The Effects Of A Long-Distance Relationship

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated August 4, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

A long-distance relationship often involves unique dynamics that mix difficult and rewarding aspects of love. If you're in a long-distance relationship or considering one, it might be helpful to know the general pros and cons of these types of connections and to have resources on hand for keeping your intimacy strong, no matter the distance. 

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo
Do You Have Questions About Your Long-Distance Relationship?

Do Long Distance Relationships Work? 

According to the New York Post, approximately 60% of long-distance relationships work over the long term. More than 50% of individuals in a long-distance relationship believe absence does make the heart grow fonder. If you're in a long-distance relationship, you're not alone, and many people find that a long distance relationship can be both rewarding and intimate. 

However, maintaining any relationship, including a long distance relationship, can take effort, dedication, and understanding. While it may seem like the distance between you could amplify challenges, some studies suggest that long-distance relationships may involve stronger bonds than face-to-face relationships. Despite these statistics, heartache can feel unavoidable if you miss your partner or can't cope with the distance. By weighing the pros and cons of your long distance relationship, you and your partner can determine whether to prioritize your relationship or consider other options.

The Advantages Of Long-Distance Relationships 

People enter a long-distance relationship for many reasons. Existing partners may enroll at colleges on different coasts or land their dream jobs in different cities. Due to technological advances, other people searching for companionship begin their relationships online despite being hundreds or thousands of miles apart. New and long-time partners may benefit from a long-distance relationship in the following ways. 

Emotional Connection And Intimacy 

Many people start relationships based on physical attraction and their physical chemistry. Since long-distance partners often get to know each other before being physically intimate, they might build effective communication skills and an emotional bond first. Although there may still be sexual or physical attraction in the long distance relationship, long-distance couples might form their bond on their love and respect for each other, which could be associated with higher relationship satisfaction, according to one study.                 

Trust 

Trust is often a valued component of romantic relationships. If you and your partner are committed to making your long distance relationship work despite the distance, discussing your expectations and concerns at the outset may lessen the chance of heartbreak. 

As many long-distance partners lead their own lives outside of their long-distance relationship, they may learn to respect their partner's time while enjoying their own. They might also develop a routine by checking in with each other at various times throughout the day, which can help build trust and instill a sense of comfort.

There may be an adjustment period when partners go from seeing each other regularly to entering a long-distance relationship. Try to be patient during this transition to a long distance relationship, and know that it can be normal for feelings of jealousy or fear to arise. You might consider working with a couples therapist to discuss how the transition to a long distance relationship impacts you.

A Solid Bond 

Because building and maintaining an emotional connection can be essential for a long-distance relationship, long-distance partners might use various forms of communication to connect. They may communicate through phone calls, emails, and texts, have video chat dates, and send letters tucked inside thoughtful care packages. By mixing up forms of communication, the relationship can remain fresh and exciting, allowing you to find new ways to love each other. 

Resilience  

Many long-distance partners look forward to being together in person one day. Distance can sometimes be a stressor, so moving through this stress and finding ways to cope together can strengthen your resilience. If you've been through periods of separation or have spent months or years apart, your resilience could help you feel grateful and cherish your time together when you're face to face.  

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The Disadvantages Of Being In Long-Distance Relationships

While challenges can occur in any relationship, the distance may intensify painful emotions. If you can't make up with a partner after an argument with physical gestures, gifts, or acts of service, it can be challenging to show love. Below are a few of the other potential disadvantages of a long-distance relationship. 

Communication Challenges 

A long-distance relationship can be challenging if you or your partner have trouble communicating. However, a few authors have written books on long-distance love and how to keep the spark alive through verbal communication. Consider reading a book on this topic with your partner and checking in regularly to discuss—and practice—each skill. 

Keep in mind that text messages and emails can be challenging to interpret, whether your relationship is new or long-standing. Partners in a long-distance relationship may agree to discuss essential topics via phone or video chat rather than text or email to reduce the chances of a misunderstanding. 

Loneliness

Loneliness may occur when you love someone in another city, state, or country. Surrounding yourself with loving, supportive family and friends can lessen loneliness. In addition, try to be open with your partner when feeling alone. 

Some partners chat on the phone to beat loneliness while watching their favorite TV shows or movies. Others surprise each other with occasional gifts to brighten each other's day. Below are a few other ideas to connect with your partner: 

  • Make a Google Docs list of plans for your next trip together and add tourist attractions you'd like to see and share it with your partner to add their ideas
  • Video chat after ordering takeout and eat the food together 
  • Take an online cooking class together 
  • Play an online game or multiplayer game on your favorite platform
  • Buy a long-distance adult toy that connects to both partners
  • Buy a long-distance message box where you can draw pictures and leave messages for your partner to find
  • Try a long-distance heartbeat bracelet to see each other's pulse throughout the day 
  • Create a package to send 
  • Write a letter to your partner 
  • Take online relationship quizzes together and discuss the results on the phone 
  • Share your favorite songs or make playlists together 

Lack Of Physical Intimacy

If you value physical intimacy, trying to love someone from a distance can affect your mental health and overall well-being. Lack of a physical connection can also be difficult for a relationship if you or your partner express or crave love through physical touch.

