Distance in relationships can be difficult. Without physical contact and time spent together, it can be challenging to create intimacy and maintain a strong bond. Despite these challenges, many people may stay committed to a long-distance relationship, hoping to live with or closer to their partner at some point in the future.
If you have had the distance in a relationship for a while, you may be wondering when to let go of a long-distance relationship. You may want to hang onto the relationship, believing that you and your partner will be united at some point.
It is also possible that you may eventually start to feel as if you are wasting your time on a relationship that isn’t going anywhere.
To clear the confusion, read on to learn 15 signs of when to let go of a long-distance relationship.
Does distance ruin relationships?
Distance can, unfortunately, ruin some relationships. Partners need physical time together, especially if one partner has a strong need for physical affection. If relationships are not meeting the needs of one or both partners, they can fail quickly.
Someone who values physical affection may even feel unloved if there is distance in the relationship.
What’s the percentage of failed long-distance relationships?
While maintaining things over long-distance is hard and can lead to the failure of the relationship, not every long-distance relationship is doomed.
In fact, according to the New York Post, a recent study found that 60 percent of long-distance relationships are successful. While the four-month mark was a particularly challenging point for couples in the study, those who made it to the eight-month mark in a long-distance relationship were more likely to be successful.
Based on this study, which included 1,000 participants, about 40 percent of such relationships result in break up.
Distance can also kill a relationship because of the lack of social interaction and romance. Humans are by nature social, and phone calls and video chats sometimes just cannot take the place of face-to-face interaction. It is also difficult to create romance via phone or video chat.
Finally, even research shows that distance can create trust issues. If there are insecurities within the relationship, one or both partners may doubt that the other is faithful in between phone calls.
One partner may also realize that they are happier when they are away from the other, ultimately leading to the relationship’s downfall when there is distance.
Distance in a relationship can also cause people to grow apart and realize that they are happier without each other. One or both partners may be tempted to seek a romantic or sexual connection with someone closer to home.
In addition, long-distance relationships fail when one or both partners stop putting effort into the relationship.
For example, you may stop making regular phone calls to your partner, or find that you are video chatting less often or traveling to see each other less often during the weekends. This situation understandably can lead to the failure of the relationship.
Future goals not aligned
It can also be difficult to want to put in the effort required for a long-distance relationship to survive, especially when you realize your goals and plans for the future are not aligned.
For example, one of the problems with long-distance relationships is that one member of the partnership may desire to live together in the near future, whereas the other partner has no plans to be together. It can be exhausting to put effort into a relationship that does not seem to be leading to a shared future.
While such relationships can be successful if both members of the partnership put in the effort to make them work, there are times when they are not successful, and you need to know when to let go of a long-distance relationship.
There are some signs, listed below, that can suggest it is time to let go of a long-distance relationship.
15 Signs you need to let go of a long-distance relationship
The following can be helpful if you are wondering when to let go of a long-distance relationship:
1. No romance
You realize that the romance is gone between you and your partner. For example, you no longer get excited when you receive a text from your significant other, or your heart no longer skips a beat when you see them on FaceTime during a video call.
You find yourself constantly feeling suspicious about what your partner is doing when you are not on the phone together.
If you find that you cannot overcome these suspicions even after discussing it time and again with your partner, or you have evidence that your partner may be engaging in unfaithful behavior, it is probably time to move on.
It is natural to have some suspicion in a long-distance relationship, but if it starts to consume you, the relationship is no longer healthy for you or you need to take a hard look at your thoughts.
3. Lack of communication
There is no communication between the two of you. You might notice that you have nothing to talk about with your long-distance partner, or you may find that calling them or video chatting with them has become a chore.
You might also go several days without talking, and when you do finally call your partner, there is silence on the other end of the line. Great communication can also be sustained by asking questions. Check out the book 401 Great Discussion Questions For Couples In Long Distance Relationships by Psychologist and author Lisa McKay to build better intimacy if you want to give the relationship another chance.
Also watch inspirational speaker Jay Shetty talk about 5 proven tips that will make a difference in your relationship:
4. Too many changes
You or your partner have changed in ways that cause the two of you to grow apart. Moving to a new city or being apart from someone can cause one or both partners to change.
If you find that you and/or your partner have changed since being apart, you may no longer be compatible. If changes are significant, it may be time to let go of the long-distance relationship.
5. No efforts
Distance in a relationship can make it difficult to stay together, so both partners must try to make things work. If you feel that your partner is no longer trying or making you a priority, this is a sign of when to let go of a long-distance relationship.
Another one of the signs your long-distance relationship is ending is that you find the relationship consuming your entire life. You may be spending so much time checking your phone or waiting for a FaceTime call to come from your partner that you are letting your own hobbies, interests, or friendships fall by the wayside.
If this is the case, distance in a relationship probably is not healthy for you any longer.
7. Fear of letting go
You realize that you are only staying in the relationship out of stubbornness. You might tell yourself that you agreed to try this relationship, so you have to make it work at all costs.
Are you staying just because you’re afraid to give up, but you aren’t actually happy or fulfilled in the relationship? Then probably it’s time to end a long-distance relationship.
8. No future
A long-distance breakup is likely looming if you realize you and your partner do not have a future together. Ultimately, everyone wants to share a life with their partner.
If you do not see you and your long-distance partner ever reuniting and having a family or home together, this may not be the relationship for you.
