By Margarita Nahapetyan
It has been universally acknowledged that having a long distance relationship is not such a good idea, especially if there is no known end-date to the separation. Endless phone calls, expensive plane tickets, low satisfaction - the list of negatives can go on and on. You have to be really very brave and mature to start a serious long distance relationship, even in the age of FaceTime and Skype. Probably the idea of any type of relationship developing and existing solely over the Internet is already enough to turn even the most romantic person into a hopeless pessimist. After all, communication and commitment are already a bit of a challenge when we live in the same geographic area with our partner, so how possibly could anyone expect a positive relationship outcome when face-to-face communication is not an option?
Surprisingly to us, a new joint study by Canadian and US scientists came to the conclusion that long distance relationships (or LDRs, as they are sometimes called) don't necessarily spell disaster for your relationship and can actually end up in a happy matrimonial unit. The experts at Queen's University in Ontario, and the University of Utah, closely analyzed more than 700 individuals in long distance relationships, and 425 people in "geographically close relationships." The participants included students and non-students of both genders, and a wide range of actual distances were taken into consideration.
First, the participants were asked to answer questions about their attitudes toward long-distance relationships, after which they had to fill out few sets of questionnaires designed to assess the quality of their relationships:
An assessment that measures sexual, emotional, social, intellectual and recreational satisfaction;
A scale of their commitment;
A scale that measures communication levels in a relationship;
"Dyadic Adjustment Scale," which measures partners' disagreement on things, such as showing affection or handling finances;
"Dyadic Sexual Communication Scale," which analyzes how well partners communicate about their sexual satisfaction;
Analysis of female sexual satisfaction;
Analysis of male sexual satisfaction;
Analysis of the amount of psychological stress, anxiety, and depression an individual has experienced in the past month.
The results revealed that those couples who were engaged in long distance relationships, were no less satisfied with their unions when compared to those couples who shared the same geographical proximity. In fact, the experts said that comparing subjects based on their sexual orientation, relationship composition, and student status revealed very similar relationship patterns. These outcomes indicate that being in a long distance relationship does not necessarily guarantee negative relationship outcomes.
It was found that the factors that predicted positive relationship results were not measured in miles. For instance, those individuals who felt more optimistic and secure about the future of their relationship had better quality relationships. Which is to say, it is not the geographic distance apart that matters, but the emotional distance when together. In addition, the study found that greater was the distance between the partners, greater was the intimacy, communication and overall satisfaction with the relationship.
So how to make a long distance relationship work? The experts say that the key to avoiding destructive thoughts or unwanted actions is to keep the relationship on track, which most probably will require plenty of effort. Given today's technology and social media, communication and connection with one another is quite easy and costs almost nothing. Psychologists highly recommend that partners, while communicating, really find out about each other's day and daily activities because like every successful and healthy relationship, a solid foundation based on the day-to-day sharing of each other's ups and downs is key. Consequently, if partners do not communicate fully, it will have a negative impact on their health. The stress that results from worries over fidelity, trust and where the relationship is heading can lead to sleepless nights, weight loss, anxiety and even depression. And while all these signs are concerning, psychologists say that there is no official data suggesting that they are dangerous, however they could be associated with a permanent break-up.
Finally, it is very important for the health of the couple and their relationship to eventually live together in the same geographical proximity in order to figure out if their bond can survive pressures of everyday life. It is not like a weekend where partners are happy and devoted to each other and then for the rest of the week they miss each other and cannot wait to meet again. Things might be completely different when people move in together and start communicating on a daily basis. It is critical to find out if the relationship is going to survive. It is encouraging that marriages following long distance relationships have the same success rate as unions established in the same area code - provided the partners don't get married as soon as they move in together. If they move in together first and it works well, the experts say, then the future marriage would work as well as any other marriage.
The study, "Go Long! Predictors of Positive Relationship Outcomes in Long Distance Relationships," is published in the Journal of Sex and marital Therapy.