How to Navigate a Long-Distance Relationship

How to Navigate Your Long-Distance Relationship

If you want to have a healthy and successful long-distance relationship, you should learn to navigate it. And the way you do it is through effective communication.

Long-distance relationships are challenging to navigate because of the difficulty in communication and geographical distance.

  1. Identify the current stage of your long-distance relationship
  2. Set personal and relationship goals for you and your partner
  3. Make a plan to achieve your goals
  4. Create a timeline for when you will achieve your goals
  5. Set boundaries and expectations
  6. Work on your trust, intimacy and communication
  7. Address issues in the current stage of your relationship

Navigating your long-distance relationship successfully depends on your goals and expectations. But most importantly, on how well you can communicate your feelings and needs to your partner. Having a clear plan will allow you to see where you are in your relationship and where it’s going.

1. Identify the Current Stage of Your Long-Distance Relationship

A successful long-distance relationships has 5 stages:

  1. Starting a long-distance relationship
  2. Getting to know your long-distance partner online
  3. Meeting your long-distance partner for the first time
  4. Visiting each other
  5. Moving in together

Your first step is to identify the current stage of your long-distance relationship. Knowing where you are, serves as a starting point to reflect on where you came from and where you are going.

Once you get your bearings, your next step is to check how healthy your long-distance relationship is right now. This step by step guide will help you and your partner identify the problems and bring up the issues, so you can get your relationship back on track.

2. Set Boundaries and Expectations

Boundaries are the borders made up of your values and preferences. Values are the things that are important to you and preferences are the things you can be more flexible about.

If you are unclear about your boundaries for each area of your relationship, perhaps take some time to get to know yourself better. After that, you can share your discoveries with your partner. In turn, your partner can make sure they respect your boundaries.

The same goes for your partner.

Expectations are also missed by many couples and individuals. The moment we have a need, we have an expectation that this need will will not be fulfilled. Many expectations escape our awareness and if our needs are not met, we feel disappointed, without necessarily understanding why.

Becoming aware of your needs and expectations can really help you and your long-distance partner navigate your behaviour and the dynamic of your relationship.

3. Set Personal and Relationship Goals for You and Your Partner

Success of your long-distance relationship greatly depends on you and your partner having specific goals. These goals should be realistic and attainable and would ideally include your personal life goals as well as your expectations from this relationship.

Your personal goals are things you would like to achieve in your personal life, regardless of this relationship. They could be related to your personal development, hobbies, career, etc.

Your relationship goals include the type of relationship you want, who would be the right partner for you, if you would want to build a family, have children, etc.

If you do not have these goals set, here is a step by step guide to help you and your partner identify what is important for each of you.

To successfully navigate a long-distance relationship, you should be very clear about what a long-distance relationship is and what do you and your partner want and expect from each other and this relationship.

A long-distance relationship is a romantic relationship, where a couple is separated by the geographical distance.

Long-distance relationships should not last a long time. When couples try to make them last as long as possible, they can bring a lot of suffering and struggle into a relationship. This does not contribute to any of the partners nor the relationship as a whole.

Romantic relationships imply having physical intimacy. Not having it, like in the case of long-distance relationships, can be frustrating. The reason it is frustrating is that you expect this physical intimacy to be part of your romantic relationship, so you feel disappointed when it’s not.

4. Make a plan to achieve your goals

Make a plan to achieve your goals for when and how you will communicate, visit each other, and move in together.

To navigate your long-distance relationship you need a plan for how long your long-distance relationship will last and how often you will visit each other in the meantime.

To make a plan just have a conversation and talk about it openly and honestly. Don’t try to fit your desires to the circumstances. Instead, understand your feelings, and together, try to find a solution that works for both of you.

As you can see, to navigate your long-distance relationship, you should adapt to how the distance affects different aspects of your relationship.

This workbook will help you and your partner make a realistic plan to make sure you achieve your personal and relationship goals.

5. Create a timeline for when you will achieve your goals

A timeline helps you keep an eye on your circumstances to make sure that your long-distance relationship is heading in the right direction.

If your goal is a destination and your plan is how you get there, then a timeline is when you will achieve your goals. A functional timeline should be realistic and would ideally include shorter time frame benchmarks for your mini goals on your way to the main goal.

