Breakups are difficult to begin with, let’s start with that. And long-distance breakups? Whoo boy, it’s a different category of pain altogether.
If you sought this article, there’s a high likelihood that you’re either freshly single from a long-distance relationship or about to be. And you’re needing some help.
First of all, I feel for you.
Second of all, I hope I have some of the answers you’re seeking. I broke down my tips into 3 categories: Before, The Breakup, and After.
As per usual, take what will resonate and leave what won’t, you know your relationship and yourself best.
(Just think of me as your well-meaning but nosy friend who’s trying to get you to watch rom-com movies at two in the morning because love still exists, you know???)
Anyway, let’s jump in:
Before it happens
In my very early 20s, I was in a long-distance, uhhh, situation-ship that lasted for about 2 years. Now that I’m in my late 20s, I know there was so much about that relationship that I wish I could have done differently.
How it ended being one of them since I essentially ghosted him (and that’s on me. Don’t be like me.)
Growth is a rewarding yet scary thing, I wish I knew about these things then, but I’m sharing them with you now. I hope it’ll help.
1) Decide if you truly wish to break up
I’m not stopping you from breaking up, this is not what I’m saying.
I just want you to be sure. There’s a lot of stress and pressure that comes from a long-distance relationship (this is not something I even need to tell you, you already know this), the very loud distance between being the biggest of them.
There’s a lot of intentionalities that is required in a long-distance relationship and it takes a lot of work. It’s also not for everyone.
Loving someone who is physically far requires more communication compared to non-long-distance relationships. Mostly because, well, that’s your main way of interaction.
So ask yourself, is the cause of the impending breakup something that is fundamentally wrong with your relationship, or is this caused by frustrations about the distance?
To be fair, frustrations about the distance are a valid reason to break up.
(Wait a minute! If this happens to be your first long-distance relationship and you realize that it’s not for you or you are not able to cope, this is NOT your failing, okay?
Even when you want to make things work, sometimes it just doesn’t. Okay, moving on.)
It’s just important to be sure because hesitating mid-moving on is sometimes why it’s so hard to move on and get over people or why you get back together with them.
Alright, once you’ve decided you’re breaking up, once you’re sure, you have to let them know you’re gonna have The Talk.
2) Let them know you’re going to have The Talk.
“We need to talk.” is one of the most nerve-wracking sentences you can ever hear in any situation, more so in relationships.
But if you’ve decided to end the relationship, you need to let them know that you’re going to have The Talk. It’s one of the things I regret when I essentially ghosted my past significant other.
(It’s a story for another time, but I say “essentially” because we got to talk as friends a few months after everything. So, we’re good, but I still regret some things… Anyway…)
This doesn’t have to be complicated, you can just say that you have something important you wish to discuss. Decide how and where you’re going to have the conversation, but more on that below.
Here it is, the long-distance breakup. How do you go about this?
When should you break up? Where? How?
I have a few suggestions:
3) As much as possible, don’t do it over text or instant messaging.
According to experts, breaking up face-to-face is the most respectful way to go about it. However, you’re not exactly able to do that easily in your situation.
But I think it’s a pretty common sentiment that breaking up with people over text is in bad taste. Especially if it’s for long-term relationships (this article by Bumble about breaking up with people over text even says so.)
Breaking up over text feels blindsiding to the receiver and so impersonal.
The sweet spot here is to try to set up a call, video or just voice. The next thing to do is to find the right timing.
4) Find the right timing.
When John Mayer sang, “Bad news never had good timing,” I felt that. That’s the case here, too. But you could still at least choose a low-stress time for you and your partner.
Ideally, a time when both you and the other person will have time to process the news after the talk. Where you also won’t feel rushed during the conversation.
As per timing regarding major life events (deaths, job loss, moves, etc.), a good litmus test will be to ask yourself, will I want someone to break up with me during this time? Can I process the added distress?
And then decide from there.
Inversely, if you think you need to get out of that relationship immediately, then do so. It’s case-to-case at best.
5) Stay calm.
Regardless of the circumstances, this is an emotionally-charged situation. Try to stay calm.
It’s so much easier to lose our cool in a confrontation when we’re separated by distance and a computer screen after all.
Take pauses in the conversation if you have to. Stay calm but also don’t allow any disrespect from the other person.
Until the conversation happens or is underway, you wouldn’t really fully know the other person’s reactions. They could get angry, they could be frustrated, they could lash out, they could just shut down, or they could be completely calm about it.
You can only anticipate and prepare yourself.
6) Hear them out.
One thing I’ve learned about breakups is that no matter how resolved you feel at breaking up with someone, there’s always, always a chance that you will stay together anyway.
Especially if you hear them out. (Okay, a pause here because I’m not including manipulators in this conversation, I’m removing that mess from this narrative. That’s a different article altogether.)
