Do Long-Distance Relationships Work?

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Do long-distance relationships work? It’s one of those dicey relationship questions for which we can’t give you a straight-from-the-shoulder ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Career, business, or shifting with family – whatever the reason may be, pretty much every other couple in this age faces the storm of long distance at some point or other. What makes all the difference is the extent of this separation, both in terms of space and time and the couple’s desire to stay together.

Partners who have enough perseverance and emotional capacity to keep the faith and tender feelings alive often sail through the hindrance of physical distance and come out unscathed as a couple. On the other side of the spectrum, some couples don’t want the burden of long-distance relationship problems and nip all contact in the bud before things start going downhill.

While this may make sense from a practical standpoint, we can’t overlook the many possibilities of a long-distance relationship moving forward with success. According to a survey published in the New York Post, LDR relationships have a success rate of nearly 60%. That’s definitely an encouraging statistic. After all, we live in an increasingly small world – all thanks to technology. With hi-tech gadgets, social media, and dating apps making geographical space irrelevant, how hard is it to feel connected with your loved ones?

Even so, surviving an LDR can be agonizing in the long term and I am sure you are here with a host of questions. Well, that makes two of us! To find the answers and look for long-distance relationship advice, we turned to psychotherapist Gopa Khan (Masters in Counseling Psychology, M.Ed), who specializes in marriage and family counseling.

Do Long-Distance Relationships Work?

We won’t sugarcoat this for you. Despite the encouraging statistics, making a long-distance relationship work entails hard work. A study says that around half of LDR partners go through the transition of geographic separation whereas the other half end their relationship during this period. On top of that, one-third of the first group tends to break up within 3 months of getting reunited.

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Hey, we are not here to discourage you. Who says you have to be another statistic? You are behind the wheel of your relationship and you decide which turn to take at this difficult juncture. As we said, time, distance, and the core strength of the relationship become the determining factors behind many long-distance relationship breakups. Let’s dig a little deeper and see how you can take these obstacles in your stride:

  • Time: When two people know they will be away from each other but only for a few months or a couple of years, instead of focusing on the breakup thoughts, they try to find ways to improve long-distance communication. It’s the end date in sight that drives them to stay positive through this stretch
  • Distance: My friend moved to NYC from Rhode Island during her undergrad days. But she and her girlfriend did just fine for three years because they were only a one-hour flight away. They went back and forth to meet on the weekends, spent the holidays together, sent flowers on special occasions, and managed to keep any negative feelings out of their way. You too can keep romantic relationships alive if the distance is not so much
  • The bond between you and your partner: Our readers from Ohio, Ashley and Ben, were high school sweethearts and were practically inseparable. When the time came and Ashley had to leave for France to fulfill her dreams in art, Ben didn’t stand in her way. There was no timeline for when they will back together again but they decided to make this work, tiding over the time difference, the lack of physical intimacy, and other long-distance relationship problems

Related Reading: 12 Ways To Build Intellectual Intimacy In A Relationship

We asked our expert, “Can a long-distance relationship work?” and Gopa says, “From my old-school perspective, I would say that long-distance tends to weaken the foundation of most relationships. I had a client whose long-distance partner denied marrying her after eight years! Similarly, an online, long-distance relationship is never strong enough.

“You live thousands of miles away from each other and meet only a few times in person. How would you know if you are compatible with one another unless you spend a considerable amount of time together? Do long-distance relationships work at all then? Sure, I’m not generalizing and saying that every one of them is doomed to fail. New-age couples are redefining the concept of dating long-distance and are sailing through it.

“It simply depends on how much effort you are willing to put into this relationship. Some people make all the effort to pump romance into an international long-distance relationship and ensure that they are happy despite the distance. It also depends on the maturity of the couple as I have seen people survive long-distance relationships for years, bring up children in the process, look after ailing parents, and carry out all their responsibilities.”

Why Long-Distance Relationships Don’t Work

You go to your friends looking for long-distance relationship advice and their first reaction likely is, “Don’t get yourself into this mess. Long-distance relationships do not work.” Since you are at Bonobology, we want to offer you something other than complete hopelessness about the possibility of having a future with your long-distance partner. We gather your partner is obviously worth holding on to, that’s why you’re here, trying to figure out how to keep an online relationship going.

