Why Getting into a Long Distance Relationship is the Worst Thing You Can Do in Your Teens

This post is an excerpt from a self-help e-book I’m writing about long distance relationships.

The reason I started blogging in the first place was because I felt like I had gone through so much in my own relationships, so I wanted to put advice out to everyone that I wish I could have given my past self. And if I could borrow the DeLorean from Back to the Future to save young Chloe from making the biggest mistakes of her life, I’d go back to my senior year of high school and then my freshman year of college to urge her not to get into two separate long distance relationships (why didn’t she learn from her mistakes the first time?!).

The big sister personality in me makes me want to save everyone I possibly can from the kind of heartbreak I went through when I was a teenager, because the bad things that happen to you as a teen can stick with you and haunt the rest of your future relationships (if you let them). I wrote this chapter specifically to let any teen readers who might be considering long distance know how difficult it is—and more importantly, to try to tell you why I think it’s a terrible idea, even if you go into your LDR with the best intentions and are madly in love with your girlfriend or boyfriend.

I’m going to get very real with you and tell you that you’re almost guaranteed to break up if you get into a long distance relationship in your teens, and more often than not, young people’s LDRs end up bitterly.

As a teen, you’re probably more insecure now than you will be when you’re an adult—not being very confident in yourself is less than ideal for a relationship, and is even worse for a relationship when you’re far apart. Although girls nowadays seem way more put together than my friends and I were in high school (I barely knew how to put on eyeliner, let alone how to contour my face or put on false eyelashes, and we had no filters besides generic websites like PhotoBucket!), teenage years are often filled with a lot of insecurities about looks and self-worth in general. Even if you’re using MAC, your foundation right now isn’t going to be great (a little makeup humor for you!). At this point, both of you probably haven’t really tried dating anyone else yet either, and I’m sorry to say it, but this could make you or your partner more likely to cheat. If your partner cheats on you, it’s probably not because you weren’t good enough for them, but that they haven’t tried being with anyone else besides you yet (or they still want to try dating everyone they can).

This could go both ways too, where you feel like you want to hook up with other people around you, or you start crushing on someone new, because it’s natural to want to try new things when you’re young. Instead of hating yourself for wanting to explore or potentially hating your partner for fooling around behind your back, it might be a better idea to just let each other go so you both have the freedom to do what you want, especially since you won’t be able to see each other anyway—and what’s the point of being in a relationship when you’re young if you can’t do the basics together like going to the movies, going on dates, or just hanging out (not to mention satisfying the urges of your ~raging hormones~).

When I was in LDRs when I was 17, then 18-19, my then-boyfriends hadn’t dated (and just as importantly, hadn’t had sex with) anyone else before me, so they ended up talking to a lot of different girls behind my back while we were dating. While I was an ocean away from them in California, they felt free to flirt with girls through Facebook messaging and one of them went on dates with other girls while we were still in a LDR (he even sexted someone else).

Five years later, I don’t have any hard feelings toward them because, although nobody should be excused for being a huge asshole to the person they’re dating, I know we were only 17 and didn’t know better. My ex was too immature to grow some cojones and tell me he wanted to see other people, and I was so naive that I thought I could be with my first love for the rest of my life.

In my ex’s defense, it’s difficult to commit to one person when you haven’t even seen for yourself what else is out there—especially when you’re only 16 years old and haven’t made out with more than one person in your life. Even though he shouldn’t have had a bunch of side baes behind my back (that slang didn’t even exist at the time; I’m old), I now understand why he would want to date around when we couldn’t see each other.

You can definitely be in love with someone while they’re around you and have a meaningful relationship, but it’s hard to keep it going when you’re both going through so much in your own lives apart from each other. When you’re young, it’s even harder to keep your connection strong when you’re separated because you’ll be growing and changing so much (especially if you’re going to college).

A lot of teens (my younger self included) get into LDRs going from their senior year of high school to college because it’s so hard to say goodbye, and if you’re in love, you want to keep this good thing going for as long as you possibly can. It’s important to follow your heart and do what feels right to you, but your heart will thank you later if you don’t drag out your relationship with someone because you’re too afraid to make a clean break or too naive to think you’ll still be with someone you chose when you were 17 when you’re in your late 20s.

What you want when you’re 18 (in life, but in this case in a partner) isn’t going to be the same as what you want when you’re 22, or 26, or 30. Before you really commit (please please please for the love of god, do not get married) remember that you are young and will definitely change, and your tastes will change. Think about your taste in music when you were 14, or even 16. It’s not the same as your taste in music at 18, right? Unless you’re still into Green Day and My Chemical Romance, or other variations of the middle-school-punk genre. If your taste in something as important as music changes drastically in a few years, imagine how much your taste in romantic partners will change (this will likely change even more and is way more important).