9. Too many temptations
Distance in a relationship is so hard for you that you feel tempted by other people. If you notice that you are tempted to engage in a sexual or emotional connection with someone closer to home, the chances are that the relationship is not working with you and is over.
10. A game of chasing
You start to feel like you are chasing your partner. You may find that you call your partner several times per day and get no answer, or your partner never returns your phone calls. Such relationships are hard, and they require effort and commitment from both partners.
If you have to chase after your significant other, they likely are not as committed as you, and it is time to end things.
A long-distance breakup is likely on the horizon if you and your partner are on different pages. You may be longing to live closer to each other, but when you bring this up, your partner changes the subject or makes excuses for why you shouldn’t move closer.
This can be a sign the relationship is over, especially if you are upset about you and your significant other being on different pages about the relationship.
12. Feeling stifled
The relationship is starting to hold you back. Maybe you’re putting less time into your work because you’re spending too much time on the phone with your partner.
Or perhaps you are skipping your workouts at the gym, or letting friendships fizzle out because you are putting all your extra effort into making the relationship work. If you can’t maintain the relationship and still have your own life, it is time to move on from the long-distance partnership.
Knowing when to hold on is as important as knowing when to let go.
Distance in a relationship is causing more anxiety and emotional distress than happiness. Sometimes this involves every phone call being a fight, or you may actually dread receiving a call from your significant other.
If this is the case, it is a pretty good sign of when to let go of a long-distance relationship.
14. Few visits
You never meet up face to face, and you don’t make any plans to get together.
Perhaps you made plans to get together twice a month at the beginning of your long-distance relationship, but you start to notice that months are passing without seeing your significant other, and neither of you is making an effort to have a face-to-face visit.
This is a clear sign the relationship is fizzling out, and it is time to let it go.
15. Toxicity creeping in
The relationship has become toxic or gives you a bad gut feeling. You may feel instinctively that the relationship is no longer right for you, or maybe it has become so toxic that you and your partner are constantly fighting, or you are staying up at night worrying about the relationship’s status.
This is another good sign that it is time to move on from long-distance relationships.
When long-distance gets hard and you are experiencing some of the above signs, you are probably wondering about the best ways of letting go in relationships.
You can begin the process of letting go by having a conversation with your long-distance partner. Have an honest conversation about your feelings, doubts, and concerns, and see what your partner says.
Perhaps your partner is feeling the same things, and you will come to a mutual decision to part ways. On the other hand, your partner may have been unaware of the problems and may be able to take steps to fix the relationship.
If you and your partner cannot agree on whether to continue the relationship, it may be helpful to consult a relationship counselor to find the best course of action.
Let them go respectfully
If you have determined that the relationship is not fixable, or you and your partner agree to split up, it is time to begin the process of letting go. If possible, it is usually best to break up in person, especially if you have been together for a long time.
If this is not possible, schedule a phone call or video chat, and discuss the breakup in this fashion, instead of just sending a text message, which can seem disrespectful and hurtful.
Practice what you will say
It can be helpful to plan in advance what you will say when you carry out your long-distance breakup. A friend or family member can help you to role-play what you will say to your partner. Practicing can help you to stay on track during the conversation, especially if it becomes emotional.
During the breakup conversation, avoid blaming your partner or criticizing them. Be honest about how you feel, without putting them down or making accusations. It is fair for you to be clear about why the relationship isn’t working. It is also possible to be kind but firm.
For instance, you may say, “I care about you, but the long-distance aspect of our relationship makes me feel lonely, and it just isn’t going to work for me anymore. It is bringing me more sadness than happiness.”
Even though breaking up over long-distance is hard, you may feel sad afterwards, even if it was the best choice for you. You might have to reach out to friends or family for support to help you let go.
It is also important to take care of yourself, take time to engage in activities you enjoy, and schedule get-togethers with friends to help you stay socially connected.
If you find that you are struggling to let go, you may benefit from talking to a therapist to work through your feelings and process your grief over the loss of the relationship.
Distance in a relationship is hard, but that doesn’t mean every long-distance relationship is destined to fail. These relationships can work if both partners are committed to communicating effectively, maintaining intimacy, and putting effort into the relationship.
That being said, challenges can arise from lack of intimacy, limited physical connection, and poor communication between partners.
If you start to notice signs of when to let go of a long-distance relationship, such as a bad gut feeling or the realization that the relationship is consuming you and causing you distress, it may be time to move on from the relationship.
A long-distance breakup can be difficult, but ultimately, if the relationship has no future or your partner doesn’t make you a priority, you will be happier in the long run if you leave the relationship behind.
It may help to have a conversation with your partner about your concerns. If the relationship still isn’t working, you can have an honest discussion about why it’s time to move on and why the relationship won’t work for you any longer.
Over time, you will start to move on, especially if you practice self-care and reach out to friends and family for support. If you find you just can’t overcome your feelings of sadness over the loss of the relationship, you may benefit from counseling to help you cope.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker with a master's degree in social work from The Ohio State University, and she is in the process of completing her dissertation for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. She has worked in the social work field for 8 years and is currently a professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She writes website content about mental health, addiction, and fitness.
Licensed as both a social worker through Ohio Board of Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage/Family Therapists and school social worker through Ohio Department of Education as well as a personal trainer through American Council on Exercise.