Harmful habits found in long-distance relationships

Odyssa Rivera Abille

Is this worth it? Am I better off dating my neighbor instead? How long do we have to wait?

Long-distance relationships are tough to navigate. Yes, we have Zoom, Telegram, Whatsapp and Skype but these online platforms can never make up for physical presence.

I’ve been in one for over 2 years. The longer we’re together, the more I see how relationships like ours fade away so quickly. It already sucks as it is, and it sucks even more if it’s a relationship you don’t want to be in.

We all have habits we bring with us in our relationships, no matter how hard we try to eliminate them. A few of them, sadly, have the power to end ties.

These are 5 harmful habits that could break long-distance couples apart.

1. Using words of contempt

This happens when one gets too angry and loses control. Strong emotions take over and compassion goes out the window.

When this happens, you chip away months or years of respect you’ve built and earned.

According to Dr. John Gottman of Gottman Institute, contempt is one of the 4 horsemen in relationships. The other 3 are stonewalling, criticism, and defensiveness. Contempt means attacking one’s sense of self with an intent to insult or abuse.

An antidote for contempt is to build a culture of appreciation in your relationship. -Dr. John Gottman

Remember your partner’s positive qualities. Appreciate them and verbalize why and how much you do. Start with ‘I really appreciate it when you…’ or ‘What you said today made me feel loved.’ Use words that nourish and soothe, not ones that hurt and diminish one’s sense of self.

2. Lying

This happens when we want a different version of the truth to be known. There’s no such thing as a white lie. Anything we say that’s not the truth is a lie.

Our dishonesty not only influences the choices they make, it often determines the choices they can make. -Lying, Sam Harris

It’s better to over-communicate than lie and keep secrets from each other.

When you feel like lying or hiding information from your partner, think about the consequences. Ask yourself if the lie is worth the trouble. If the answer is yes, ask again: Is the lie worth breaking the trust of your partner? Nothing ever is.

Lies get discovered. You’ll have to fabricate stories to cover a lie and another. It’s really not worth it.

3. Not planning for the future

Long-distance relationship couples depend on setting goals. These are about 2 things only: when and where to meet next, and when to get together for good.

When this is absent, they break on the uncertainty of the future.

Without plans, a relationship falls apart. Without a timeline, the future gets blurry, and the relationship stagnant.

The minute you stop having some milestone to look forward to, the harder it will be to maintain the same enthusiasm for, and optimism in, each other. -Mark Manson

Plan, even if it sounds like a terrible plan. Have a plan even if the circumstances today don’t align with it.

At least have something that you are both working towards.

Whether it’s saving up for a one-week vacation or a quick meet-up in the city where he goes for a job interview, discuss it openly and talk about details, if possible.

This gives each other assurance that together you are looking at the same future.

4. Not communicating your needs

This kills. It’s a cousin of lying. This happens when you don't want your partner to know what’s going on.

Falling out of love does not happen overnight. It’s never true when someone says he woke up and just wasn’t in love anymore. It takes weeks, months, or even years to lead to that conclusion. It begins with not communicating needs.

If we are to live in harmony with ourselves and with nature, we need to be able to communicate freely in a creative movement in which no one permanently holds to or otherwise defends his own ideas. -David Bohm, physicist

It could be as small as asking him to put his shoes back on the rack to keep the house in order. It could be something a little more significant, like asking for his time this weekend because you miss him.

Say what you need to say and deal with the consequences later. The best benefit to honesty is gaining trust from your partner.

More often than not, your partner will understand. If he doesn’t, it’s time to rethink your values as a couple.

5. Comparing your relationship

This is too easy now with social media. We see relationship goals everywhere. Social media posts often show the better side of life.

Couples differ from one another. Values, expressing love, economic status, and approach to life are not the same for every couple.

Comparing your relationship steals the joy out of your own. It makes you lonely and singled out.

The time away (from social media) will help you realize that striving to be someone else is a frustrating experience. Instead, focus on being the very best version of you and staying grounded in the here and now. -Esther Perel, therapist

Focus on yourself and your partner. Check your confidence and see what needs work. Most important of all, take a break from social media or whatever makes you feel envious or jealous of other relationships.

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Can long-distance relationships work? Yes, it can.

Is it worth a shot? It depends on who you’re with.

How do we improve? By identifying what works and what does.

Being aware is key to surviving and thriving as a couple.

These 5 harmful habits — using words of contempt, lying, not planning for the future, not communicating your needs, and comparing — will come up. More often than not, they are present in every romantic relationship.

Distance prevents intimacy from forming between two people. When people are not together, we romanticize each other too easily. Some things are overlooked and missed. Distance alone could be a reason to lose trust and break up.

That being said, I will never recommend getting into a long-distance relationship for the sake of trying.

Choose to be or stay in one because you know you can work on closing the gap as soon as possible.

Odyssa is the author of two poetry collections on love and travel. This article was first published in Medium.

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I write about relationships, the complexities of human life, and writing. I'm a self-published author of two poetry collections entitled "Like A New Sun Rising" and "From Where I Stand" available at www.amazon.com/author/Odyssa.

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