Can Long Distance Relationships Ever Work?

Long-distance relationships can be quite challenging. Nevertheless, they can succeed if a series of parameters are met. We take a look at what's needed to make them work.
Can Long Distance Relationships Ever Work?
Bernardo Peña Herrera

Written and verified by the psychologist Bernardo Peña Herrera.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Long-distance relationships can be extremely difficult for many couples. That’s because love and distance are two concepts that almost never go hand in hand. Indeed, when you start a relationship with someone, there always has to be a physical closeness, as you have a real need to be with them, to touch them, feel them, and hug them.

However, if one of you has to go away for work or personal reasons, in one way or another, the relationship is destined to change to adapt to the new circumstances. It’s then that a dilemma arises. To continue with the relationship or refuse to accept the change and end it.

Long-distance relationship problems

Long-distance relationships involve a series of difficulties that other couples don’t have to face. Among the most important are the following:

  • Absence of physical contact and inability to touch and be with your partner.
  • Difficulties in communicating. This can be for time reasons (especially if the distance between you is extensive ) as well as possible misunderstandings that can arise when you’re not able to see each other face to face.
  • Uncertainty about whether it’s a good decision to continue the relationship at a distance. You should consider your own well-being and that of your partner and any suffering that you may be experiencing. All of these issues may lead you to consider ending the relationship on more than one occasion.
  • Jealousy and insecurity. Fear of what your partner may be doing in those far away places. Being afraid of the possibility that they’ll meet someone else who’s able to offer them physical closeness and company.
  • Feelings of loneliness. In a long-distance relationship, your partner can’t accompany you to any type of event or share your everyday life.

Can long-distance relationships work according to psychology?

There are those who categorically affirm that a long-distance relationship is doomed to failure, infidelity, and suffering. However, it’s been shown that these types of links can not only work but may even be of better quality, at least in certain aspects.

For example, the intimacy that develops between long-distance couples may be greater. That’s because they’re forced to communicate in-depth and make self-disclosures more frequently. Nonetheless, the success of the link will depend on different factors:

  • The time of separation. It’s not the same to separate for a couple of months, as for a few years or even indefinitely.
  • The distance between partners. In some cases, the distance between you is such that you could meet up in a couple of hours. In other instances, you may be oceans apart.
  • The stage of the relationship. A new relationship where the bond between you is still quite weak yet the need to physically be with each other is intense isn’t the same as the one that’s been consolidated over the years. The kind in which you had many things in common before the separation.
  • The maturity of you both plays a fundamental role. Because empathy, emotional stability, and a great deal of clarity are required to carry out a relationship of this type.

How to make a long-distance relationship work?

Do you think long-distance relationships are complicated? Have you recently become separated from your partner for a long time but think you’ll be able to fight for your love? Here are some tips that’ll help you keep your relationship alive despite the distance.

The return must be planned

Couple having a reunion

Whatever the reasons for you being apart, you must have an end date for the separation. It doesn’t matter if it’s a month or a year away, but you must meet again after that agreed time. In this way, passion and lost time can be recovered.

Wherever possible, try and establish a visiting plan. Times when you can meet each other, even if they’re only short periods before you’re together again for good. If possible, these visits should be frequent and not spaced too far apart.

If this doesn’t happen, you won’t have much of a future. In fact, the only way you’d be able to resume your relationship would be for you to get together and start a new life in another place. On the other hand, if you both live permanently apart, sooner or later the flame of love will go out. At least, this is what happens in most cases.

Don’t get carried away by sadness or feelings of abandonment

If you’ve made the decision to continue with your relationship despite the distance between you, there’s no other option than to accept the situation. Therefore, when you’re apart, try as much as possible to take time for yourself and socialize with other people. Allow yourself more time for those hobbies that, for one reason or another, you didn’t do with your partner.

In this way, you won’t become emotionally dependent. Then, when your partner returns, you’ll be able to enjoy your reunion in a healthier and more intense way. You have to be patient with long-distance relationships and learn how to adapt to the new situation as quickly as possible.

If you don’t take care of yourself during this time, you may well end up blaming your partner for your feelings of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. This will only generate conflict between you and can end up leading to a breakup. Therefore, take care of yourself.

Woman reading book in her room

When you have a partner, you sometimes forget about yourself. You leave your friends to one side and abandon your hobbies. Long-distance relationships are an excellent opportunity to recover all this.

Despite the distance, you must communicate

Although in long-distance relationships it’s normal for there to be less contact, this doesn’t mean that you should stop talking to each other completely. In fact, it’s really important that, as far as possible, you adopt a certain routine for talking to each other. For example, at the end of every day. In this way, you’re able to tell each other about everything, big or small, that’s happened during the day. This ensures that your relationship doesn’t cool down and fall by the wayside.

In addition, you should both tell each other anything that’s bothering you about your relationship. Otherwise, you may find that the distance between you means the slightest of problems becomes the spark that finally ignites and ends your relationship. Fortunately, with the rise of the Internet, social media, and videoconferences, it’s now much easier to maintain contact with those who are far away.

Smiling man looking at mobile, representing long distance realationships.

Long-distance relationships can allow you both to mature and grow. Then, when you meet again you’ll have a more balanced, healthy, and strong relationship.

As a matter of fact, a study published in the Journal of Communication conducted by researchers from the University of Hong Kong (China) and Cornell (USA) claimed that long-distance relationships can be more successful than conventional ones.

This is based on the fact that missing your partner increases your passion for them, and also favors your ‘intimate idealization’ of them, even when there are fewer daily interactions. In this respect, the researchers attached great importance to new technologies. In fact, they suggested that they’re essential as they facilitate communication. This allows the feelings of closeness and the success of the relationship to be maintained.

Trust is key

When it’s not possible to see each other regularly, it’s essential that trust exists between you. Nevertheless, unfortunately, many people who maintain long-distance relationships begin to experience jealousy, rebuke their partners, and even ask them to limit their social life for fear of being cheated on. This is extremely harmful.

Emotional responsibility

Just as it’s not positive to distrust or restrict your partner so, for instance, they have to spend all their time on a video call with you, you mustn’t ignore them either. Indeed, physical distance doesn’t give you the right to forget that you’re maintaining an emotional relationship with them and that you have a responsibility in this regard.

Furthermore, just as you enjoy your love for your partner and the good times together, you must also be available to listen to their fears and concerns, comfort them, and take care of their emotions.

New ways of loving

In a long-distance relationship, you can’t share kisses, hugs, or caresses. Nor can you experience sexual intimacy. However, this shouldn’t prevent you from showing the affection you feel for your partner.

As mentioned earlier, the Internet and social media offer numerous possibilities in this regard. For instance, a video call can make you feel closer, sexting can be fun, and even sending a surprise present to your partner can help you show your love for them. You just need to be a little creative to keep your dreams alive.

Finally, always try to see the positive side of this new situation. Who knows? Perhaps the distance between you will mean your relationship becomes much stronger. What do you think?



  • Crystal Jiang, L., & Hancock, J. T. (2013). Absence makes the communication grow fonder: Geographic separation, interpersonal media, and intimacy in dating relationships. Journal of Communication63(3), 556-577.
  • Sahlstein, E. M. (2004). Relating at a distance: Negotiating being together and being apart in long-distance relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships21(5), 689-710.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.