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How to Manage Separation Anxiety in Long-Distance Relationships

Separation anxiety in long-distance relationships can cause worries and fears. Get concrete ideas for managing separation anxiety on HealthyPlace.

Separation anxiety in relationships is an excessive experience of fear and worry, a collection of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that can be crushing when two people must be apart. It can begin even before the person who is going away departs. Anticipating being apart can cause distress for both partners. During the separation, anxiety can spike as one or both partners develop heightened worries. Separation anxiety in long-distance relationships, whether the time apart is for days, weeks, or months, can contribute to unhealthy emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

Separation Anxiety in Long-Distance Relationships: What It’s Like?

How does anxiety affect relationships? Long-distance relationships and separation anxiety can affect someone’s whole being. People can respond with negative emotions to the separation. Depending on their level of anxiety as well as their outlook about the separation, people respond in different ways. Some experience only a few of the following reactions—and those only mildly—while others deal with many of them and more and do so intensely.

One or both partners can react negatively to the parting. Anxiety in long-distance relationships contributes to

  • Despair
  • Depression
  • Detachment for self-protection
  • Loneliness
  • Anger
  • Acting out (protests, irritability, crying spells)
  • Guilt
  • Jealousy
  • Mind-reading (assuming the worst about what the other person is thinking and doing)
  • Over-attachment, clinginess through excessive texts, calls, and social media behavior

Separation anxiety can cause physical symptoms, too. It can be felt in any part of the body. Headaches, digestive troubles, respiratory problems, aches and pains, and fatigue can make people miserable. This physical manifestation of anxiety makes being apart all the more difficult to experience.

These effects of anxiety and long-distance relationships don’t have to bother you for the duration of your separation. You can keep the time you’re apart from negatively impacting your relationship.

Managing Separation Anxiety in Long-Distance Relationships

Working both together and independently, you can reduce separation anxiety and the hold it has on your relationship.

Perspective is important. Viewing this time as a challenge you both can handle helps you work on positive ways to get through it. You will still miss each other and even feel some separation anxiety from time to time, but that anxiety won’t control you or dominate your relationship.

Rather than forming unhealthy attachments and dependence, dealing with the separation and creating healthy, positive ways to navigate through it will decrease separation anxiety and bring you closer to each other despite the distance.

Try these tips for healthy ways to cope with your long-distance relationship separation anxiety:

  • Plan ahead. Before you or your partner leaves, create a plan with times for talking and video chatting. Also plan things you can do “together,” like taking walks at the same time and sending pictures of what you see.
  • Tune in to your emotions. Be aware of negative emotions like anger, loneliness, sadness, and guilt. When you catch them before they grow out of control, you can use coping skills to manage them.
  • Recognize your thoughts and feelings for what they are. They relate to the separation rather than you, your partner, or your relationship.
  • Let go of expectations and the way you think things “should” be. Catch yourself thinking this way, and then sit or stroll in mindfulness to return to the real world, not the imagined one.
  • Regularly practice relaxation, using your favorite techniques to reduce anxiety.
  • Communicate with each other often. Texting and video chatting are great ways of connecting. The phone isn’t always helpful because interpreting tone and words without body language to help can lead to negative assumptions and jumping to conclusions.
  • Share your feelings for each other. Also, it’s important to address concerns and misunderstandings. Such conversations are uncomfortable, but in the long run, they decrease anxiety rather than increasing it.
  • Keep printed pictures of each other nearby. Texting pictures of yourselves helps maintain the connection, too.
  • Share your day with each other. At the end of the day, text or video chat about what you did and share stories of what was good and not-so-good.

Separation anxiety in long-distance relationships can be uncomfortable at best and devastating and debilitating at worst. Even though it impacts both partners in multiple ways, you can manage it and remain close despite the distance.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, April 17). How to Manage Separation Anxiety in Long-Distance Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/relationships/how-to-manage-separation-anxiety-in-long-distance-relationships

Last Updated: May 15, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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