Everyone is familiar with the downsides to a long distance relationship: the endless waiting for texts, the occasional twinge of jealousy (even when we know better!) over a Facebook post, the cold side of the bed on a Saturday night. To announce to friends that you’re embarking on an LDR is to get the inevitable barrage of cynicism: “Good luck with that,” they’ll say. “Really.” You can tell they don’t mean it.
Well, the nay-sayers and “really”-distributors of the world might need to take a sec. A study published in the Journal of Communication last year found that long-distance couples reported equal or higher levels of trust and satisfaction in their relationships when compared to “geographically close” bfs and gfs. More recently, New York Magazine ran an article marveling at longevity and happiness levels among long distance couples. And I, I sat there laughing and reading, reading and laughing, like a member of some kind of Relationships Illuminati, because I know. Oh, I know. I’ve done long distance twice—once for six months and once, in my current relationship, for almost four years—and have learned a lot both times.
Anyone who can point out all the downsides of an LDR without seeing any of the benefits strikes me as not particularly imaginative. Why would so many people be willing to give this way of loving a try if it were stone-cold terrible the entire time? While I recently moved home and am happy to be living with my (formerly long distance) boyfriend, he and I—and about 14 million American couples—already knew what New York mag and the rest of the world seems to be slowly figuring out: long distance relationships kind of rule. Here’s why:
You have space to do your own thing
In a long distance relationship you’ve got a lot more time on your hands than the average classically-partnered person. People in happy, healthy long distance set ups use this time for themselves, working on personal projects, seeing friends and family, or taking precious Me Time that might be harder to squirrel away if their S.O. lived in their town. Plus, it can be pretty great to text your partner goodnight and not worry about taking a three hour bath afterwards with your other girlfriend, Season Three of Parks and Recreation on DVD. She’s the best.
Your friends will think you are really chill.
You’re not one of those folks who gets a boyfriend and then disappears into the ether, oh no. You’re an Independent Woman and you still know how to Have Fun. Take that, Linda! Kidding aside, long distance relationships are a great way to practice relationship/life balance, allowing you space and time to fall in love without that Netflix Black Hole phase that so often accompanies new love. Your pals, hobbies, and exercise regime will thank you for it. If and/or when you two end up living in the same town again, you’re going to be better at maintaining individual interests while still caring for each other.
Quelle suprise, Shakespeare was right: parting IS such sweet sorrow
It’s fun to pine! The act of missing someone is its own kind of bliss. While it can be frustrating to eat dinner next to a blurry iPhone snap of their spaghetti-Os instead of your actual gentleman or lady, there’s something very romantic about missing someone. The whole process of bidding someone a tearful farewell, then calling them from the runway to bid another one before the plane takes off can be as fun for you as it is annoying for everyone around you. Plus, studies have shown that absence literally makes the heart grow fonder. You can’t argue with science.
You get to let your inner Romantic out.
Love letters, care packages, grand, romantic gestures—these are all the purview of the LDR. When you can’t say it with a quick kiss out the door every morning, you have to find creative ways to say “You mean a lot to me and I want to kiss your face all the time.” This means you and your partner end up doing more of the traditionally romantic things that don’t always come along with a 21st century relationship, like sending flowers. It’s really nice.
You get to go on fun trips!
If your significant other lives somewhere cool, great! You get a personalized tour guide for a staycation in their town. If their home base is boring and they visited you last time, looks like the two of you are planning a coooool vacay. The entire process of traveling to meet your partner—from booking the trip to counting down the days, to a textbook rom-com-inspired airport reunion—can be a much-needed break from your day-to-day, filled with texts, emails, Skype chats, and the like. And there’s something really special about seeing someone you love for the first time in a long time. My boyfriend and I have creeped out more than a few fellow train passengers in London with our weirdly long post-reunion standing up hugs, a kind of extended “heeeeeey, you” that lasts the whole trip back to my house. Gross, right?
They’re like Relationships 101
What’s the basis of a good relationship? Come on, you know this one: COMMUNICATION! And lots of it. This is as true of a three day-long relationship as it is of a thirty year one. It’s all about talking to your partner. And guess what? Separated by land, sea, or both, all a long distance couple can DO is talk. The way you express your love is words, words, words… and, usually, the important ones. Since you’re not living with or even near your partner, couples in LDRs tend to talk more about bigger, abstract concepts like intimacy, romance, and what they want out of life, while geographically convenient pairs can get bogged down in the ephemera of the everyday—who’s taking out the garbage? You both are, separately. Now what are your hopes n’ dreams??
The work of figuring out how to handle long distance is a lot of the same work it takes to figure out a great, long-lasting partnership, regardless of distance. Basically, if you can make it while thousands of miles apart, you can make it anywhere. Now if you’ll excuse me I have some spaghetti-Os to SnapChat (old habits die hard).
(Photo: Warner Brothers)