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If you’re hovering on the edge of a long distance relationship, you’ve probably learned that everybody has an opinion on it. Your recently dumped brother is telling you not to give up on your chance to be with The One. Your beer-pong partner is telling you to ditch her and devote yourself to a regimen of bars and one night stands. And we’re gonna go ahead and guess that your mom has something to say about it, too.
But when you’re in love, you don’t really care about rules and regulations. So with a little help from sex and relationships expert Megan Fleming, Ph.D., we came up with six questions that you can ask yourself as you decide whether to hold tight or let go—plus a few tips for how to make it work if you do take the leap.
It may seem like spending a ton of time together is a great sign for your relationship’s viability—after all, that means you really love being around each other, right? But if you can’t bear to be apart for even just the workday, it doesn’t bode well for being apart for weeks or months at a time.
“Some people really prefer and maybe even feel that they need that codependency, that closeness,” says Fleming. “If you’re that kind of a person who needs somebody at your hip, a long distance relationship is not really going to meet your needs.”
A long-distance relationship requires a lot of work. Time spent with your partner won’t be built into your daily routine; she’s not there to share dinner or hang out with you and the guys. Instead, you’ll have to make time.
That’s why it’s really important for people in long-distance relationships to cut out time for videochat, or some other form of communication where you’re fully engaged, Fleming says.
“Your partner can’t be on the phone with you [while] paying the bills,” she says. Instead, aim to eliminate distractions and create a fully present connection with each other. Fleming recommends sitting down at the beginning of the week to map out what times will work to talk, so you’re not tempted to multitask.
The question isn’t whether she’s actually trustworthy—if you really believed she might cheat on you, then we hope you wouldn’t be with her in the first place. Instead, you need to think about something a little subtler: How secure are you in your relationship?
If you find yourself getting irrationally jealous when your partner is around other men, long distance could be a harrowing experience. “If you don’t feel secure when a person’s right next to you, or in the same town, how do you imagine your brain is going to handle it?” asks Fleming.
This extends beyond just the fear that she’s going to sleep with someone else. Let’s say she misses that Skype date you both carefully planned. Do you see yourself getting upset that she “doesn’t love you anymore” if you don’t get enough of her attention?
“You might have an agreement we’re going to speak on Wednesday, and all of a sudden my boss calls me into a meeting, and I can’t make that happen. You have to be able to have some flexibility,” says Fleming, “and understand that that doesn’t mean I don’t care about you or that you’re not important.” If you don’t think you can do that, return to Number 1.
Couldn’t help but notice that gorgeous flight attendant on your latest work trip? If you can anticipate feeling constant temptation, long distance may not be right for you.
“Some of that’s normal and natural, that we notice people who are attractive,” says Fleming. “But I think if it goes beyond just noticing they’re attractive—to the point where you can imagine wanting to hook up with that person or get their phone number—that might be an indicator that it’s hard for you to sustain the attention for one person.”
So don’t beat yourself up over thinking a supermodel is, well, a supermodel. But if, after a weekend apart and a couple of drinks, you’re thinking about getting that other girl’s number? Spare your girlfriend the pain and end it now like the man you are.
Going long distance can sometimes actually boost your sex life because of what Fleming calls “The Affair Model”: When you’re apart most of the time, you make a special effort for things to be romantic when you’re together. But what if you’re already having a hard time keeping your libido up with her?
“If you’re already struggling to have sexual desire for somebody while you’re together, I would wonder about the sustainability when you’re back in the same city,” says Fleming.
One thing you can do to build anticipation while you’re apart? Keeping it playful and flirty in your texts and snapchats can help stoke your desire for each other up when most of your other interactions are focused on keeping in touch about your lives.
This is probably the most important question of all. You should have a solid plan for how often you can see each other (ideally at least once a month, according to Fleming) and what your communication will look like in between visits. (For example: lots of texting, or not so much?)
“So many couples have this idea of monogamy or fidelity, they both think they know what that means,” Fleming says. “You have to define what that means, explicitly.”
You should also talk about having a similar vision for where your relationship is going. If all goes well with her new job in a new city, and all goes well with your relationship, are you moving out there with her? Or if you’re the one on the move, are you ever coming back? In short, what do you think your future is together? If you haven’t been together long enough or don’t feel strongly enough to have an answer to this question, you need to talk about that before you make the commitment to stay together.
Talking about these things can be difficult, especially with someone you love and care about. But it’s crucial that you both know exactly what you’re getting into—both in the short term and in the endgame.