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Long-Distance Relationships: Can They work?

Have you ever said goodbye to someone you’re in love with, knowing you wouldn’t see them again for some time? I have, and I remember how it hurts! At times like these, sometimes there’s nothing to do but turn up the sad songs on your headphones and maybe have a good cry.

Increasingly Common, Often Challenging

But for some of us, being separated from our partners is an everyday situation. It might be due to school, a job, or one of you being in the military. These days, we may even fall in love from across the miles on the Internet. Long-distance couples are quite common, especially among young people.

If you’re in a long-distance relationship, you know that they can be a bit of a rollercoaster. At times, they may feel intensely romantic. However, you probably also have moments when you wonder if you’re making the right choice. It can be tough to watch your friends snuggle up with their sweeties on the couch when you’re sitting alone. And who really wants to spend Friday date night on Skype?

Can An "LDR" Really Work?

In fact, you’ve probably wondered: is being in a long-distance relationship sustainable?

Scientists have taken a look at this question, and what they’ve learned might surprise you. Overall, couples who are dating long distance are not any more likely to break up than people who live near each other and can see one another all the time. And if you think people in long-distance relationships (LDRs, for short) are less satisfied with their love lives, on average, that’s not true either.

Could It Even Be...Better?

In fact, one recent study of over 1000 people (some dating long-distance, some dating while living nearby) didn’t really find many differences between the two groups. Even their satisfaction with their sex lives was about the same. As a matter of fact, the long-distance couples even seemed to be doing a little better in some areas!

Why would this be? It could be that people who can’t be physically with each other work harder on communicating, being romantic, and sharing their feelings. Also, remember the old saying—“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”? Sometimes we idealize loved ones who we can’t be with.

Attitudes and Future Beliefs Matter

Here’s an important note, though. Of those couples in LDRs, some did better than others. People who had generally positive beliefs about long-distance relationships tended to be happier and more satisfied. How they pictured the future mattered, too. People felt better about their relationships if they were pretty sure they would live in the same city eventually.

So, if your sweetie is miles away, don’t despair. You’ve probably got just a good a chance as the rest of your dating friends—possibly, even a better one. Keeping this in mind should help you to stay positive.

Of course, every relationship, whether close to home or across the globe, benefits from mutual respect, generosity, and strong communication. Whether you’re texting, Skyping, or sharing a romantic dinner at the same table, treat your close-to-home or far-off loved one with love and kindness.

Looking for ways to connect and get closer with your partner? Heading towards marriage? The SMART Couples project is offering ELEVATE, a free, research-backed relationship enhancement class for couples, and Before You Tie the Knot, a free marriage preparation course, in Florida counties across the state. All our programs are taught by trained professionals and are welcoming to all. Sign up today!

By Carol Church, lead writer, SMART Couples, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida


Dargie, E., Blair, K., Goldfinger, C., & Pukall, C. F. (2015). Go Long! Predictors of Positive Relationship Outcomes in Long-Distance Dating Relationships. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 41(2), 181-202.

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