What Is a Long-Distance Relationship?

What Is a Long-Distance Relationship

A common confusion about what is a long-distance relationship leads to false expectations that end in disappointment, struggle and painful breakups. To enjoy a loving, healthy and successful long-distance relationship you should understand what it is and what it is not.

A long-distance relationship (LDR) is a romantic relationship where partners are separated by a geographical distance. A key aspect of a long-distance relationship is that it is temporary. In other words, at some point, it must end, either by a couple moving in and living together or by separating.

In this article, we will focus on understanding what is a long-distance relationship, so you can decide whether it is for you or not.

If you are in a situation where you would like to do all you can to make your long-distance relationship work, our complete guide covers all you need to know to give your relationship your best shot.

What a Long-Distance Relationship Is and Is Not

Long-distance relationships are different from regular relationships. The obvious difference is that you cannot have a physical closeness for the time you are apart. Another big difference is the way you communicate.

No doubt, being away from your partner can be demanding and challenging. However, you can avoid most of the suffering, pain and distress by understanding what a long-distance relationship is and what it is not.

To understand what is a long-distance relationship, we should get clear on what is a relationship, what is a romantic relationship and how distance affects a romantic relationship.

  • A relationship is an interaction between two people who decide to share their time and space.
  • A romantic relationship is an interaction between two people that involves sexual intimacy.
  • A romantic long-distance relationship is an interaction between two people that should involve sexual intimacy but doesn’t due to distance.

A long-distance romantic relationship differs from a regular romantic relationship in that partners don’t share their space.

A long-distance relationship is:

  • A period in a relationship when you live apart from your romantic partner.
  • A great way to start a romantic relationship with someone new.
  • A short-term solution to maintain a connection with an existing partner.
  • An opportunity to be in a romantic relationship and have the time to pursue your life goals and ambitions.
  • A way to reassess your current relationship from a different perspective.

A long-distance relationship is not:

  • A sustainable romantic relationship for a long time.
  • A long-term solution to maintain a romantic relationship.

One important aspect of long-distance relationships is a lack of physical intimacy. This is why they work well for a short while for people who like their personal space and have the means to visit each other when they wish.

Whether you are about to start a new long-distance relationship or are in one, take some time to learn about long-distance relationships and what it takes to make them work. This understanding will help you make an educated decision if this type of relationship is for you.

What Is a Healthy Long-Distance Relationship?

A healthy long-distance relationship is when both partners enjoy their relationship while having fun with extra time and appreciating the space they have for themselves.

It can be confusing to be in a romantic relationship without being able to touch your partner. But if this is your reality, the worst thing you can do is obsess about the lack of physical closeness.

It’s unhealthy to think about things you can’t do because you will feel more powerless, depressed and frustrated. You’ll end up spending too much time texting and talking trying to compensate for the lack of physical closeness.

Excessive communication takes away the time you could spend doing something interesting, which you can then share with your partner. Overcommunication also leads to dull conversations and a boring long-distance relationship.

By thinking about the limitations of a long-distance relationship, you are neglecting your life and your relationship.

Instead, you can see your long-distance relationship as an opportunity to catch up with your personal life. You have the time to do what you love, spend time with friends and family, and catch on your life goals and ambitions.

Communication is one of the keys to a healthy long-distance relationship. Talk to your partner and agree on several aspects of your communication:

If you believe that your communication with your long-distance partner could be better, our step-by-step guide will help you build understanding and stay emotionally connected.

If you would like to know if your long-distance relationship is a healthy one, this workbook will help you figure it out.

What Is a Successful Long-Distance Relationship?

A long-distance relationship is successful when it helps you achieve your goals.

Long-distance can be a burden, but it can also be an opportunity. It gives you the time to reflect on your personal goals and get a different perspective on your relationship.

In regular relationships, when partners see each other every day, they get used to it. Then relationship becomes a habit and partners take each other for granted.

When you are in a long-distance relationship, you get to appreciate every moment during your visits. And if you manage your communication well, then every time you speak can also be very fulfilling.

If you want a successful long-distance relationship, you should know how long the distance will last and how you will maintain an emotional connection throughout this period.

