Couple holding hands through computer in an online relationship

The Challenges of Online Relationships… And How to Make Them Work

Are you in an online relationship or thinking about starting up one? Imagine missing your partner to the point where you feel your heart about to explode.  You need to connect to the person you love, feel their physical presence, and experience their love and affection.  

Now imagine that the partner you miss so much does not live in the same city as you do.  Maybe your partner is states, countries, or even continents away. Perhaps this is a situation created by work, and you even have a child together.

How do you maintain your love for your partner when you cannot physically see them nearly as often as you’d love to?  

Another question to ask is this:

How Do Long Distance Relationships Work Out?

I love couples counseling and relationship coaching, but it wasn’t until I started doing online couples counseling that I was led to work with a new, interesting demographic – the long-distance relationship

Sometimes our globalized world requires a partner to move away from a loved one to keep a job, or a loved one who is a member of the military may be deployed for months or even years at a time. These types of relationships can be very difficult to navigate for both partners, but understanding some of the unique challenges of long-distance relationships can give couples a better chance to weather the storm. The hope is that these couples will be able to come through the period of physical separation strong and connected.

The most obvious and painful part of long-distance relationships is as clear as day – you do not get to physically see or be with your partner on a regular basis, if at all.  

Physical connection and quality time spent with each other is a crucial part of any relationship. In the best case scenario, couples in this situation would work to see each other physically as much as they can.  

What if these couples can’t see each other, be it for financial or logistical reasons?  

That sort of separation can cause loneliness and emotional turmoil for a couple and can turn toxic very quickly, leading to possible breakups and affairs. Couples in long-distance relationships always have to be on the lookout for how they feel in the moment, as that lack of physical connection can make the temptation to stray even more intense.

So, with that all being said, what are the best ways to make sure that your relationship is both healthy and stable?

How Do You Make A Long Distance Relationship Work? 

  1. Open Communication:

Making it a commitment to see each other physically, when possible, can work but the key truly lies within honest emotional communication.  Learning how to communicate emotions honestly, without criticism or defensiveness, can help bridge the gap that lies between these couples.  

When all you’ve got is communication, sometimes it can be difficult to remember that certain body language and other nonverbal cues may be lost in translation. Even if you’re video chatting as opposed to speaking on the phone, communication in this type of relationship needs to be a constant focus.  

  1. Listening, With All Your Heart:

That being said, it’s not just about sharing how you feel to your partner –  you need to be able to listen to each other without trying to “fix” how the other feels.  

Attachment literature and research has shown that feeling heard when you share, without being judged or disregarded, can help build attachment bonds.  

In other words, knowing that your partner is truly listening to your emotions and pain without judgment will bring you closer to that partner, building the connection and closeness that all healthy relationships have.  

  1. Practicing Empathy and Validation: 

Imagine how you’ll feel when you share your pain with your partner, and the person you love validates that pain and holds you close, even if you’re a continent away.  

There’s nothing like it, and through practicing attachment-style communication (sharing and listening without judgment) you won’t just learn to hear your partner.  You’ll learn to empathize with your partner, to feel your partner’s emotion as your own.  

The connection that can be built at this point can be extraordinary!

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Seeking External Guidance In Your Long Distance Relationship

Long distance relationships, of any sort, can be very difficult to navigate at times. An important thing to remind yourselves is that you are not alone in this. There are so many couples going through this distance for any given amount of time, whether they’re a few hours or over a day of travel away. 

The knowledge that you are not the first, and certainly will not be the last, partners to go through this tough period is something that can bring comfort in especially tricky times.

Another point of comfort is that when you find your long distance relationship needing some extra support, there are specially trained couples counselors here to help you. 

This means that you really do not have to go through this alone. Growing Self has been offering online couples counseling and coaching for years and we have seen every sort of set up that you could imagine. 

How To Find A Good Long Distance Relationship Counselor

We have been doing this long enough that we’ve written a comprehensive guide on how to find the best couples counselor for you and your relationship.

When it comes down to it, we want you to feel safe and secure so that you can navigate this difficult situation with your partner. 

For more information on how to find a good couples counselor to help, check out this reference guide: How to Choose a Marriage Counselor

Long Distance Relationships In Practice

Your partner is thousands of miles away, and you miss them so much.  But the avenues of communication must be open to building connection during this separation.  If you can’t see each other physically, make sure you’re either talking or communicating with your partner as much as you can.  When you do talk to each other, be emotionally honest and listen to each other without judgment. The conversations may be painful at times, but they will be true, and that’s an experience that couples who even live together often don’t have.

Here’s more on building emotional safety in your relationship: How to Build Emotional Safety in Your Long Distance Relationship. When you know your partner loves you, can share with you, and can listen to you, your connection and bond will be that much stronger when the both of you are finally physically together again. 

Seth B., MA, LPC, LMFT

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