Sunday, January 18, 2009

Six Ways to Fix a Breaking Long Distance Relationship

How do you get your love back when all seems lost?

I received the following question:

"My relationship was going well and then it plummeted. It was a long distance relationship but it was going so well and strong for 7 months and then crashed. I would give anything to get her back and I really need some advice."

This is just one example of countless questions I receive asking advice for basically the same problem. So how do you fix a relationship that has gone bad?

Go for the 6-point checklist

1. Go visit
If you really would do anything, I suggest you start by going to see your partner and try and work things out. Long distance relationships are hard, but don't let anybody ever tell you they can't work out. My girlfriend/wife and I were in a long distance relationship for more than three years, and we're in one again. It sucks big time, but it's definitely still worth it.

If there really are problems in your relationship, it's best to discuss it in person. Phone calls, Skype, webcams, etc. are all great resources that you can use to communicate, but real problems need real people to sort them out. Not people on computer screens or voices on the other side of telephones. This is not to say you can't work it out over the distance, so don't just give up yet. It's just easier in person.

2. Do some digging
Find out exactly what led to the (possible) breakup. Dig deep. If it's something one of you said, dig deeper still and find out what led to that being said. I would assume that you are not an inherently bad person, so if you said something bad, there must have been a reason for you to say it.

Don't stop digging once you've reached what looks like an answer. Maybe there's an even deeper level, something that happened a long time ago. And quite possibly, that something was a complete misunderstanding. It's happened to us a lot, and I don't think we're unique in that way.

3. Be brutally honest
You have to be brutally honest, both with yourself, and with your partner. Your digging will lead to some things you wouldn't want to know, both about yourself and your partner. You should be prepared for it. This is not the time for mud slinging. This is the time to be a couple. Couples stand together through everything and help each other. You need to admit to the things you find.

4. Admit your mistakes
Admit those mistakes that you've uncovered. Admitting mistakes isn't saying: "I was brought up this way, I can't change..." Admitting your mistakes means finding out what you've been doing wrong so far and actively doing something about it. This is where your partnership will be instrumental. You have work together with each other to come out better as a team on the other side. But don't stop at your partner. You should also use the help of friends and family. They may be even more brutally honest with you than your partner.

5. What are your plans?
Does your partner know that you have long term plans for your relationship? You do have long term plans don't you? Like maybe getting married eventually? If you're serious about making this relationship work, I would assume it's because you feel that there is a possibility of a long term relationship. Maybe if your partner knows that's the way you really feel you will get renewed energy and a renewed sense of direction in your relationship.

Seriously, I'll never tell you when to break a relationship. Only you can ever tell yourself that. But if you don't see a long term goal for your relationship, a long distance relationship is not your best option. Long distance relationships are harder work than normal relationships, so you have to have something to work for. In our case, as with many others, it was and is definitely worth it, no matter the distance, and no matter how long we are apart.

6. Make some sacrifices
You will have to make some sacrifices in your relationship, but weigh it up against the rewards, and eventually it's no sacrifice at all. As an example, I spent a lot of money during the course of our long distance relationship in order to visit Mari often enough. But I never saw our relationship in terms of a monetary value. What I got in return is something that no amount of money can ever buy.

Maybe your sacrifice is something else. Maybe you just need to spend less time doing something else you want to do, and spend more time on the phone with your partner. Or maybe you should take the plunge and look for a job closer to your partner. Even if it may mean that you will have to work for a lower salary.

Never just give up on your relationship without a fight (for the relationship that is, not a fight in the relationship). Every relationship goes through a bit of a rough patch from time to time. Long distance relationships are no different.

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