Some questions to ask yourself that can help you make your decision.
For all its excitements and opportunities, hopping around the world can come with its characteristic worries. One of them is how you’re going to balance the new friends you’re making along the journey with the old ones you don’t want to let go. Are you currently struggling to decide whether or not you should continue a relationship? Here are five things to consider as you sift through your emotions.
1. What are you getting out of your relationship?
Conjure an image of your partner and observe your responses. Does the thought of them make you feel happy? What kind of happiness is it? Is it the sustainable kind?
Often times, we confuse ourselves with wanting a particular person to be our life partner and wanting simply to not be alone. It’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’re in love when, in fact, we’re just lonely. Loneliness, however, is and shouldn’t be the reason for dating, least of all dating long-distance — and it’s not fair to the other person. If you think you are attracted more to the idea of dating than to your partner, consider taking some time off from them to reflect upon your thoughts and emotions.
2. Would you be happier in a long-distance relationship?
Long-distance relationships can have many stigmas attached to it, and it happens to be that not many people have faith in them to work out. But physical distance has been found not to be a reliable determinant of the quality of your relationship. It is not distance that will make or break your relationship; if you break up from a long-distance relationship, it will only mean that the distance brought to the surface some other negative aspect of your relationship that had always been there.
Some people actually prefer to be in a long-distance relationship with their partners. Reasons can vary, but perhaps the biggest advantage of a long-distance relationship is balancing the emotional connection of dating someone with the agency of a day-to-day freedom which comes with being single. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
A final predictor that can determine how happy you will be over distance is whether or not you understand the distance to be temporary. Do you have concrete plans of when you will next be able to see your partner? Is it just a long summer vacation after which you will be able to reunite or is your partner going off to serve in the military with no plans of coming back to your city?
3. How would going long-distance affect your relationship?
A study done by L. Crystal Jiang and Jeffrey T. Hancock for the Journal of Communication analyzed a collection of crowd-sourced texts and video calls of both close and long-distance relationships. It also showed that having a long-distance relationship usually involves a higher level of intimacy you feel for your partner. Furthermore, the same study noticed better and healthier communication between long-distance partners, compared to other couples.
In addition, Jiang and Hancock found that partners who are apart can also enhance the image they have of their partners. It is easier to idealize them in our heads when we’re not constantly reminded of all the small ways our partners are annoying and human, like how they leave unwashed T-shirts lying around no matter how many times we tell them off.
But this idealization can also backfire, when a partner doesn’t meet unrealistic expectations after we see them again. A study involving students at one American college found that a third of long-distance relationships can finish within the span of three months after reuniting.
4. How much time do you have with your partner before you have to make your decision?
Being strictly logical doesn’t always help. Our emotions aren’t and can’t be dictated by logic. Sometimes, choosing to pursue a long-distance relationship is a gut instinct that defies all logical considerations. Other times, your gut will tell you to break up.
If you have weeks or months to decide whether you want to go for the long-distance game, take the pressure off of yourself about making the decision right away. Enjoy all the moments you have left with your special someone and feel all the feels. Don’t set any expectations on how you’re supposed to be feeling from moment to moment. In the end, the unconscious workings of your brain will make the decision for you.
5. Is friendship an option?
Our society unreasonably degrades friendships against romantic relationships. As much as you rely on and love your best friends, for some reason, you feel like they’re “less special” than having a romantic partner. This is a shame.
When you bring up the topic of “going back to friends,” your partner may firstly react with anger, disappointment, and heartbreak. These are all completely normal responses, but if you still want to keep your partner close by, you have to make that extra clear. Explain what your partner means to you, outside of the purely romantic sense, and how much you love him/her. If further convincing is needed, watch this wonderful video by The School of Life together.
Regardless of what decision you end up making, make sure that it’s the path which will lead you to the most happiness in the long run. Always put yourself first. The pain that you might put your partner through will only be temporary – eventually, he/she will find someone else to be romantic with, and you will too. In the end, you will both have learned something valuable from the relationship that you can carry onto your next one.
Best-selling self-help writer Mark Manson writes in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck:
Don’t ask yourself what you want out of life. It’s easy to want success and fame and happiness and great sex. Everybody wants those things. A much more interesting question to ask yourself is, “What kind of pain do I want?” What you are willing to struggle for is a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.
Having a strong, concrete reason to put yourself through a struggle makes the struggle that much easier. See the relationship you have with your partner as a choice you’re making with intention and purpose, then notice how pleasant the struggle feels.