Do Long-Distance Relationships Work? Science Says Yes!

From the physical separation to the often-conflicting time zones and schedules, long-distance relationships are difficult to live through.

Making it work as a couple is hard enough, but having long distance as part of your marriage is another ballgame.

It could be that you married a foreigner or one of you moved to another city for work or studies. Whatever the case, with the new status and expectations come new issues that are only amplified by the separation.

This article will look at the challenges faced by LDR couples, whether long-distance relationships can work out, and how to have a successful relationship.

Why Are Long-Distance Relationships So Hard?

Long-distance relationships can be a lot more interesting than conventional relationships. However, many long-distance couples find their relationships hard to maintain.

While maintaining a regular relationship is already hard enough, sustaining a physical and emotional connection with your long-distance partner for an extended period poses a big challenge. Sexual frustration brought on by lack of physical intimacy only makes it more challenging. There are also challenges in communication that often create conflict.

Each of these reasons causes several issues that make maintaining a long-distance relationship more difficult.

Let’s take a closer look at why long-distance relationships are so hard.

Incomplete Understanding of What Long-Distance Relationships Are

LDR couples often expect the long-distance relationship to be the same as any other one. This incomplete understanding of long-distance relationships is one of the key reasons such relationships fail. 

A long-distance relationship is an intimate relationship between two people geographically separated from one another. If you are fully aware of the impact distance will have on your relationship, you will have a greater chance of understanding how to manage your long-distance relationship.

Conventional relationships where couples live together differ fundamentally from LDRs in two ways: communication and physical intimacy. To maintain a healthy relationship, both aspects should be fulfilled. 

Not Having a Plan

A long-distance relationship is fraught with many unknowns. Yet, your LDR will be easier to navigate if you have a plan and a timeline. Without a plan, couples who get into a long-distance relationship quickly discover that it is far more difficult than anticipated. 

Couples in many long-distance relationships experience physical and emotional confusion when they’re apart from their partners because even though they are in a romantic relationship, they are, at the same time, alone. 

When you have a plan (and you’re on the same page), you may refer to it at any time to reaffirm why you chose to be in a long-distance relationship.

Poor Communication

Confusion and misconceptions can result from poor communication. Miscommunications can lead to conflicts and arguments that could end your relationship. Since you cannot physically see your partner, communicating in long-distance relationships can be challenging. 

Talking to someone directly in front of you allows you to read their body language and detect small behavioral changes. By observing these alterations, you will be better able to navigate the conversation and comprehend what your partner is feeling. 

In an LDR, it’s best to confirm with your partner that they understood you as you intended. Also, talking to each other in person or over video calls is advisable if you need to discuss something important.

A Lack of Physical Intimacy

The most difficult aspect of a long-distance relationship is the lack of physical intimacy. When you first start dating someone, you want to be physically intimate with them.

In a long-distance relationship, you can only have physical intimacy when you are together in person (or if you’re both comfortable being intimate on screen). Even though you can maintain your emotional bond through long-distance phone calls, satisfying your need for physical intimacy can be months or weeks away.

A long-distance relationship can work for you if you don’t require frequent sexual satisfaction and are content to be by yourself most of the time.

Unique Challenges

Apart from these challenges, some unique potential issues are particular to long-distance relationships. One of the more obvious is experiencing financial strain due to high travel costs.

Another trickier issue is boundary negotiation. Since couples in long-distance romantic relationships tend to develop jealousy towards their partner’s local friends, establishing clear boundaries between those friends and the long-distant partner will help maintain a healthy relationship. 

Also, given how short and infrequent in-person meetings are for LDR couples, some partners have high expectations around these meetings. These high expectations tend to disappoint when real life falls short of providing a perfect, magical time spent together face-to-face.

Finally, research has shown that people in LDR are more prone to extreme excitement, jealousy, love, and anger. This gives room to emotionally-fueled decisions and unnecessary arguments.

Do Long-Distance Relationships Work? 4 LDR Statistics Backed by Science

So far, we’ve seen that maintaining a regular relationship is already hard enough and trying to maintain one over a long distance seems like a waste of time and effort. True, LDRs have much more challenges and potential issues than conventional relationships, but they aren’t doomed to fail.

Some surprising data that researchers have collected over the past few years confirm that LDRs work and can be healthier and happier than regular relationships. Here are some statistics to support these claims.

Most Engaged Couples Have Been in Long-Distance Relationships

We live in an era of globalized opportunity, not only in career paths but also in love. As a result, long-distance relationships are more common now more than ever before.

An estimated 75% of engaged couples in the USA have had a long-distance arrangement at some point in their relationship.