One of my absolute favorite songs is “So Far Away” by Carole King and she sang a line that I wanted to include here, “…doesn’t help to think that you’re just time away.”
The word “time” here is so representative of all the things we can address in long-distance relationships. It takes time to get closer, it takes time to go closer. To bridge the physical and emotional distance.
Takes time to work things out, takes time to address the shortcomings. Takes time and intention to be the right kind of person for our partners.
So, try to hear each other out. As best you can.
But it should be noted that while Carole King did sing about longing and yearning in So Far Away, she did also sing “It’s too late, baby, now it’s too late. Though we really did try to make it.”
Despite good intentions, relationships can end.
After it happens
Alright, so you’ve done it. You’re officially single. Now, what?
A few things:
7) Treat this breakup as you would any non-long-distance breakup.
It sounds silly to have to say it, but I’ve seen people not give their long-distance relationships the weight it deserves. For whatever reason.
Like, they’re trying to justify why the relationship should not matter or should not hurt as much because they don’t see each other often, or if at all. Maybe they haven’t met yet, one of those across continents love affairs, you know? One separated by oceans, resources, and visas.
To that I say: Girl, it’s valid. Those relationships are as real as those with proximity in the equation. If you’ve invested your feelings, your love, and your emotions, then it’s valid.
And you’re allowed to grieve the end of it, too. You’re allowed to be sad over the potential that wasn’t seen through the end.
If this relationship didn’t start off long-distance but you just couldn’t carry the weight of it or couldn’t cope when it became one, you’re allowed to be sad over that as well. You didn’t fail as a person just because your relationship did.
Some relationships just don’t work out, you know? Even if you fight for it, kicking and screaming through the halls.
So, accept the end for what it is: the end. But also, a beginning.
8) Cut off contact.
CUT OFF CONTACT AS BEST YOU CAN!!!!!!!
With your relationship hinging heavily on online conversations and interactions, this other person will be EVERYWHERE in your digital space.
So, if you can, and if you’re willing, cut off contact. Do some sweeping around your socials, too.
Much, much easier said than done for sure but beneficial for a clean break and a new start.
A few suggestions:
- Deleting apps you’ve downloaded specifically for long-distance relationships.
- Deleting or archiving messaging threads.
- Unfriending, blocking, or muting them on social media.
- Deleting or archiving photos of each other.
- Not asking about them to mutual friends.
- Not snooping around their profiles to “see how they are”
- Not replying in case they “see how you are”
Might I add that it’s also unfair and messy for everyone involved if you still both drag each other into your world virtually? And right after the breakup?
I’m not stopping you from being friends with your ex after the fact, no, but just give yourself time and room to breathe and move on.
9) Surround yourself with people who love you.
For when you’re up for it, of course. Okay, this might sound cold but hear me out: It’s okay to process a breakup by yourself first.
There are just some parts of your relationship that will not make sense to other people or things you’re not yet willing to share, so it’s okay to take time for yourself to process that first.
Then once you’re open to it: Lean on your support system. Allow people to show you that you are worthy of love. The end of relationships sometimes makes us think we are unlovable, but we aren’t.
It’s good to be reminded that we are loved, appreciated, and wanted. So lean, it’s okay to rest your head against the softest places and people you know.
10) Seek professional help if you have to.
“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said? asked the boy.
‘Help,’ said the horse.
‘Asking for help isn’t giving up,’ said the horse. ‘It’s refusing to give up.”
― Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse
It bears repeating time and time again that there is no shame in asking for help. It still seems so stigmatized in our society to do so when it shouldn’t.
If you need to, consider seeking professional help. These could be relationship counselors or coaches. These could also be therapists.
Try to find one in your area for convenience.
But if face-to-face is too much for you now, there are also a bunch of online services for you to pick and choose from.
Seeking professional help is to put yourself in a very vulnerable position (you can’t fix problems without identifying them first after all, and that’s an overwhelming position to be in) so choose the way that will make the most sense for you.
And last but definitely not least…
11) Find yourself again.
Okay, bestie, we’re at the final stretch.
This is going to be a whopper of a point to make because this article might have said 11 tips but for this one alone, there will be multiple. And of everything here, I think this one will need to stick the longest.
(As I said in the very beginning, I’m like your nosy but well-meaning friend who forces you to watch rom-com movies to show you that true love exists. And you deserve to have it.)
You might be like, reminisce?! Yup. Reminisce.
Remember who you were before the relationship. Remember the good parts of your relationship, too. Reminisce.
Sure, it’s not very healthy to still obsess over your recently concluded relationship but it’s also unhealthy to not think about it completely.
Acknowledge the good parts. How you grew from it, how you can grow from it.