Then why don’t you take a step back and scrutinize the shortcomings of an LDR before you veto the whole idea? If you have a fair understanding of the common mistakes couples make in a long-distance relationship, you would know what you can do differently to keep yours going strong. Gopa, talks about four major issues to factor in that often push most LDRs down the rabbit hole:

1. You don’t get to know the real person

According to a survey run by the Pew Research Center, 34% of Americans in a committed relationship who have also used online dating apps in the past say that they met their partner online. But do long-distance relationships work in the long run? Well, it’s not unnatural to like and fall for a person despite living in different cities/countries and having a wildly different lifestyle.

Couples in similar situations try to stay connected via phone calls or texting. The closest you come to seeing them on their turf is through a video call which is set at both your convenience. So, you have the opportunity to look charming and be on your best behavior for the time being as you have the liberty to go back to your regular self/life shortly after.

Everything seems hunky-dory as long as you talk like and agree to things your partner wants because you don’t actually have to meet those expectations from a distance. The problem arises when you start living with that person or meeting them frequently. You get an eerie feeling that they’re not the same person they used to be on the other side of the screen. This is bound to happen in a relationship that began or continued for a long time as an LDR.

2. Insecurity kills many long-distance relationships

Insecurity is one of the biggest long-distance relationship problems. This can become even more pronounced if one of the partners has an insecure attachment style. Not being able to see your partner for so long and not knowing their whereabouts trigger one of the primal human instincts – jealousy.

Perhaps you have absolutely nothing to be worried about. Perhaps your partner is missing you every second of every day. But your insecure mind starts speculating scenarios of them being unfaithful to you. And at the end of the day, it all boils down to trust issues, negative feelings, and fading emotions, which, ultimately, can take a toll on your bond.

Gopa shares, “I had a client who used to travel abroad a lot for business. Whenever he called his wife, who was staying back at home, he’d ask, “Where are you?… Put the tracking back on your phone…Where did you go?… Who’s that guy with you in the picture?… Oh, you’re having fun without me?” and so on. Even when they were in the same city, he exhibited this insecure personality, which made it extremely difficult for either of them to cope in the relationship at times.”

Related Reading: 8 Most Common Causes Of Insecurity

3. Risk of infidelity

Do long-distance relationships work? If not, why so? When you examine the causes of the collapse of most LDRs, the ease of straying emerges as a recurrent theme. Cheating in a long-distance relationship is a real risk. Your partner is away from you for days on end; they miss the physical touch; they miss sharing their emotional ups and downs with someone.

As loneliness takes over, they seek similar comfort in a new mate who is in close proximity. And it becomes difficult for them to judge the consequences of their actions because, in their mind, they are just looking after their own well-being. So, if you are being paranoid about how to survive a long-distance relationship, your worries are not entirely unfounded. It takes a very evolved level of maturity, immense understanding between couples, and a solid foundation for such relationships to work.

4. Sex life takes a severe beating

Many long-distance relationship breakups also happen due to a lack of sexual intimacy. Sometimes masturbation helps in a long-distance relationship. But it can only go so far as to keep you connected toward the beginning when you can still recall and feel one another’s touch even when you are not in the same place. Slowly the out-of-sight-out-of-mind game starts playing its part and the longing and desire fade away.

One or both partners feel attracted to other people and they drift apart as time passes. Also when you start dating online and do not meet for months, you may not even know if you are sexually compatible. So, if you are wondering, “How do long-distance relationships work?”, it’s attainable when a couple’s emotional bonding is powerful enough to beat this sexually dormant phase.

long distance relationship problems
Challenges of a long-distance relationship

How To Make A Long-Distance Relationship Work? 8 Tips 

You don’t have to let tropes like “long-distance relationships do not work” get in the way of the possibility of keeping your connection with your significant other secure and thriving despite the distance. Bonobology is all for looking at the bright side, especially when it comes to keeping a couple together. With some effective advice for long-distance relationships from Gopa, we bring you these 8 tips that are sure to work like a charm in saving your LDR:

