In an ideal world, we’d all be able to work and live in the same place and even same time zone as our significant other. Sadly, we don’t live in an ideal world, no matter how much we wish we did. Work restraints and family ties often mean that people have no choice but to carry out their love story cross-country, or even further afield.
It’s a trend that’s on the rise. In fact, in the US today, there are an estimated 14 million people in long distance relationships, according to statistics from the Center for the Study of Long-Distance Relationships. We’re talking about seven million couples just trying their darnedest to keep their flame burning, regardless of where they happen to be — bridging that epic gap one instant message at a time.
As little as 30 years ago, that kind of number would have seemed astronomical; but times are changing in more ways than we ever expected. Globalization has meant that none of us are fixed to just one town, city, or even country. So, the question has to be posed: What with social media and modern tech, are long distance relationships more or less successful today?
Pro: Social Media Can Lessen the Distance
There’s no doubt about it: The world is getting smaller each and every day. The advent of things such as Facebook (thanks, Zuckerberg), Skype, and FaceTime has made it easier than ever to stay in touch with people all around the globe. With just the mere click of a button, you can feel as though that special someone is right there, in the room with you.
You may not be able to feel their touch, but you can see them, hear their voice, and communicate in real-time. It’s a gift. And maybe, just for now, that’s enough. The instant nature of our society means that a distance between two people doesn’t have to feel as far as it physically may be. When you have a bad day at work or, indeed, see something that reminds you of your partner, you can let them know in mere seconds.
Still, even this advantage comes with a massive side helping of trouble. The lack of real interaction is dangerous and things can be easily misconstrued via messages. Those nonverbal signals are missing after all and nothing can truly replace face-to-face interactions. It really is a double-edged sword which takes us swiftly into our next point…
Con: Facebook Can Create Drama Too
Here’s the kicker: Long distance lovebirds may use social media to keep in touch, but it does come with a major drawback — drama.
In fact, according to a recent study from the University of Missouri-Columbia, people who use Facebook an “excessive” amount are likely to have Facebook-related arguments with their partner. The more people use the social media platform, the more bickering they do about it with their significant other.
“Previous research has shown that the more a person in a romantic relationship uses Facebook, the more likely they are to monitor their partner’s Facebook activity more stringently, which can lead to feelings of jealousy,” explained Russell Clayton, who worked on the study. “Facebook-induced jealousy may lead to arguments concerning past partners.”
That may sound like a load of jargon, so here’s a real life example. If you notice that your boyfriend “likes” his ex’s picture on Facebook, although you know that, by all measures, it’s no big deal, you may have a mini freak-out.
As illogical as it may be, that little sign could be enough to send you flying into a jealousy spiral that you just can’t control. Add that niggling feeling to being miles and miles away from your significant other and you really do have a recipe for disaster.
Pro: The Time You Spend Together is a “Honeymoon”
Let’s be honest here for a moment. The typical honeymoon period lasts a year at best. For some, those butterflies in the stomach shrivel up long before that — as early as a couple of months into the affair. But wait a minute, what if you could keep that feeling going stronger for longer? Well, in essence, that’s just what having a long distance relationship does.
The fact that you only get to see one another for a couple of days at a time means that the time you spend together is quality. On average, stats show that LDR couples see one another less than twice per month. Think about it. When your time with that person is limited, your sole goal will be to make the absolute most of it that you can. In a way, that can strengthen your relationship since you associate fun times with one another.
Con: Technology Can Weigh You Down
When your smartphone is your only tangible connection to your significant other, you can’t imagine how essential it will become to your being. The thought of them not being able to get in touch will likely be a massive stress, which means that you will constantly want to be available on your phone. To compensate for the fact that you’re far away from one another, that lifeline will become everything to you, for better or worse.
And, frankly, that’s exactly how addiction builds. Just last year, a study from the University of Illinois found striking links between cell phone addiction and mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression. The more you come to rely on your phone for social interaction, the more detached you become from reality and the people around you. It’s no great mystery how your mental health can suffer under these circumstances.
While there’s nothing to say that you will get addicted to using your phone when you enter into a long distance relationship, it’s something that you should keep in mind. It may seem like no big deal, yet excessive phone use can fast become a problem whether you realize it or not.
In the End, Every Couple is Different
To answer the original question… Well, there is no answer; at least not a single one. The way that we communicate has changed in recent years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that long distance relationships have become less of a strain.
For every way technology has made us feel figuratively closer to one another, there’s a counter argument that says it’s created a sense of distance. It’s simply not fair to say that things have become either easier or, of course, more difficult.
Maintaining a relationship when you’re not in the same place is hard — it always will be. And that’s okay. Not everything has to be straightforward. If you’re lucky, time away from one another will be a challenge you overcome together and something that ultimately creates a strong bond. If you’re not so lucky, it will all end in tears. The only way to know, though, is to try.