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How to Survive a Long Distance Relationship

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Long distance relationships are the worst. “Is he/she worth waiting for? Are they feeling the same way I do?” “Am I kidding myself thinking this can work?” “Would I be better off dating the mailman instead? At least he comes to my house every day.” “Does my girlfriend even exist or is this just a Nigerian guy conducting an elaborate credit card scam?”

I get it. I’ve been there. Long distance relationships suck. There’s no way around it. In all of my years I’ve never met someone who has said, “Yeah, my boyfriend lives in Finland, it’s great!” On the contrary, everyone I’ve met in a long distance relationship can relate to the slow agonizing feeling that takes place over months or even years — that feeling that your heart is slowly being carved out by a butter knife and replaced with Skype calls and open chat windows.

As a young man who was terrified of any sort of commitment whatsoever, I found that I could only allow myself to fall for a girl if she was at least 500 miles away.1

All three of my significant relationships have involved long distance in some way. The first one, we both genuinely tried to make it work, but things fell apart spectacularly. The second one we both agreed that our lives were taking us to different parts of the world and we were probably better off letting it go. The third, we immediately made plans to end the distance as soon as possible and then did.2

So I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve seen both sides of the long distance relationship coin. I’ve seen them implode and I’ve seen them fizzle out. I’ve seen them be worth the pain and loneliness and also reach the moment of needing to let go.

When it comes to surviving the distance, here’s what I’ve learned is most important:

1. Always Have Something to Look Forward To Together

What kills long distance relationships is the constant underlying uncertainty to everything. “Is this all worth it?” “Does she still feel the same way about me as she did before?” “Is he secretly meeting other girls without me knowing?” “Am I kidding myself with all of this? Maybe we’re horrible for each other and I don’t know it.”

The longer you two are apart, the more these uncertainties will fester and grow into legitimate existential crises.

That’s why when making any long distance relationship work it’s necessary to always have some date that you are both waiting for. Usually, this will be the next time you are both able to see each other. But it can be other major life moments as well — applying for jobs in the other person’s city, looking at apartments together, a vacation together, and so on.


The minute you stop having some milestone to look forward to together, you’ll be stuck in emotional limbo. One thing that is true about all relationships is that if they’re not growing, then they’re dying. And this is more important than ever in long distance relationships. You must be evolving towards something. You must both have a converging trajectory on some point on the horizon. Otherwise you will inevitably drift apart.

2. Be Slow to Judge

A funny thing happens to humans psychologically when we’re separated from one another. We’re not able to see each other as we truly are. When we’re apart from one another or have limited exposure to a person or event, we start to make all sorts of assumptions or judgments that are usually exaggerated or untrue.3

This can manifest itself in various ways within a long distance relationship. In some cases, people get insanely jealous or irrationally possessive of their partner because they perceive every casual social outing without them as potentially threatening to their relationship. They become paranoid, asking who the fuck is Dan, tell me who the fuck this Dan guy is, and why is he writing on your Facebook wall — oh, he’s your stepbrother? I didn’t know you had a stepbrother. Why didn’t you tell me you had a stepbrother, are you hiding something from me? OK, maybe I wasn’t listening when you told me, but I still don’t want you hanging out with Dan, got it?

Hyper-sensitive Jealous Boyfriend screams: "No! You will not enjoy your life without me."
Hyper-sensitive Jealous Boyfriend screams: “No! You will not enjoy your life without me.”

Other people become extremely critical and neurotic that every small thing that goes wrong is an end to the relationship. Like if the power goes out and their partner misses their nightly Skype call, they sit there thinking to themselves that this is it, the relationship’s over, he finally forgot about me.

Other people go the other direction and start idealizing their partner as being perfect in a bunch of ways that they’re actually not. After all, if your partner isn’t in front of you all day every day, it’s easy to forget all of the little obnoxious parts of their personality and just imagine how perfect they must be.

All of these irrational fantasies are unhelpful.4 And when stuck in a long distance scenario, it’s important to distrust many of your own judgments and inclinations to a certain degree. Remind yourself that you really don’t know what’s going on and the best thing you can do at any moment is simply ask your partner.

3. Make Communication Optional

A lot of long distance couples create rules or expectations that they should have X number of calls or that they need to talk every night at a certain time. You can even find some articles online recommending this sort of behavior.

It may work for some people, but I’ve always found that communication should happen organically and unconditionally. You talk to each other when you want to, not because you have to. And if that means going 1-2 days without communicating, then so be it. People get busy, after all. And periodically having a few days to yourself is actually pretty healthy, I’d say.