Related Reading: 18 Things To Know Before Starting A Long-Distance Relationship

1. Use technology for long-distance communication

You can’t deny that communication is much easier these days with the abundance of gadgets and digital platforms at our disposal. We just want you to put it to good use and make the best out of it. A Gottman Institute article mentions happy couples turn to their partner for regular, non-conflict discussions 20 times more than couples in distress. So, here’s your answer to how to keep an online relationship going:

  • Try to make checking-in calls every night or every morning
  • Given your busy schedule and probably the time difference, find the right time when you can talk at leisure and try to stick to that schedule
  • We suggest video calls over phone calls or emails but see what works best for you
  • Be vulnerable and explicit about your concerns and expectations. It will minimize misunderstandings
  • Make an effort to keep the romance alive. Sexting, phone sex, strip tease on a video call – take your pick and go all the way!

Speaking about how communication in itself won’t solve all your problems, you must also look after the quality of communication you establish, dating coach Geetarsh Kaur previously told Bonobology, “Communication has four T’s: timing, tone, technique, and truth. You must make sure that you’re wary of your choice of words along with the tone you employ. Try to gauge your partner’s mood based on how they’re communicating with you and get to the bottom of what may have landed them in this mood.”

2. Respecting personal space is important

Can a long-distance relationship work IRL? It sure can if both partners give one another the much-required space. When your partner comes back home exhausted at night and you are just waking up at that time, don’t be cross if they don’t have the similar energy to sound excited on a video chat. If they are going to a party, you can’t demand them to be on a call the whole time or share constant updates and pictures. Unrealistic expectations can spell doom for relationships.

You have to let them be and live your life simultaneously. Find a new hobby, hang out with your friends – focus on your personal growth without obsessing over thoughts like “How can he have fun without me?”, “What if she makes new friends and forgets me?” And that’s exactly why it’s important to set some clear boundaries about your availability before getting into the long-distance business.

3. Don’t let trust issues seep into your relationship

How do long-distance relationships work? The answer often lies in the unwavering faith two people have in each other, irrespective of whether they’re near or far. Trust doesn’t develop in a day or two; it stands on the strong foundation of a relationship. Even if you have recently started dating and are still building that foundation, at least you can try not to keep a tab on your partner and believe in their intention.

On this, Gopa says, “There will be times when you may feel that it’s not going the right way but you can’t let insecurities govern how you behave in your relationship. Don’t make the mistake of video-calling them out of the blue, in an attempt to see if they’re telling the truth about where they are. Especially when you’re trying to make an LDR work with a time difference, it’s vital to take a step back and trust your partner.”

Related Reading: 17 Effective Ways To Make A Long-Distance Relationship Work

4. Meet in person as frequently as possible

If and when your circumstances allow, get on that train/hop on that plane, and go, give your partner a big warm hug. Trust me, it will give you the oxytocin boost to keep you going for the next few weeks/months. Sending flowers and cards on special occasions is sure a sweet gesture. But if you can be with each other physically on those days, it will help you feel connected to your partner even when you are apart.

Since you are so eager to make this LDR work, we can expect you to make more than the bare minimum effort to enliven the relationship. Seeing your partner more often will keep you sane as it wears off any misunderstandings or doubts that have been brewing in your mind lately. Also, it will refresh your memories of each other and keep your love intact.

More on long distance relationships

5. Do fun couple things

Who says long-distance partners can’t have all the fun like other couples? You just have to find your own way of enjoying each other’s company that suits your relationship dynamic the best. If you are still struggling to catch the rhythm of a new LDR, we have a few ideas to get the ball rolling for you:

  • Planning virtual movie nights and romantic dates
  • Surprise gifts and care packages
  • Paying them a surprise visit
  • Writing letters and love notes
  • Making your Instagram lit with cute couple pictures
  • Eating a meal together every day on FaceTime
  • Sending selfies back and forth to share your day
  • Getting their favorite dish delivered
  • Naughty late-night video calls
  • Playing online games

