Anyone who has ever had a vacation fling, or met someone who was visiting your city from out of town has probably at least thought about having a long-distance relationship. I mean, it does sound tempting: All that banter over text, long-awaited reunions (and the sex that can come with it), not having to actually live with someone or deal with them on a regular basis. Long-distance relationships get a bad rap — which makes sense, because they’re also hard AF — but there are others who are perfectly content with this type of arrangement. And then there’s a little thing called a global pandemic, which could cause a relationship to become unexpectedly long-distance, or make traveling to see a partner difficult, if not impossible for long periods of time.
It also comes down to whether you met the person when there was already a geographic distance between you, and you signed up for a long-distance relationship from the beginning — as opposed to situations where you’ve been in a relationship with someone local, and then they (or you) have to move. Either way, long-distance relationships take work, but can also be pretty great. Here’s what you need to know about them, including how to start one and how to make them work.
What you need to know about starting a long-distance relationship
For whatever reason — either you met while living in different places, or were together locally before someone had to move — you’re considering starting a long-distance relationship. It can be an incredibly difficult decision, but if you go into it with your eyes wide open, with plenty of communication and expectations in check, it can work. As Karen Tietjen writes for The Zoe Report, a lot of your decision hinges on your needs, limitations, and what it takes for you to feel fulfilled in a romantic relationship.
“‘Success’ in a relationship is not necessarily defined by a particular duration of time or a particular end result (e.g., co-habitating, marriage),” Stefani Threadgill, a sexologist, PhD, LMFT, and founder of The Sex Therapy Institute told The Zoe Report. “I define a successful relationship as one that creates pleasure and happiness for both people in the couple, for as long as the relationship lasts.”
According to Tietjen, before starting a long-distance relationship, you should ask yourself (and your potential partner) the following questions:
- What do you need/expect from this relationship?
- How far and how often are you each willing to travel?
- Do you trust this person?
Do long-distance relationships work?
So, you’ve decided to go ahead with a long-distance relationship — congratulations! You may be excited but also possibly nervous about whether it’ll actually work. In short: Like any relationship (regardless of distance), it depends. And yes, this has been the subject of empirical research. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, people in long-distance dating relationships are not at a disadvantage — rather, individual characteristics predict relationship quality. Again, so much comes down to communicating with your partner, managing expectations (for when you’re together and apart), and trust.
Some statistics on long-distance relationships?
— Per the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, nearly 37 percent of long-distance relationships come to an end within three months of living geographically closer.
— A 2018 study conducted by KIIROO, an interactive sex toy company, found that of the surveyed 1,000 couples in long-distance relationships, 60 percent stayed together.
— KIIROO also found that the average couple sent each other 343 texts every week and spent eight hours a week talking or video chatting on the phone.
How to make a long-distance relationship work
If you’re ready to take the leap, you’re probably looking for some tips. Given how many people have been in this position at some point in their lives, there’s a lot of tips and advice out there. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- Set ground rules: Start out by making the expectations and boundaries clear.
- Send voice recordings when you can: A lot can be misinterpreted through text and email, so even if you don’t have time to hop on a call, send your partner a quick voice recording to let them know you’re thinking of them.
- Utilize all your technological options: Communicating with people around the world has never been easier, faster, or cheaper. Take full advantage of what’s out there, from FaceTime, to Zoom, to WhatsApp, to teledildonics (which is exactly what it sounds like). If sexting is your thing, go for it. If you’re stuck doing long distance because of Covid-19, get yourself out of your comfort zone and maintain all kinds of communication the best you can.
- Make actual plans: Even though you’re not in the same place, that doesn’t mean you can’t have dates. Set a time to have dinner via video chat, or watch a movie together with Netflix Party. Give your partner a virtual tour of your home (if they haven’t seen it) or your neighborhood, or favorite park. Order identical meal delivery kits so you can cook together over video chat, heck, you might even learn a new faster way to peel an onion from your partner. The most important thing is to do this often and on the regular, like you would set dates if they lived in the same city as you.
- Be confident and trust in your relationship: Jealousy definitely doesn’t improve relationships, so get used to the idea that your partner will probably (hopefully!) continue to have some type of social life.
Finally, make sure that there’s some sort of end to the long-distance component of your relationship (unless you want to stick with that arrangement permanently, in which case, more power to you). If you and your partner aren’t on the same page about whether you want to live (together) eventually, it’s not a great sign.
Quotes about long distance relationships
“In true love the smallest distance is too great and the greatest distance can be bridged.” — Hans Nouwens
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it sure makes the rest of you lonely.” — Charles M. Schulz
“I exist in two places, here and where you are.” — Margaret Atwood
“Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great.” — Roger de Bussy-Rabutin
“As contraries are known by contraries, so is the delights of presence best known by the torments of absence.” — Alcibiades
“Distance is not for the fearful, it’s for the bold. It’s for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love. It’s for those who know a good thing when they see it, even if they don’t see it nearly enough.” — Meghan Daum
“The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” — Charles Dickens
“Your absence has not taught me how to be alone; it has merely shown me that when together we cast a single shadow on the wall.” — Doug Fetherling
“Love reckons hours for months, and days for years; and every little absence is an age.” – John Dryden
“Distance unites missing beats of two hearts in love.” – Munia Khan