Long-distance relationships call for two partners who possess major stick-to-itiveness: Not everyone can endure the long stretches of times without seeing each other, the time differences, and the financial and logistical obstacles that come with visiting. (In 2021, there are COVID-19 travel restrictions to contend with, too.)
But as any formerly long-distance couple now living together can tell you, the hassles, the setbacks and the temporary lack of cuddles can be worth enduring. And in the thick of it ― when you’re miles apart and missing each other something fierce ― there are usually signs that your relationship has sticking power.
Below, couples therapists share seven signs that your relationship will go the distance … in spite of, well, the distance.
You’re emotionally intimate
Who’s the first person you text or FaceTime when you receive good news? Who do you think to vent to when you’ve had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day at work? Your partner should definitely make the shortlist, if not hold the No. 1 slot. No matter the distance, a good partner is there to cheer you on through the good times and emotionally bolster you through the bad.
“When you’re intimate with your partner on an emotional level, you feel their needs, fears, and desires as if they were your own,” said Carmen Harra, a psychologist in Los Angeles. “You’re sensitive to their well-being and sometimes even know what your partner needs before they get a chance to ask.”
It’s important to note that emotional intimacy is a two-way street; your partner should be in sync with your feelings, too.
“When emotional intimacy exists, you share a certain synergy that’s unshakable,” Harra said. “The distance between you is no match for the mental and spiritual connection you forge when you’re emotionally intimate.”
The geographic distance is only temporary
Unless you’ve come to an agreement that some form of long distance is your ideal arrangement, you both probably need a target date for sunsetting your current situation. When you have hope of being together in the long term, you’ll be able to ride out the rough moments when the distance seems unbearable.
“Whether it’s months, weeks or years or after the pandemic is under control, there has to be an end to the distance at some point,” said Becky Whetstone, a marriage and family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas. “At some point, you both probably want to live near one another.”
Whetstone speaks from experience. She and her husband lived 500 miles apart when they first started dating and spent the first 18 months of their relationship taking turns traveling back and forth every other week.
“We stayed in regular touch throughout but after a year, we made our plan to be together,” she said. “We didn’t know what life would be like when we were both in the same city, but our bond was solid thanks to our time investment and our mutual determination to be together, so our transition was smooth.”
You still appreciate alone time
Sure, you may technically have a lot of alone time on your hands, but there’s bound to be days ― or even a run of a few days ― when you need a little “you” time. Maybe after a long day in front of the computer screen at work, you simply don’t have the mental energy for a Skype call. Whatever the case, your partner should respect that, said Gary Brown, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles.
“You and your partner can genuinely miss each other and, at the same time, have an appreciation for some alone time,” he said. “This is a good sign because couples who seek balance between together and alone time generally have greater respect for each other’s needs.”
Being constantly joined at the hip isn’t healthy for any couple. If you’re in an LDR that’s working in this area, you’re ahead of the game, Brown said.
“Of course, at the same time, when you are apart, you genuinely love and miss each other,” he said.
You’ve made an effort to spend more than a weekend or even a week in one person’s location
The reality is, you’re probably going to need more than one amazing, whirlwind week together on vacation to determine whether you’re compatible, said Stephanie Buehler, a psychologist and sex therapist in Southern California.
Try to squeeze in a few opportunities for the two of you to be together for extended periods of time ― or even better, do a few weeks straight and stay at each other’s homes. Get a feel for what living together will really be like, warts and all.
“It takes more time than one week to understand each other’s habits and rhythms to see if you’re compatible, or how the two of you go about solving differences,” she said. “It would be worth taking two to three weeks or even a month off to see what it’s really like to live together under one roof.”
Spending a big chunk of time together is also a good opportunity for you to gauge your sexual compatibility, according to Buehler.
“Too many long distance couples enjoy ongoing ‘honeymoon’ type sex that comes with periods of longing,” she said. “What are you like when you aren’t floating away in a sea of happy sex endorphins? A longer period together will determine that.”
You hit all the big relationship milestones
If your relationship has remained strangely stagnant since you first met IRL or online, that’s a problem, said Marie Land, a therapist in Washington, D.C.
You should be hitting all those tried-and-true relationship milestones together, no matter how far apart you are: The first “I love you.” The first big argument about a substantial relationship issue. The first time sharing your kinks or sexual fantasies. The first time you cry in front of each other. Even the first time you post about each other on Instagram, as silly as it sounds.
“In a regular in-person relationship, you can look for signs of increased intimacy, trust, future planning ― even small things like plans for meeting family or going to a weekend cabin getaway,” Land said. “If the relationship looks exactly the same a year later, that might mean there’s a level of stagnation, which would be something to work on, particularly in a long-distance relationship.”
You’ve already met each other’s family members and friends
Obviously, you shouldn’t let others call the shots on your relationship, but it helps to know what your inner circle thinks about your new S.O.
Try to find time when your friends and family can meet your partner, even if it just means hopping on the Houseparty app and playing Uno as a group.
“What you’re trying to determine is, if I bring my partner into the mix, how do they act around each other?” Buehler said. “Do people seem uncomfortable with one another, and not just because it’s someone new?”
Then, ask for honest impressions. (Your closest friends and family are no doubt going to have plenty of opinions, even without you grilling them.)
“The reason this is important is that when you’re in a long-distance relationship, you really don’t get a good understanding of whether a potential full-time partner is kind or brusque to others,” she said. “You’ll get that here.”
You both keep your promises
Promises feel much weightier in an LDR because, at times, all you really have is your word. So when you make plans to get together every Friday night, have every intention to stay true to you word.
“A long-distance relationship is much more likely to prosper if both partners do what they say they’ll do ― if they match intention with action,” Harra said. “Keeping your promises ranges from something as simple as calling your significant other at the time you said you would call to remaining faithful to that person no matter what temptation you may encounter.”
“Promises that are kept are the glue of all good relationships, especially ones that span many miles,” she said.
Long-Distance Love is a HuffPost series all about long-distance relationships and how to make them work, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll feature advice for romantic relationships and friendships alike, with tips on how to keep your connection strong despite the distance.