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Do Long Distance Relationships Work? All you need to know 

by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

You meet someone, you get along great… and then they get transferred to a different city for work. Or the two of you meet online but one of you is in London and the other is in San Diego. You could find someone else… or you could give a long distance relationship a try. However, you might be wondering… do long distance relationships work? That’s a fair question. In this article, we’ll look at some long-distance relationship statistics, the pros and cons of an LDR, and whether you should give one a try.  

What is a long-distance relationship, anyway?  

A long-distance relationship (LDR) is defined as a relationship where the people involved live far apart from each other. While couples in a medium-distance relationship usually live about an hour from each other, studies show that people in a long-distance relationship live an average of 125 miles apart, and often even more1.  

Long distance relationships have always existed, but nowadays more and more people are deciding distance doesn’t matter. This can be attributed in part to technology – it’s far easier (and cheaper!) to stay connected and even app-connected sex toys than it was with long-distance phone calls and letters – and in part to how much more importance people now place on their careers. In fact, some 14 million people in the US are currently in a long-distance relationship2, and about a tenth of all marriages between survey respondents began as long-distance relationships. So the answer to the question ‘do long distance relationships work?’ is clearly ‘yes!’ 

How long do long-distance relationships last? A study3 found that LDRs last an average of 4.5 months, and about half end in breakups. There are a couple of major factors involved in the increased failure rate of long-distance relationships – an increased fear of infidelity (which is not entirely unjustified – a study revealed that 21% of long-distance couples had issues with cheating vs only 13% of their geographically closer counterparts4) as well as an unwillingness to change and adapt on the part of one or both members of the couple.  

While long-distance relationships hold challenges geographically close ones do not, research does not show a significant difference in relationship outcomes. A study in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy revealed that individual and relationship characteristics played a larger role than geography in the final outcome of a relationship5

It’s important to remember that long-distance relationships are just that – relationships. ‘Do long distance relationships work for me?’ is a better question to ask than wondering if LDRs in general work. 

Problems in long-distance relationships: Why they may not be the best choice for you

It can’t be denied there are problems in long distance relationships, and not always because someone cheated. As to the question of ‘why don’t long distance relationships work?’ there are many factors that explain why: 

The lack of physical intimacy 

Most human beings crave physical touch, especially from a romantic partner. Text messages, calls, and video chatare all great, but they can’t make up for a hug any more than a sex toy can replace an actual human being. Additionally, studies have shown that non-sexual physical intimacy – spending time together, holding hands, doing things for each other – is just as important to a healthy relationship as what goes on in bed678. While some people are able to manage with the amount of physical contact they get on visits, it’s just not enough for others.  

The expense 

Let’s face it, plane tickets are expensive, as is taking time off work. While it can’t be argued that keeping in touch has gotten dramatically cheaper over the years thanks to services like Skype or FaceTime – does anyone remember how much a long-distance call on an actual telephone used to cost? – long-distance relationships are still often costlier to maintain than their geographically closer counterparts, especially if couples want to spend time together frequently, or visit each other for the holidays. Plus, a long-distance relationship often comes with hidden, non-monetary costs, such as the time spent planning visits and finding affordable tickets.  

The jealousy and the insecurity 

Everyone gets a little jealous sometimes, even couples who’ve been married for years or who live in each other’s pockets. When you’re in a long-distance relationship, though, it can be really hard to silence the little green monster, especially if you’re both active on social media. Completely innocent posts and pictures can take on a more sinister turn simply because your brain won’t stop making you wonder what if.  

The more-than-just-physical distance 

Ever heard of the phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’? When you’re in a long-distance relationship, it can be all too easy to forget your partner even exists, and not because you want an excuse to go home with that cutie at the bar. When you don’t see your partner every day or even every week, all the other parts of your life – work, friends, family – wind up taking the space they usually fill, meaning that it’s entirely possible to wake up one morning and realize you haven’t responded to a text in days.  

The communication gap 

You prefer calling, he’d rather text. He wants to get on video chat, you dread the idea of more screen time. One of the major issues in a long-distance relationship is a disconnect when it comes to communication styles. It’s hard to have open and honest communication when how you communicate doesn’t work for you. If you and a partner aren’t on the same page when it comes to how you like to talk to each other, it’s important to come to a compromise of some sort – perhaps you text only at certain times, or perhaps you video chat each other while doing the chores. When you don’t see each other every day, having a stable line of communication is key to the answer to ‘do long distance relationships work?’ being yes. 

Benefits of a long-distance relationship: Why you should give it a try 

For anyone with a sweetie in another state, all hope is not lost, however! Remember that while long-distance relationship problems exist, a good portion of relationships survive the distance, and that a non-zero number end in marriage. While there are definitely things to worry about when your partner is far away, it’s important to remember that there are benefits of a long-distance relationship, too:  

They force you to learn to be patient and trusting 

You’re never going to know the precise details of your long-distance partner’s life, and that’s okay. In fact, if you want your relationship to succeed, you pretty much have to trust that they’re as committed as you are. Letting go of jealousy and working not to be insecure not only makes your relationship better, it can improve your mental health as well. Plus, the patience involved in successfully navigating a long-distance relationship often spills over to other aspects of your life, meaning that an LDR might just make you a better person in general. Win-win.  

They give you space for the rest of your life 

Is there anyone who isn’t busy these days? Between work, friends, and family, it’s a wonder anyone has time for a relationship. Having your partner be in a different city, state, or even country means that you’re not arranging your life around them most of the time, meaning you have bandwidth to spare for the rest of it. Plus, long-distance relationships are great for people who don’t feel the need to be surgically attached to their partners at all times; finding me time is easy when your partner’s several hundred miles away.   

They let you appreciate your time together 

A long-distance relationship means your partner isn’t around much… which makes it easier to appreciate them when they are around. We all fall into the trap of taking our partners for granted, or of letting the small annoyances of living together get to us. (Familiarity does breed contempt, after all.) A long-distance relationship, however, means enough time spent apart that all their little quirks remain charming little quirks rather than reasons to chuck something at them. Or file for divorce.  

They’re an excuse to travel 

A partner in another city is the perfect excuse to visit. Not only do you get to spend time with them, you get to see a new place and encounter things you may not be at home. (In fact, if you haven’t suggested playing tourist in your respective hometowns to your partner, you absolutely should.) LDRs also mean you have an excuse to visit new cities together, especially if the both of you are spread very far apart. Exploring different cities or countries together is a great way to get to know each other better while spending quality time together. 

They encourage you to look at your relationship with clear eyes 

A long-distance relationship isn’t easy. It requires planning, commitment and sacrifice, and a willingness to compromise. As you navigate a long-distance relationship, you’ll often find yourself wondering if it’s worth it. This kind of introspection, while not always easy, can offer you valuable insights not only into your current relationship, but also your personality and what you want out of life.

Learn more about long-distance relationships

In this article, we’ll discuss how to prepare for a long-distance relationship and offer you a few tips on making long distance work.   

Love is love no matter the distance 

Just like any other relationship, long distance relationships have their pros and cons. They require a great deal of trust and patience, as well as the ability to wait for good things, but the rewards can often be worth the sacrifices. Can long distance relationships work? Absolutely – they’re no different than their geographically closer counterparts. Communication – with your partner and the other people in your life – is key. Regardless of what kind of relationship you’re after, though, eharmony is a great way to start looking. Sign up and find eligible singles from near and far today.  

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