environment where it was allowed to grow and thrive.

Think of this in these terms. An uprooted rose bush can be transplanted, fed, watered, and bathed in sunlight. It will thrive. However, cut roses can be placed in fresh water and it will be preserved for a brief period, then the color begins to fade, the petals fall to the table, dry up, and they go out in Monday’s trash.

Ultimately, the choice belongs to the individuals involved. The decision should be made with the head, not the metaphorical heart. Unless a person feels grounded, safe, secure, and confident in themselves, their partner, and the relationship, moving will not cause these things to happen.

Taking a chance on it to test the waters is a possibility but not highly probable for most. Life is about taking risks. Taking risks means being open to the possibility of loss.

Shayna Meyer

Shayna Meyer

Founder and Creator, The Enjoyment Method

Is there anything more exciting than a long-distance relationship? Let’s be honest, a steamy romance with a bit of geographical distance can be all-out perfection.

There is enough time and space to focus on the items one must do in order to run a successful life; there is no one there on a daily basis pulling our attention away from the day-to-day errands and necessities.

We can easily accomplish our morning routine, the gym, business commitments, and relationships with family and friends because we aren’t constantly working around someone else’s daily schedule.

Now, here comes the electrifying side of the coin. The reuniting is almost always absolute fire! The lead-up to those days where a long-distance couple actually spends physical time together are most often filled with an overwhelming amount of yearning and desire.

A longing to caress, kiss, make love and just be with one another. When there is true chemistry, the distance creates a microscope effect on the passion that is shared.

The finite amount of time the couple spends together is not taken for granted, and all the attention is on indulging in each other in every possible way. Whether a couple sees each other one time per month or one time in six months, there is no arguing the reunions are usually steamy and sizzling hot.

But what happens when we stop operating through the lens of fantasy? The reality is that long-distance relationships can be extra difficult for myriad reasons.

In general, these types of partnerships require an extreme amount of:

  • Commitment
  • Trust
  • Patience
  • Financial stability

If all of these qualities are not present, then it can leave a person feeling underwhelmed.

I believe most of us have been in this position at least once or twice, especially when we step outside the bounds of a romantic relationship and consider this situation as it pertains to any long-distance relationship;

  • Romantic
  • Friendship
  • Familial

Picture this scenario, you have been planning a trip for over two months now, and during the last week, you have been talking on the phone multiple times per day out of sheer joy and excitement to see each other.

There is unbridled inspiration regarding the events you will attend, the restaurants you will frequent, and all the plans awaiting you. However, when you get there, almost immediately, it begins to feel like the cogs in the wheels are off track.

You are zigging and they are zagging, and you just aren’t sure what exactly has gone wrong. Although it unnerves you a bit, you pull yourself together and try to begin again. It doesn’t work, and it falls flat. By the time the visit is over, you can’t believe you were ever excited about this gathering, and vow never to return.

As the moment your intuition tells you to, walk away no matter who it is

I personally had a few of those steamy, long-distance romances, one of which is now my husband, and also a couple that fell quite flat. However, the long-distance relationship I had, which created the most cognitive dissonance, was the one I had with my own mother.

I left home at age 14 to attend a performing arts high school in Las Vegas, and from the time I left, I always had a dream that I would somehow “make it in the world” and return home into the loving arms of my parents to live out my days forevermore.

At almost 15, I would never admit it to myself, but I was shattered to be shipped off and away from my biological family.

It would take me over two decades to face that heartbreak, but one of the first signs I began to notice, which would offer me a clue into what was hurting me so badly, was the fact that my visits home were never, ever what I had made them out to be beforehand.

I always left feeling like I was a burden or that somehow I did something wrong, but I could never put my finger on it. Usually, my visits back home were full of watching my mother in gluttonous adoration for my brother, and simultaneously, without her muttering a word, I would catch the drift that I was more of a duty than anything.

In turn, this would push me to work harder and try to be more for her, and I often wondered if she would ever love me as much as she loved him.

