The culture 10 to 20 years ago would advise that you should avoid getting into a long distance relationship. However, new research has illustrated that trend is not necessarily something to avoid anymore. In fact, almost 75% of college students will have been in a long distance relationship at some point during their undergraduate degree (Vorwerck, 2013). Nearly 3 million adult couples live apart every year (Kerner, 2013). Studies are showing people who engage in long distance relationships tend to have more meaningful conversations, more intimacy, and more intentionality (Vorwerck, 2013). That part may seem mind-blowing at first, but when you think more about it more, the conclusions actually make some sense. In today’s world, you have countless ways to connect with people. Technology such as Skype and FaceTime allows you to see loved ones face-to-face. Long distance relationships are more equipped to succeed. These couples are required to make time for each other daily where time together is not a given. When they do get to see one other, they are probably trying to soak up every moment they can. If done well, studies show that these couples can be just as strong and successful as those who see each other every day. What once may have seemed impossible is not and in reality is entirely doable, even providing some benefits. A long-distance relationship has the ability to…
Strengthen couples to handle even tougher times ahead in their relationship. Even with all the available technology, in-person relationships tend to be easier to maintain. Long distance relationships can be difficult and couples, no matter how incredible they are, will struggle at different points. When these couples are able to continue to work through tough moments due to their long distance situation, they will become strengthened in ways that could prepare them for potential challenges in the future.
Help couples become solid communicators. Couples who are long distance have to be able to communicate. Whether it is communicating the logistics of when and where they will talk or planning the next time they will see each other, couples have to develop the skills to communicate. On a deeper level, they have to learn to communicate at times without the ease of seeing facial expressions or hearing the tone of voice. Living apart can allow individuals to cultivate these types of skills that will only benefit the relationship overall.
Push couples to have a relationship beyond physical intimacy. Sex and physical intimacy can be important aspects to most relationships. If that is removed or becomes very infrequent, couples are able to focus on the other necessary parts of their relationship. The physical part of the relationship, while it may be wonderful, can become distracting or keep couples superficial. Long distance couples have the opportunity to strengthen the non-physical, yet invaluable, aspects of their relationship.
Allow the development of deep amounts of trust. Trust might seem difficult for long distance couples. Trusting someone you cannot be with regularly may be difficult at first. Trusting someone may also have a propensity to become a problem (which can become a major barrier when paired with a lack of communication and a history of dishonesty). However, deep trust can be developed in a way unlike other relationships. Truly trusting someone far away can help diminish insecurity or fear that often plagues people in relationships.
Help couples learn how to maintain their sense of self. Couples who spend significant amounts of time away from each other are left with the choice of either being alone or creating a life for themselves. Long distance relationships can empower both individuals in the partnership to develop their own life. During this process, a person has the opportunity to learn how to find happiness on their own, understand themselves more deeply, and create a sense of identity. When a couple consists of people who have a strong sense of self, it has positive impacts on the relationship.
Prevent co-dependency. One of the positive impacts from the statement above is that maintaining a sense of self can prevent couples from becoming enmeshed and co-dependent. Losing yourself in a relationship is unhealthy. A relationship involves lives coming together by people sharing their personal world and creating a new one together. Long distance relationships can help you maintain your own identity, potentially preventing people from becoming co-dependent.
Keep a sense of excitement. When couples do not have the opportunity to see each other as often, every moment they spend together can be precious to them. You want to make every moment count, so couples tend to work extra hard to enjoy even a quick weekend together here and there. In some ways, as opposed to other relationships, this can keep the excitement alive and well almost as if you are newly dating again.
Help couples have a deeper appreciation for each other. When time is limited, it is more difficult to take advantage of each other. You might find yourself noticing and valuing aspects of your partner you might not have noticed before. It helps you cherish the small things about them that make them stand apart. Cherishing each other is an important part in creating a happy, long-lasting relationship.
So, in reality, these benefits can lead someone to actually believe in the idea “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” If done well, long distance couples can create great habits like being intentional and being more aware of their partner’s needs. Without developing those qualities, their relationship would not survive. What could be challenging in long distance relationship can be molded into strengths. Most of the successful long distance relationships involve two people who are willing to put in the work. Is that not what successful relationships involve regardless if it is through technology or in person? Nonetheless, relationships are always going to have their challenges. If you and your long distance partner are committed to working hard to be together and grow as a couple, you will certainly find yourselves enjoying some of these benefits of a healthy, long distance relationship.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.