In his bestselling book, The Five Love Languages, author Gary Chapman highlights five ways people might experience love. Along with words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and quality time, Chapman explains that some individuals prefer to communicate through physical touch. Those with this love language feel most connected to their partners when holding hands, hugging, and kissing.

If your or your partner's love language is physical touch, consider sending each other a care kit of tactile objects you can feel and smell. For example, you can send one of your shirts, a blanket you've slept in, or a teddy bear your partner can hug at night. You can also send a letter with your favorite lotion, perfume, or cologne to remind them of you. 

Potential For Jealousy Or Secrets 

Trust can be essential in any relationship, including long-distance ones. If one or more partner lacks trust, the relationship might struggle. If partners experience jealousy, complicated arguments might arise. In addition, if one partner isn't honest and uses their time apart to cheat or spend romantic time with others, it could cause challenging conversations or arguments in the future when the couple meets in person. 

If you don't trust your long-distance partner or they haven't been honest about who they are, you might ask them to have an honest conversation over video chat about these topics. Some couples may also consider therapy to discuss their conflicts. 

Distance 

At times, long-distance love might not feel feasible or beneficial. Maintaining a relationship across the miles can be difficult if you don't see a way to be with your partner in person. If you're worried you're growing emotionally distant or bored of your routine with your long-distance love, consider prioritizing the relationship. 

You can try to schedule more date nights, set aside time to talk over the phone, or send your partner a letter. These efforts might rekindle the connection you have with each other. However, if the relationship no longer works for your lifestyle, it may feel easier to end the relationship or pause until you understand how you want to proceed. 

Online Risks  

Many long-distance relationships begin online. Whether you meet a potential partner on a dating app or a website, try to use caution and don't ignore red flags. Red flags might include the following: 

  • Refusal to let you meet others in their life
  • Long periods of ignoring your messages or calls
  • Social media profiles with few photos, lots of filters, or mostly cartoon images
  • Frequent requests for financial support 
  • Pressuring behavior 
  • Refusal to talk about meeting each other in person 
  • Telling you they are royalty or a celebrity 
  • Using photos you can track online to another profile or person 

Suggest a video chat once you feel comfortable communicating with the other person. If you can, try to only meet in person when you've video chatted and talked to the person on the phone. If possible, choose a public meeting place. 

In some online dating scenarios, people are blindsided when they find out the person they've been communicating with for weeks, months, or years is someone else. This phenomenon is often called ""catfishing." Try not to ignore your instincts. If you're unsure of someone's intentions or identity, it might be best to believe your instincts. 

Romantic Ideas For Long-Distance Partners 

Keeping any romantic relationship healthy can be difficult. When distance is involved, couples might face unique roadblocks. The components of a strong, successful, happy relationship are different for everyone, so finding what works for you and your partner may help you succeed. Below are a few resources to build a more profound connection. 

Online Quizzes

Online quizzes about personality, relationships, and love can be fun to take with your partner. Use the results of these quizzes to spark conversations and get to know each other on a deeper level. 

Long-Distance Apps And Gadgets

Many people have developed unique objects or apps couples can use to connect. For example, you may be able to buy bracelets that show you your partner's heart rate from far away or light up when they tap theirs with their finger. You can also try an app to send messages to your partner throughout the day. Some people buy intimate objects for long-distance couples or send physical gifts to connect with each other. 

A Couples Journal

A long-distance couple's journal is a prompted journal you can write in for a week or month before mailing it to your partner to fill out. Although you can talk online, having a journal you can send back and forth can give you something to look forward to. You might also include gifts you've come across during your week or month before you send the journal back. For example, pressed flowers, cool beach rocks, or a bookmark you thought they'd like can be added to the package. 

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo
Do You Have Questions About Your Long-Distance Relationship?

Remote Counseling 

At times, long-distance relationships may feel challenging. However, modern psychological advancements have made it possible for couples to receive therapeutic support online. 

One study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy examined the benefits of online therapy for partners experiencing strained relationships. The study found that couples often avoided seeking therapy due to perceived stigma, logistical issues, and cost. Researchers found that internet-based therapy could effectively reduce those barriers, offering increased flexibility at a lower cost than traditional counseling.

Through online platforms like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples, you can meet with a therapist remotely through video, phone, or chat sessions. Long-distance couples can attend the same couples therapy session on one account from two separate locations. Having a therapist to talk to about the unique experiences that come with long-distance can be beneficial, and you don't have to have a mental illness to talk to someone. 

Takeaway

Long-distance relationships can present challenges but also provide opportunities to build a thriving, long-lasting romance. By combining the resources available to couples online with an online therapist, you can weigh the pros and cons of your long-distance relationship and make decisions based on your priorities. Consider contacting a provider to discuss these challenges and create a plan to meet your goals.

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