Bonding over things like going to raves together (contrary to popular belief, couples who rave together do not necessarily stay together), or both being obsessed with The Office, or flirting in Trig for the whole school year won’t be reasons for you to stick together for the years to come. And 22-year-old you will want to kick 18-year-old present-day you’s ass for wasting time on someone who won’t be worth months pining over each other in a LDR, once you’re graduating from college and looking back on everything you wish you could re-do about your glory days (geez Chloe, tell us how you really feel!).

Also, you might want to ask yourself why you want to get into this serious of a commitment now when there’s so much to see and explore while you’re young. I know how annoying it is when older people tell you this (I hated how condescending it was when family members talked to me about relationships while I was in high school or early college, and how it made me feel like my feelings didn’t matter), but it’s true—you really do have the rest of your life to settle down and be monogamous if that’s what you want, so why start so young when you haven’t even figured out what you want for yourself yet?

Right now, you can save yourself the trouble of getting cheated on, or ruining someone’s life (not to sound melodramatic), or wasting the most fun time of your life worrying about your long distance boyfriend or girlfriend; just let this relationship go peacefully. If it turns out that you’re both single at some other point in your lives and live in the same area, then that’s awesome and you can give it another shot! But right now, as someone who has been in two messy LDRs in her teens, I can tell you that the best thing for both of you is to just live your lives separately and enjoy yourselves while you’re young—trust me when I say that you have plenty of time for grown-up relationships, cheesy declarations of love on Instagram, and all the serious commitment you could ever want in the future. What you won’t have in the future is the chance to do whatever the hell you want whenever you want, and live out your bildungsroman as your own person, without being tied down.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record and probably pretty cynical too, but I promise you I don’t hate love! And even if I don’t know you, I care about your happiness and personal growth very much. I don’t have many regrets in life, and I know if I went back and made better decisions, I might not have grown into the person I am today, but I do think that I could have avoided a lot of emotional stress, tension with my family (arguing about how serious my LDR had become while I was only 19), and trust issues I have now because I had bad experiences with long distance while I was younger. I also think I could have enjoyed myself more in college (and when I moved from Guam to California in high school) without having to worry about my basically virtual boyfriend. The worst part about long distance is that if you let it, it can make you live more for someone you’ll rarely ever see, and neglect the people who are actually around you, and all the awesome things about where you are in the present. Long distance usually only works out and is bearable if you’re able to come back to each other at least semi-regularly and know that you’re going to live near each other eventually, but when you’re in high school or college and one of you moves away, you don’t have the luxury of knowing when you’ll finally be together again (and might not have the freedom or money to visit each other enough).

You might be thinking, “oh, she just went through two crappy relationships and my boyfriend/girlfriend and I aren’t like that!” Even if you two are cuter together than Alexis Ren and Jay Alvarrez, the strain and stress that comes with a LDR can drastically change your relationship. Your dynamic will be totally different when you go from seeing each other every day at school to having to rely on Skype dates (while getting cut off every few minutes through the spotty Wi-Fi connection in the dorms) and texts to keep you together. Everyone thinks they’re going to be the exception to the rule, but it’s really hard for any couple to still feel close to each other when they’re separated for weeks or months at a time.

I know how heartbreaking and terrifying it can be to say goodbye to someone you love so much (and I don’t think you ever love again as intensely as you do when you’re a teenager, so it’s even harder), but if you really love this person (and really love and want to take care of yourself), the best thing for both of you ultimately is to try to be happy with all the memories and good times you’ve had together, but agree that your happiness and futures are more important than hanging onto a relationship that will almost definitely end eventually. It’s going to hurt like hell, but after many pints of Ben & Jerry’s and binge-watching Gilmore Girls a few times over, in the long run this will be the best decision for both of you.

Ways to Make Long Distance Work

As a veteran of long distance relationships (I’ll refer to it here as “LDR”), I’ll tell you straight up what everyone thinks about LDRs: they don’t work. I’ve done 2 years of long distance (from 2 different relationships), spent months researching statistics about the outcomes of LDRs and tips to make it work, and went through months at a time when I’d cry myself to sleep every night because of the stress of long distance (not to mention trying not to burst into tears throughout the day).

