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When to Let Go of a Long Distance Relationship

Jorge's relationship advice is based on experience and observation. Let his trial and error be your success (hopefully).

Are you sick of seeing your partner through a screen, but they don't want to make any plans to move closer together? This may be a sign of when to let go of a long distance relationship.

Are you sick of seeing your partner through a screen, but they don't want to make any plans to move closer together? This may be a sign of when to let go of a long distance relationship.

Knowing When to Let Go of a Long Distance Relationship

Are you feeling torn about an important connection in your life? Are you wondering when to let go of a long distance relationship because you're truly on the fence?

You're not alone. As communication technology has improved, long distance relationships have become more commonplace--but so have the issues that come with them.

You may be asking yourself:

  • "Is it worth all the work I'm putting into it?"
  • "Will we ever be able to live together like other couples?"
  • "How do I know my partner isn't losing interest when I'm not around?"

These are pretty common concerns. As with any relationship, long distance or not, I can't tell you whether to stay or go--that ultimately must be your own decision. However, here is a list of things to consider that might help you make up your mind:

1. Do You Have a Relationship...or Do You Have the IDEA of a Relationship?

The first thing to consider is the difference between loving the idea of being in a relationship, and the actual reality of a relationship itself.

Lots of people get into long distance relationships because they are subconsciously afraid of closeness. They prefer the idea of a relationship and the mental image of their partner over the actual day to day, messy reality.

Is your partner one of these people? Are you one of these people and simply don't realize it? Does your partner have a history of getting into the kinds of relationships where spending actual time together is difficult? How about yourself?

One of the biggest pitfalls with long distance relationships, especially those that come about through an online connection initially, is that you or your partner don't actually know each other that well. You think you do, but you don't. You only know the bits and pieces that the other person has allowed you to see--most likely the best parts of themselves.

Your mind may fill in the missing pieces, and then you're actually dating an image in your mind of that person instead of the actual person. It's easy to idealize a partner who is absent.

This can be fine at first, but eventually you'll want to experience the full reality of who they are. If your partner is unwilling to move forward from these early stages and show you their whole selves, this may be a signal of when to let go of a long distance relationship.

It also brings us to the next point:

Sometimes it's easier to idealize the relationship when there is a phone screen (and a lot of physical distance) between you.

Sometimes it's easier to idealize the relationship when there is a phone screen (and a lot of physical distance) between you.

2. Can You See A Future Where You're Together?

Now, you may hope that your relationship has a future--but can you really picture it?

Imagine that you have fulfilled your deepest aspirations and highest goals in life. Realistically, does your partner seem to be the type of person who could fit in that image of your future? Or do you have a hard time imagining the two of you together in that ideal situation? Is there something about them that is completely at odds with the path you want to take in life?

This can be fine if you don't want the relationship to progress more than it already has. Maybe you're perfectly happy with the way things are and you want to keep it that way forever. But if that were the case, you probably wouldn't be reading this article.

Can you see a reasonable path for the relationship to become an in-person one and not a long distance one? This is important. If currently, you don't see any way you could be together in the same physical location in the future, then your partner should at least be willing to discuss a plan.

3. Does Your Partner Seem Actively Interested in Moving Forward?

It takes two people to make a relationship work. Is your partner putting energy into the connection? If you're unsatisfied with the relationship's long distance status, are they helping you work towards a solution?

Sometimes relationships can be one-sided. If it's been years and your partner cannot (or does not want to) find a way to be together in the same physical location, they're unlikely to magically change. Unless there's a good reason for them to have to keep apart from you (such as their job or military service), this is a sign that they probably like the way things are.

Are you okay with that? If not, then you may have to start considering whether you should let go of this long distance relationship. You may need more than they are willing to give, and so far you've been carried along by the promise that one day they'll offer more. Does this promise hold any weight for you?

Does your partner seem like they would want to move closer to you (or even into the same house) eventually? It's fine if they don't, but make sure you're on the same page about this!

Does your partner seem like they would want to move closer to you (or even into the same house) eventually? It's fine if they don't, but make sure you're on the same page about this!

4. Is Your Partner Responsive to You?

When you contact your partner, do they respond reasonably quickly? Do they take your communications seriously and talk to you about as often as they would if you lived closer together?

