Long-Distance Relationships: Worth It?

Whether you’re headed off to college and your partner is still in high school, or you and your partner are headed to different colleges, or you met your partner on a study abroad program and want to continue the relationship after you both go back to your home countries, there are many different ways to have a long-distance relationship (LDR). I have been in more than one long-distance relationship and can tell you firsthand that they don’t always work out. The amount of trust and mutual commitment necessary for a successful LDR is intense, and if you or your partner isn’t feeling it, it’s already a sunken ship.

A couple in a long-distance relationship spend most of their time together through the computer.

rudall30 / Shutterstock.com

Dr. Ben Michaelis, a psychologist and public speaker, wrote about long-distance relationships for the Huffington Post blog in 2014. He states:

“In real life, long-distance relationships don’t work. The reason that they don’t work is that, like Jamie and Aurelia’s relationship [in Love Actually], they are a fantasy. Long-distance relationships often masquerade as real relationships. They can be passionate, intense and loving. But what they can’t be is battle-tested. Developed romantic relationships require commitment, contact with reality, but most of all they require action. Because the majority of the time spent together in long-distance relationships is precious, most problems are ignored. As a result, long-distance relationships usually exist in a suspended ‘honeymoon state,’ where everything is shiny and happy but devoid of the reality that is necessary to determine if the relationship will ultimately sink or swim. This is why many long-distance relationships fail.”

He goes on to suggest that some LDRs can be successful: those that have a cap on the length of time for which the relationship is taking place over a distance. If you know that your partner is only going to be away for six months, you have something specific you can work toward and look forward to in the future. An LDR that doesn’t have an end date may dwindle into nothingness rather easily.

If you are in a long-distance relationship, or thinking about getting into one, the best way to be successful is to commit to it. It sounds obvious, but committing to a biweekly Skype call or spending every other weekend together is going to make a difference in how well you know each other. There’s only so much communicating you can do via text and Snapchat. If your partner has a bad day, don’t be afraid to back out of another commitment to have an unscheduled conversation with your partner and show that he or she is your priority. In a healthy relationship, this will go both ways. When things start to deteriorate, you’ll know, and it’ll be time to have a frank conversation.

Because I don’t just want to tell you about how most of my LDRs have been epic failures, I crowdsourced some answers to the question “Are long-distance relationships worth it?”

Here’s what real people have to say:

“In all honestly, it depends on your situation. If you’ve known your partner for a long time (year or more), it’ll work out in the short term (separated for no more than two years). If you don’t know your partner that well and try to establish a relationship with the added difficulty of distance, it won’t work.” -- Dan M., 26

“I’d say, to each his own. Every relationship (long distance or not) is unique; the ones meant to last will, others won’t. That said, long distance due to college is really difficult. The person [or persons] leaving will make an entirely new friend group and begin building a new piece of their life. That will inevitably cause stress on the relationship. If you don’t see it lasting forever, a clean break is probably best for everyone.” -- Shannon W., 33

“If you love the person, they’re absolutely worth it.” -- Ian H., 29

“My high school boyfriend and I decided to stay together and give long distance a try when we started college. We talked on the phone almost every night and visited at least once a month. I don't regret spending that time with him, but when we broke up at the beginning of our sophomore year, I got closer to my college friends and became more involved in campus activities. Don't force a breakup you're not ready for, but if the time comes, let it happen and enjoy the silver lining.” -- Isabella B., 27

“There's long distance and there's long distance. My girlfriend was a four-hour bus ride away and that was doable, but much further than that would have been really hard.” -- Dan C., 27

“Yes, a long-distance relationship is worth it with the right person. If you’re honest with yourself and each other about the difficulties you will encounter when you are far apart and you are good at communicating and problem-solving with one another, you can make it work. It will be very tricky, however, if you don’t know when you will be back together in the same place because you won’t be able to work toward an end date.” -- Megan R., 30

“Long-distance relationships can work, though they’re nearly always extremely difficult. I wouldn’t bother with one unless I had a relatively clear understanding of when the separation would end. Without a goal in sight, few couples survive the distance.” -- Tyler C., 29

“If it is somebody who is rapidly turning into your best friend, a person you see a future with, then it is for sure worth every day apart! Why give up a lifetime of happiness because you have to spend a year separated?” -- Sarah H., 27

About Megan Clendenon

Megan C. is obsessed with Cincinnati-style chili, Louisville basketball, and Scandinavian crime fiction. She has lived in six different states and held 12 different jobs since beginning her undergraduate degree at Carleton College in 2008. The wanderlust abated somewhat in recent years, as Megan settled in Texas from 2013 to 2016 to finish a master’s degree in geosciences, write a thesis on the future horrors that stem from climate change, and get married. During her free time, you will find Megan sitting on the couch, cheering for her Louisville Cardinals, planning future adventures abroad, and snuggling with her dog, Tiger. She currently lives outside of Washington D.C.

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