Some were short-term, and others long-term. Some were long distance within the same country, while others were intercontinental.

About 50% met online, including international dating sites responsible for most mixed nationality relationships.

One-Third of All Long-Distance Relationships Are College Relationships

Ah, young love. There is nothing as pure and magical (at least to the teenagers involved)!

High school sweetheart relationships contribute to a huge chunk of long-distance relationships. This is because couples rarely get to go to the same school, either intentionally or due to chance.

While 75% of first-year college students may be in long-distance setups with their high school flames, statistics on the senior end are not very impressive. Only 2% of high school relationships survive separation during college years or make it to marriage.

Most LDRs Start to Fall Apart at the 4.5-Month Mark

This does not mean that long-distance relationships are doomed to fail after four months. However, at this point, the cracks in faulty foundations start to show. Routine communication may start to feel like a chore, and loneliness and insecurities settle into your mind. You start to question whether or not it is worth it.

The best way to make it through is to create a safe space for open communication. It is also crucial to never get too comfortable but constantly find new ways to keep things interesting. If not, you might head for a long-distance breakup.

60% Of Long-Distance Relationships Are Successful

Don’t mind the people saying that LDRs don’t work. According to statistics, 60% of long-distance relationships work!

If you are in a long-distance marriage or relationship, this is, without a doubt, a very encouraging statistic. It shows that hard work and commitment can be worth it.

This, however, does not mean that things cannot go south. A 40% failure rate is something that should scare you straight. You cannot afford to be complacent in these relationships with so much working against you.

The funny thing is that many of these relationships end when the issue of distance is removed. Suddenly, having someone in your space forces you to examine the strength of the foundation you have laid. Unfortunately, most people fail.

The trick is open communication and adequate planning for the future, including planning your eventual reunion. 

Other Surprising LDR Statistics

Long-distance marriages and relationships work and can be more fulfilling than regular relationships.

Don’t believe it?

Let’s look at some interesting and eye-opening statistics of long-distance relationships that prove these setups are worth fighting for.

Effect on Health

People in long-distance relationships tend to be healthier than those in regular relationships. This is according to a study that Northwestern University conducted on 150 married couples.

Couples in LDRs demonstrated more signs of mental and physical health. The signs included higher energy levels and less stress.

The researchers attribute this to the independence afforded to individuals in these types of relationships. Having time to yourself daily ensures that you take care of yourself properly. This means healthy lifestyle choices, including a better diet, regular physical activity, and improved sleeping patterns.

Levels of Fulfillment and Contentment

This one might shock most long-distance relationship skeptics, but LDRs are more fulfilling than ordinary relationships. This is according to many specialists and relationship experts, including Queen’s University Ph.D. student Emma Dargie.

So, how can this be when there is so much frustration from being apart nearly all the time?

The answer is simple: absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

Experts have demonstrated how being physically apart makes couples value time together more than those in ordinary relationships. This translates to happier and more content couples with higher chances of succeeding in the long run than their proximity counterparts.

Distance Isn’t the Worst Thing

If you are in a long-distance relationship or about to enter one, you probably firmly believe that distance is your greatest challenge. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This geographic limitation might end up being the least of your worries.

Many people in long-distance relationships have reported that being let down by their partners is worse than being far away from them.

It could be that your significant other isn’t making as much effort to communicate as you wish. Or maybe the two of you are not being honest about your expectations regarding substitutes for physical intimacy are concerned. Not having these seemingly small needs met might end up being your undoing as a couple.

The good news is that this challenge is very easy to fix. All you need to do is be honest about exactly what you expect from your partner. This makes the conversion into reality a lot easier and reduces disappointment and frustration.

The Depth of Connections and Intimacy

A 2013 study by Cornell University and the University of Hong Kong on 63 couples produced results that shocked the world.

Of these subjects, about half were in long-distance relationships. The investigations sought to determine, among other things, how connected and emotionally intimate each couple felt. The LDR couples performed exceptionally well, with their depth of connection being significantly higher than normal relationships.

But how can two people who hardly ever spend time together in person be closer than people who (practically) live together?

Sounds unusual, huh? The results don’t mean that people in ordinary relationships can’t stay connected or be intimate. It just means that couples in long-distance relationships do it better. It has a lot to do with the desperation to be as open and vulnerable as possible in the little time spent together.

The Power of Certainty

One of the best things about long-distance relationships is the relative degree of certainty provided. It is significantly higher than you would get with geographically closer couples.

So, what exactly does certainty mean?

You know when you will see the person next, what you are working towards, and that the distance is temporary.

Knowing all this doesn’t necessarily mean it is guaranteed to go as planned. However, the assuredness creates a sense of emotional security you can look forward to with this type of relationship.

