The Upside of Long Distance Relationships

It’s hard to imagine there are many perks to being in a long distance relationship if you’re not in one—going months without seeing each other, being absent for your partner’s special events and day-to-day life, the high costs of traveling to see each other, and possible jealousy issues don’t exactly make a great case for it. But one study recently found that long distance relationships may actually be better than a traditional one in a major way…and no, it’s not that there’s no one around who’ll hog the covers at night.

Published in the Journal of Communication, the study asked dating couples in geographically close or long distance relationships to keep a log of their daily interactions for a week—face-to-face, phone calls, texts, video chat, instant message, and email. They also reported how much they shared about themselves during those interactions, and how much intimacy they experienced.

The researchers found out great news for the three million Americans who live far apart from their spouses—the long distance couples shared more personal thoughts and feelings than the geographically close couples, helping them feel more intimacy.

But I wonder if the findings would be different if the study looked at the relationship interactions for longer than a week–after all, many long distance couples often have more of a communication schedule in place than the average couple that lives close to or with each other—phone calls every night before bed, a video chat every Sunday, and so on. Whereas the average no-distance couple (my own live-in relationship included) may rely on short catchups throughout the week and weekends spent connecting in a bigger way—lazy mornings curled up in bed together, running errands, date nights, short road trips.

Long-distance couples also tended to idealize their partners when they were apart—they perceived them to be more likely to share personal thoughts and feelings than the average no-distance couple, and more responsive to their own thoughts. “They adapt their messages, for example, by focusing on relationally intense topics, such as love, caring and intimacy,” explained Dr. Jiang, one of the study’s researchers. This was great when they were apart, enhancing their warm and fuzzy feelings about the relationship (and likely helping to make the distance more bearable)—but it caused more problems once they reunited face-to-face. As Jiang put it, “the positive illusion goes away when they spend more time together.” No kidding, says anyone and everyone currently living with their significant other.

That said, there are some lessons geographically close couples can take away from what long distance couples are getting right, like expressing affection to your partner in the midst of the mundane day-to-day stuff, and taking some time for longer, more meaningful interactions, like a phone call at the end of the day instead of a quick text.

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Josephina Schneider

one thing i would like to say, however, is that this article really doesnt highlight the upsides of long distance relationships but portrays those involved as somewhat disillusioned and idealistic. if the title says "upsides", please be more POSITIVE! :) thanks x

Josephina Schneider

thanks for the article. im currently in a long distance relationship, 3000 miles apart, and i am feeling good about it. the distance shouldnt get in the way of me having a relationship, especially as it is so easy to communicate through modern means.

Debbie Miller
Debbie Miller4 years ago

I loved the connection of a long distance relationship. In reality once we met it did not turn out to be anything like I imagined and he was commitment-phobic and broke my heart.

C R.
Chloe R4 years ago


Sam Antha
Sam Antha4 years ago

"Long-distance couples also tended to idealize their partners when they were apart... the positive illusion goes away when they spend more time together.” So true!!! Wish I had spent more time with my long distance love before I gave up an amazing well paid job, great flatmates/house, awesome friends & loving family to move overseas only to find out the man I thought I knew was much different to that which he had lead me to believe he was. Always good to spend a lot of time together in person before making such a massive commitment, especially if you have a lot to lose!

James Travers
James Travers4 years ago

"...if the findings would be different if the study looked at the relationship interactions for longer than a week..."
You nailed it. You can share more personal thoughts in a long distance relationship but sometimes that can get you in trouble. It focuses all of the attention on that aspect and it's hard to keep just that exciting. A relationship needs a physical presence in there as a balance in my view. Plus it's easier to make memories together when you are with each other more often.
I see my love only about three or four weeks a year and it isn't easy...

John S.
Past Member 4 years ago

It works for me and my wife - 15 years.

Alonso Ramirez
Alonso Ramirez4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

june t.
reft h4 years ago

my long distance relationship (2500 miles away) is great. We talk every day, sometimes several times a day on weekends, share our day, and thoughts and feelings. He's a great communicator and we trust each other. My job and elderly mother tie me here, he is in the same boat. It's been 8 years now and I am glad I didn't let distance prevent me from having this relationship. Modern technology makes it possible - thanks to the inventors of the phone and the internet! When I do get to spend time with him in person, we get along great. You do have to be realistic with your expectations, but maybe that comes with age and experience in life - nobody's perfect. The respect and caring is there, always.

Judy Apelis
Judy A4 years ago

Thanks for the information!