The usual advice is that long-distance relationships never work, that it’s not worth it to stay with your significant other from high school, that it’s impossible to date someone who goes to a different college, that it’s better not even to try. However, long-distance relationships are common and can offer benefits you can’t find in relationships where both partners live close to each other.
One estimate suggests that up to 50 percent of college students are in a long-distance relationship. This could be a relationship with someone at a different college, someone still in high school, someone working in another city, or someone in the military. Of course, some of these relationships will end in a break-up, but many will lead to a lifelong partnership. One estimate says that about 75 percent of engaged couples have been in a long-distance relationship at some point.
Living in different places has the potential to greatly strengthen a couple’s relationship. Being apart means that each partner has to put in effort and they must work together to make the relationship last.
Because long-distance couples can’t see each other as often as geographically close couples, they have to think of other ways to stay in touch. With technology, there are endless ways to stay in touch with a long-distance partner. Most couples rely on some combination of texting, phone calls and Skype or FaceTime video calls, as well as visiting each other when possible. Some couples like to write letters or emails, make shared playlists on Spotify, use Snapchat, chat on Facebook Messenger, or use an app designed for long-distance relationships.
As a consequence of all this technology, the major decision for couples is not whether they can stay in touch but what methods they should use to communicate, and how often. The answers to these questions are going to be different for each couple, and discussing them at the beginning of the long-distance relationship can help open the honest dialogue that is imperative for success over distance.
An obvious drawback to the long distance is the lack of a physical relationship; however, couples in long-distance relationships tend to be more interested in long-term partnerships than hookups. The temporary hiatus from physicality helps to ensure that the relationship is built on a solid foundation of emotional and intellectual compatibility. On college campuses, it is not difficult to create a purely physical relationship, as it is not difficult to find people interested only in hooking up. This is a perfectly acceptable goal, but it’s not what everyone is looking for. For those students who are predominantly interested in a relationship that will last into the long term and are willing to sacrifice the kissing, cuddling and other physical elements, the benefits of a long-distance relationship should not be overlooked.
Learning to cooperate and keep a relationship alive while living in distant cities can be an important lesson in maturity and trust. Because couples are living apart, each partner is unable to be constantly aware of where the other is and what they are doing. This can make or break a couple. If trust is not built quickly, the relationship can crumble. But if both partners are open, honest and trusting of each other, their relationship can become even stronger.
Healthy arguing is also vital. Because long-distance couples are usually quite committed to making their relationships last, this often leads to healthier fighting and working through issues without yelling and personal attacks. Both partners have to want to make the relationship last in order for it to be successful. In successful relationships, the question is “How do we fix this?” rather than “Is this worth fixing?” In general, long-distance couples are committed to making sure they’re always answering the former.
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