In a serious long-distance relationship, the main goal is to move in together. Your timeline would include the date when you are planning to move in, which would be based on your plan.

Your timeline would also include the mini goals, such as the times and dates when for your visits. Even smaller goals would include how, when and how long you communicate.

Check out this article for more help and insight on creating a functional timeline.

6. Work on your trust, intimacy and communication

Trust is a foundation of every relationship. In a long-distance relationship, when you do not get to see your partner very often, it has an even greater significance.

Building trust should be your main focus. If you are having doubts or insecurities, talk about them openly and honestly. If you do not, you risk doing something you may regret later. And, once the trust is broken, it can be very hard if not impossible to rebuild it.

If you need help fixing the trust issues in your long-distance relationship, this guide will help you address them in a healthy and loving way.

Long-distance relationships are great when you are getting to know someone you met online. They also work very well for existing couples who have to be apart because of study, work or relocation.

Long-distance relationships do not work if they last longer than a few months. While couples can remain together, sometimes even for years, it does not mean that their relationship is healthy. In truth, a healthy relationship can last as long as it satisfies each partner’s need for intimacy.

Some people need physical closeness to reassure them that they are in a loving and happy relationship. For others, it’s not that important to have somebody nearby to know that they are together.

What matters is that you and your partner are aware of each other’s needs.

If you’re in a long-distance relationship, you need an understanding instead of compromising. If you know how often you should be together to be happy, you can make a plan to make that happen.

If you are not in a position to see each other more often, then regardless of your reasons, one of you or both of you can start compromising. This usually does not end well. For a short while, you can compromise a little bit, but long-term, it just does not work.

Since intimacy is such a challenging topic for long-distance couples, we have created a step by step guide to help you stay physically and emotionally connected.

In some ways, long-distance relationships are more challenging to navigate than regular ones. The communication in a long-distance relationship is different from when you talk face to face. Mainly because without seeing each other, it’s challenging to navigate your conversation and respond accordingly.

Unless you confirm with your partner, you can only assume what they mean. Without having them next to you, it’s hard to know for sure how your partner feels. 

While communication in a long-distance relationship can be challenging, it also has its benefits. When you communicate via text messages, you get more time to think before you reply. The downside is that it’s easy to misinterpret your partner without seeing their facial expressions and body language.

Long-distance brings many uncertainties into your relationship. If you don’t deal with these uncertainties right away, they can leave you with many doubts in your mind. Unresolved doubts will lead to unnecessary worries and anxiety. If you have insecurities, they can turn into jealousy resulting in a controlling behaviour that can ruin your relationship.

In a long-distance relationship, verbal and written communication are your only means to express yourself. So if you don’t say something, there’s no way for your partner to guess if something is off. That’s why misunderstandings are quite common and hard to solve.

You can use effective communication at any stage of your relationship. If you are starting your long-distance relationship, you can talk about the things you will be doing in this relationship like:

  • What do you want your relationship to be?
  • Do you want to be romantic partners of friends?
  • How frequently do you want to visit each other?
  • Do you see yourselves living together at some point?

To improve communication with your long-distance partner, use this workbook to build emotional connection and bring up any issues you may have.

7. Address issues in the current stage of your relationship

Every stage has its challenges. While these challenges are normal and expected, the way you deal with them can make or break your relationship.

If you can identify your issues and address them in a timely manner and in a loving way, you can make sure your relationship remains healthy. After that you can move on to the next stage.

However, if you fail to address and fix the problems in time, they will accumulate and damage your relationship.

Couples in long-distance relationships tend to blame the distance for all that is wrong with their relationship. But it is worth differentiating between the problems that result from the way distance affect your relationship and the problems between partners.

Click here to learn more about common problems couples face in a long-distance relationship.

If you have a healthy and strong relationship, you will be better able to adapt to a long-distance relationship.

However, if your relationship is shaky, to begin with, the distance will accentuate the problems which you could have been ignored otherwise.

Communication is the key to recognising problems and fixing them when they arise. Being able to express your feelings and listen to the feelings of your partner can make or break your long-distance relationship.