It's OK, sometimes Mr. Suspenders just wants to play Candy Crush. Let him.
It’s OK, sometimes Mr. Suspenders just wants to play Candy Crush. Let him.

When you force communication, two things can happen. The first is that when you inevitably hit days that you don’t have much to talk about (or don’t feel like talking), you’ll half ass it and fill your communication with a bunch of filler. Great, now you’re half-assing your relationship and spending time with your partner not because you want to but because you feel obligated. Welcome to every shitty marriage ever.

This half-assed communication often creates more problems than it solves. Like, if your partner seems more interested in his tax returns than catching up with you, chances are you should just hang up and try again in a couple days. There is such a thing as overexposure.

The second problem that can happen from forcing communication is that one or both people can begin to resent feeling obligated to the other person all of the time. This resentment then sparks stupid fights which almost always devolve into some form of, “I’m sacrificing more than you are!” “No, I’m sacrificing more than you are!”

These arguments never lead to anywhere useful.

The best way to go is to make all communication optional. Both of you can opt out at any time. The trick is to not take these opt outs personally when they happen. Understand that your partner is a fully individual human being outside of their relationship with you, and that to be happy they often need to attend to other things.

Doing this requires something called “trust.” It’s a novel concept. But you should try it out sometime.

4. Make Sure The Distance is Temporary

A long distance relationship cannot survive without hope. And for there to be hope, there must be some possibility that you two will one day be together and achieve your Happily Ever After.

Without that shared vision of Happily Ever After, everything else will quickly begin to feel meaningless.

Remember, love is not enough. You both need to have life visions that are aligned, shared values and mutual interests. If she’s taking a 10-year contract working for the Singaporean government, and he makes a career dogsledding around the polar ice caps, well, then there’s not much hope for that relationship, no matter how much they may love each other.

Not only must there be some shared vision of a possible future for you together, but you both must also feel as though you’re working toward that vision. If he’s in Los Angeles and you’re in New York, nothing will kill the relationship faster than applying for jobs in London and Hong Kong.


In my second relationship, my girlfriend took a job working in Africa. Meanwhile, I toiled away in the US with no money trying to get my first internet business off the ground. All hope for making it work was removed from the equation and we soon broke up.

My current girlfriend is Brazilian. We began dating while I was living there in 2012. I left after a few months and we kept in touch. Both of us were battle-worn veterans of failed long distance relationships, and one of our first conversations was that if we didn’t feel that there was a possibility of us living in the same city again within a year, then there was no point in keeping in touch.

Obviously, this wasn’t an easy conversation to have. But we had it because we both knew it was necessary if we were going to continue.

Six months later, I made the commitment to move back down to Brazil and stay there with her until we could figure other plans out.

Long distance relationships can only work if both partners put their money where their genitals are. OK, that sounded weird, but what I mean, is that you have to make the logistical, life-rearranging commitment to one another for them to have any chance of working. Paradoxically, you end up with this weird dynamic where long distance relationships force you to make much more significant commitments to a person who you’ve had far less exposure to. It’s like buying a car when you’ve only seen one picture of it.

Is it worth it? This is the question I get most often from readers. On one level, yes, it’s always worth it. Because even if the relationship goes down like a Malaysian Airlines flight,5 you will have learned a lot about yourself, about intimacy, and about commitment in the process.

On another level, it’s hard to tell. Because when you’re stuck in a long distance relationship, you don’t really know what it’s like to date the other person. You only have this halfway, vague idea of what it’s like.

Sure, you know their personality and their attractive qualities. But you don’t know the reality. You don’t know each other’s ticks. How she avoids eye contact when she’s sad. The way he leaves a mess in the bathroom and then denies making it. How she’s always late to important events. The way he makes excuses for his mother’s unacceptable behavior. Her tendency to talk through movies. His tendency to get easily offended at comments about his appearance. And so on.

You don’t get a sense for the actual relationship until you’re there, in person, and in each other’s faces non-stop, whether you want to be or not. This is where true intimacy exists. In the constricted personal space between two people who have spent way, way, way too much time around each other. This intimacy is sometimes dispassionate. It’s sometimes obnoxious. It’s sometimes unpleasant. But it’s capital-R Real. And it’s what determines if a relationship will last or not.

