How Long-Distance Relationships Work, According to Science
As many as 75% of college students and recent graduates are in or have been in long-distance relationships. But, despite the huge number of long-distance couples, many people believe that a couple who can’t see each other regularly is doomed to fail. But that’s not necessarily the case.
Most of us will find ourselves in a long-distance relationship at some point in our lives. Maybe we’re forced to separate to attend different universities; for a more lucrative job opportunity; or even for military deployment. If you’re currently in a long-distance relationship, don’t worry. Recent studies are finding that long-distance relationships may be more stable and of higher-quality than most people think.
Whether long-distance couples end up sticking together for the long haul or breaking up, psychologists and researchers have identified a few markers that make long-distance relationships different from couples who live close together.
This is the science on what happens in a long-distance relationship.
Poll: The Long-Distance Relationship and You
Have you ever been in a long-distance relationship?
What Science Tells Us About Long-Distance Relationships
1. Couples in long-distance relationships are better at certain kinds of communication.
Surprise, surprise! Long-distance relationships require a lot of hard work, and it looks like it’s paying off. All that time spent Skyping, texting, and talking on the phone means you’re better at communicating with each other, which is excellent news for the long-term health of your relationship.
In 2013, a study by researchers in Cornell and Hong Kong discovered that distance increases, instead of decreases intimacy. This is because couples who live far apart talk more often and have more in-depth and engaging conversations where each partner would share more about themselves. Couples who can see each other physically on the regular may not find the need to have those deep discussions as often.
Not only that, but another study has found that couples in long-distance relationships are less likely to snap or express hostility because most of the time it’s not worth it to get on the phone just to pick a fight.
2. Living apart makes couples idealize their partners.
It’s so much easier to create an idealized image of your significant other when you don’t see any of their daily flaws or weaknesses (i.e., dirty laundry, bad habits, embarrassing moments). Studies have supported this fact when researchers found that long-distance couples are more likely to view their partner’s behaviors through rose-colored glasses. When their partners are miles away, it seems they could do no wrong.
Long-distance couples were more likely to believe that they’ll still be together a year later and that they would eventually get married.
3. Women tend to adapt more easily to a long-distance relationship.
Who says women were more emotionally unstable? Studies on college students have found that women in long-distance relationships handled the initial separation and eventual breakup (if a break up did happen) better than the men in the study. The men, on the other hand, reported feeling more distressed overall, especially (perhaps understandably) when they were the ones who were broken up with.
4. Couples in long-distance relationships don’t think they will ever break up, but often do when reunited.
Sometimes, when individuals in a relationship change, the relationship won’t work anymore. And when a couple lives apart, they often don’t change together and can grow into different people who’re no longer compatible.
Psychologists at the University of Denver studied 870 young couples and found that long-distance couples were more likely to believe that they’ll still be together a year later and that they would eventually get married. But, according to a 2006 study, one-third of long-distance couples broke up less than three months after reuniting.
5. Couples in a long-distance relationship aren’t any less happy than couples living in the same area.
Another myth busted. Long-distance couples may experience more relationship stress, but that doesn’t mean they’re less happy in general.
A study conducted on 700 long-distance couples and 400 couples who lived in the same area found that the two types of relationships weren’t that different from each other. The study found that long-distance couples weren’t more likely to be unhappy, nor were they any happier than couples who lived close together. Researchers concluded that people in long-distance relationships were not worse off in comparison.
Long-Distance Relationship Tips We Can Learn From the Science
- Communication is even more important to keep a long-distance relationship thriving.
- It’s essential to maintain a realistic mindset and outlook about your partner and your relationship.
- Maintaining a high level of emotional support will help to control relationship stress in a long-distance relationship.
- You can be just as happy in a long-distance relationship!
Poll: Longevity of Long-Distance Relationships
How long was your last (or current) long-distance relationship?
Going the Distance
As the research shows, there’s no reason to think long-distance relationships are destined to fail. Couples in long-distance relationships can be just as successful as couples living close together. As long as you commit to adapting to the distance, maintaining a positive outlook, and supporting each other through the tough times, your long-distance relationship can work.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 KV Lo