Being in a long-distance relationship can be an intense experience. You’ll miss your partner, longing to be closer to them both physically and emotionally, and counting down the days until you see each other again. Being in an LDR comes with its own set of challenges, but the question is: do long-distance relationships last, and is the effort worth it? The consensus might be that long-distance relationships are doomed from the start, but that’s not necessarily the case.
A long-distance relationship is a partnership in which the partners live in different places, whether that’s a different city, state, or even continent.
There are various reasons that long-distance couples might live apart: school, work, and caring for loved ones are some common examples. It can also last a varying amount of time. Some couples might go long-distance for a month or two, while some can spend years living apart.
Having a long-distance partner doesn’t mean that the relationship isn’t healthy, but they might need more effort from each partner in certain areas. The lack of physical intimacy and face-to-face time can sometimes make long-distance love challenging — but the additional effort might also increase your emotional connection.
"Pew Research found that 51% of people reported that they wouldn’t date someone far away from them, equally that leaves 49% who are saying it is a non-issue. The reason for that could be because long-distance relationships do come with similar relationship satisfaction rates," explains Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Relationship Expert at Paired.
There are some obvious differences between long-distance partners and those living together. LDR couples communicate over phone calls, text messages, and video rather than face-to-face. They have to think of things to do together from a distance and get more creative with date nights. They also have fewer opportunities for physical intimacy.
But despite the distance, research found that long-distance couples tended to bond the same way other couples do, simply relying on adapting their behaviors and expectations to suit their situation, and becoming more open and vulnerable with their partners.
A 2010 study from Germany found that the average length of a long-distance relationship was three years, less than half the length of a normal relationship. But take that with a pinch of salt — no two relationships (or couples) are the same.
Other research is a lot more optimistic. In one study, long-distance relationship statistics showed that both partners thought they had a good chance of staying together despite the distance. In reality, they broke up about as often as a couple living together would.
Other research suggests that couples in long-distance relationships report the same levels of relationship satisfaction as couples who aren’t long-distance and even have higher levels of dedication to their relationship. Other studies found that physical distance isn’t necessarily a disadvantage, but it’s what you bring to the relationship that counts.
So why do long-distance relationships seem to work? “Since long-distance couples can’t just be in the same room not talking and maintain a relationship, they are constantly making an active choice to prioritize emotional intimacy with their partners,” says Seeger DeGeare. “What I have seen is that the added push to be close helps to keep the couple from getting stuck in a routine of disconnection.”
Well, if you’re willing to put in the effort while you’re apart, that’s a good sign for when you’re together. Your relationship is likely a strong one just from making that effort. With technology advancing and making communication easier than ever, long-distance relationships probably have an excellent chance to carry on succeeding.
“Additionally, because less in-person time is available, sometimes more introverted partners can thrive in long-distance relationships, especially in the early stages,” adds Seeger DeGeare.
“Because it might feel more socially acceptable to express deeper emotions and be vulnerable digitally such as text, DMs, video game chats or an app.”
There are myriad reasons why a long-distance relationship might end. After all, why does any relationship end?
But according to a 2006 study, some long-distance relationships fail because they’re probably better off that way.
The research found that moving in together after being in an LDR caused almost 30% of couples to break up soon after. Some of the causes included:
Losing a sense of autonomy by moving in together
More conflict in-person than apart
Finding out things they didn’t know before (bad habits etc.).
The idealization of a significant other during a long-distance relationship seems to wear off for some once they move in. However, 70% of those relationships lasted, perhaps made stronger by their time living apart.
If you’re in a long-distance relationship, what are some signs that your relationship will work?
Little things: Do you make regular, thoughtful gestures for each other from a distance? Examples might include sending flowers, checking up on each other’s wellness, or sending messages just because.
Emotional intimacy: Have you built a level of emotional intimacy together? Do you FaceTime regularly, talk openly about your insecurities, and ask questions? Are they the first person you contact with news (good or bad)? If yes, you’re building a solid emotional bond despite the distance.
You’re thinking about your future together: Although a long-distance relationship can work, it’s probably a sign of a healthy relationship if you’re planning to be together in the future. Maybe you even think they’re the one!
You make up for a lack of physical contact: Do you manage to be physically intimate even when you’re apart? You might send loving gestures via pictures or emojis. There’s also the sexual side — do you have fun together via sexting, naughty phone calls, or using sex toys? Then you’re creating a physical bond while apart.
You still have autonomy: Autonomy in a relationship is a good sign that both partners are secure and confident. This bodes well for your future time together.
You make an effort to be together: Finally, do you make an effort to be together when apart? This might include video calls, reading the same books, playing online games together, and trips to see each other when possible.
If you’re in a romantic relationship at a distance, it can be challenging. But if you both make an effort to grow emotional, physical, and intellectual intimacy, that’s a good sign for the future. Many long-distance relationships last, and yours could be one of the success stories.