Are Long Distance Relationships Healthy? The Truth About LDRs
With the rise of the internet and the use of social media, long distance relationships are becoming more and more common. It’s not at all unusual for couples to meet via the internet, whether through a friend’s introduction, a dating service or a social media site.
The Pew Research Center notes that more than five percent of Americans who are married, or in a committed relationship, met their partners online.
Of course, we are also a very mobile society and there are times when jobs and life circumstances can move one-half of a couple to a geographic location that is far away from the other.
With this in mind, many people are asking themselves whether a long-distance relationship can be healthy.
The answer, as with most issues regarding relationships, is that there is no one easy answer and that it depends very much on the personalities and circumstances of those involved. How do you determine whether or not your long-distance relationship is a healthy one?
Distance can breed loneliness and suspicion or it can be a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other in a very different way and set the foundation for a bright future.
WHY LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS?
First, we might ask ourselves: What is the appeal of a long-term relationship? It obviously presents many challenges so what is it about such a relationship that makes it appealing or worth trying to work on?
For a couple who have been together for some time and were separated by life circumstances, the answer is obvious. Trying to keep a relationship going despite a geographic distance may seem like a no-brainer when you are in love.
But what about those couples whose entire relationship has been forged online? No one can deny that finding your life partner, or for that matter even a date, is a daunting task. What is it that appeals to people about the idea of dating long-distance?
The popular dating site, OkCupid, conducted a survey, asking people how far they would be willing to travel to find love and discovered that a fairly significant percentage of people in various age groups (from 6% for Millennials all the way up to 12% of Baby Boomers) are willing to travel more than five hours regularly to be with someone.
Perhaps this speaks to the difficulty of forging relationships in person in modern society.
It’s very important to consider the actual physical realities of making such a relationship work. The fact is that it will take some money and time to be able to meet up in person. Not everyone has the means, the time or the emotional bandwidth to make this happen.
Before entering into a long-distance romance, you should honestly assess whether this is something that can fit into your life at this time.
For those who are willing to travel, the question then becomes – is it possible to create a loving and healthy relationship across the miles. The short answer is that, yes, it is possible.
The longer answer is that it takes a lot of work and commitment on the part of both participants and that it is important for the couple to discuss the expectations and potential pitfalls that such a relationship can encounter.
You will need to do a lot of soul-searching to determine whether maintaining a long-distance romance is something that you are able to – and more importantly, want to – do.
IS YOUR LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP HEALTHY?
First of all, a couple should assess why they are even in the relationship. Psychologists note that many of the things that attract people to long-distance romances can be problematic.
First of all, there is the element of novelty, mystery and surprise. This is the stage of dating that everyone loves. The times that you look forward to seeing the person and still get butterflies in your stomach just thinking about the next date!
Who doesn’t enjoy that spark of new love? Some people, however, hang on to a long-distance relationship because of the sense of novelty and newness.
When you do not see a person as often, every meeting seems more worthwhile. While this sense of novelty is not, in itself, a bad thing, it is a problem if this is the main thing keeping someone in a relationship.
Think about how your life would be different and how you would feel about the person if you were in the same place. Does it still sound appealing to you?
Another potentially problematic aspect of long-distance romance is the ability to avoid intimacy. It’s easy enough to send love notes and emails, talk on the phone for hours and enjoy the company of another person across the miles.
Meanwhile, you continue your day to day life as if you do not have a partner. The need for compromise, finding time for each other and all the other things that go along with an in-person relationship are not nearly as necessary.
If you find that you are only involved with a person who you do not see regularly simply because it’s “easier” you probably need to re-think your relationship with that person. A counselor can be of use in helping you ascertain whether and why you have problems with commitment or intimacy.
Long-distance couples also need to discuss how often and how to keep in touch. There are myriad ways to communicate now – from Skype and FaceTime to phones, texting, social media and chats.
The instant exchange of photos and ideas can help couples who live apart to feel connected. However, when one side of the relationship wants more communication or becomes jealous or suspicious when such communication is lessened or drops off, this can cause distrust and suspicion.