At the age of 41, almost three decades after I initially left my parents’ home, I finally drew my boundaries and chose to love myself first. I did what I did to most of my previous long-distance romantic relationships – I listened to my intuition and walked away, knowing it wasn’t serving me.

To walk away from a covert narcissistic mother means I also lost my father and my brother, but I chose to stop the generational trauma in its tracks. As excruciating as it was, I can look my children in the eye and know that I am loving them and protecting them in all the ways they deserve.

The question of when to let go of a long-distance relationship can be simply answered as the moment your intuition tells you to, no matter who it is.

Dr. Mike Anderson, Ph.D

Mike Anderson

Sex and Relationship Expert, OhMy

You sacrifice a lot to be with them

Long-distance relationships are difficult. They require a lot of time, effort, and understanding. It’s easy to be blinded and end up sacrificing what you want or need.

Sometimes it becomes clear early on, but other times it can take time to be sure whether or not your relationship is going anywhere. So what are the signs that it might be time to let go of your relationship and move on?

There are several questions you’ll need to ask yourself if you’re considering letting go of your long-distance relationship.

  1. Are you happy?
    • We all want to make others happy, but at what point do you sacrifice your own happiness for someone who’s not willing to do the same? This is a question everyone needs to ask themselves at some point in their life.
    • If you know you should leave but are still staying for some reason, then something isn’t right. Remember that happiness is a choice. If you’re not happy, then why bother?
  2. Is there trust?
    • You can’t have a functional relationship without trust. We often assume someone is faithful to us when they’re traveling, but their daily lives could be filled with doubt and insecurity. Trust is something that doesn’t just happen. It’s a result of actions. You can’t trust someone who you know isn’t trustworthy.
    • If your partner has a history of cheating or lying to you, there will be questions in the back of your mind whenever they’re away from you, no matter how much they may assure you that they’re not doing anything.
  3. Are you willing to work on it?
    • If your partner claims they’ve changed and you don’t see any evidence of it, chances are they haven’t. You might be able to see their good qualities, but that doesn’t mean that they’re doing everything right. If you’re trying to justify their actions, you’re just making excuses for them.
    • Don’t let your emotions get in the way of reality. You can ask them to change all day long, but if they refuse to acknowledge that there’s a problem and work on it, then you’re still going to be unhappy.
  4. Is your partner worth it?
    • Sometimes, people get so caught up in their relationship that they forget what they want or need. You can’t let someone else’s wants and needs always come before your own without getting something in return.
    • Ask yourself if this person is really worth it to you. If someone doesn’t care about your happiness and just stays with you because they’re “comfortable,” then why would you want to be with them?
  5. Do you have something else going on in your life?
    • This is the simplest but also one of the most important questions on this list. Many times, people get so involved in their long-distance relationships that they neglect other aspects of their lives. You can’t let every single thing revolve around your partner, no matter how much you want to.
    • Your life has value outside of someone else. If something is missing, then maybe it’s time for you to reevaluate what you’re doing. If there’s nothing else going on, then maybe that will give you more of an incentive to walk away from it all—especially if what you’re doing seems like it’s not worth it anymore.
  6. Are you stuck?
    • Sometimes, people get so caught up in other people’s expectations that they lose track of what they want for themselves. Sure, you can listen to your family or friends but how do you feel about the situation?
    • If you know deep down inside that you need to do what’s best for yourself, then why are you still trying to convince yourself that it’s worth it? Why is your partner more important than you? If you feel like there’s nothing else you can do, then maybe a break will give you some time away to figure out what you need.
  7. Is it worth it in the end?
    • This is the question that I think everyone should ask themselves at one point or another. No relationship has a perfect ending, but would it be worth losing your happiness over something that might not even happen?
    • If there were no chance at all of the relationship working out, then why keep trying? It doesn’t matter if you’re happy now because there is no guarantee that it’ll stay like this through anything.
  8. Are you doing this for them or for yourself?
    • Some people get so caught up in what their partner wants that they forget to think about themselves for a change. If you don’t want to be with someone if they’re not willing to change for the sake of their own happiness, then you need to think about what you really want.
    • If you’re doing something because it makes them happy, then why are you still there?
  9. Do you need more?
    • When you’re in a long-distance relationship, it’s easy to give up everything that makes you who you are for the sake of someone else. If you find yourself constantly asking for more and never getting enough, it might be time to reevaluate what it is that you need from this relationship.
    • Everyone deserves to be treated like a priority and not like an option. If you don’t feel like you’re getting that, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate what it is you want.
  10. Have you tried to make it work?
    • Have you tried everything to keep the relationship alive? Some people keep trying and trying and hoping that things will change, but if they’re not willing to work with you, then it’ll never happen.
    • If your partner is someone that’s hard to deal with, then the chances are that nothing will change unless they want it to. This doesn’t mean that you give up on them entirely— it just means that you have a better chance of making things work when a partner communicates and puts forth the same effort.

