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Staying connected to friends and family has taken on a new meaning these days. With greater access to technology and the recent pandemic that swept the globe, screen time has increased and closed the distance for many people.
But what about romantic relationships?
Is it as easy to stay connected to romantic partners as it is to family? Friends?
Are instant messaging, video chatting and long-distance phone calls enough to keep an emotional connection strong, and a romantic spark alive?
Although they have their unique challenges, experts state that “the quality of long-distance relationships does not differ significantly from geographically close relationships” (Psychology Today).
How is this possible?
Like any healthy partnership, there is a formula to ensure the success of long-distance relationships.
That formula, in short, is made up of communication, integrity and a shared belief in the success of the relationship. Let's explore the details of each of these components.
No two relationships are the same. Not even long-distance relationships.
I know, I know, I said there is a formula to ensure success. However, that formula is flexible because it's dependent on the needs of each person.
Expectations and needs that pertain to spending time together – both virtually and physically – must be established. Questions you and your partners should ask each other are:
- How often do you need to talk to feel connected?
- How often do you need to text to feel connected?
- How often should each of you check in with one another?
- How often do you need to see each other to feel connected?
- What level of commitment do you require of each other? Are you monogamous? Are you primary partners, but can see other people while apart?
- What does intimacy look like while you're apart versus together?
- What is the expected “end game”? In other words, where do you see this relationship going, and in what timeframe?
These things may require compromise from one or both parties, but as long as you are generally on the same page, and understand each other's needs, you can then…
Following through on the agreed-upon terms of the relationship is key to its success. This doesn't mean you can never circle back to renegotiate what's been previously established. Circumstances change; that is life. So, having continuous, realistic discussions about these things will support your ability to switch gears, when necessary.
Having integrity is quite literally the only way you can show your long-distance partner that they are your priority, and top-of-mind. Negotiating terms and then respecting them will both maintain and strengthen the relationship as you navigate the difficulties of distance.
On the contrary, lack of follow-through will weaken the fundamental elements of any relationship, such as trust, respect, connection, etc.
Believe in Each Other
When the terms of the relationship have been established and you both continue to follow through on them, your faith in the relationship will strengthen.
Of course, we all have the occasional insecurity or doubt, but this is where you need to believe in each other – believe that long-distance does work – by focusing on the evidence of each other's actions.
When all else fails, circle back to communication!
Talk out your fears and doubts. Lean on one another. Learn to trust and be trusted. And when things feel distant, find ways to make contact. -to touch each other – and feel like you're together in the same room.
Long Distance Relationships – Round-Up
To drive these points home I spoke to 49 individuals who are, or have been, geographically separated from their partner for an extended period of time.
They share their experiences and advice on how to make distance and differing time zones irrelevant.
Before diving into the meat of the topic, I first collected background information from our respondents.
✈️❤️ 73% female respondents
✈️❤️ 20% male respondents
✈️❤️ 3.5% gender fluid respondents
✈️❤️ 3.5% preferred not to say
✈️❤️ 54% between the ages of 18 – 24
✈️❤️ 19% between the ages of 25 – 30
✈️❤️ 12% between the ages of 31 – 40
✈️❤️ 10% between the ages of 41 – 46
✈️❤️ 3.5% between the ages of 47 – 55
✈️❤️ 3.5% were between the ages of 56 – 65
Length of current Long-Distance Relationship
✈️❤️ 14% – 0-6 months
✈️❤️ 16% – 7-12 months
✈️❤️ 52% – 1-3 years
✈️❤️ 6% – 4-6 years
✈️❤️ 6% – 7-10 years
✈️❤️ 6% – 11-20 years (none reporting over 25 years)
Below is the list of locations between our respondents and their partners:
(respondent location – partner location)
✈️ USA – Denmark
✈️ UK – Canada
✈️ Philippines – USA
✈️ USA – France
✈️ South Africa – Japan
✈️ South Africa – Norway
✈️ Peru – Poland
✈️ Australia – Scotland
✈️ USA – UK
✈️ Poland – Germany
✈️ Denmark – Sweden
✈️ Czech – Netherlands
✈️ Poland – France
✈️ Morocco – Netherlands
✈️ Poland – USA
✈️ Canada – USA
✈️ USA – Netherlands
✈️ India – Canada
✈️ Germany – Hong Kong
✈️ Canada – Ireland
✈️ USA – Scotland
✈️ UK – Denmark
✈️ Kuwait – USA
✈️ Algeria – USA
✈️ Australia – Australia | Hungary – Hungary | USA – USA | Canada – Canada (different cities)
64% of respondents said this is their first long-distance relationship, and when asked if they knew their relationship would end up long-distance, I received the following responses:
✈️❤️ 89.5% got into it knowing it would be an LDR
✈️❤️ 6.25% got into it not knowing it would turn into an LDR
✈️❤️ 4.25% started off casual, then decided to try an LDR
Below is what they had to say about their current (or previous) long-distance relationship.