It would help if you also planned how and when you would communicate, how often you can visit each other, and a specific date for getting back together.

A successful long-distance relationship is almost impossible without having specific goals and a plan to achieve them. This is one thing that catches many couples and is also something you can easily address. Here are the two workbooks that specifically focus on this crucial aspect of a successful relationship.

What Is an Open Long-Distance Relationship?

Although open relationships aren’t for everyone, they can work very well in long-distance relationships. If your relationship is at stake because of the lack of physical intimacy, an open relationship may be the solution.

An open long-distance relationship is when partners remain romantically involved but are also free to have intimate relationships with other people.

Love is a special connection that is beyond physical intimacy alone. Many people have a problem sharing their partner sexually with others because they have a sense of ownership. The idea of two people in a relationship belonging to each other is deeply rooted in our thinking.

But the reality is that a relationship isn’t about owning another person. A relationship is about sharing your time and space with someone who contributes to your life in some way.

A romantic relationship, for example, satisfies both physical and emotional needs. That’s why two people in a regular romantic relationship often don’t need others as much.

Physical intimacy in a long-distance relationship can become an issue. This issue can be solved by having an open long-distance relationship.

If your love is emotionally strong, sex with other people isn’t enough to break it.

Before getting into an open long-distance relationship, consider working on your intimacy using our intimacy guide.

What Is It Like Being in a Long-Distance Relationship?

A long-distance relationship is like having a relationship with someone who isn’t there.

In regular romantic relationships, couples spend a lot of time together, talking, going out, and having sex. Long-distance relationships are different in that technically you are together, but physically you are not. So apart from visiting your long-distance partner, the only things you can do together are online.

Many couples struggle in a long-distance relationship because they have the same expectations from a long-distance relationship as they do from a regular one. Suppose you fail to see a long-distance relationship for what it is. In that case, it can quickly become a struggle with misunderstandings, negativity and fights.

If you have the means to visit each other as often as you like, you can make it work. But for many couples in long-distance relationships, visiting each other is a luxury. It means that you can rarely see each other and sex is reserved for special occasions. 

While in a normal romantic relationship, sex is a part of your everyday life, in a long-distance relationship, it can become an issue. Modern couples reach out to technology, trying to satisfy themselves and each other with interactive gadgets.

These toys vary from kissing devices connected with the phone app to remotely controlled underwear. While it can be fun to play games for some time, it doesn’t replace the intimate touch of the person you love. 

Unless you have the time and the means for regular visits, you will have to deal with the lack of physical intimacy. Having a romantic relationship without sex for a long time can lead to sexual frustration. If you don’t find a way to see each other frequently, one of you may be tempted to sleep with someone else to satisfy their sexual needs.

At this point, you must be asking if long-distance relationships ever work.

Long-distance relationships can work great for a short time. You still need to adjust to a different way of communicating and find a way to maintain physical intimacy. You can make your long-distance relationship fun with gifts and games.

Distance is an integral part of a long-distance relationship. So, to make it work, you should know how to handle the distance in your relationship. Our guide will help you do just that!

What Are the Stages of a Long-Distance Relationship?

A long-distance relationship has 7 stages:

  1. Starting a long-distance relationship
  2. Getting to know each other in a long-distance relationship
  3. Making your long-distance relationship work
  4. Moving in together after a long-distance relationship
  5. Living together after a long-distance relationship
  6. Marriage after a long-distance relationship
  7. Ending your long-distance relationship

These stages aren’t set in stone. They are more of a guide to help you navigate your long-distance relationship.

In reality, you may already have a relationship before you have to make it work long-distance. Marriage is the pinnacle of having a relationship for some, and it is unnecessary for others. You may also end your relationship at any stage or live happily ever after.

If you are serious about making your relationship work, our step-by-step guide will help you and your partner cover all the aspects of your long-distance relationship.


In a romantic relationship, you need physical intimacy; without it, your relationship is friendship.

Couples believe that a long-distance relationship has to be hard. There’s a lot of drama surrounding couples who live apart. And much information out there is about tips for surviving a long-distance relationship.