Recognize where the reminiscing should stop. Recognize the patterns you developed in the relationship. Identify if those patterns are things you need to let go of.
Recognize your part in the breakup, too.
Give recognition to the parts of you that got it right. The parts of you that loved, fought, and wanted to make it work, give that version of you the recognition it deserves.
Often—as I said—we feel like failures when relationships end but it’s okay to recognize that we won in some parts, too.
Realign with your values, your beliefs, your goals, your dreams, and your identity.
Even if long-distance relationships made you situationally alone for periods of time, that still will change you in a way because you’re still sharing space in your heart for someone else. Even if not physically.
So realign. List these things if you have to. You’re probably not the same person from the start of your relationship to the end of it.
Who are you now? Without the time zone differences, the missed calls, the yearning, the anticipation, the occasional meet-ups, the timed interactions, the emails, the voice messages, the gifts, the longing… who are you now?
Without all of that, who are you now?
Rediscover yourself, as dramatic as that may sound. You might want to revisit old favorites, find new ones. Fall in love with yourself again.
Rediscover the parts of you that were struggling by the end of the relationship. As funny as this may sound but you can self-care your way through this.
Allow yourself room to breathe, to process, to take your time.
As the 2007 Leona Lewis hit song “Better in Time” said (and I highly recommend scream-singing sappy love songs about breakups and moving on), “Even though I really loved you, I’m gonna smile ‘cause I deserve to. It’ll all get better in time.”
The relationship with that person may be over, but the relationship you have with yourself is constant.
Respect that there will be versions and parts of you that did not survive that relationship. That’s okay. Respect the change it brought.
Respect that love that came and went. Respect yourself enough to want the very best for you.
Make yourself accountable for your happiness. Respect yourself enough to give yourself what you need to accomplish that.
But also, respect yourself enough to forgive yourself when this moving-on thing goes off track from time to time.
Forgive yourself if you find yourself still hurting over things you thought you were over with.
Reaffirm your strength. Your bravery. Your courage. Your capacity to fall in love with yourself again. Over and over.
Reaffirm your independence. Reaffirm the solid foundation you have that is outside any of the relationships you will exit.
I say reaffirm because you already know these things, you just need the reminder.
AND JUST IN CASE, I’ll leave you a few affirmations, too:
- I am worthy
- I am capable
- I am more than the pain I carry
- I am capable of healing my heart
- I deserve the kind of love I want
- I am not a failure in love
- I am capable of forgiveness
- I am capable of restarting
For good measure, I’m going to throw in one of my favorite lines in a poem that I repeat to myself quite often, this one from Warsan Shire’s 34 Excuses for Why We Failed at Love…
- I belong deeply to myself
Rebuild. Rebirth. Restart. All these words signify a new beginning. But it is not a beginning that came from nothing, it’s a conscious effort to move past what might have hurt us.
To take the scattered pieces of our hearts and build one that’s better equipped for next time.
Rebuilding doesn’t mean we’re never going to fall again. I think a lot of times when we become afraid to love again, it’s because we’re scared to make the same mistakes.
To get hurt by the same things we left behind in the first place. But we don’t rebuild from nothing, as I said, we don’t rebuild so we can hide away. We rebuild so we can learn how to handle obstacles better.
You’re better equipped now if you can believe that. If nothing, this pain you’re feeling now is a compass leading you to softer, easier, and gentler love.
And if that love ends up just for yourself, then so be it. I think that’s pretty good, too.
I think I need to apologize for the very impassioned way I ended this, you came to this article hoping for some breakup tips, got that, and then ended with essentially a brunch date about self-love.
But you know what? I’m not gonna apologize after all. The mere fact you’re reading this means you’re in quite a vulnerable situation and you might need all the kind and supportive words you can get.
Breakups, long-distance or otherwise, are tough for anyone to go through.
A special shoutout to those reading this while they’re the ones who are far away from everyone else, I see you, I’m rooting for you, and I hope you found comfort in these words.
A special shoutout to those reading this who have yet to make up their minds about the breakup, I hope you get to a decision that will favor you the best. I hope it’s a decision that will truly make you happy.
A special shoutout to those who didn’t have these words when they needed them. Who went through a long-distance breakup and felt lost in the process, I hope you have recovered. I hope you are thriving. I hope love found you again.
And a special shoutout to you, reading this to cover their bases, about to enter a long-distance relationship and preemptively anticipating the end.
I hope that you will not think that love cannot thrive for you in your current situation just because we’re talking about breakups.
Just because it didn’t work for me, or for the others who needed this article, doesn’t mean yours is doomed to fail too.
Because as I have been saying, I’m your well-meaning but nosy friend forcing you to watch rom-com movies because you know what? Despite everything, true love exists.
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