How To Make a Long-Distance Relationship Work

How To Make a Long-Distance Relationship Work

Distance doesn’t have to equal the death of a relationship.

As the age-old saying tends to go, “Long-distance relationships never work out.” I beg to differ. I started dating my boyfriend as a senior in high school while getting ready to apply to colleges. Over three years later, we live almost 400 miles apart and we are still together. While the circumstances aren’t necessarily ideal, long-distance relationships (LDRs) can actually be fun if you are willing to put in the effort. That is the key, but all relationships do not come without their problems.

Despite their bad reputation, 7 MILLION people claim to currently be in an LDR. Interestingly, 32.5% of these relationships are college students. So, why are people so afraid of long-distance relationships? And if you are facing a situation where an LDR might be a possibility, how on earth do you make it work?

Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, PhD (aka Dr. Jess), a sexologist and host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast, weighed in on why some LDRs go south.

“The lack of physical connection can be particularly challenging in light of all the missed potential benefits,” Dr. Jess said. “Physical affection is linked with less stress, lower blood pressure, improved circulation, less anxiety, a stronger connection, greater relationship satisfaction, and more fulfilling sex.”

Making the decision to do long distance is a difficult one, but also one that requires a very in-depth conversation. Communication is key, preferably before a decision is already made. Here are a few tips and prompts to help guide you along that rocky road.

  • How long will the relationship be long distance?

  • What are some ground rules that need to be set to make it work? Make sure they are reasonable.

  • How often do you plan to visit each other?

  • Is there enough trust built into the relationship already to make long distance work?

Dr. Jess made it clear that while relationships aren’t necessarily “determined by distance,” other factors do come into play more strongly with LDRs than geographically close relationships.

Recent research suggests that there is no statistical difference in relationship longevity between geographically close and long-distance relationships,” Dr. Jess told me. “Relationship satisfaction rates are also similar and intimacy, trust, and commitment outcomes are the same regardless of whether you live in the same city or many miles away. People in long-distance relationships worry more about their partner cheating, but affairs are no more common.”

Just because there seems to be a breakup stigma doesn’t mean you can’t make an LDR work. In my experience, talking to a couple who has been or is currently in a distance-related relationship can be helpful. I have given tips to many friends who have decided to try LDRs and it always seems to put their minds at ease to hear from someone who has been there.

Dr. Jess also has some expert tips that may help you and your boo go the distance.

1. Don’t spend all of your time on “updates” instead of having meaningful conversations.

You obviously want to fill your partner in on what you’ve been up to, but you also want to have more deep and meaningful conversations about how you’re feeling, new revelations, discoveries, vulnerabilities, etc. If they don’t know what you had for lunch, your relationship will be okay; but if they’re not attuned to what you’re feeling, it can lead to misunderstandings. 

2. Use video chat when you can.

Text and phone calls are easy ways to stay connected, but eye contact may offer additional benefits with regard to bonding. Research suggests that looking into your partner’s eyes can produce an increase in oxytocin, which is associated with connection, relaxation, and bonding (among other things). And studies also suggest that when we make eye contact, we become more self-aware and more aware of our own bodies, we’re seen as more trustworthy, and better able to detect emotion. Though the research has focused on in-person eye contact, I believe it’s worth a shot over the screens.

3. For sex, get racy in the dark.

Filming yourself in the throes of solo passion might be too intimidating so consider sending a very short clip of your self-pleasure session filmed in the dark. Your lover will benefit from the sounds, and the lack of a clear picture helps to build mystery and anticipation. Leave little pieces of you (e.g. underwear, love notes, perfume/cologne) when you visit so that your partner will stumble upon them in your absence.

Having to consider a long-distance relationship does not need to mean a breakup is imminent. With today’s advanced technology, you can still feel close to your partner whether you are near or far from each other. Talking to someone who has been in a long-distance relationship is definitely helpful when it comes to tips and tricks to keep the relationship fresh. If you and your partner are willing to put in the effort, an LDR can truly be worth its weight in gold.

Header image illustrated by Leonor Carvalho

Megan Crabb is a junior journalism major at the University of Missouri. She freelances for multiple publications and works full time at a children’s hospital. Originally from Chicago, she hopes to move back after graduation and find a job working as a public relations specialist for a healthcare system. Megan enjoys reading, cooking and playing with her chocolate lab, Zoey, in her free time.