How is a Long-Distance Relationship Defined?
Relationships are considered long-distance when partners are 132 miles apart, according to a survey of long-distance couples by KIIROO. There are several reasons for long-distance relationships (LDR): Military deployment, studying at different schools, a job that requires traveling, or just meeting someone online.
More people meeting online has also caused an uptick in long-distance relationships. Some people meet online, date, and meet in person later. A government survey found that the number of adults who live apart from their spouse rose from 2.7 million in 2000 to about 3.9 million in 2017.
Communication looks different in these relationships compared to non-LDR, as most of the communication is done over the phone or computer and generally requires more effort and honesty from both partners. Long-distance couples spend an average of 8 hours per week on the phone and send around 343 texts a week. This data was found through a survey by KIIROO, a company that focuses on bridging the intimacy gap for physically apart couples.
Challenges of a Long-Distance Relationship
Many parts of a long-distance relationship are challenging; Some of these challenges come from availability (e.g., when are both individuals available to talk on the phone?). Long-distance couples also deal with technology-based issues – video buffering, loss of cell service, and bad Wi-Fi.
Depending on the couple, some face issues of time zone differences, expensive flights, and travel fares. When you add COVID into the mix, these couples must face the additional layer of travel burdens – lockdowns, restrictions, and quarantines.
Couples in long-distance relationships have burdens in communicating, and they also face burdens while communicating. Albert Mehrabian has suggested that much of communication is through body language, and for these couples, that aspect of communication is poor – even with video chat, FaceTime, or Skype.
Couples in the KIIROO survey reported that the most challenging part of distance is the lack of physical intimacy, which can affect a couple’s closeness, connectedness, and general intimacy.
The good news is that once an LDR hits the 8-month mark, the couple has survived the most challenging part of the relationship. After this, long-distance couples report that it gets a lot easier.
Benefits of a Long-Distance Relationship
Despite the challenges, there are upsides to being in an LDR. Couples in the survey by KIIROO reported that in-person visits were more intimate due to their time apart because every occasion was much more special. Over half of the couples said the time apart made them feel closer, while almost 70% said they talked to their partner more during their time away. This is a positive for both communication and connectedness.
A study by Dargie et al. (2015) found that couples in LDRs reported higher levels of relationship quality and partner dedication. The couples in this study also reported less negative communication.
Generally, the authors suggested that people in LDRs have higher standards when picking a partner. It was also reported that people in LDRs have higher initial optimism about their relationship, even though they were equally likely to break up as their geographically close counterparts. The common factor between LDRs and geographically close relationships is the effort put in by both partners. For partners in LDRs, effort looks a bit different.
Tips to Maintaining a Long-Distance Relationship
There are many challenges and benefits to LDRs, but the key to any is putting in the effort to make it work. Long-distance relationships aren’t for every couple, but here are some tips to make it work:
- Save money for travel and meet regularly. This will help with both the connectedness and intimacy of the relationship while also making it a priority for both partners.
- Use technology to your advantage. There are many different ways to keep in contact with your partner – text, email, FaceTime, Skype, and phone calls.
- Some LDR couples also participate in Background Skype, where they keep their partners on the video chat for an extended period while going about their normal day-to-day activities. This helps keep the couples connected despite being far apart.
- When one form gets old, switch it up, and don’t be afraid to go analog. Although letters and postcards are dated, they are sincere and a good way to show intimacy when other things aren’t working.
- Your attitude makes a difference. Going into the relationship and its challenges with a positive attitude can help the relationship grow and remain healthy.
Frequently Ask Questions
How often you and your partner should see each other in person depends on the status of your relationship, financial resources, and schedules. However, seeing each other every two weeks or monthly is recommended by most dating experts to maintain intimacy and emotional connection.
When you see some of these signs in your long-distance relationship, it may be a good time to re-assess whether your relationship is giving you what you need.
- Your partner has become less available (texting, calling, emailing, skyping/facetime)
- Your partner begins to miss your virtual dates
- Your calls are no longer fun but, instead, filled with tension and resentment
- You feel happier when alone or with friends
Relationships are inherently challenging because it takes two people to make it work. Long-distance relationships are more difficult due to the physical distance and infrequent personal contact. There are a few things that are not recommended in a long-distance relationship:
- Use threats when fighting because the relationship is already more fragile and, thus, likely to fall apart when threats are involved in conflicts
- Read the other person’s mind because it is impossible to know what others are thinking and feeling
- Withhold your feelings because when doing so you may not get your needs met and can harbor resentment that can harm your relationship over time
The information on this page, or elsewhere on this site, is not intended to take the place of diagnosis, treatment or informed advice from a qualified mental health professional. You should not take or avoid any action without consultation with the latter.
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