Quality vs. Quantity of Time Spent Together

Couples in geographically close relationships spend more time together than LDR couples (especially if they live together).

Unfortunately, this proximity does not always translate to great interactions. There is something about knowing that you get to see this person whenever you want that makes people take time together for granted.

However, if you are in a long-distance relationship, you probably make better use of your time. With your busy schedule, you know that getting the time to reply to that text or return the call isn’t easy. This makes LDR couples more appreciative of time together, leading to higher-quality interactions.

And, of course, quality beats quantity when building stronger relationships between long-distance or international couples.

How to Make a Long-Distance Relationship Work

As we have seen, LDRs can succeed and flourish, despite the geographic separation. Not to mention that many couples even reported that the time they spent dating long distance deepened their bond and strengthened their relationship. 

Here’s a list of tips to help your long-distance relationship thrive. 

Less Is More

When it comes to communication in LDRs, many couples believe they need to communicate constantly to compensate for the distance. However, constant communication doesn’t maintain the emotional bond between couples in LDRs. 

Communicating non-stop would only make you feel as if you were stuck in a routine that could just make things worse. 

The best you can do is to use effective communication, which comes down to avoiding talking excessively. 

Be Consistent in Your Communication

Excessive communication may exhaust both of you, while communicating irregularly may make you feel unloved and neglected. Finding the balance between the two aspects is crucial to make your long-distance relationship work.

For instance, just saying “good morning” and “goodnight” to one another daily will make you feel cared for. Also, it’s good to keep your partner informed of your life’s events, no matter how unimportant some of them may appear. This will make them feel incorporated into your life, which is important in LDRs. 

To step up your game, try to send each other photos, audio messages, video clips, or other things that aren’t regular text messages. By making this kind of effort, your partner will feel loved and cared for, while your communication will become funnier and more interesting.

Talk Dirty to Each Other

Since physical closeness in an LDR is impossible when you are apart, maintaining physical intimacy poses a big challenge for couples in LDRs.  

Fortunately, you can still get intimate and satisfy your sexual needs. You can try to include some dirty talk in your communication or try phone sex or sexting. Sending each other flirtatious texts, some teasing pictures, or even sexy puns will also increase intimacy. 

Meet in Person Whenever You Can

This one may seem obvious, but it is one of the most important tips for a successful long-distance relationship. Although common for regular couples, all the little things like kissing, cuddling, or holding hands are more special and intimate for LDR couples after all the waiting and longing. 

So visiting each other whenever you can surely keep your relationship thriving, with butterflies, fireworks, and all. Just try to have realistic expectations since some people in LDRs tend to have high hopes around these visits, given how short and infrequent they are. 

Plan Your Relationship

As we have seen, LDRs provide a significantly higher degree of certainty than regular relationships. That sense of assuredness comes from planning your relationship and making sure you’re on the same page. Knowing whether you will be separated for a long time or when you will see each other again is crucial for your LDR to keep going. 

Coming up with answers to these questions and then making a plan together will ensure stability in your relationship. Of course, you two need to communicate openly to concur on your long-term life goals, allowing you to merge your worlds into one future with both of you. 

Know Each Other’s Schedules

Knowing each other’s schedules to know if your partner is available or busy is very important in an LDR. Interrupting your partner while they’re in an important meeting or while they have an exam by dropping a text or making a video call can be uncomfortable for both of you. 

Ensuring you are informed about your partner’s little and major life events will save you from disturbing them at inappropriate times and show them you respect their time and schedule. This gets more important if you don’t reside in the same city or even the same time zone. 

Stay Optimistic

To keep your LDR going, you must consistently give it positive energy. Although the wait and longing are hard and lonely, try to be optimistic. Remembering the goals that you two set together for your joint future should be helpful in tough times and give you comfort and motivation to keep going.

Being appreciative is also a great way to maintain your positive attitude. Be grateful that you have someone to love, and that person loves you in return. Also, appreciate the simple things, such as their handwritten letter that recently made it safely to your mailbox or your well-being and security.

Do long-distance relationships work?

Statistics say yes. If you are in such a relationship, you now have facts to back up your hopes. So the next time an LDR doubter tries to get you down, just hit them with one of these stats. It will be game over there and then.

However, it doesn’t mean that LDRs are easy; this recent post will tell you more: 3 harsh facts about long-distance relationships.

I'm Jesse, your long-distance relationship expert. I share tips and advice on my blog to help you navigate the ups and downs of long-distance love. Whether you're just starting out or have been apart for years, my blog is here to help you stay connected and happy despite the distance.

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