Can Long Distance Relationships Really Work?

Posted by on Jun 30, 2016 in Couples Counseling | Comments Off on Can Long Distance Relationships Really Work?

Not all couples who live apart do so because of discord or problems in their relationship.

Some partners choose a long distance relationship (LDR) for a variety of reasons. For example, there is a fairly high percentage of college students who choose them. In addition, people opt to maintain LDRs for work reasons or as a result of internet dating, which has allowed people to meet, without geographical limitations, in increasing numbers.

Some couples simply don’t have a choice. Couples who have had one partner relocate for career, military, or family reasons may need to continue their relationship apart as well. Either way, couples who embark on a relationship geographically separated from one another are fairly common.

Most notably, technology has significantly changed the way people pursue long distance connections. In addition to good old-fashioned phone calls, texting, FaceTime, Skype, emails, and a host of social media apps make regular, long distance contact possible. Thus, maintaining a close connection is much easier and more satisfying than in the past.

Experts have long said that geographic proximity was key to a close relationship.

The former prevailing belief was that face-to-face interaction secured a strong personal connection.

In fact, there are a wealth of articles on the internet today that supports the idea that geographical closeness is necessary for relational closeness. There are also a million posts and cautionary tales about the problems and pitfalls of long distance relationships. In our own lives, most of us know that telling someone you’re in an LDR will likely meet with a negative or sympathetic response, as if they know it’s only a matter of time before things go south!

Yet, in more recent research there is actually more and more evidence indicating a change in thinking toward LDRs. Studies show that not only can long distance relationships work, they can work as well or better, than traditional, geographically close or cohabiting type of connections.

So what distinguishes a successful long distance relationship from one that is not successful?

And why might an LDR work better than a geographically close relationship for some couples? Consider the following points:

1. Attachment type:

How you and your partner are impacted by a long distance relationship depends partly on how you relate to one another, or your relationship “attachment style”:

Securely attached: You and your partner may not like being separated, but you can tolerate it. It is a bearable situation. Your relationship can more easily withstand the challenges of being apart.

Anxiously attached: One or both of you may need a lot of reassurance and validation, physical, emotional, or both, in your relationship. For a person who is anxiously attached, the distance between them and their partner creates  a significant amount of stress. This doesn’t mean that a good relationship isn’t possible for an anxiously attached person. It just means that an LDR may not be a good fit for him or her.

You may find that being apart triggers a lot of anxiety or insecurity. Consequently, you may be more vulnerable to becoming disillusioned and dissatisfied in the relationship.

2. Communication

It’s easy to take communication for granted when you are living together or seeing each other routinely. For couples living apart, communication is one of the primary ways to create intimacy. According to research, communication among long distance couples tends to be more intimate and less contentious than that of couples who live geographically close to each other. Generally, long distance couples tend to be more open and positive than those in more traditional relationships.

3. The Novelty Factor

Boredom is the death of any relationship. People who see each other regularly can fall into a rut. Long distance couples often work well because they are less prone to repetitive, unsatisfying relationship patterns. They simply see each other less often.

When they’re together and when they’re apart, these couples also make more of a point to flirt and court each other. Essentially, seeing each other less frequently tends to make time together more special and novel.

4. Less emphasis on day-to-day drama

Little annoyances are not as important for LDRs. When geographic distance exists, you aren’t as likely to be annoyed by your partner leaving clothes on the floor. LDR partners just don’t have to deal with the day-to-day annoyances. This creates more of a focus on day-to-day interactions not hang ups.

If you are part of an LDR, you may find that you and your partner tend to talk more about daily details and share more of your respective worlds because there is no firsthand daily interaction. Subsequently, your bond is reinforced by this kind of detailed sharing.

5. LDRs tend to be interdependent

Being in an LDR often means that partners will depend on each other, but also retain their individuality. Having a separate identity outside of the relationship is necessary, as the separation can be lonely at times.

Both members of a couple will look for ways to pass the time enjoyably when they are alone. Therefore, it isn’t unusual for both people to pursue their own interests, focus intently on their own careers, and build strong friendships apart from their relationship with each other.

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