How long have you been away from your partner since you met?
The majority of our respondents see each other every couple of months. The longest most have gone without seeing their partners is between 2-5 months. In saying that, there is a small percentage that said, in the past, they had gone as long as 2 years without seeing their partner.
A minority reported having a full-time long-distance relationship with their significant other. Out of this group, three have never met their partner in person, while the others see each other between 1-3 times per year.
With what feels like unlimited access to technology, devices and platforms, I was curious to find out how our respondents spend their time communicating with partners in daily life, and how often.
Phone and Video Calls:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, calls seemed to be the most popular way for respondents to communicate in their long-distance relationships, with:
✈️❤️ 85% of respondents use phone or video call at least once a day (up to multiple times per day).
✈️❤️ The remaining 15% connect between once a week to once every couple of weeks; however, the people who speak less than once a week admitted that this is a major issue within relationships (they would like to speak more often).
Only 4% of respondents said they text irregularly due to i) lack of service or ii) unavailability, mostly as a result of work.
A whopping 96% said they text their significant other every day, up to multiple times throughout the day.
When I inquired about intimacy from afar, all respondents said they make an effort to show affection regardless of distance. They do so by:
✈️❤️ Scheduling virtual quality time
✈️❤️ Having sexy video or phone calls (i.e., flirting, saying what they would do to each other if they were there, giving compliments, mutual masturbation, etc.)
✈️❤️ Sending cute messages and emojis
✈️❤️ Sending pictures of themselves throughout their day
✈️❤️ Virtually watch movies together
✈️❤️ Sending letters, cards, gifts and care packages
✈️❤️ Saying “I love you” and “I miss you”
✈️❤️ Staying up-to-date on what’s happening in their partner's life and offering emotional support when needed
✈️❤️ Making plans to see each other
✈️❤️ Sharing songs that make them think of their partner
✈️❤️ Crafting projects together
What is important about these responses, is they safeguard intimacy and emotional connection, despite the geographical separation.
By executing acts of affection, both partners feel thought of and therefore prioritized. All the little things add up!
Experts say that establishing some form of mutual routine is important.
Because long-distance relationships can create challenges, such as differing work or school schedules, sleeping routines, time out with friends or other hobbies, ensuring there is time and actions devoted to maintaining communication and connection will increase relationship success (Psychology Today).
As mentioned earlier, the main point here is being on the same page, speaking about each other's needs, and then following through with the agreed-upon terms.
For the few respondents who have never met their significant other in person, they rely heavily on daily communication, including video calls and consistent messaging. Out of these respondents, all of them want to meet their partner eventually.
One respondent had not met their significant other in person until they moved in together.
However, as mentioned earlier, for those who do have physical meet-ups, the majority see their partner every couple of months, while the rest plan a physical visit between 1-3 times per year.
Regarding physical intimacy, one respondent was open about a moment they shared during a visit:
“I made her a playlist of her favorite songs which we listened to while having sex. She told me afterwards that it was the first time someone ever did that for her.”
Do you have children?
I was very curious about family dynamics in long-distance partnerships and inquired about the number of children. Here were the results:
✈️❤️ 0% of respondents have children with their current partner
✈️❤️ 10% of respondents' partners have children from a previous relationship
✈️❤️ 16% of respondents have children from a previous relationship
Does it matter to you if your family and friends support your long-distance relationship?
✈️❤️ 49% of respondents said it doesn't matter if their long-distance relationship is supported by family and friends
✈️❤️ 51% of respondents said it does matter if their long-distance relationship is supported by family and friends; however, it was not indicated if they would leave their partner if unsupported
Do you have family and/or friends who are also in long-distance relationships?