6. Emotional availability is a bigger criterion

Wondering how to survive a long-distance relationship? I will let you in on a secret – there might be a continent-wide gap between you and your partner but you have to make them feel like you are right there beside them and you have got their back no matter what. In fact, recent research suggests that long-distance relationships are almost equal or even more in terms of trust and satisfaction than geographically close ones. So,

  • If your partner is in distress, lend them an empathetic ear
  • Don’t be so curt in your conversations. Open up about your side of the story even if that’s just about mundane office events
  • Don’t forget to remind your partner of how much you love and miss them
  • Keep discussing your post-long-distance bucket list and plan your relationship in the long term

Gopa sheds light on whether a lasting emotional connection is possible in such a relationship. “It’s possible, but with a lot of complications. A lack of communication may lead to tiredness, it may cause insecurities, and time management may suffer as a result. However, the distance between you two can also only make you feel connected and excited to meet your partner again. You’ll always be looking forward to spending positive time with your partner and there’s always going to be a layer of excitement,” she says.

Related Reading: 35 Best Conversation Topics If You Are In A Long-Distance Relationship

7. Let there be no lack of support

If you can’t be your partner’s biggest support system in life, then who else will be? The whole purpose of trying to make your relationship work despite the distance is defeated if you start guilt-tripping them for following their dreams and abandoning you. Whether it’s a responsibility toward their family, a job, studying abroad, or something else, you have to be supportive of their cause and be a source of their motivation. Can you do that?

8. Don’t sleep on your problems

You can’t forget that you aren’t living under the same roof or in the same city anymore. So, you don’t have the privilege of going to bed mad at each other thinking, “We will meet tomorrow and sort things out.” Letting problems fester will only lead to resentment in your mind, as you wait for the other person to call and apologize; unknowingly, you are just pushing each other away.

Misunderstandings crop up very easily in long-distance relationships for obvious reasons. Unless you face them right away, very soon you will find your love stacked under a pile of suspicion, ambiguity, and disbelief. Conflict resolution with 100% honesty and transparency should be your number one priority before it’s too late!

Key Pointers

  • Many long-distance relationships often fizzle out due to insecurity, lack of physical and emotional intimacy, and infidelity
  • But it’s not impossible to make an LDR work in the era of technology
  • Both communication and traveling are much easier now, and can help reduce the strain on your relationship 
  • Emotional availability and respecting each other’s boundaries are of utmost necessity
  • There are plenty of ways to plan date nights and fun couple activities to keep the romance alive between you two

Now that we’ve come to the end of our sojourn, we hope our advice for long-distance relationships wipes away all your worries and apprehensions and brings you closer to your loved one even when you are living oceans apart. The trick is to have faith in your partner and keep one another in the loop. Hang in there with genuine intention and a heart full of love and before you know it, the wait will be over!

This article has been updated in March, 2023. 


1. How does distance affect relationships?

If you do not make the effort to keep the communication going, you tend to grow apart in a long-distance relationship. That’s when the distance starts affecting a relationship.

2. Do long-distance relationships last?

Statistics show that almost 60% of long-distance relationships survive whereas 40% of them do not work out.

3. How do you stop a long-distance relationship from falling apart?

In order to ensure a long-distance relationship does not fizzle out, you need to keep the communication regular through calls, texts, and video chats. You need to work on emotional intimacy by sharing details about your life and keeping the communication routine and scheduled.

4. Should you talk every day in a long-distance relationship?

Just share your day, have a sense of humor, talk about the boss who stole your idea at the meeting or the new recipe you tried at home. You should also open up to your partner about any emotional crisis you have been going through.

5. What kills long-distance relationships?

If a partner starts cheating or dumps you in a long-distance relationship then there is no possibility of two people getting back together. A breakup over a long distance kills a relationship forever.

6. What’s the hardest thing about long-distance relationships?

The hardest thing in a long-distance relationship is when you are going through a tough time, you miss the support of your partner. When you are unwell or struggling with issues like finances or job stress, you want your partner beside you. That’s when a long-distance relationship becomes the hardest.

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