5 Steps to End a Long-Distance Relationship [or Make it Work]

by Alex Larryngton

5 Steps to End a Long-Distance Relationship [or Make it Work]

You are in a long-distance relationship that isn’t quite working, so you are thinking of breaking up. You are probably having doubts about what to do. Do you keep trying to make it work? or Are you ready to move on?
If you have these doubts, take a few minutes to reflect on your situation. This article will guide you through 5 steps that will help you involve your partner, so you can make a decision together.

5 Steps to end your long-distance relationship the right way (or stay together):

  1. Acknowledge your feelings
  2. Share your feelings with your partner
  3. Ask your partner how they feel about your relationship
  4. Share your worries and concerns
  5. Together, make a decision that works for both of you

At the moment you can be overwhelmed with doubts, asking yourself: Can I make it work? Is long-distance a problem? Will it work if we were to move in together? Is this relationship worth saving or has it run its course?
I want to reassure you that there is an easy and healthy solution that I will share with you in this article.
You can use it to get a different perspective or as a practical guide.
If you want to resolve your long-distance relationship dilemma today and have a pen and paper nearby, let’s dive right in…

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STEP 1: Acknowledge your feelings

A long-distance relationship can be hard. A romantic relationship needs physical contact. Lack of physical intimacy can leave you feeling stressed and frustrated.

After some time your feelings for your partner may fade or you may start having feelings for someone else. It can be scary to observe yourself losing feelings for the person you are with. But that’s the nature of feelings, they change all the time.

The healthy thing you can do is:

  • recognise this change
  • acknowledge the new feelings
  • make a plan to act on them

You have your reasons to want to end your relationship, but what about your feelings?
While reasons are fairly simple to understand, feelings can be more confusing. For example, you might think that break up is the right thing to do, but at the same time, you may be feeling nervous and sad.

If this conflict between thinking and feeling gets too much, ask yourself:

  • Are you making a change because you think it’s what you should do or because you feel excited about what it will bring?
  • Are you recognising your feelings or telling yourself how you should feel?

Recognising our feelings isn’t an easy task.
Our parents and society don’t give much importance to how we feel and our everyday conversations reflect as much. So, when it comes to making big decisions like ending a relationship, it is common to feel overwhelmed and confused.

Luckily, there is an easy solution to this…

  • Make a list of concerns you have about your relationship and the long-distance
  • Write down your reasons for breaking up (this one is only for yourself)
  • Use this reference to work out how you feel
  • Make a list of positive and negative feelings
  • Be clear, be specific

Tip: 

Before you can explain to your partner why you want to break up, first, you have to make it clear for yourself.

•••

STEP 2: Share your feelings with your partner

When was the last time you told your partner how you felt? How did you express these feelings?

When we try to express ourselves without first being clear on how we feel, it may come across as a mix of blame and judgements. It’s common for couples in disagreement to blame each other for the situation they are in. And, until each person takes responsibility for their part, it will be very hard to come to an agreement.

So, why would you want to share your feelings and how can you do it the right way?

In step 1 you made 2 lists: your reasons for breaking up and your feelings. Let’s leave the reasons aside for now and focus on your feelings. Sharing your feelings can be a very intimate experience that can leave you feeling vulnerable. To know that you are making the right choice, you need to be honest with yourself and your partner.

  • Find a good time for both of you to talk.
  • Tell them you want to express your feelings
  • Use the list you made earlier to express your positive and negative feelings about this relationship.
  • Ask them to repeat back what they heard you say

Tip:

Avoid talking about your intention to break up and your reasons for doing so. Stay with your feelings.

•••

STEP 3: Ask your partner how they feel about your relationship

With the first 2 steps, you have taken a completely different approach to your situation. By sharing your feelings you opened a door to honesty and authenticity. Now, it’s time to acknowledge your partner and their feelings. This has 2 benefits: it involves your partner in this process and highlights their significance.

Once they see that their feelings matter, they will feel included and will be less defensive. Knowing how they feel, will help you see your relationship from their perspective. After all, isn’t it what the relationship is about?

Now that you had a chance to be heard and understood, create the same opportunity for your partner.

  • Thank your partner for hearing your feelings
  • Tell them that now you’d like to hear how they feel
  • Help them find the words to describe their feelings
  • Write down their feelings in a list
  • Say their feelings back to them

Tip:

Make this moment about your partner. Help them stay with their feelings and avoid reasons and judgements.

