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Long-distance relationships are tough, we all know that.
They can, of course, work for some people, whether just for a short period of time, for years on end, or even for a whole lifetime. Some people prefer them because of the freedom they can offer.
But there’s a big price to pay for that freedom and not everyone, or indeed every couple, is cut out for them, no matter how good their intentions are or were when they first embarked on the relationship.
If you’re in a long-distance relationship that’s not going well and you’re reading this, then you’re probably wondering whether the moment to admit defeat has finally come. Whether you’d be happier if you weren’t in a relationship with this person whose life is in a different city, country, or even continent to yours.
And if you do decide the time has come, you might be wondering how you can break up with your partner in the kindest way for you both.
Let’s start with some tips to help you figure out if and when the time to break up has come, and then discuss how you should go about it.
When should you end a long-distance relationship?
Sometimes, there will be one decisive moment when you know your long-distance relationship is over.
But sometimes all kinds of reasons to end it will start piling up slowly until you just can’t ignore them anymore.
1. When you realize it’s making you unhappy.
First things first. A romantic relationship shouldn’t be making you suffer.
Sure, it’s not all going to be sunshine and rainbows. All relationships are hard work, long-distance or not. But it shouldn’t all be rain clouds, fog, and thunderstorms either.
Long-distance relationships can be very happy ones. But if your relationship with this person is making you consistently unhappy, you need to seriously think about what it is that the two of you are getting out of this and whether the negatives are outweighing the positives.
If there are more downsides than upsides, it’s time to ask yourself why you’re in this relationship.
2. When the goalposts move.
Some long-distance relationships start that way, with two people that live in separate places meeting and falling in love. And some start with both partners in one place, and then one moving away for work, or just to follow their dreams.
If you’ve agreed from the beginning that your long-distance status will be indefinite, and you’re both prepared for that, that’s one thing.
But if you had agreed that there would be a time limit on it and then that time limit changes, that can be a moment that really tests the relationship.
It’s much easier to bear separation when you know that it’s only for a few months or a year, and when a certain date comes, you’ll be reunited.
It’s when you have no idea how long you might be apart that it can become harder, as that means you can’t make any joint plans or get excited about a shared future.
So, if circumstances have changed and it now looks like your separation is indefinite, it might be time to admit that things aren’t going to work between you.
3. When seeing each other becomes practically impossible.
Long-distance can be incredibly romantic, in its own way. It means that when you are finally reunited, it can be for just a few precious days, sometimes in a far-flung location.
The snatched time together is the lifeblood of your relationship. The prospect of your next meeting and the memories of the last time you were together are what get you through the time apart.
But if seeing each other regularly becomes financially or logistically impossible, then this can become far more frustrating and saddening than it is thrilling.
At moments like these, you need to give some serious thought to whether the relationship is really sustainable if you won’t be able to see one another.
4. When it’s holding you both back.
A long-distance relationship can be incredibly freeing.
Not having the other person around all the time means you tend not to fall into the classic trap of giving up your hobbies and neglecting your friends in favor of your partner. It means you’re forced to be independent.
But sometimes it can also be a tie. Having a relationship with someone who lives elsewhere can stop both of you from fully embracing your lives where you’re living.
Constantly jetting off for weekends or spending your evenings doing video calls can mean you’re just not present, and constantly thinking about your partner can stop you from focusing on what you really want out of life.
Maybe you’re sacrificing your own dreams and goals to fit in with a plan for the two of you to be reunited.
If the two of you are holding each other back rather than pushing each other forward, it might be time to have a serious think about whether this relationship is the best thing for you both.
5. When you’re fighting more than you’re talking.
The two of you both have full lives (hopefully), so you probably don’t get to speak quite as much as you’d like to. But when you do, you should be happily filling each other in.
There will, of course, be times when you fight or don’t see eye to eye, but fighting shouldn’t be your default mode.
If you’re constantly getting upset with each other over one thing or another, and spending more time being annoyed with them than not, that’s a bad sign.
You do, of course, need to make time for one another if things are going to work between you.
But if you find yourself getting annoyed with them and making them feel bad for wanting to go out and live their life rather than video chat with you, or they make you feel this way, then there’s cause for concern.
6. When it becomes clear that neither of you will make a change.
Perhaps you went into this relationship believing that, at some point, one of you would make the move for you to be together.
But if it’s slowly becoming clear that neither you nor they are willing to do that, then it might be time to admit defeat.
After all, if you aren’t willing to uproot yourself for them, then you can’t expect them to do the same for you.
7. When you realize that it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t long-distance.
This last one might be hard for you to process whilst you’re still living apart, but it’s something you need to give thought to.
Do you honestly think the relationship would work if you were living in the same place?
Or do you think the drama and distance of your current relationship and the romance of your snatched time together is actually what props it up?
If the two of you are making plans to live in the same place one day, you need to be as sure as you can be that you would be able to adapt your relationship and it wouldn’t shrivel once the excitement of distance goes out of it.
How to end a long-distance relationship.
So, you’ve decided it’s time. This long-distance relationship isn’t sustainable, and you know deep down that you have to say goodbye.
But how on earth do you do it?
After all, conventional break up advice isn’t much use in this situation.
Here are some tips to help you end a long-distance relationship as painlessly as possible, both for you and your partner.
1. Do it ASAP.
If you’re feeling this way, then there’s no point in dragging things out, as that would be cruel to both of you.
Although conventional advice is for breakups to be done in person, in these cases it’s often kinder to do it over video call so you don’t have to do it when you’ve turned up for a visit they’ve been looking forward to.
2. Don’t do it after you’ve spent a lovely weekend together.
Sadly, some people think it’s a good idea to break up with their partner at the end of a holiday or weekend together, so as to give them some nice final memories.
Don’t fall into that trap, as any memories will be ruined by the knowledge you were planning the breakup all along.
3. Don’t be in a rush when you do it.
A friend of mine once had her long-distance boyfriend of two years break up with her brutally in a 10-minute phone call from his office. Don’t be that guy, or girl.
Let them guide the conversation. If they want to talk things through for the sake of getting closure, be willing to go along with that. But if they make it clear they’d rather end the conversation, respect that too.
4. Be kind.
Sometimes, people get so nervous about breaking up with someone that they become brutal and cruel. You need to be kind, but clear.
If you know there’s no hope for the two of you, don’t say anything that will lead them on.
You need to strike the right balance between not laying the blame at their door or making this harder than necessary, and not giving them false hope.
5. Suggest you don’t have contact for a while.
One of the positives of being long-distance is that once it’s over, you don’t have to worry about bumping into them in the street and the pattern of your day-to-day life won’t change all that much.
There shouldn’t be as many reminders of your ex around you as there would if you lived together.
So, make sure you make the most of that. Suggest that you both take some time to breathe and process things before you speak again. It might seem hard to begin with, but it will make things much easier for you both.
Of course, if you don’t want to try to salvage a friendship from the relationship, there is nothing that says you must keep in contact with them at all. That’s up to you – and also to them if they feel that way.
Take a deep breath. This isn’t going to be easy, but if a relationship isn’t right, there’s no fighting that.
Hopefully this relationship has left you both with some fond memories and taught you about yourself and what you’re looking for in a partner.
So, summon all your courage, be kind to yourself and them, and trust that it will all work out in the end.
Still not sure whether you want to end things or how to go about it? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.
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