If you feel that you have to struggle with your partner, compromise your values, or sacrifice your happiness to be with them, then it’s time to let go. This is not healthy for you or the relationship. Your happiness is important, don’t settle for less.

Related: How to Know When to Break up

Kimberly Panganiban, LMFT

Kimberly Panganiban

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Writer, Choosing Therapy

You are unhappy and overwhelmed in the relationship most (if not all) of the time

Long-distance relationships are never easy. It is hard to continue to feel connected to someone you can’t be with physically. But how do you know when it’s time to say goodbye?

Here are some signs that it may be time to end the relationship and move forward:

  1. Betrayals have occurred, trust has been broken, and you and your partner have been unsuccessful in repairing the trust in the relationship.
  2. You feel very distant and disconnected from your partner and they (or you) are unwilling/unable to make changes to improve the connection.
  3. You hardly get to see each other or even talk on the phone and, when you do, all you do is fight. You have either tried to work through these conflicts unsuccessfully, or one or both of you are unwilling to even try.
  4. You have grown in different directions and no longer share future goals, dreams, and visions.
  5. You are unhappy and overwhelmed in the relationship most (if not all) of the time.

Sam Nabil

Sam Nabil

CEO and Lead Therapist, Naya Clinics

When it’s no longer a healthy relationship and there’s nothing to gain from staying

You should consider ending a long-distance relationship when you notice or experience the following with your partner:

  • There’s constant suspicion.
    • It’s not easy to become paranoid and wonder if your partner is seeing someone else in your absence. A little suspicion every now and then can be normal, as is the case with jealousy. But if you find yourselves getting consumed with your suspicions and if you actually have evidence that your partner may be unfaithful, it may be time to cut it loose.
    • This is no longer a healthy relationship and there’s nothing to gain from staying.
  • Lack of communication.
    • Maybe you got to the point that you can go for several days without talking to your partner. Maybe you start feeling like chatting with them or video calling them has become a chore. And when you do end up talking, there’s actually nothing to talk about, or worse, there’s silence on the other line.
  • Lack of effort.
    • Effort is everything in keeping a long-distance relationship alive. Both of you must go out of your way to make it worthwhile despite the distance.
    • If you suddenly notice that your partner is starting to slack off in terms of calling you and other things that keep your connection intact, it’s time to talk to each other and re-assess the relationship.
  • There’s no future together.
    • Living long-distance is one thing, but if it gets to the point that there’s a dim chance of the two of you ever reuniting and sharing a life together, physically and in other aspects, you have to let it go.
  • No romance left.
    • Too much distance and too much time apart can kill the romance between two people. Some can make it work, but some won’t be able to. There’s no point in continuing if you are no longer excited to talk to your partner or you actually feel nothing when you see them on video.

Nate and Lolo

Nate and Lolo

Founders, Lasting The Distance

When you’re staying together to keep them happy

We never want to hurt our partner, and there are many times when we will put their needs in front of our own. Ending the relationship is never easy, but we manage to pick ourselves up and move on with time. The longer you don’t make the decision to let go, the more pain it will cause in the long run.