•••

STEP 4: Share your concerns

If both you and your partner were able to share your feelings, you’ve done the hardest part. Now, that you have heard each other and are connected at the heart, it’s time to work things out. Remember the list of reasons and concerns about your relationship you made in step 1?

In the spirit of understanding, your partner needs one of them as well, right?

Part 1 – Understand your partner’s view, worries and concerns on your relationship:

  • Tell them you would like to check what’s working and what isn’t
  • Ask your partner how they see your relationship
  • Write down their concerns about your relationship as a whole and the long-distance part of it
  • Tell them what you wrote, so you are crystal clear you heard them right

Part 2 – Once you’ve heard their perspective, share your concerns and worries about your relationship with your partner:

  • Use the list you made in step 1 to share what’s bothering you regarding the relationship and the long-distance.
  • Ask them to say it back to you, so you know they heard you correctly

Tip:

Making notes will help you keep on track and remain objective.

•••

STEP 5: Together, find a way forward that works for both of you

The last step is all about communication. Many relationships fail because of poor, limited or one-sided communication. So far, you’ve done an incredible job connecting with your partner. You involved them in your predicament and raised the issues in a healthy way. In doing so, you’ve indirectly addressed your reasons for ending your relationship and minimise future regrets.

Whatever road you will choose moving forward, you will always know that you’ve done it together. This process eliminates unnecessary doubts and struggle. Avoid compromising what’s important for you and discourage your partner from compromising what’s important to them. This will take you back to square one.

Get creative looking for solutions:

  • Layout all the notes on the table
  • Look at all the feelings and concerns from a 3rd perspective to help you see it objectively
  • Separate the relationship problems from long-distance problems
  • Brainstorm different options that may include breaking up, temporary separation or making it work
  • Decide on an option that works for both of you

Tip:

Create a plan based on your feelings, rather than creating a feelings to suit your plan.

•••

Conclusion

Ending a long-distance relationship can be an emotionally challenging experience. Driven by emotions, it’s easy to make a decision that you may later regret. You only get one shot at ending the relationship the right way. The process described above gives you a chance to approach your situation with more awareness. You may even discover that your reasons for breaking up can be sorted and you may stay together.

If you still decide to separate, you benefit from learning about yourself and your partner. And, you can use this skill to have a healthier future relationship.

By going through this 5 step process you have regained the power over your decision. You’ve reflected on your feelings, desires and goals to get clear on what you want. You’ve assessed your situation objectively. When you start a relationship, both of you are equally responsible for everything that happens, including the breakup. This means that all your decisions should be made together.

Whatever choice you make, whatever happens, you will always know that you’ve made your choice with awareness.

Most Common Questions

When should you give up on a long distance relationship?

This question has 2 aspects: ‘should’ and ‘give up’. If you ask when you should do something, you will only get an opinion of another person. Sure, general advice can give you guidance, but the real answers are inside of you. The idea of giving up implies failure and no one likes to fail.

Another way to phrase this question is: When do you (the person who knows nothing about my situation) think is the best time for me to fail in my relationship? If you are asking this, there is a chance you feel powerless, so you may need reassurance that you can make your relationship work.

You might feel overwhelmed and may need some time and space to calm your emotions. You can only make a plan once you know what you need.

For example:

  • If you need reassurance, talk to your partner to get clear on the state of your relationship.
  • If you need some time and space for yourself, have a temporary break from your relationship.

Is it normal to have doubts in a long distance relationship?

To answer this question, we need to be clear on 2 things: what is normal and what are doubts? Normal is defined as conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. The premise is if everyone is going through the same thing it makes it ok because there must be a solution.

So, you might be feeling worried and need reassurance that it will work out. Doubt is defined as a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction. It’s easy enough to see that you may want certainty. The problem is that certainty is an illusion. Predictability gives us a feeling of safety and security. But we don’t really know what will happen. All we can do is raise our awareness of the situation before making a decision.

We are in a constant state of balance between doubt and certainty. When we question our circumstances, it helps us make a more educated decision, but it stops us from acting. When we are certain about something we act before we think. In a long-distance relationship, if you are having doubts, means you are unsure about something, so just ask.

Getting Some Help

I have made the above tips as practical as possible, but if you are struggling and could do with some help, here is how you can get it:

  • Join our Facebook page for quotes and ideas to help you with your relationship.
  • Visit our Facebook group. To see how people in the same situation handle their long-distance relationship.  Our coaches are part of that group, so you will get professional advice too.
  • Take our assessment quiz and receive a personalised response from a relationship coach.
  • Book your online coaching session to discuss your situation with a relationship coach.
  • Have a virtual appointment together with your partner.
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