On the other hand, do they ignore you periodically simply because they know you can't go looking for them? Does your partner randomly disappear on you? Do they treat the relationship as something they can just turn on and off whenever they like?

If so, then your partner may already be checking out of the relationship--or they may simply not take it as seriously as you do.

There are times, of course, when this distance can be mutual. When I was once in a long-distance relationship (where luckily we could travel to see each other often), we did not call or text each other every day. We both simply had the sort of personality that prefers in-person communication. That's totally fine if that works for you; the problem is when one of you is trying to chase a ghost.

If you don't want to have this kind of one-sided connection where you're constantly fighting for their attention, it may be time to let the relationship go.

How You Met Your Partner

5. Do You Trust Your Partner?

Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Distrusting your partner doesn't necessarily mean that they themselves are not trustworthy--it has just as much to do with you as it does with them. If for whatever reason, however, you simply don't trust your partner, then maybe a long distance relationship is not for you.

Being long distance means that you both have a lot of freedom and space. This means that you have to trust that your partner won't stray and that they will stay committed to the connection that you have together. If you're a jealous person, or if they are easily tempted, then this relationship model may not be the best fit.

Do you trust that your partner is committed, even if you only meet every once in awhile? If so, congratulations! If not, this may be when to let go of a long distance relationship.

Do you trust that your partner is committed, even if you only meet every once in awhile? If so, congratulations! If not, this may be when to let go of a long distance relationship.

6. Does Your Partner Include You in Their Life?

When you're in a long distance relationship, it's even more important that your partner take extra steps to include you in their daily life. Did they have a major life-altering event and not mention it to you? Did they make a huge decision that changed the course of their schooling or work, but did not discuss any of this with you? Did you have to find out about it from others?

If you feel like you hardly know what your partner's life is actually like, then this may be a sign of when to let go of a long distance relationship. Being physically distant is one thing, but being emotionally distant is a whole other story.

7. The Ultimate Question: Does This Relationship Add Value to Your Life?

Finally, the most important thing to ask is: Does this relationship actually add value to your life?

Naturally, relationships have their ups and downs. It's not always going to be a bowl of cherries, but, on the whole, does this person make you feel uplifted on a daily basis...or do they suck the life right out of you?

Do you generally feel happy after you've talked with them, or do you feel exhausted most of the time? Do they make your life objectively better and help you improve, or do they just drag you down? Does the relationship cause you more joy or anxiety? Do you spend more time laughing or worrying about it?

This is the ultimate question because it drills down to the whole point of a relationship in the first place. You are meant to both give and receive emotional value from your partner. You are meant to enjoy the relationship, not spend most of your time agonizing over it.

Of course, this may have nothing to do with your partner. Maybe you're just a person who tends to agonize over lots of things. If that's the case, then it's something you need to address with yourself.

However, if the problem is that you are putting tons of work into the connection and getting nothing out of it, then this may be a sign that it's time to reconsider.

It's totally understandable to be conflicted. Even when you see red flags everywhere, it's hard to know when to let go of a long distance relationship that you've invested so much into. The more effort you put in to make it work, the more hesitant you will likely be.

But try to take a look at things more objectively: Do you really want to continue to invest even more into this connection? Ask yourself that. What does your gut instinct say? Is all this effort a dead end? Is the relationship a good investment or a waste of your energy?

That's what it all comes down to: In your heart of hearts, do you want to spend your energy on this relationship anymore?

Are you putting tons of effort into your long distance relationship and going out of your way to maintain it, but the value returned just isn't there?

Are you putting tons of effort into your long distance relationship and going out of your way to maintain it, but the value returned just isn't there?

Time Spent Together

Deciding When to Let Go of a Long Distance Relationship is Not Easy

Deep inside, you probably know the right answer for you. For some people, long distance relationships can really work out well, but for others it's a lot of effort with little in return.

Relationships go through phases of give and take, but looking at the big picture, you can probably see the wider patterns.

Go outside and have a walk. Consider how the relationship truly affects you and whether your heart is in it anymore--then have a discussion with your partner about it. Don't hide your ambivalence; they deserve to know. And certainly don't ghost them if you decide to cut things off!

Have the courage to admit when your needs aren't getting met--and, if necessary, have the courage to gracefully let go.

© 2021 Jorge Vamos

Comments

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 14, 2021:

This is a well-written article and you make so many good points, Jorge. I think there is wealth of good advice in the article.

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