Do Long-Distance Relationships Last?

by Amy Strachman, Ph.D

Do Long-Distance Relationships Last?

In today’s online-dating world, many couples find themselves in long-distance relationships. But do they last? The everyday, face-to-face communication is believed to help foster and maintain romantic relationships by giving people a chance to display and understand each other, and yet, some long distance relationships tend to last. What gives? Researchers suggest that one reason long distance relationships last is because they are prone to “romantic idealizations,” or the tendency to describe their relationship in unrealistically positive terms.

For example, people in long distance relationships tend to reminisce about their partner in a more positive way. These positive memories lead them to believe they have a lot more in common, regardless of whether or not they really do. Partners in long distances have the advantage of always “putting their best foot forward,” perpetuating these “idealizations” of the relationship. In other words, people in long distance relationships rarely see all the daily ups and downs of their partner’s mood and behavior.

Once a relationship is no longer long-distance and the couple moves into closer proximity, these “idealizations” can lead to a break-up. Distance prevents partners from learning about each other’s negative qualities–potentially creating an overly positive impression. The relationship may be happy and stable while apart, but this false reality can become quite disappointing once back together.

How can you make sure you to don’t succumb to these “idealizations” and make long distance relationships last? Researchers have also suggested that long distance relationships have a better chance of lasting if you can increase the quality as well as the frequency of interactions. And in our internet savvy world, there are plenty of ways to increase communication! Webcams, test messaging, phone calls, and emails can all supplement face-to-face communication.

Good communication skills are also key–you have to be willing to put yourself out there and express how you feel. Make sure to talk about everything, just as you would if you saw your partner every day. This may also be a time to explore non-physical intimacy. When unable to be physically close, you and your partner need to develop other more creative and unique ways to become intimate. Partners that take active and conscious strives to get know each other will have a more realistic perception of their relationship, and will make their long distance relationships LAST!

References: Stafford, L., & Merolla, A.J. (2007). Idealization, reunions, and stability in long-distance dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relations, 24(1), 37-54.

Living in the UK? Get a guide to long distance relationships from their perspective.

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