Individuals may fear that their partner is dedicating too much time to another friendship, to professional endeavors, and/or to extracurricular activities. They may further assume that this time is at the expense of their partner's focus and dedication to the primary relationship. It can be easy to make this type of assumption when one’s partner is far away and is unable to observe the regular goings on of their significant other.
The key to this complex set of dynamics is communication and trust. It is critical for both individuals to live with total transparency while in a long distance relationship. Both should get in the habit of sharing what they are doing when and with whom in order to minimize false assumptions made in the absence of information.
Both individuals should also make it a practice to conduct themselves with total integrity throughout the course of their time apart. Both should call when they say they are going to call, visit when they say they are going to visit and follow up on any commitment/promises made. This creates a climate of trust and comfort that helps the couple withstand the difficulty of being apart. It is also important for both members of the couple to share feelings of vulnerability, insecurity, and jealousy as they come up. It is best to refrain from sharing these feelings during the course of a fight, but rather to discuss them during calmer waters so the partner on the receiving end of the information can feel truly open to this important dialogue.
Tendency towards withdrawal or dependency
No matter which tools and resources are employed, long distance relationships can be difficult and trying. Each person has different ways of coping with the pain of missing their partner, the constant wish to be together and the uncertainty of the future. Oftentimes, these complex set of feelings result in one of two behaviors: withdrawal or dependency. Both actions are in the service of attempting to minimize the pain of separation but can ultimately be very destructive. Withdrawal from intimacy and communication may serve to numb the sadness and frustration of the distance but it will also foster disconnection. Over-dependency on the relationship may serve to minimize the sense of distance in the short run but often leads to frustration and a breakdown in intimacy in the long run.
Again, communication is critical in managing the tendency towards these counterproductive behaviors. Each member of the couple should be on the lookout for the compulsion to exhibit these types of behaviors within themselves and their partner. If they indeed notice the emergence of one or both of these behavior patterns, it is critical to share their feelings or observations with their partner so the issues can be discussed and rectified.
Breakdown in communication
Communication is ultimately the most important aspect that needs to be firmly in place in order to successfully manage a long distance relationship. Talking about complex, difficult issues and feelings is invariably the road to intimacy and resolution. The danger of long distance relationships is that one or both members of the couple stop talking or communicating in order to protect themselves from being vulnerable or hurt. This approach will never serve the relationship. It is always best to risk sharing your true feelings in a graceful and clear manner versus stuffing the feelings inside, leaving them to fester and create distance and resentment. A breakdown in communication often leads to a break up. So it is especially critical for the couple to commit to communicating even when times are hard and feelings are raw. In fact, this type of regular communication not only makes a long distance relationship more manageable, but also fosters an even closer, more sustainable relationship in the long run----long distance or otherwise.
Although conducting a relationship across the miles is far from ideal, it is indeed possible. It requires consciousness, commitment, and, of course, regular communication.
Dr. Hillary Goldsher is an expert on the topic of relationships and has a private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. Please contact her with additional questions or to continue this important dialogue.