From Long-Distance to Local: Navigating Change in Relationships

Long-distance dating can be tough. For many people, the option is something that is almost always off the table. In 2015, I found myself in a long-distance relationship and fully immersed in the thrills of navigating the dynamics of such an arrangement.

The long-distance experience

When dating long-distance, you’re always excited to see each other. There is a constant build-up to the moment you are around each other again. You cherish every phone call, and make FaceTime or Skype dates.

During my long-distance experience, I can remember one Saturday night when my partner and I had a Netflix date night while we were physically 1300 miles apart. We were both in to watching food documentaries and learning about the impact of food on physical health. So that night we had the bright idea of starting a documentary at the same time, and FaceTiming every half hour or so to talk about what we’ve seen so far. It was cute, and kind of fun.

When you are in a long-distance relationship, it helps to find creative ways to keep things interesting while you are apart. It’s easy to get into a routine of phone calls and text messages. You have to keep it excited or you’re going to get bored quickly.

Becoming local

When dating long-distance, it helps to have an end in mind. At some point someone has to relocate. In some cases, both people relocate.

After months of dating, I was the one who relocated. My move gave the relationship an opportunity to be whatever it was going to be. What I didn’t expect is that the change in dynamics would bring on new challenges that were not clear when we lived on opposite ends of the country.

Treat it like a new relationship

Not long after I relocated, my partner and I were at a lunch event with someone who had gone through a similar situation years prior. The person asked me how things were going with the change in the relationship dynamics. I think I probably expressed something along the lines of “it’s fun and exciting”. She then said to me, “you do realize that you’re in a completely new relationship, right?” She told me that everything that happened in the relationship prior to the relocation is irrelevant. She also said that going from long-distance to local is like having a brand new relationship.

Her words stuck with me. When my relationship took a turn for the worse and eventually ended, I often wondered if things would have been different if we both had taken the mindset that this was a new relationship.

In a new relationship, you’re constantly in discovery-mode. You ask lots of questions and make very few assumptions. You look upon your partner with complete curiosity. You go out of your way to make sure the other person feels safe, loved, and cherished. I wasn’t intentional about doing any of these things after my relocation. Well, at least that’s how I remember it.


We all know that relationships are challenging. And long-distance relationships bring a host of challenges that are different from a relationship that is local. My long-distance relationship was exciting and full of all sorts of possibilities. The problems occurred when that relationship became local. We took for granted the change in dynamics and how the relationship would be impacted. If you find yourself in a similar situation, remember that once the dynamics of the relationship change, it’s a new ballgame. It helps to treat it with the same care and attention that you would a brand new relationship.

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