How To Tell If Your Long-Distance Relationship Isn't Going To Work Out

It's a tale as old as time: couple meets, couple hits it off, and couple sadly realizes that they live too far apart for a conventional relationship. This can happen in a number of ways. Maybe you met your perfect match online, but their hometown is three hours away. Or perhaps you've been together for a while before one partner has to move away for work or school. Either way, it raises the question: should we give up or try to make it work?

Funnily enough, long-distance relationships (LDRs) might actually enjoy a few advantages. For one thing, there tends to be more idealization between partners in an LDR, as noted in a study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Evidently, the old adage wasn't far off; absence does make the heart grow fonder, or at least put on a pair of rose-colored glasses where an S.O. is concerned. Plus, long-distance relationships can make your connection feel precious and valuable. "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," counselor Lisa Vallejos, Ph.D., tells Refinery29.

But how often do LDRs really come into play? One 2012 study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology suggests that up to 75% of college students have been in long-distance relationships. And as the world moves further and further online, it's likely that this statistic will only climb. So, if almost everyone will find themselves in a long-distance relationship at some point, how can we do our best to make them work, while recognizing whether an LDR is likely to last?

How to make a long-distance relationship work

As anyone who's ever tried a long-distance partnership can tell you, it takes a lot of effort and commitment. If you're not sure whether your relationship is strong enough to survive on its own, think about ways to foster a healthy and long-lasting partnership. Firstly, maintaining regular communication is the cornerstone of any successful LDR. Fortunately, we live in a digital era, so there are plenty of easy ways to stay in touch — even across the globe. "Don't be a one-trick pony," licensed marriage and family therapist Kiaundra Jackson suggests to NPR. Varying your communication styles can "bring that person into your world a little bit more." For instance, mix up your texts with funny memes, photos from your day, and regular Skype sessions.

Depending on your comfort level and relationship dynamic, you may also want to introduce long-distance intimacy. This could mean having a racy phone conversation, exchanging spicy photos, or keeping the spark alive over video chat. Just be sure that both partners are comfortable and that there's a safe level of trust involved. We've all heard horror stories of intimate photos being posted online without permission, such as the many cases tied to the Netflix documentary series "The Most Hated Man on the Internet" (via The Guardian). So, think carefully about how much you want to share with a partner.

Finally, if you start feeling disconnected or like there's a problem brewing, talk with your partner about it. "If something is truly bothering you ... [or if there's] something you desire from your partner, it's okay to verbalize that. It's okay to literally say what's on your mind," Jackson says (via NPR).

Signs it's time to let go of your long-distance relationship

Sometimes, despite doing your very best, you may begin to feel that your long-distance relationship is coming to an end. One of the biggest signs of a relationship in trouble is if it begins to feel one-sided. This may mean constantly missed calls and dates, messages that go unanswered for days, or lack of attention when you're actually together. If you're putting in noticeably more effort and getting little response from your partner, the distance between you may have become more than just physical.

This can also be true if you're the partner feeling disconnected. Do you no longer get excited to exchange cute texts or catch up over your weekly video calls? It's important to be honest with your S.O. and evaluate whether you're permanently growing apart. "A long-distance relationship is a relationship, after all, therefore, most of the same rules apply," licensed couples therapist Todd Baratz tells Bustle. "If you don't look forward to talking with them, it's likely that you're no longer connected."

You may also discover that you and your partner are moving toward different life goals. It's natural for people to change and evolve, but if it seems like your goals aren't leading toward a place where you can be together, there's probably no point in drawing out your LDR. Finally, the most critical sign of relationship peril is a lack of trust. If you can't trust your partner, an LDR will never work out. One notable red flag is if your partner's friends don't know about you. If you're truly important to them, it shouldn't be a secret. So, if they're keeping your existence on the down-low, it's probably a sign to let this relationship go.