For a lot of us, the thought of entering into a long distance romantic relationship with someone can be frightening. There’s often a scary connotation of impossibility surrounding the idea.
To some people, the thought of dating someone who doesn’t live within easy driving distance feels like setting up a relationship for certain failure (despite the fact that a long distance relationship has a better chance of succeeding in many cases).
To me, this idea of a long distance relationship equaling certain failure at love has always seemed absurd. But perhaps that’s because my husband and I dated long distance for over three years while I was in college, including one semester when I was in Europe.
Making a romantic relationship work long-distance really isn’t an easy task, though. In fact, during the time my husband and I dated, I knew of three other couples our age who were in similar long distance circumstances. Of those other three couples, two of them broke up.
So does long distance kill a romantic relationship? Well, it sure tries to kill it. But you don’t have to let it.
There’s a plethora of advice out there on the best ways to make long distance relationships work. But the real answer to whether or not distance will kill your relationship seems to lie in three key areas.
The importance of chemistry
My husband and I had an advantage over couples who don’t start out knowing one another in person. We met in our high school youth group and knew pretty quickly that we were attracted to one another.
When it comes to a couple who has met online and is thinking about starting a long distance dating relationship, this matter of attraction can be a little more complicated.
On the one hand, beginning things from long distance can be great to ensure that both people are interested in the other person’s personality, their likes and dislikes, the things they enjoy talking about. There’s no chance that they’re just after a physical hookup. Spending time together involves more talk, deep conversations, and learning more about the other person.
But that doesn’t mean that physical attraction isn’t important.
The reality is that if a relationship is going to go somewhere (like marriage!), there needs to be physical chemistry. That’s hard to determine from a long distance and can only be really learned from time spent close together.
Of course, you can always turn to technology to help bridge some of that long distance. There are many ways to engage in a video chat such as Facetime, Google Duo, or even Skype.
But this doesn’t solve the problem of actually being close to each other. So the answer to this conundrum is ultimately the same for a couple who has met online as it is for those who met in person: you need to meet up occasionally.
For my husband and me, this meant me coming home on breaks from school, and an occasional flight across the country from him.
For couples who have met online, this could mean arranging to meet halfway for an initial in-person date. If things are working well after that, it might mean taking turns visiting one another as often as you can afford to.
If you try going on forever without meeting up in person, things can get very difficult. And the chances of your relationship succeeding start to get slimmer.
Communication can make all the difference
Most likely, if you do find yourself in a long-distance relationship, you won’t get to see your significant other in person nearly as often as you’d like. If this is the case, good communication is very important for a relationship to work.
Of most importance is probably that the two people set aside time regularly to talk about their lives.
Share how your day is going, what things you’re looking forward to, your successes or failures in work or other areas of your life.
This can start to get difficult when you’re in different time zones or have tight schedules. But it’s extremely important that you set time aside for one another. If you don’t, there’s really not much relationship left for distance to kill.
During the time I spent studying abroad in Austria, communicating with my then-boyfriend got rather difficult.
When I was traveling to other countries on long weekends, we had to resort to just emails and social media. But we made that work. Like people in the olden days had to use plain old snail mail letters, we wrote detailed emails about things that were going on in our lives.
When I was on campus in Austria, we would find strange times to Skype that worked out for our differing time zones. Often, this meant that one of us would have to sacrifice sleep either late at night or early in the morning.
Even when you don’t have significant challenges geographically, difficulties of tight schedules can still make extended talk sessions hard to fit in.
If this is the case with you, try making time for texting every day to check in or let the person know you’re thinking of them. Texting doesn’t take long, but it can mean a lot to your partner.
You may not always feel like working on the relationship, but, of course, that’s the case with any relationship. They take work and a commitment to communication.
It’s only when keeping in touch with one another is truly not working that the relationship begins to not work.
What should commitment look like?
Commitment is a really difficult issue to tackle when it comes to a long-distance relationship.
On the one hand, without some level of commitment between the two people, a relationship carried on long distance isn’t likely to last very long. Without knowing that it could really go somewhere, there are often just too many difficulties to make a person want to keep it up for long.
And yet, it’s still a dating relationship. You’re not married, so there can’t be any kind of absolute commitment here.
The thing is that, no matter whether you’re dating someone long distance or short-distance, there will always be other attractive people out there.
But when it’s a long distance relationship and the person you’re dating isn’t in sight for long periods of time, it can be more difficult to remain focused on just how much you like them and want things to work out with them. With the initial feeling of excitement starts to fade, you aren’t able to simply spend time with each other in person to help recommit yourself to the relationship.
In the case of my husband and me, we both knew before I moved away that we were good for one another and that we wanted to seriously consider marriage. This made it a lot easier for us to carry on a relationship even as we both made new friends and had different life experiences.
The level of commitment can be a difficult thing to figure out in a long-distance relationship. It’s important that you’re open and honest about how you feel so you’re both on the same page.
If one of you thinks you’re very serious and committed, and the other thinks you’re pretty casual, distance will not be your friend moving forward.