Long-distance relationships can feel very lonely.
You might not have expected that when you first started dating. I know I didn’t. I expected to feel sad and miss my boyfriend. But the loneliness surprised me.
If you’re feeling lonely right now, you’re not alone. Below are three reasons why I think long-distance relationships can be lonely, as well as an encouragement for who to reach in each situation.
1. Missing someone is lonely
Loneliness is the sorrow you feel in the absence of emotional connection with other people.
How could a healthy dating relationship be lonely, then? In a long-distance relationship, emotional connection plus commitment are the only things keeping you together.
The reason is that you can resonate strongly with your boyfriend in some ways but feel distant from him in other ways.
You might connect deeply over your personalities, your passions, and your values. But no matter how much you want to, you can’t connect over the tangible context of your everyday lives when you’re in two different places.
Reach out to your boyfriend
Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo defines loneliness as “a disassociation between what an individual wants or expects from a relationship and what that individual experiences in that relationship.”
I think that’s a really interesting way of looking at loneliness. When you feel lonely in your relationship with your boyfriend, it might be because your relationship isn’t going the way you expected it would.
Sometimes, you might expect too much from a relationship, such as being able to call your boyfriend every single day. If you’re feeling lonely for this reason, you’ll want to have a conversation about setting more realistic expectations.
But if you’re lonely because you expected or wanted to be living in the same place right now, your desire to be together is good. You don’t need to let go of that desire, you just have to learn how to press on when it goes unfulfilled.
So, reach out to your boyfriend and be honest about how you’re feeling. Focus on maintaining that emotional connection even when you’re missing the context.
2. Long-distance relationships aren’t that common
I could cite statistics and show you how much traffic this website receives to prove that long-distance relationships are more common than you think.
But that won’t change the fact that you don’t have many (or any) close friends who are long-distance dating. Why is this so hard?
I think it’s because as any dating relationship grows, it becomes a very significant part of your life. And whenever other people don’t understand a significant part of your life, you feel lonely.
I can compare it to the experience of moving to a different country with my husband. For seven months, my life was different in almost every way from my friends’ and family’s lives back home.
Whenever someone called me to catch up, I knew she cared. But I also knew that she had no clue what to ask me about. That portion of my life was a mystery to her because she had no experience with it.
In the same way, your friends may want to empathize with you, but all they can do is sympathize.
Reach out to Jesus.
When do you think you won’t feel lonely anymore?
I hoped loneliness would stop when distance ended. Then I hoped it would fade when I got married. Then I hoped it would finally end when I knew my friends better.
You can and should seek to deepen your relationships, but there is a level of love, understanding, and attention that other people cannot give you. Not even your spouse.
I’m still learning how to trust Christ to be enough for me. To fill my deepest need for connection and affirmation. I want him to be my closest friend, but sometimes I wonder if that’s possible.
But then I think of persecuted believers in solitary confinement, and I know Christ is with them. I think of Christ himself on the cross, and I know he loves me more than anyone else.
Like the friend I wish I had, I know he was reaching out to me before I even thought to reach out to him.
3. Our own struggles consume us
The final reason long-distance relationships feel lonely is because it’s hard for us to see beyond our situation.
I don’t mean to minimize the pain of distance. I’ve lived and felt that sorrow.
But I also think it’s sad how easily I forget that other people are lonely, too. I get so consumed by my own struggles that I forget to listen when it’s my friend’s turn to talk. I perpetuate the cycle of caring-but-not-really.
So, my last encouragement for you and me is…
Reach out to anyone
Really, anyone. Show someone that you care and you’re there. With the love you’ve received from Christ, you can love others.
The beautiful thing is that the more you reach out to people who are different from you, the less it will matter to you that your lives aren’t the same.
God’s family is diverse, like a body made up of different parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). As the spine supports the back, our differences actually help us humbly care for one another better than if we were the same.
And even if your care for someone else isn’t returned, you’ll gain perspective into suffering, and you’ll understand how your friends feel when you only have time to talk about your own struggles.