Distance prevents this constricted intimacy from ever forming in a meaningful way. When we’re apart it’s too easy to idealize and romanticize each other. It’s too easy to overlook the mundane, yet important differences. It’s too easy to get caught up in the drama of our minds instead of the calm and boring truths of our hearts.

Can it work? Yes, it can. Does it work? Usually, no. But then again, that’s true for the vast majority of relationships.6 And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ever at least try.

  1. This is common among avoidant attachment types. They only feel comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy with people they know aren’t going to be around much.
  2. We’re still together today.
  3. I wrote an article about how this effect also explains why so many people are assholes on the internet.
  4. Stafford, L., & Merolla, A. J. (2007). Idealization, reunions, and stability in long-distance dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24(1), 37–54.
  5. Sorry, too soon?
  6. Stafford, L., Merolla, A. J., & Castle, J. D. (2006). When long-distance dating partners become geographically close. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23(6), 901–919.

The post How to Survive a Long Distance Relationship appeared first on Mark Manson.

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3036 days ago
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You may want to move to Iceland at this point

Snowden Anniversary One year after The Guardian opened up the trove of top secret American and British documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) sysadmin Edward J Snowden, the world of data security and personal information safety has been turned on its head.…

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3470 days ago
Great article on the extent to which the NSA and friends have compromised the 'net.
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FAA: All systems GO for Virgin Galactic space plane to launch from US

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As soon as it can get the thing into space, that is

Beardy Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is one step closer to opening its cabin doors for business, having secured authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to launch its rocket plane from US soil.…

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3474 days ago
This thing. This is awesome.
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Clearest photo yet of famous 707 prototype barrel roll?

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The Boeing 367-80 taxying at Boeing Field, Seattle, Wiki Commons photo

It is nearly 59 years since the celebrated Boeing pilot Alvin ‘Tex’ Johnston barrel rolled the precursor to the Boeing 707 (and KC-135 tanker) the Dash 80 low over the heads of potential buyers at a fair in Seattle, and perhaps the clearest individual photo of the startling event from inside the jet has emerged from the aviation mementos of the late Alan Terrell.

Captain Terrell was a distinguished Qantas pilot and a former general manager of operations.

Shortly before he died in March this year he bequeathed the photo, possibly given to him by ‘Tex’ Johnston and shown at the bottom of the page, to his friend and aviation historian and author and former director of public relations for Qantas, Jim Eames, who has permitted this reproduction of an astonishing split second in commercial aviation history.

The Dash 80 overflying the Olympics with Puget Sound beyond: Wiki Commons

This accurate entry of the barrel roll incident appears in Wikipedia.

As part of the Dash 80′s demonstration program, Bill Allen [then Boeing CEO]  invited representatives of the Aircraft Industries Association (AIA) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) to the Seattle’s 1955 Seafair and Gold Cup Hydroplane Races held on Lake Washington on August 6, 1955. The Dash 80 was scheduled to perform a simple flyover, but Boeing test pilot Alvin “Tex” Johnston instead performed two barrel rolls to show off the jet airliner. [10]

The next day, Allen summoned Johnston to his office and told him not to perform such a maneuver again, to which Johnston replied that he was simply “selling airplanes” and asserted that doing so was completely safe.

Only one Dash 80, as the Boeing 367-80 was known, was built, but it was the foundation for the great success of both the Boeing 707 and KC-135 lines, and is now on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex of the Smithsonian Institution‘s National Air and Space Museum, which is where you can spend the most awesome day in your life as an aviation follower should you make the hike there from Washington DC.

The Dash 80 visited Australia once and flew right side up over the head of this school pupil kicking dust in the playground in, I believe, 1955, as it flew over Clovelly on its path down the coastline of Sydney, or possibly in 1956. Its appearance was in the same broad period as overflights by a Vulcan bomber, an incredible B-36, and a Comet demonstrator, promoting the 707 rival, the Comet IV, which stood no chance when Q.A.N.T.A.S. despite UK pressure, chose the American product.

The show stopper moment, inverted over the Seattle SeaFair 1955

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3474 days ago
There is a long standing tradition of not doing acrobatics in jetliners. This is how it started.
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I Was on an Airplane That Nearly Crashed Into a Mountain (On Purpose)

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Flying in Phoenix in the summer is usually a pretty bouncy affair. Rising columns of heat, called thermals, give you that not-so-pleasant rising and falling feeling at lower altitudes. It was in that setting that our turboprop lumbered along, nose pointed directly at the mountains south of town. We weren’t planning on changing course until the last minute. This was not your typical flight.

