Almost everyone believes that long-distance relationships never work.
If you’ve ever been in one, you’ve probably been discouraged from it – even by the people closest to you.
Your family and friends all say the same thing:
Long-distance relationships are hard, and you’ll be subjecting yourself to a lot.
Honestly, for the most part, they’re right. There’s nothing more excruciating than being physically apart from your significant other.
When we love someone, we always want to be close to them – to feel their presence and their warmth.
Being in a long-distance relationship means you won’t easily have the luxury of being together in one place. That you can’t just visit each other “on a whim.” It means that you’re probably going to be apart more than you’re together, which can lead to relationship anxiety.
Who would want to willingly put up with that?
However, times have changed. With Skype, messaging apps, and the ease of travel, the long-distance relationship has become a little easier.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s still hard to be with someone who is hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. But people can no longer say that it’s impossible.
Technology can’t make up for everything. But it can make up for a lot. And as long as two people are willing to put in the work, there’s a good chance to make it.
If it’s hard, then why should you consider being in a long-distance relationship?
No two people go into a long-distance relationship willingly. There are many reasons why couples end up in one. Life happens, some people have to move to different cities or even countries for work or personal reasons.
In fact, long-distance relationships are more common than you think.
Statistics show that in 2005, around 15 million people in the United States considered themselves in long-distance relationships. Imagine how many more today.
And while I can list all the number of reasons why you shouldn’t be in one, I can tell you something uplifting instead.
Long-distance relationships work more than you might think. And the reasons are actually all backed by science.
1. Long-distance relationships aren’t much different from geographically-close ones in terms of happiness.
You might think that long-distance couples are unhappier than couples who live close to each other. But according to statistics, it’s actually quite the contrary.
A 2014 study tried to determine the differences between 400 geographically-close relationships and 700 long-distance couples. What they found was that there wasn’t actually much significant difference between both.
Couples who lived far away from each other were not any less happy or unhappy than the couples who lived close to one another. Researchers even find that “individuals in long-distance dating relationships are not at a disadvantage.”
2. Long-distance dating can induce more intimacy between couples.
This study from Cornell University and the City University of Hong Kong suggests that long-distance relationships enhance some types of communication – so much so that it allows for more intimacy between couples.
Researchers analyzed different types of communication between long-distance couples – from texts, video chats, emails, and phone calls. They found that long-distance couples have a stronger sense of intimacy. The study’s participants said it was because they feel that they can willingly open up and express themselves more.
In a separate study, researchers also found that long-distance couples may have a better quality of communication. They report that couples have lower levels of “problematic communication.” And that long-distance couples have fewer inclinations for “minor psychological aggression towards one’s partner.”
“True love doesn’t mean being inseparable; it means being separated and nothing changes.”
Research also shows that long-distance relationships can be successful if distance is understood as only temporary
A 2007 study by Katheryn C. Maguire, Professor, and Chair in the Department of Communication at Wayne State University, found that long-distance couples are happier when they know that they are reuniting some time in the future.
Understandably, couples feel reassured and feel less distress when they know that the distance is only temporary.
This is most likely the number one predictor of your long-distance relationship success. Of course, it’s not a guarantee – nothing is. But when you know that it’s not going to be like this forever, you’ll feel more motivated to make it work.
It’s important to establish a timeline before you enter a long-distance relationship. How long will you be apart? What are the chances of you being together in the same place soon?
Not only will this ease your worries and doubts, but it gives you something to look forward to as a couple.
Now that you know what to expect, and have an idea of what’s in store for you, it’s time to give you some tips to help you along the way.
Every relationship is unique. But there are some things you can do to maintain your long-distance relationship.
1. It’s all about your attitude.
You can’t control what happens in your life. But you can control your reaction to it. The same goes for all your relationships.
You didn’t ask to be apart, but you can choose how to see the situation.
Instead of being scared about the prospect of a long-distance relationship, try to see it as an opportunity.
This might be the best learning curve you will face as a couple. You’ll get to know each other in ways that you wouldn’t if you lived close together. It’s not ideal, but you can learn from it.
You’ll be able to see how your partner handles this challenge. Choose instead to believe that this journey will only make you stronger as a couple.
2. Have more empathy.
Our version of reality is different from another person’s version of reality.
You both might be going through the same thing. But you are seeing different sides of the experience, and you are reacting in different ways.
If you’re not careful, communication might become tricky. Texts can be misleading. And it might be easy to hurt each other, even if that’s the last thing you meant to do.
So be kinder to one another. Have a little more empathy for what the other person feels. Before you react, ask yourself, “Is this the best way I can express my feelings?”
