There’s a longstanding proverbial saying that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but is it true when it comes to dating in 2023? Maybe, maybe not. A study from Pew Research done in 2020 found that long-distance relationships were deal-breakers for most single people, as 51% percent of daters surveyed shared that they wouldn’t participate in a long-distance relationship.
But over time, COVID-19 has shifted plenty of perspectives and attitudes when it comes to the topic. With the need to quarantine and isolate from others, online dating increased, causing singles across the United States to rethink their stance on long-distance dating.
Recent data from Match’s Singles in America report revealed that love could go the distance, as 53% of singles shared that they would be open to starting a relationship with someone who lives more than three hours away, compared to 35% in 2021. This data shows that the pandemic has something to do with this newfound affinity for loving from afar, as 33% say their stance changed during this time. Local love is no longer the default, as singles can turn to virtual methods of getting to know one another before they connect in person.
While they aren’t for everyone, long-distance relationships have their benefits, especially for people who value space and independence. They may also be worth it if you know there is a plan for reducing the distance in the future. According to Eboni Harris, MA, LPC, LMFT, a relationship therapist, there are several upsides to engaging in a long-distance relationship. “One benefit to consider is there is much less need to compromise on how you spend most of your time. While you will still need to prioritize communication because you are not spending much time physically around your partner, you can keep up with your normal routine, whether a self-regimen or spending time with loved ones,” she tells ESSENCE.
She continues, “Another benefit is that distance does make you miss your partner and can lead to you putting more effort into building a deeper connection. When all you have is communication, you are more willing to have deeper conversations or try quizzes/games to get to know each other. There is also sexual tension that can be created when you don’t get to see your person very often.”
While the benefits are present, so are the drawbacks. Rhonda Richards-Smith, LSCW, psychotherapist and relationship expert, believes that lack of trust is one of them. “If you struggle with trusting someone in a relationship, a long-distance partnership may not be best for you,” she says. A missed FaceTime call or trip cancellation can feel like it may make or break the relationship,” says Richards-Smith.
She continues, “Managing conflict while living long distance can present a unique challenge. A ‘no-ghosting’ commitment is very important. If you need to take a break from communicating with your partner to process any issues, inform your partner promptly with a plan to re-connect soon.”
If you are considering a long-distance relationship, having an end goal and strategy to help you navigate the partnership is essential. We tapped Richards-Smith for tips on maintaining this kind of partnership.
Good communication is vital for any romantic partnership but is even more critical in a long-distance relationship. “To have success when living in different areas, both partners must be clear with themselves and their partner about their needs and establish ground rules. While some of these conversations are often fluid when living nearby, you must employ a more proactive approach when living apart,” says Richards-Smith.
Determine how often you will see and communicate with one another. “How often will you check in via phone or FaceTime to connect? How often can you both commit to seeing each other in person? Will you alternate who travels to see the other? Are you both comfortable with managing the travel expenses you may incur? These are all important topics to discuss and hash out early to ensure you are both on the same page,” she says.
Establishing trust in a long-distance relationship is challenging but very necessary. “When you don’t trust your partner in this scenario, it can lead to a lot of anxiety and stress, which is not good for your relationship or your well-being,” she says.
Tackle Strategic Planning
Long-distance relationships can be worth it if you start with the end in mind. Most long-term, long-distance relationships reach a point where a decision has to be made regarding if and when one partner will relocate to be closer to their partner. “Checking in and being honest with yourself and your partner about how the arrangement feels throughout the relationship is critical,” she states. “Be open to sharing your thoughts and listening to your partner’s needs. Flexibility and the willingness to make the necessary adjustments along the way is key. On the other hand, some couples are comfortable with a long-distance relationship for the long haul. Whatever you do, do not allow the thoughts and opinions of others to determine how you proceed.”