A long-distance relationship is not real in that it limits physical intimacy, which is an integral part of a romantic relationship.

You can look at a long-distance relationship as a phase in your relationship. While it can be challenging, it’s also a perfect time for you to learn about each other’s personalities, values, and beliefs.

Often, a long-distance relationship comes as:

  • A new romantic relationship with someone you met on holidays or online.
  • A period of living apart from your partner because of study or work.

To have a healthy long-distance relationship, you need to agree with your partner on how and how often you will communicate. Keep your conversation topics diverse and exciting. And avoid excessive communication.

To make your long-distance relationship work, you need to define what a long-distance relationship means to you and your partner. Talk about how long it will last and what you want at the end (e.g. to move in together or travel the world).

It’s easy to get used to being with your partner and take them for granted. A long-distance relationship allows you to reassess your current relationship from a different perspective. 

In a romantic relationship, you express sexual attraction through physical intimacy and sex. When you are in a long-distance relationship, the only way to express yourself in this way is during your visits or trips together.

Discuss the terms of your long-distance relationship. For example, are you exclusive, or are you free to get involved with others in some way? 

As long as you’re honest with each other, you’ll be able to discuss any preferences you may have. It’s better, to be honest, and let the other person decide if they are ok with it than hide your feelings and needs in fear that your partner will not accept them.

Suppose you are already in a relationship before the long distance. In that case, you can enjoy personal time and space, provided the distance will last a few months. 

Sometimes long-distance can last for some years, like in the case of going to college. In that case, you’d be better off having a break or agreeing on an open relationship. It may be heartbreaking to say goodbye, but if you are meant to be together, you will be able to do it when the time comes.

In a long-distance relationship, it’s common to have doubts. These doubts lead to insecurities, which lead to jealousy and in turn, can grow into distrust. If you have doubts, you should feel free to share them with your partner.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship. And if you can’t trust your partner, then it’s time to reassess your relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the point of a long-distance relationship?

A long-distance relationship allows you to meet interesting people online and get to know them better. You can also stay in a long-distance relationship with your current partner in case you need to live apart for some reason. Long-distance relationships become pointless when all they bring is struggle and suffering. Ask yourself if such a relationship is worth your time, or if can you be happier with someone else.

What does a long-distance relationship teach you?

A long-distance relationship teaches you the importance of effective communication and understanding. Because if you don’t have effective communication with your long-distance partner, you won’t be able to have a healthy and successful relationship. Without seeing your partner, it’s easy to misinterpret what they say and how they feel. Misunderstandings result in confusion and lead to unnecessary arguments and fights.

What are long-distance relationships like?

A long-distance relationship is like having a romantic relationship without physical intimacy. You can maintain it for a short period, but at some point, it will lead to sexual frustration and anxiety. So make sure you visit each other regularly and aim for understanding instead of arguing. On the bright side, the distance also allows you extra time to do the things you enjoy with people you love, and you also get to have plenty of personal space.

What is normal in a long-distance relationship?

In a long-distance relationship, it’s normal to expect a lack of physical intimacy. If you don’t work on your communication, you can also expect a lot of confusion and unnecessary arguments. Lastly, you can expect to have a lot of time for yourself, but it’s up to you to make the most of it. While many long-distance relationships fail, you can make it work, provided you maintain trust, understanding and intimacy. In a long-distance relationship, normal doesn’t mean healthy. Normal is what most couples do. But then most long-distance couples struggle, suffer, and break up.

What is an open long-distance relationship?

An open long-distance relationship is when partners remain romantically involved but are also free to have intimate relationships with other people. The key to a successful open long-distance relationship is trust and open communication. If your relationship is at stake due to the lack of physical intimacy, you should consider an open relationship. It’s ok to give it a go, as long as you can talk about it and stop it if it doesn’t work for either of you.

What is a healthy long-distance relationship?

A healthy long-distance relationship is when both partners enjoy being with each other and can also make the most of the extra alone time. Many couples suffer because they can’t see each other. But few recognise the benefit of having personal space and spare time to do fun things with people they love. While there are ways to keep your long-distance relationship exciting, it should only be a short-term solution until you can live together.

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