When you’re not all in

LDRs take a lot of strength and sacrifice to make them work. If you find you or your partner aren’t willing to make the same sacrifices as you once were, it shows that priorities are changing.

If you find yourself preferring or wanting to do other things than spend time with your partner (go out with friends etc.), your relationship may not be as high of a priority as before.

When an open relationship is on the table

In the situation where you have both been against it, but then it comes back as a topic of discussion. You or your partner may be trying to fill a need that the distance creates problems for, intimacy.

Communication dwindles

How you communicate will change over time as you get into a rhythm in regards to the ways you communicate and over what channels. As you become more comfortable with one another, this may mean the frequency of communication declines organically, but when you do communicate, it is more meaningful.

If you find those important conversations like planning visits and talking about the future (closing the distance) are pushed to the side, virtual date nights are continually canceled or communicating via text is infrequent and feels like a chore.

The relationship will suffer, as it creates many uncertainties around the future of the relationship. Where there are unknowns, there is no clarity, making it hard to move forward.

If you’re noticing these and other signs that make you feel like letting go of the relationship is the right thing to do, you need to stop and think. Before making any decisions, you need to talk to your partner about how these signs are impacting you.

There may be a good reason for what you’re noticing to be signs to break up, but there could also be explanations for them that you haven’t thought about.

You and your partner have to be completely honest with each other and have full transparency when it comes to these issues; otherwise, you’re putting further strain on an already complicated situation.

Having these open and honest conversations will lay the foundation for your next steps. You’ll have a better understanding of if you should end things or know that there are reasons for these signs, which you can make a plan to work through together.

Lauren Cook-McKay

Lauren Cook-McKay

Director of Marketing & Content, Divorce Answers

Constant suspicion

You’re continuously suspicious of what your partner is up to while you’re not talking on the phone together. If you can’t get rid of your suspicions despite addressing them with your partner several times, or if you have evidence that your partner is being unfaithful, it’s definitely time to move on.

It’s reasonable to be suspicious in a long-distance relationship, but if it consumes you, the relationship is no longer good for you, or you need to examine your thoughts more closely.

You’re chasing them and you feel exhausted

Trying to reach them is starting to feel like calling a 1-800 number and speaking with a customer service representative. You keep dialing, hoping to get a simple hello on the other end. They don’t give you the time of day you deserve, and it takes ten rings for them to pick up the phone.

Even when traveling long distances, it shouldn’t be difficult to contact someone who strongly loves you. This is a warning sign that they aren’t as invested in the relationship as you are.

Related: 25+ Warning Signs Your Relationship Is Over

You’re falling behind in your personal goals trying to maintain the relationship

You scold yourself for becoming distracted and falling behind on your personal goals every time you get off the phone. Another gym day is missed, an application deadline is missing, and an important email goes unanswered.

They don’t respect your limits when you try to plan calls with them around your priorities. Don’t feel bad about pursuing your goals and striving to be the best version of yourself. If you and your partner can’t find a method to communicate without sacrificing your goals, it’s time to part ways.

Cindy Corpis

Cindy Corpis

CEO, SearchPeopleFree

Long-distance relationships can be successful if both partners work hard to make them work, but there are times when they are not, and you must know when to end a long-distance relationship.

There are a few indicators that it’s time to end a long-distance relationship, which is listed below:

Communication breakdown

Between the two of you, there is no communication. You might discover that you don’t have anything to say to your long-distance partner, or that calling or video chatting with them has become a hassle. You may also go several days without speaking with your partner, and when you eventually phone, there is silence on the other end of the line.

There are too many changes

You or your partner has changed in ways that have caused the two of you to become increasingly estranged. One or both partners may alter as a result of moving to a new city or being separated.

You and/or your relationship may no longer be compatible if you see that you and/or your partner have changed after you were separated. If considerable changes occur, it may be time to end the long-distance relationship.

