If you and your partner live far apart and you're curious about trying to see other people, it's natural to wonder: Is a long-distance, open relationship a good idea? I'll be the first to say it: The heart wants what it wants. Things change, people evolve, and relationships develop in their own ways as time goes on. And although no one can tell you who or how to love, it's natural to wonder if you're making the healthiest and happiest choices for you. And when your flame lives a few states away, or you can only see them a few times a year, making your relationship sustainable and fulfilling for both of you isn't always easy.
"An open, long-distance relationship in practice means you are dating other people — nothing more and nothing less," Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist and Host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Elite Daily. "If you are going to be long distance, and you are going to agree to date other people, then your relationship is only as deep and committed as your feelings for each other."
According to Dr. Klapow, the keys to a healthy, long-distance, open relationship can be some serious self-reflection, independence, and honesty. "Don’t try to formalize something that is not formal. Don’t force the relationship — allow it to happen, while you continue to be as healthy and strong as an individual as possible," Dr. Klapow says. Although it may be hard not to skip girl's night to FaceTime, or not to wait up for them to call you, Dr. Klapow shares the importance of making the long-distance love work around your daily life — not the other way around. "A long-distance relationship is not only logistically challenging, it is extremely psychologically challenging," Dr. Klapow says. "Sacrificing your daily life, or watching it pass by simply to be with the other person comprises your well-being and places too much pressure on the relationship itself."
If you and your long-distance partner are thinking about opening your relationship, Dr. Klapow suggests thinking about "communication, transparency, trust, expectations for what the relationship is versus what you want it to be, and embracing the time you have alone." Although you and your partner may be on the same page about how frequently you talk or how often you visit each other, opening up your relationship can take a new kind of transparency. Opening up a long-distance relationship may mean discussing using contraceptives with new partners, establishing how much you each want to hear about the other people your partner is seeing, and setting healthy boundaries about emotional involvement with others.
Although all these conversations and changes may initially seem totally intimidating, Dr. Klapow shares the importance of normalizing talking about your relationship. "The more you can make the long-distance logistics normal, reasonable, and predictable, and the more you can embrace your time alone as an individual — the more your relationship will grow on solid grounding," Dr. Klapow says.
Of course, if you and your long-distance partner start seeing other people and you realize you're not super into it, or if hearing about your partner's dates makes you uncomfortable, Dr. Klapow shares the power of expressing your feelings. "Don’t be tied down by labels. If you are feeling jealous about that, then it is up to you to decide if you want to partake in that kind of arrangement," Dr. Klapow says. Although you and your partner may have initially agreed to an open relationship, you are always allowed to ask for a check-in, or to change your mind about how you're feeling. If you're no longer comfortable being open, it's always OK to say so, and if your partner can't respect that, it's always OK to take some time for yourself. "For some individuals, moving from a committed relationship to an open relationship causes too much distress," Dr. Klapow says. "If you are not comfortable with dating other people and being long distance, then it may be time to move on."
At every step of the way, it's important to remember that navigating love and long-distance is hard. It's totally normal to feel tired or worn-out, or to get frustrated with all the moving pieces. Yet, according to Dr. Klapow, love perseveres. And although you and your partner can schedule and discourse until the cows come home, letting your love guide you can help you both feel supported.
If you're thinking about opening up your long-distance relationship, remember that you don't need to use anybody else's labels or ideas. Checking in with your partner about how you're feeling can be a great way to stay on the same page, as well as remembering to live your own individual life to the fullest everyday. If at any point you're feeling uncomfortable with the open relationship, it's always OK to check in with your partner and express your feelings. Open, long-distance relationships may not be for everyone, but open honesty in long-distance relationships sure can be.