It’s easy to feel disconnected from someone who you do not get to share all your daily joys and frustrations with, who you cannot physically be near on a regular basis.
If you find yourself or your partner becoming distrustful or possessive across the miles, it’s a solid sign that the relationship is not healthy.
Both parties in a relationship should feel like they can enjoy themselves and have a great time with their local friends without inciting feelings of jealousy in their partner.
If you feel guilty simply for having a good time without your boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart and figure out why that is the case. Both parties in a long-distance romance need to be able to live their day to day lives, even in the absence of their partner.
Another warning sign that the romance is not going well is if you feel yourself making future plans that do not include your significant other. Ask yourself, do you see this person in your future? If not, he or she may not be the right one after all.
Again, you might feel a bit disconnected from everyday life, since your contact is more limited. But it should still feel like the person is a true partner in life and you should be able to see a future that includes them.
Similarly, there have been many couples who have needed to face facts and end a long-distance relationship when the miles apart made them realize that they really were happier or more fulfilled being on their own.
If you are thinking that life is simpler and you just plain feel more fulfilled without your partner in your everyday life, it might be a sign that the relationship has reached the end of its lifespan.
The “rules” are a little different for those who have only talked online and have not yet met in person. It’s actually hard to assess how a relationship will go until a couple has had a chance to meet up and spend time together.
First of all, there is the question of whether there will be the same attraction and sexual chemistry. Additionally, let’s be honest, not everything on the internet is as advertised.
Spending in person time together is the only way to truly check someone out and see if everything that they have been sharing with you is honest and meets your expectations.
HOW TO CREATE A HEALTHY LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP
There are some circumstances in which long-distance relationships are the only option, as in the case of a military spouse who is deployed at a faraway locale or a partner whose job involves recent or long term travel.
For others, however, Toronto Marriage Counselor Beth Mares points out that it should always be the goals to ultimately live in the same geographic location.
In other words, while it is fine to carry on a long-distance relationship, even for long periods of time, it should always be leading towards an in person romance.
Psychologists note that the healthiest long-distance relationships do not only focus on that initial novelty and spark.
It’s easy to want to only share the good things with someone when you talk to them and many couples who live apart fall into that pattern. It is vital to remember that relationships are about sharing everything, from the little everyday moments to the daily frustrations and joys.
You should be able to count upon your partner to support you, not just on all of your “good news days” but also when you need a shoulder to cry on. Not being able to share all of your true self and your daily struggles is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
Couples who don’t live together can fall into the “social media pattern” of presenting only their best selves and that is not a basis for a true and loving relationship.
There can be advantages to being forced to communicate across distance. A lack of physical intimacy, given the right circumstances, can create a deeper and more meaningful bond.
You are forced to get to know each other at a non-physical level and to better appreciate your partners thoughts and interests when you do not get to see a person regularly.
It is an opportunity to truly get to know someone’s inner life for couples who can embrace this open and honest style of communication.
It is important to discuss and follow through on plans to see each other in person as regularly as practically possible. Resistant to the idea of meeting up or consistently fail to follow through on arranged trips can be a sign of trouble and should be addressed.
You may need to get creative with ways of meeting each other in person. To be able to go on a fancy vacation or a cruise is not normal everyday life.
It’s also important to see each other in regular circumstances and just be able to hang out and enjoy each other’s company.
This will be a much more realistic gauge of how things will go when you can ultimately be together on a daily basis.
Making time for someone is no less important simply because that person doesn’t live in the same city as you. You and your partner should make time to talk regularly. This may take more planning because of differences in schedules and time zones.
You should be making your partner feel just as valued as if they were right next to you when you are apart. It’s a balancing act between going on about your daily life and enjoying your time apart, while also making sure that the other person is an important part of your life.
This takes a lot of effort and not everyone is up for it. You will need to be honest and to honor both yourself and your romantic partner, by figuring out whether you can fully commit the time and emotional energy to making this relationship work.
If so, the statistics seem to indicate that you have a good shot as research shows that relationships that are begun online or long-distance have about the same chances of success as any other relationship, once the partners live in the same place.