Transitioning Long Distance Relationships to Full-time Partnership

Posted by on Dec 31, 2013 in Couples Counseling, Couples Counseling For One | Comments Off on Transitioning Long Distance Relationships to Full-time Partnership

The challenges of long distance relationships are well known. Communication, trust, and time dedicated to cultivating the relationship are just a few of the pressures that accompany that type of connection. But what happens when the miles are no longer a factor, one partner joins the other, and togetherness is the new normal? What happens when your ideal relationship seems suddenly incompatible now that you are finally together? 

Many couples are surprised to find that the real difficulty for a long distance relationship lies in transitioning to shared, everyday lives. It is very important to prepare for the challenges of cohabitation or marriage. Communicate your concerns for the best merger possible. As you begin this new phase, recognize key pitfalls that accompany the transition and avoid being blindsided when normal shifts in your relationship arise.

Pitfall #1:

Partners assume the meaningful interactions that characterized their long distance visits will be the norm when sharing a home together.

Long distance relationships have fewer interactions, but those interactions seem more meaningful and personal as a couple expends the time and effort to get to know each other and keep the relationship going from a distance. Whether by phone, FaceTime, Skype, or occasional visits, there is the perception of intentional connection and a feeling of deep, significant sharing between you. It can be a disconcerting to find that though you share a home and more frequent interactions, meaningful connectivity may start to decline.

When your time together was precious and infrequent, you could put off normal responsibilities to focus on your relationship. Unlike your long distance relationship, every day partnership must incorporate jobs, chores, families, outside obligations and relationships. When life infringes on meaningful connection, you may begin to feel emotionally distant. You may wonder what changed or what happed to your communication and bond. You may even begin to question yourself, your partner, and your relationship.

Pitfall #2:

Partners mistake activity for focused interaction.

It is vital that you restore meaningful, face-to-face interactions by carving out the necessary time. Cleaning the house, watching television, or sharing meals are not, by themselves, relationship-building activities. Make the effort to strengthen the connection between you. Remember and revisit the way you used to spend time talking about each other’s experiences and feelings. Intentionally keep former good communication habits alive.

Pitfall #3

The established partner fails to anticipate how difficult it may be for the other partner to adjust to a new home, community, and relationships after they move in together.

Often, when the decision is made to marry or cohabitate, one member of a long distance relationship will move into the home of the other. The relocating partner sometimes gives up their home, job, and support system in the interest of the union. Unprepared, this change can lead to misunderstandings and conflict between partners. As the stable partner continues on in his or her daily life, the other feels the stress of starting over, possibly leaning heavily on the established partner for support. Typically, this can lead to a perception of neediness by the established partner and abandonment or disconnect by the partner who moves into a foreign environment. Failing to anticipate these challenges before combining households can cause strain and anxiety. Before resentment sets in, discuss expectations, responsibilities, goals, and boundaries.

Don’t be dismayed if an idealized view of your relationship and connection has left you feeling troubled or disappointed as problems arise. The pitfalls you’re facing are normal and manageable. Shifts in connectedness and interaction are part of every relationship, as long as you and your partner make the effort to reconnect and stay connected, you can maintain a healthy and satisfying relationship.


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