There are no attempts made

The distance can make it tough to stay together in a relationship, therefore both parties must try to make things work. If you feel like your partner is no longer trying or prioritizing you, it’s time to end your long-distance relationship.

Timothy Woods

Timothy Woods

Director, Carnivore Style

You are starting to feel bothered and insecure

It is something I am writing from my personal experience. I believe that long-distance relationships are affected by so many factors. Those factors are good as well as bad for the people involved in that relationship.

However, when a relationship starts to bother you, make you feel insecure about yourself and the second person, and create havoc in your life instead of peace, it’s time to let go of this long-distance relationship.

People know if their relationship is worth putting the effort in or not. Therefore, when you start to feel tired of the long-distance relationship or feel the second person clingy or ignorant in the relationship, it’s time to let go of it.

I understand that it’s really hard to manage a breakup and separation altogether. However, it’s harder to manage a disturbed long-distance relationship than anything else.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a long-distance relationship?

A long-distance relationship (LDR) is a romantic relationship between two geographically separated people with limited opportunities to meet in person.

This can be due to various reasons, such as work, study, or family obligations resulting in one or both partners living in different cities or countries.

LDRs require a lot of patience, trust, and communication to make them work. They can be challenging but rewarding if both partners are committed to making it work.

In an LDR, couples often rely on technology to communicate, such as phone calls, video chats, and text messages.

How do you know if a long-distance relationship is right for you?

Whether or not a long-distance relationship is right for you depends on your individual circumstances and personality. It’s important that you’re honest with yourself about your expectations and whether you can handle the challenges that a long-distance relationship brings.

If you’re someone who values independence and personal space, a long-distance relationship might be a good fit for you. If you’re willing to put in the effort and have a plan for the future, an LDR can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

On the other hand, if you need physical touch and proximity to feel connected to your partner, an LDR may not be right for you.

It’s also important to consider the logistical aspects of the relationship, such as distance and the availability of communication technologies, before committing to an LDR.

What are the challenges in a long-distance relationship?

One of the biggest challenges in a long-distance relationship is the physical distance between partners. It can be difficult to feel connected and maintain a sense of intimacy when you can’t be together in person. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Another challenge is the lack of shared experiences. When you can’t be together in person, you miss out on everyday experiences and milestones that couples in a traditional relationship get to share. This can make it challenging to feel like you’re growing and developing as a couple.

Jealousy and insecurity can also be challenging in an LDR. If you can’t see what your partner is doing or who they’re with, letting your imagination run wild can be easy. It’s important that you talk openly and honestly with each other about your feelings and address any issues that arise in the relationship.

How can I make a long-distance relationship work?

To make a long-distance relationship work, communication is key. It’s important to communicate regularly, whether it’s through phone calls, text messages, or video chats. Make time for each other and try to find activities to do together, such as watching a movie or playing an online game.

Trust is also important in an LDR. Trust that your partner is committed to the relationship and will be faithful. It’s important to be honest, and transparent with each other and address any concerns or issues that arise in the relationship.

Finally, it’s important to have a plan for the future. Talk about how you’ll bridge the distance and make a plan for visits and time spent together. Having something to work toward can make the distance more bearable and keep the relationship positive and hopeful.

How can you maintain intimacy in a long-distance relationship?

Maintaining intimacy in a long-distance relationship can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Here are some tips for keeping the romance alive:

Schedule regular video chats or phone calls: regular communication is key in an LDR. Make time for phone calls or video chats so you feel connected and can catch up on each other’s lives.

Send thoughtful messages and care packages: small gestures can go a long way in an LDR. Send your partner a thoughtful message or surprise them with a care package in the mail.

Find ways to be intimate without physical touch: there are many ways to be intimate with your partner without physical touch. These include deep conversations, sharing hopes and dreams, or exploring each other’s interests and hobbies.

Plan visits and trips: planning visits and trips can be a great way to look forward to spending time together. It’s also a way for you to work toward something and keep the relationship positive and hopeful.

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