✈️❤️ 32% of respondents said yes
✈️❤️ 68% of respondents said no
Biggest Fears in Long-Distance Relationships
Out of all of our respondents, 29% said they do not have any fears regarding their long-distance relationship, mainly due to high levels of mutual trust and understanding. However, the remaining 71% shared some version of the following:
✈️❤️ Fear of never meeting them in person
✈️❤️ Fear that their partner will find someone closer
✈️❤️ Fear of being forgotten
✈️❤️ Not being able to be there for their partner physically, in a time of need
✈️❤️ Fear of their partner growing tired of the long-distance situation
✈️❤️ Fear of loss of passion
✈️❤️ Fear their partner will get lonely, bored and/or lose interest
✈️❤️ Fear that their partner will get hurt, sick, or die and they can’t be there
✈️❤️ Fear over what the relationship will become when the distance closes
✈️❤️ Fear that they will learn to live with the distance, and never close it
Benefits of Long-Distance Relationships
When asked about the benefits of a long-distance relationship, the vast majority of respondents said their relationship has become stronger as a result of distance. Here are some direct quotes from the respondents, sharing their experience with LDR:
“I find we generally talk more than couples we know and know more about each other too!”
“We are committed and are two peas in a pod. We are two best friends madly in love and could never imagine a different timeline without each other.”
“It's not my first long-distance relationship but it is his. He is dealing with the distance far better than I thought. I feel like our circumstance growing up have geared us to be ready for this.”
“We honestly clicked instantly. Even over text, it was so easy to talk to him and I'm an incredibly awkward person. I feel like it was fate for us to meet, even on such a ridiculous website…”
How do you feel about your long-distance relationship?
On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being completely unsatisfied and 10 being complete satisfied), respondents rated their current LDR as follows:
✈️❤️ 87% gave a score of 7 or greater
✈️❤️ Lowest score was a 5 at 4%
✈️❤️ 38% of respondents have considered breaking up at one time or another due to the relationship being long distance. 62% have not!
✈️❤️ 97% of respondents said they would prefer to be with their partner full-time. 3% said they don’t let their brain go there, because it only makes things difficult.
What is the reason you are not currently with your partner?
All respondents gave one of the following answers:
✈️❤️ Studying elsewhere
✈️❤️ Unable to obtain a visa for either country
✈️❤️ Family obligations in their own cities/countries
✈️❤️ Work contract
✈️❤️ Pandemic restrictions
✈️❤️ Financial restrictions and/or obligations
How do you deal with loneliness and missing your partner?
Because missing your partner in an LDR is inevitable, I wanted to know how each person mitigated loneliness. If you are in an LDR and are struggling, try implementing something from this list!
All respondents gave one of the following answers:
✈️❤️ Focus on other social and personal relationships
✈️❤️ Communicate these things to their partner
✈️❤️ Engage in fun activities and hobbies
✈️❤️ Look at photos of their time together
✈️❤️ Keep something of their partner's nearby (i.e., a stuffed animal they gave them, or one of their partner's t-shirts)
✈️❤️ Focus on the next plan to see each other or when they will move in together
✈️❤️ Cry and let out their emotions
In your experience what is the biggest misconception about long-distance relationships?
Below are direct quotes from our respondents, sharing misconceptions they've heard about LDRs:
“That one party will inevitably cheat.”
“I think a lot of people generally think you can't be intimate with someone who isn't next to you but that's just not the case at all.”
“That your trust is tested.”
“In it for the Green Card.”
“That you can't truly be in love with someone you cannot physically be with.”
“That it's not a “real” relationship.”
“That loyalty doesn't exist.”
“Many people tell me that a man cannot maintain a relationship that's not physical 24/7 and that they will cheat.”
What advice would you give couples in long-distance relationships?
According to the respondents, the main practices required in an LDR are:
❤️ Open and honest communication.
Some additional advice from respondents:
“Make sure your other half is getting what they need from you.”
“If your intentions are true and you see yourself being with the other person one day, don't give up! Also, be careful of the doubts and insecurities that might pop up, especially when you're feeling lonely.”
“Work on staying connected every day. Don't let the distance disconnect you emotionally.”
“Communicate and always try to be working towards something. Having something to look forward to (next meeting, closing the distance, etc.) makes it so much easier.”
“Ensure you discuss the long term plan for the future.”
“Have faith, stay strong and communicate. It is worth it!”
Distance is just an Opportunity
Learning to be in a long-distance relationship is as nuanced as learning to be in any romantic relationship.
It takes time, effort, and conversations! It requires your unique attention and care.
It is possible.
Distance does not equate to the demise of your love story, it is an opportunity to prove your love can stand the test of distance and time zones.