When you and your partner live in different cities — or even different countries — a lot of your energy as a couple will be devoted to maintaining your connection. You’ll send an abundance of texts, have standing FaceTime dates, and maybe mail each other a cute letter or two. But even when you do your best to stay in touch, there are a number of mistakes long-distance partners make that can lead to a breakup.
While any type of relationship takes work, long-distance relationships require a little extra effort and dedication — and it has to come equally from both partners, says Boston-based psychotherapist Angela Ficken. Big issues, like not being on the same page about communication or boundaries, will definitely chip away at your connection. But small issues can have an impact, too.
Even though it’s tough, it is possible for long-distance relationships to thrive, says Kalley Hartman, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist. If you notice any of the issues listed below, find time to chat — preferably on a video call — so you can talk it out as a duo.
Here are some mistakes that people can make in a long-distance relationship, according to experts.
1. You Don’t Have Any Relationship “Rules”
Since long-distance relationships can lead to, well, distance, it helps to go in with a clear understanding of what your LDR will look like. In order to stay on the same page, “it's important to have open and honest conversations about what each partner wants and needs from the relationship,” Ficken says.
That means ensuring you agree on boundaries, communication, and expectations. If you part ways without having agreed on the basics — like how often you’d both like to text or even the status of the relationship — the resulting misunderstandings and frustrations can lead to a breakup.
2. You Let Other People’s Opinions Cause Doubt
"There are a lot of haters out there when it comes to long-distance relationships,” notes Samantha Newton, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker. When you’re in one, chances are your friends and family will express doubts and worries.
According to Newton, they might suggest you date someone who lives closer or express worry that your partner will cheat. And before you know it, you’ll start to feel like they’ve got a point. While it doesn’t hurt to hear them out, these concerns are often more about them than you.
"Be cautious about who you open up to about your relationships and do not allow their personal relationship preferences to place doubt in your mind about your own,” Newton says. If your relationship is happy and strong, that’s all that matters.
3. You Don’t Have A Visit Planned
Not knowing when you're going to see each other again can be really challenging, says Erin Dierickx, LMFTA, a licensed marriage and family therapist. It can heighten feelings of loneliness, distrust, and doubt — and it’s also just kind of a bummer.
"If at all possible, schedule when you'll see each other next,” Dierickx says. “Even if it's months out, having a set date provides hope for the relationship and lessens the discouragement and fear around what may happen in the coming months due to not knowing when you'll see each other next.”
4. You Forget To Schedule Dates
Scheduling date nights is just as important in an LDR as it is in person, so don’t let too many Friday nights go by without doing something fun. Think HBO watch parties, FaceTime dinner dates, or a long walk while you chat about your week.
"We become closer to others through spending time with them and a great way to do this is through some kind of activity," says Dr. Alisha Powell, LCSW, a therapist and licensed clinical social worker. "Long distance makes it more challenging, but watching movies, having dinner together, or video chatting while doing the same activity can increase emotional intimacy.”
5. You Neglect Your Own Lives
Too much of a good thing can sometimes be a problem. For example, if you're both working hard to create a healthy relationship, it can get to the point where most of your time is spent thinking about each other. While that’s adorable, you need to take care of yourselves, as well as your partnership, in order for it to last.
As Powell says, “It’s important for both partners to have their own lives so that they won’t end up resenting each other." It’s totally OK to put your phone down, take a breather, see friends, or spend some time alone.