You are each other’s biggest support system in this journey. So if you’re not good with each other, how else will you last?
3. Regular communication is the key but avoid excessive communication.
Communication is a big factor in any relationship. But when you’re dating someone far away, it becomes the number one priority.
Your first instinct will be to overcompensate for your lack of physical closeness. You’d think that talking every second of the day is crucial to make your relationship work.
But you’re wrong.
True, you need to talk regularly. But you don’t need to be joined with your phone at the ear, either.
There’s a fine line between regular, healthy communication, and excessive communication that can do more damage to your relationship.
Don’t spam each other. Don’t be clingy and possessive. Recognize that you’re both living your own lives right now. Just don’t forget to reassure each other of what you’re up to.
Try to involve each other in your day-to-day life, just not too much. Send pictures, videos, and exert a little effort into it. You don’t need to do anything grand. Saying good morning and good night might sound so simple – but it’s an absolute must.
4. Don’t willingly put yourself in sticky situations.
Personally, this is the number one rule I try to abide in long-distance relationships. Not only is this a great way to assure your partner of your loyalty, but it makes you feel secure when they do the same thing, too.
If you’re going out, just give your partner a heads up. Even doing something as simple as that is reassuring enough.
And I’m not saying go out and have fun, entirely. On the contrary, it’s essential that you do. If you trust each other, then you shouldn’t be afraid to let each other go out.
But don’t willingly put yourself in a situation where you can do something wrong.
You know you’ve been drinking more than you should, do you really think going somewhere with someone, not your boyfriend/girlfriend is a good idea? Will you really say yes to a “friendly” coffee with a co-worker who’s been blatantly flirting with you.
Be smart. Don’t let your relationship hang on a line by doing something so careless.
5. Be creative and do things together.
Just because you’re physically apart doesn’t mean you can’t do anything together. You can still “hang out” or go on dates. You just have to be extra creative.
There’s the internet, after all. Watch Netflix together over Skype. Play games together. Take walks while talking to each other on the phone. You can even cook a special dinner and “share” it over Skype.
Send each other random notes, gifts, or even food deliveries. Just be thoughtful and spontaneous. Those small things can really go a long way into making someone feel special.
6. Visit each other when you can.
If you can, you will.
Visiting each other from time to time can ease the burden of extended separation. Surely, if you prioritize and move things around, you’ll be able to visit one another sometimes.
A little scrimping and saving can buy you a ticket. And if you manage your time and work commitments smartly, you’ll be able to have a few days off to see your partner.
Even if you’re just able to see and hold each other for a short time, it will be enough to keep things afloat.
The sparks will fly again. And you’ll be reminded of your undeniable chemistry together.
“In many ways, the art of love is largely the art of persistence.”
– Albert Ellis
7. Take this time to work on yourselves.
Instead of wallowing in sadness, take this opportunity to live your lives. See this as an opportunity to work on yourself. Learn to enjoy some alone time. Pursue your hobbies. Try new things.
The important thing is you occupy yourself with meaningful things. Aside from keeping you from missing your significant other, you’ll also feel like you’re doing something productive for yourself.
It can be easy to lose yourself and your identity when you’re in a relationship with someone, especially if you are apart. In long-distance relationships, particularly, you might try to compensate for the lack of physical contact.
Don’t make this mistake. Don’t forget that you have a full life outside of your relationship.
So you can’t just stop living your life. Go and spend time with your family. Hang out with your friends. Work out. Learn something new.
You can do all of these and still be able to maintain a loving, healthy long-distance relationship with someone.
8. Be open and honest with each other.
Honesty and transparency are crucial in any relationship. I’m not saying you need to tell each other everything.
But when it is something that affects the other person, try to be honest. Be honest with your emotions. Share your struggles with one another openly.
Communication isn’t effective when you’re not transparent with one another. Honesty involves respecting the other person enough to tell them things that matter.
Even normal relationships don’t last when they are full of lies. How much more when you’re far apart?
When people ask me what I think makes long-distance relationships work, the only thing I say is that you need to choose to be together. Every day. Especially during moments that it might feel easier to give up.
I believe that this sentiment is true in every kind of relationship, not only long-distance ones. Love shouldn’t just be about feelings. It shouldn’t just be about easy and good times.
Real love – mature, healthy, and lasting love – it takes work. It takes willpower.
I could tell you one hundred and one things that can make a long-distance relationship work. But the truth is, your relationship won’t work if you don’t want it to work.
It’s as simple as that.
So, just be with someone who is willing to put in the work with you. Someone who wants to be with you, in any situation – ideal or not.