10 Way Couples Therapy Can Help in Making Long Distance Relationships Work

10 Way Couples Therapy Can Help in Making Long Distance Relationships Work
8 min read
29 September 2023

People always say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. But if the challenges of long-distance relationships remain unresolved, one’s absence can easily make the heart forget.

Long-distance relationships (LDRs) can put a strain on even the strongest partnerships. The geographical separation, differing time zones, and limited physical contact can lead to miscommunication, trust issues, and overall dissatisfaction in the relationship. The longing can even cause couples to drift apart. However, it’s possible for LDRs to survive and thrive with the right tools, support, and commitment to strengthening the connection. 

Enter couples therapy, an effective way to address long-distance relationship issues, and suggest actionable steps to alleviate these problems. 

Whether conducted in person or online, couples counselling can offer a valuable resource for couples dealing with the unique challenges of maintaining love and intimacy across distances. 

Common Challenges of Long-Distance Relationships

video chat couple

Before delving into the ways couples therapy can be beneficial, it's essential to understand the specific challenges that long-distance couples often face:

  • Communication issues, barriers, and fatigue: Communication, the foundation of any healthy relationship, is paramount in LDRs. The limited in-person interaction can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and emotional distance.
  • Emotional Stress: The emotional toll of being physically apart can be overwhelming. Loneliness, insecurity, and anxiety about the future can affect both partners. Due to the challenges of distance, partners may also inadvertently neglect each other's emotional needs, leading to feelings of neglect or unfulfillment.
  • Trust Issues: Trust is crucial in any relationship, but it's especially vital in long-distance relationships. Doubts and insecurities can arise when partners are not present to witness each other's daily lives.
  • Mismatched Expectations: Different expectations regarding the future, the frequency of communication, and the level of commitment can create conflict in LDRs.
  • Lack of Physical Intimacy: The absence of physical touch and intimacy can lead to feelings of frustration and longing. In worse cases, it can also lead to external temptations, potentially leading to infidelity or emotional affairs.
  • Lack of Shared Experiences: It’s not just about the absence of sex or date nights —couples in long-distance relationships may miss out on shared experiences and milestones that can strengthen bonds, like attending events together or spending time with each other's friends and families.
  • Incompatibility: Sometimes, the issues that arise in an LDR reveal fundamental incompatibilities between partners, which can lead to a breakup or divorce.

Now, let’s explore how couples can navigate the complexities of long-distance relationships.

How Couples Therapy Can Help

couples therapy

Can you relate to any of these LDR challenges? Let couples therapy help. If you’re frugal, you might feel like it’s another waste of time and money but rest assured that the benefits outweigh the costs. Doing something to save your treasured relationship sounds like a good investment. 

To get started, here are 10 ways couples therapy or counselling can help. 

1. Improve your communication skills

Your time together, whether online or in-person, is already limited but do you feel like they end up in arguments instead of fun, shared experiences? Ineffective communication comes in different forms, from poor use of words and tone to listening barriers that lead to misinterpretations of the message. 

Couples therapy can teach you effective communication techniques, like speaking in a calmer and more respectful tone, active listening, necessary breaks, and empathetic discussions. You’ll learn how to express your needs, feelings, and concerns more clearly and listen actively to one another. This can reduce misunderstandings and foster healthier interactions.

2. Build trust while you’re apart 

Do you tend to get jealous when you see your partner spending time with their close friends and colleagues? Trust issues can be addressed through therapy. Therapists can help you work through your insecurities and doubts, facilitating open and honest discussions about trust and commitment.

3. Set realistic and mutual expectations

Do you have conflicting goals, future plans, and expectations regarding the frequency of communication? Or do you find these topics difficult to discuss with your partner? Couples therapy provides a safe space to discuss individual expectations and goals within the relationship. By aligning your visions for the future, you and your significant other can reduce conflicts arising from mismatched expectations.

4. Resolve conflict effectively

Due to the lack of effective communication, long-distance relationships are prone to conflicts. Through couples therapy, you’ll learn effective conflict resolution strategies, ensuring that disagreements do not escalate into relationship-threatening issues.

For instance, you’ll develop active listening. Each partner should take turns expressing their thoughts and feelings while the other listens attentively without interrupting. Avoid formulating responses while your partner is speaking; instead, focus on understanding their perspective.

5. Strengthen emotional bonds

Do you think you and your partner are missing out on each other’s milestones? Were there times when you felt like you didn’t know each other anymore? Therapists can guide couples in building emotional intimacy despite the physical distance. This may involve exercises and discussions that encourage vulnerability and emotional connection.

couple

6. Couples therapy can help you create a plan

In many long-distance relationships, the goal is eventually to close the gap and live together. Couples therapy can help you build a practical plan for the future, addressing issues like relocation, career decisions, and shared living arrangements. 

7. Manage stress and anxiety

Coping with the emotional stress of long-distance relationships is one of the main goals of couples counselling. Therapists can provide tools to manage anxiety and loneliness, such as mindfulness and stress reduction techniques.

8. Enhance problem-solving skills

Couples therapy won’t solve all of your problems. However, it can help you become better problem solvers. During conflicts, you’ll learn how to shift the focus from blaming each other to finding solutions, or how to brainstorm potential solutions together. This invaluable skill is crucial when facing the logistical challenges inherent in long-distance relationships.

9. Preserve intimacy and keep the love alive

We’d be lying if we said that sex, in-person dates, and other forms of physical touch aren’t necessary for strengthening relationships. They are. However, couples are more likely to drift apart if they don’t have a strong that extends far beyond physical contact. 

Friendship, effective communication, deep sense of emotional connection, shared values and goals, trust, and respect for the relationship — all these are fundamental elements that underpin a healthy relationship. Therapists can always offer guidance on maintaining intimacy when physical contact is limited or unavailable whether through creative date ideas, video chats, or intimacy-building exercises. 

10. Monitor your progress

Regular therapy sessions serve as check-ins for the relationship's progress. Couples can evaluate their growth, assess whether their needs are being met, and make adjustments as necessary.

The key to the success of a long-distance relationship, with or without therapy, is the willingness of both partners to invest time and energy into maintaining their connection. With the right tools and support, many couples find that their long-distance relationship survives and thrives, building a foundation of trust and love that can withstand any distance.

Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is one of the writers for Relationship Room Couples Counseling, a couples psychology institution specialising in couples therapy, individual therapy, and family therapy. She may be a hopeless romantic but she’s got some straightforward pieces of advice about love, dating, and relationships.

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