Emotional Safety in Long-Distance Relationships

Close the distance between you by using the tools you have to connect.


Close the distance between you by using the tools you have to connect.

Close the distance between you by using the tools you have to connect.

long distance relationship

Despite modern conveniences and technology, couples in long-distance relationships still face a unique set of challenges. Issues can arise regarding connecting with each other, communicating well, and affirming trust. Vulnerability in face-to-face relationships is difficult enough without the added concern of living far apart from one another. 

This begs the question: How can you foster emotional safety and connection in a long-distance relationship?

Absence and perspectives

When the space between you feels chasmic, it’s important to remember all of the beautiful, amazing things you saw in your partner initially that made you want to stay together despite the obstacles. This is the key to maintaining a secure connection, especially during times of stress and conflict. The purpose of this is to avoid creating a false, negative perspective of them because of your current state. 

Dr. John Gottman writes about this in his books as a part of maintaining a culture of fondness and admiration between you and your partner. The resulting positive perspective is about seeing each other’s real beauty rather than idolizing or quickly vilifying them due to distance and time spent apart.

If you are in a long-distance relationship and want to establish more emotional safety and trust, consider the following.

Use what you have

Stay connected through video. Modern communication technology gives couples who are separated by distance the opportunity to share their lives with each other. In long-distance relationships, couples can now connect not only by phone, but also in video chat, which provides access to their partner’s eyes, face, and body language.

Connect often

Relationship expert Dr. Robert Navarra believes that couples should use the immediacy of tools like texting, video chat, social media, etc., to keep the flow of communication going frequently and regularly. You can keep up with small things like what your partner had for breakfast and be there for the big things such as talking to them after a job interview. Steady conversation throughout the day, even through your phones, helps cement your bond. 

Create a culture of fondness and admiration

It’s easy to let negative sentiment override cause you to vilify your partner. However, a positive perspective, fueled by bolstering each other’s kind and caring characteristics, results in a positive perspective where you can see each other’s beauty despite human imperfections. This works especially when your situation experiences normal outside stressors.

Build Love Maps

Lastly, long-distance relationships can benefit from all that communication by building love maps for one another. Talk about your hopes and dreams. Share painful, yet formative experiences from childhood. You can know each other better than anyone else by discussing the roads and detours of your inner world.

Being vulnerable is never easy, but it can be done whether you’re in the same room or hundreds of miles away. Don’t let the distance become more than physical. Stay connected and nurture the emotional safety between you. 

Share, show, and speak your love! Take your relationship off of auto-pilot and shift into loving out loud. In this all-new series of exercises, activities, and videos, Drs. John and Julie Gottman can show you how to love your partner even better. Check out Loving Out Loud and upgrade your relationship today.

The Gottman Institute’s Editorial Team is composed of staff members who contribute to the Institute’s overall message. It is our mission to reach out to individuals, couples, and families in order to help create and maintain greater love and health in relationships.