For example, if you have doubts or insecurities, you should talk about them and discuss them with your partner. 

In a long-distance relationship if you do not say something it goes unnoticed as opposed to a regular relationship, where the change in your behaviour can signal to your partner that something is off.

It is a good practice to express as much as you can and want to make sure that important things are recognised and addressed by both of you.

If you do not have a clear and effective communication, doubts and insecurities can quickly grow into jealousy and distrust.

In a long-distance relationship, you have a lot of time for yourself. This means you spend a lot of time going through your thoughts over and over. So, if you start having thoughts that make you doubt of your partner, they will soon consume your life and destroy your relationship.


Effective communication can help you navigate a long-distance relationship. You would have to adapt to a different way of communication in a long-distance relationship.

A big chunk of our communication happens through body language. But that’s only possible when you have another person in front of you. In a long-distance relationship, your means of communication is limited to textingphone calls and video calls.

To successfully navigate your relationship, you need to have common goals with your long-distance partner. Effective communication and understanding are the key to creating a healthy relationship and navigating it over the distance.

To handle the distance, check out this step by step guide.

While you can still see a person, mostly their face, all the subtle signals from their body language are missing. You don’t get a certain feeling to navigate through conversation as you would when you are talking to someone face-to-face.

To understand another person, you need all the information you can get about their feelings and intentions. If you don’t get as much information, it can open doors to misunderstandings. These misunderstandings are hard to fix. If it were easy, they would not come round in the first place.

To successfully navigate your relationship, make a plan with a timeline, and check that you are on track to achieve your goals on set dates.

For a complete overview of what it takes to make your long-distance relationship work, click here.

If you are already in a long-distance relationship with an existing partner, then you could reflect on how well you are getting on. Is your long-distance relationship with this person as you have expected. Maybe things are getting better maybe they are not going so well.

It’s important to reflect on your experience of this long-distance relationship honestly. Try to understand your partner’s experience, as well. Once you have understanding in your relationship, you can find the way forward that works for both of you.

Once you have reflected on yourself and talked about your relationship with your partner, you can make a plan. You could arrange reflection sessions with your partner once a week, to make sure your relationship is on track.

During these sessions, you should cover all aspects of your long-distance relationship to make sure you do not miss any issues that could destroy your relationship. To help you in this process, use this workbook as a guide.

If something is not working in your long-distance relationship, maybe you could visit each other more often. It can even be the case of you having an open relationship, or if all else fails, you can consider a temporarily break up or end your relationship altogether.

Whatever the future holds for you, try to avoid making decisions unilaterally and then informing your partner afterwards. As long as you are in a relationship, you should discuss things together and make your decisions together. When you both talk and decide together the amount of pain that comes with ending a long-distance relationship will be less.

There is not an easy way to break up a relationship, nor a long-distance relationship. Your options are to do it online or during one of the visits. Neither of these options is comfortable. Breaks ups are generally difficult, but long-distance relationship breakups are even more so.

How Healthy Is Your Long-Distance Relationship?

If you are having doubts about your long-distance relationship and are not sure if you should try to fix it or let it go, here is our step by step guide to help you and your partner reassess your relationship and make an educated decision that works for both of you.

Relationship Coaching for Long-Distance Couples

Long-distance relationships are hard to maintain without knowing exactly what they involve.

However, once you understand what long-distance relationships are, what they are not and how to navigate them, you are a lot more likely to make it work.

We specialise in helping long-distance couples create and maintain a healthy relationship by building intimacy, trust and effective communication.

If you are starting a long-distance relationship or are already in one, send us a message to book an individual coaching session for yourself or a couples coaching session for you and your partner.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to navigate an open relationship long-distance?

To navigate an open long-distance relationship, try to keep on top of your feelings if you are ok with it, great. But if your feelings change, don’t pretend that you are happy with the way things are. Stay true to yourself and respect your feelings and the feelings of your partner.

How do you navigate a long-distance relationship?

You navigate a long-distance relationship by setting specific goals for your relationship as a whole and for each stage in particular. Your first step is to identify at what stage in a relationship you currently are with your partner. This allows you to reflect on your previous stages, address any issues you are currently having and plan for the next stages.

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