How To Tell If Your Long Distance Relationship Is Going To Make It

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
When you're in a long-distance relationship, the old cliché that absence makes the heart grow fonder can seem like a bit of a joke. When you spend so much time away from your partner, absence doesn't exactly sound like a good thing. But, there might actually be some advantages to an LDR.
"It forces you to communicate and get to know each other on a different level," says Lisa Vallejos, PhD, a professional counselor in Colorado. "The only connection you have is by communication, so it can foster a deeper sense of intimacy." Couples who live near each other might have a tendency to take their short distance for granted, she says, and can let intimacy and excitement fall by the wayside. LDRs, on the other hand, provide plenty of opportunity for spontaneity. "A lot of people who live long-distance feel their relationships have more energy, because you make the most of the time you have together," she says.
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An LDR is also great for people who are busy outside of their relationships. Dr. Vallejos personally enjoys long-distance relationships because she's busy throughout the week anyway. "I’m not sitting at home playing the Titanic soundtrack and feeling lonely," she says.
Still, whether you've found yourself in an LDR out of necessity or because that type of relationship makes more sense for your life, it's no secret that you have to try harder to connect with your partner when they don't live nearby. It's not easy, and it doesn't always work. So, we talked with Dr. Vellejos and two other experts to find out the hallmarks of a healthy long-distance relationship. Read ahead for signs that your relationship is going to last.
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illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
You find little ways to be present in each other's lives.

You might not be able to physically be there with your beau 24/7, but that doesn't mean you can't find ways to make them feel your presence. "Dropping a card in the mail or sending a care package shows your partner that you're making an effort to be present in their daily lives," Dr. Vallejos says. Send your partner a bottle of your favorite perfume so their bedroom can smell like you or send a box of their favorite (non-perishable) snacks so they know you're thinking about them. Little gestures go a long way.
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illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
You know each other's families and friends.

When you're in an LDR, it can be easy for your partner to start feeling like a big secret. You have limited time together, so you'll probably want to spend every visit holed up in your home, just the two of you. But, you should make an effort to get out and introduce each other to the important people in your lives, Dr. Vallejos says. "If the relationship is serious, your partner's loved ones will know who you are," she says. So make the effort to go to a family bbq when you’re visiting.
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illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
You have balance.

An LDR will only work if both partners are equally invested, says Ryan Howes, PhD, a psychologist in California. "Generally speaking, it's a good sign when there’s an equal investment in the relationship, with each partner initiating phone calls, traveling to see each other, and genuinely showing interest in staying connected," Dr. Howes says. When only one person is putting in all the work, that's a red flag.
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illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
You trust each other.

Trust is important in any relationship, but it's especially vital when you can't see what your partner is doing day to day, Dr. Vallejos says. "Long-distance relationships can be very functioning and healthy, but they have to be done with people who have a solid sense of self," she says. "It’s bound to be a disaster if you’re insecure or jealous or untrusting."
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illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
You have a couple identity.

No, we're not talking a mashup name like Brangelina (though feel free to come up with one of those, too). Your couple identity is when friends start thinking of you as a packaged pair, as well as separate people. "There’s Dave and Susie and then there’s Dave and Susie as a couple," Dr. Vallejos says.

Of course, this is only a good sign when there's balance. You don't want to lose yourself in a relationship, but when people start recognizing you as a couple then that means they're seeing you as an important part of each other's lives.
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illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
You have open and honest communication.

"Talking is very important so that assumptions aren’t made," says Carin Goldstein, a licensed marriage and family therapist in California. For instance, spending so much time away from your partner can make you wonder what they're up to when you're not around, and that can quickly spiral into jealousy. You need to feel safe talking to your partner about jealous feelings. "It's a good sign if your partner doesn’t get defensive," Goldstein says. They should be able to have some compassion for the distance and help you work through your feelings, rather than attack you for having them. "You have to have patience in a long-distance relationship and anticipate frustration," she says.

Communication is also important to help you feel connected to your partner, Dr. Howes says. "It’s important to share the routine details of life, just as you would if you lived together, as well as deeper issues like the feelings you have about being apart, or excitement about the future," he says. "In the absence of physical presence and touch, you need your words to keep you close, and this takes time, effort, and vulnerability."
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illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
You know when you'll see your partner next.

It's a bad sign if you're in a long-distance relationship and don't know when you're going to see your partner again, Goldstein says. "As much as possible, you need to keep a consistent schedule of when you’re going to see each other, or else people can feel like they’re in limbo," she says.

You'll also need a long-term plan, Dr. Howes says. Long distance can work, but it's usually a temporary solution and most people need an end-goal in sight. "Is the separation going to end at graduation — when a new job is landed?," he says. "The plans may need to flex and change, but at least knowing there is a plan to reunite can help the distance to be much more bearable."
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illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
You do more than just text.

Texting is great (and sexting can be fun, too), but it shouldn't be you and your partner's only form of communication, Dr. Howes says. "Video is better than audio, which is better than text," he says. A regular "I love you" text is important and easy to shoot off in the morning, but there has to be more than that if you're going to keep your connection strong. It's important for your partner to hear your voice and see your face once in a while. "Hearing a voice on a phone call delivers much more real-time emotion and intonation than even the best emoji, and Skype or FaceTime even more than that," Dr. Howes says. So, make video calls a priority for your relationship. Dr. Howes suggests using it almost like a surrogate body. Get on a video call and make dinner together, watch a tv show, or take a walk. "Whatever helps you feel connected," he says.
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illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
You've talked about sex.

If you and your partner have a sexual relationship, then sex is likely one of the big things you miss when they're not there. There are lots of ways to help each other get off (even from a distance), but it's not necessarily a bad sign if you're not doing them.

"There are couples who like sexting and like to spice it up with phone sex if both people are comfortable, and I know people who will watch porn together on the phone," Goldstein says. That's all great if it helps you feel close to your partner and is something you're both comfortable with, but some people just aren't interested in sexting, phone sex, or any form of cyber sex. And, that's okay, too.

"If when you guys are together your sexual chemistry is on fire, then it's not a problem," Goldstein says. "Again, you have to talk about it. If one person is feeling sexually frustrated and not talking to their partner about it, then that's when it becomes a problem." The bottom line is that you can't avoid talking about phone sex or cyber sex, even if you're not interested. Just like you have to make a plan to see each other, you and your partner have to make a plan for what kinds of sexy things you'll do "together" when you're apart.
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illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
You can be bored together.

Plenty of long-distance couples fall into pressure to make every moment they have together an adventure, Dr. Howes says. You'll plan romantic dates and trips and grand gestures, which are all wonderful, but not realistic. "When you are reunited permanently, will it always be a fun adventure? Probably not," Dr. Howes says. Instead, you'll have trips to Home Depot and nights spent doing the dishes. So make some time for that while you're long distance, too. "Everyone enjoys a special date, but the happiest couples still enjoy one another when it isn’t special," Dr. Howes says.
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