Honeywell invited me and others out as part of an international media day. You may not think of Honeywell as being a big part of air travel, but they make a ton of parts on nearly every airplane. There was a lot to share, and the company figured that there was no better way to learn about some of these products than by putting us into a metal tube and letting us experience it for ourselves.


On this flight, the goal was to show us both the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) and the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS). (The photo above, via Seth Miller/wandr.me, shows both.) TCAS has been getting a lot of play lately thanks to an absurdly alarmist piece about a near-miss over the Pacific. The basic purpose of TCAS is to ensure that you don’t hit another airplane, and in that Pacific story, it worked flawlessly. If two airplanes are heading toward each other, then TCAS tells one to climb and the other to descend.

Fortunately for some other unsuspecting airplane, we weren’t going to try to run into someone. Instead, we just saw the many blips representing the locations of other airplanes in our airspace along with their altitude difference compared to ours. If we had been too close, all sort of alarms would have gone off and red lights would flash. That didn’t happen.

Instead, we were going to, as our pilot said, “take a run at a mountain” and show just how EGPWS worked. That piece of technology has dramatically reduced controlled flight into terrain. In other words, the color-coded display makes it very easy to see if you’re going to hit a non-moving object. If it’s green, you’re good. If it’s yellow, you need to move, probably just climbing a little. If it’s red, you’re going to need to turn quickly.

Honeywell has a fleet of test aircraft that it uses for a variety of different purposes. This time, we were put on the oldest and most exciting airplane in the fleet. This Convair 580 was the second off the line for United way back in 1952. Honeywell has had it for more than 20 years, and it primarily lives up near Seattle. But it was down in Phoenix this time, and it would be our chariot.

The inside of the airplane was filled with test equipment, but vestiges of its prior commercial life remained. Upon entering through the rear door, this was in plain view.

Reserved for Stewardess

The crude air conditioning/lighting fixtures above each seat were a throwback, as were the overhead hat racks, not bins. But my favorite had to be the safety card showing how to use the emergency exit. Just pop the door, grab on to a rope, and slide down. Yep, that was a different era.

Convair 580 Safety Card

I took seat 4A, on the wing right behind the monstrous Allison props. Once those were fired up, we had our headsets on and we were on our way.

In the Convair 580

The turbulence started shortly after takeoff and didn’t really let up the entire time. They had hoped to find smooth air and some point during the flight, but we never did. The most impressive thing was that nobody on our flight threw up. After all, they had just treated us to a heavy Chinese lunch just before we got onboard. At least they were prepared for a sudden issue at either end.

Urine and Vomit Bag

Our first pass was heading just south over the mountains, increasing bumps but not really getting that close. We quickly turned around and headed north back toward Phoenix, but that mountain was waiting in between.

The turbulence increased quickly as we got closer to the mountain. On the EGPWS, we could start to see some red blips ahead. (You can see them faintly in the photo at the top of this page, but it was tough to get a good picture.) We crept closer and heard audible warnings, but the pilots figured it was time to move. Throttles went forward, and the big props pulled us skyward very quickly. Here’s the best video I could muster. Listen for the “terrain” and “pull up” warnings starting at about 30 seconds.

Another accident averted thanks to technology, and Honeywell is doing some pretty cool things with tech. Most interesting to me is the turbulence detection system that they continue to work on. It’s turbulence that causes more injuries to airline passengers than anything else, so anything that can help reduce that is welcome.

On this flight, however, turbulence detection wouldn’t have helped. It was everywhere. And it was starting to really do a number on our stomachs. There were naturally a lot of sighs of relief when we saw the runway in sight right ahead of us. Another piece of technology, the SmartLanding system, yelped “flaps, flaps” when it noticed the flaps had not been properly set for landing. (That, of course, was done on purpose as well.)

With the flaps issue fixed, we glided to a stop on runway 25L. It was quite a ride.

[This is the first post from my visit to Honeywell's media day. Honeywell paid for travel and accommodation on this trip.]

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3475 days ago
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The Origins of 'Privilege'

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The idea of "privilege"-that some people benefit from unearned, and largely unacknowledged, advantages, even when those advantages aren't discriminatory -has a pretty long history. In the nineteen-thirties, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote about the "psychological wage" that enabled poor whites to feel superior to poor blacks; during the civil-rights era, activists talked about "white-skin privilege."
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3482 days ago
Huh. I had put off reading this because I expected it to be a lecture. It's not. It's thought-provoking.
3479 days ago
New York, NY
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