The upside of a long-distance relationship


My friend and I have been involved in a long distance relationship for six months now. We keep in touch with each other on a regular basis, calling and visiting each other. I feel that the distance between us will cause our relationship to end. We have been seeing each other for a year and a half. What are our chances of being together in the future?

— Miles away

Dear Miles away, 

There's no crystal ball that can predict how long a relationship (long-distance or not) will last, but your current feelings may offer some clues about what the future holds for you and your friend. For some couples, a long-distance relationship (LDR) is a deal-breaker that brings the relationship to a close; however, for others, absence really does make the heart grow fonder.  

The distance that you’re apprehensive about is an obstacle to consider, but any relationship comes with its own set of hurdles. It may be helpful instead to reframe the nature of your current relationship as a positive. Studies have shown that people in LDRs generally have similar levels of satisfaction in their relationships compared to those in geographically close relationships (GCRs), with some aspects of the relationship faring better. For instance, one study found that people in LDRs were more likely to experience greater intimacy. This greater intimacy was found to be a result of increased self-disclosure; partners were more likely to keep up on communication and disclose personal facts, thoughts, and emotions. Additionally, the physical distance decreased daily arguments or disagreements, resulting in a more idealized view of partners. From this perspective, the distance between you two could allow for a deeper connection emotionally.  

While there are positives to being in an LDR, it still requires work, as you may have experienced these past six months. The extra effort you both make to keep in touch, whether through phone calls, email, texts, video chats, or snail-mail, may be tiring. Another aspect of your relationship that may be difficult to maintain is sexual satisfaction. While this may be the case, a study a found that people in LDRs were more likely to engage in frequent sexual activity together when compared to GCRs. This could be the result of prolonged pining or longing that culminates in rather explosive and vigorous reunions. As an alternative, this frequent sexual activity could also be through online sexual activity, whether this be sexting, phone sex, or mutual masturbation through video calls. Whatever form it takes, an LDR doesn’t need to equal sexual frustration.  

As for the future of your relationship, it may be helpful to take a moment and evaluate your own feelings. Do you still care deeply for your friend, or have your feelings waned after six months apart? Is your relationship still fulfilling, or would you be happier on your own? Depending on how you feel, that may help you come to terms with where your relationship is heading. After thinking through your own feelings about your relationship, it may then be helpful to discuss this with your partner. Maybe they’re wondering about the same concerns. If both of you want to stay together, then you may think about strategizing ways to make this happen. What’s working currently in your relationship? What do you feel like could be better for both of you? The answers to these questions may  provide insight on your chances of staying together. 

Being in an LDR doesn’t have to mean a looming end to your relationship. It may instead be the start of a new phase in your shared life that can bring you both some excitement. The future is uncertain, but you two can take it a day at a time.  

Last updated Mar 19, 2021
Originally published Dec 06, 1996

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