I tell everyone I care about who considers getting into an LDR not to do it, because I know firsthand how painful it can be. You feel like half of yourself is missing every minute you’re away from your partner. Whenever you see cute couples, you wish PDA were outlawed. You spend most of your time wishing you were somewhere else or talking to your partner instead of enjoying the company of those around you. (I know it seems like I’m just trying to talk you out of LDRs, but I’m getting to the point) But, I also know how beautiful long distance love can be. If you’re lucky enough, you find a person who you’re crazy about enough to promise them that you’ll be faithful from miles away, that you’ll spend your Friday nights on Skype with them instead of scouring nightclubs for a piece of ass, that you’ll spend your hard-earned money to travel to visit them even if only for a few days, etcetera, etcetera.

So if you’re brave (and crazy) enough to commit to a LDR, here are a few lessons I’ve learned on trying to make it work. Side note: these tips work well for non-long distance relationships too.

  1. Define the terms of your LDR very clearly. Make sure you each understand what the other person expects from this relationship and agree on what you both think is fair to ask of each other. Some of the key topics to discuss before agreeing to the LDR are whether or not you’re allowed to date or get physical with other people, how often you’ll visit each other, how often/when you’ll set aside time to communicate, and so on.

  2. Set a timeline. One of the biggest reasons why LDRs don’t work is because a couple has to be away from each other for too long, so it feels like the pain of being apart will last indefinitely. If you set at least rough dates for when you’ll be able to visit each other, you can count down the days together, and it’ll make the time apart much more bearable.

  3. Take turns and make compromises. Alternate when visiting each other, so you each make an equal effort on spending money or traveling to the other person. Take turns if you need to sacrifice other important engagements to make time for each other, or with staying up late to talk to each other. That way, you don’t feel like one of you is doing all the work with keeping the relationship together, and you appreciate the equal effort your partner makes.

  4. COMMUNICATE. I can’t stress this enough. Without communication, there is no relationship. You don’t have the luxury of seeing each other face to face, so you have to put in the effort and make sure you let each other know what’s going on in your lives. Figure out what works best for you two, then call, Skype, text, email, Facebook message, or send courier pigeons to each other regularly. A lack of communication can cause either party to worry, which can lead to more trouble in the relationship.

  5. Keep a journal or log of what goes on in your daily life. It’s easy to forget what happens throughout the day and when you talk to your long distance partner, you want to have interesting things to tell them. Writing down things you think of that they’ll want to hear about can help you avoid awkward conversations where neither of you has much to talk about, so you can keep the spark between you two. I keep a little notebook in my backpack at school for stuff like this and it helps.

  6. Don’t isolate yourself to the relationship. While you may want to spend every waking moment talking on the phone with your significant other, it’s important to stay close to the friends and family around you. Just because this one person isn’t in your presence doesn’t mean you can’t have meaningful relationships and fun times with other people who care about you too. It’s unhealthy to be codependent in a relationship, so make the most of your situation and cherish the people you do have around you instead of always pining for someone who can’t be there.

  7. Do thoughtful things for your partner to remind them that you care. You can’t see each other face to face on a daily basis, kiss, hug, (or any other physical activities), so it’s easy to lose the romance in a LDR. But you can still do little romantic things to show your affection. You could send flowers or chocolates, themed care packages, etc. Even though it’s super easy to communicate through Facebook, letter writing is a more romantic, thoughtful way to show your love you care. Get creative — write your partner a story about how you fell in love, make handmade cards for your anniversaries, fold up little origami hearts to give them for each day you were apart, make a video montage of your barf-worthy-cute couple pictures. These romantic gestures will show your partner you’re thinking of them, miles and miles away.

  8. Have long distance dates. You may not be able to go out to the movies and hold hands, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still watch movies together and spend quality time. Set a date and time that works for both of you when you can have a Skype date. You can each prepare a meal (simultaneously or before the Skype call) then each eat in front of your laptops, so you can enjoy good food and each other’s company. Or, you could Skype while you each stay in and watch the same DVD at home. Distance can’t stop you from having a good time when you’re both willing to work a little extra to be romantic.

  9. Either stay 100% committed or end it. The worst thing you can do in a LDR is break your promises. Whether you agreed to stay monogamous, call each other once every other day, or text daily, you made a commitment to this person, so you have to honor it. If you lose sight of why you’re in the relationship, think it over and break up with them if that’s what’s right for you. Just don’t string them along while you ignore them or mess around with other people, because that can mess up a person emotionally for the long term (plus it’s wrong).

I probably sound like a cynic here, but that’s not true. I love love. Although I’ve been scorned by love on multiple occasions, deep down, I still believe that there’s someone out there for everyone. And if you think you’ve found that someone, but you’re thinking of ending it because one of you has to move away, don’t give up hope. I put myself through hell going through LDRs, but some of the best, most romantic moments of my life happened because I took a chance and tried. So if you’re going to try long distance too, I wish you the best of luck—and check back on the blog in the future for more posts on LDRs!

-Chloe