Silencing the myths surrounding long distance relationships

When we hear the term “long distance relationship” it’s typically accompanied by feelings of frustration, loneliness and ultimately, failure. Some people would give up potentially dating a perfectly suitable partner solely based on their geographical location and the distance that separates them. But why are we so afraid of this type of romantic relationship, why is our first reaction to offer sympathy when we meet a person in a long distance relationship and are they even worth the effort and anguish? The first thing to consider is the obvious fact that long distance relationships are much more difficult to maintain. Simply thinking about the nature of any type of relationship, whether you’ve been living with your partner for decades or you are still in that early honeymoon phase, all relationships are hard work. Adding an extra variable like distance serves to make things far more complicated. As university students, we are the demographic that is the most likely to engage in a long distance relationship as either we or our partners are likely to study away from home. In fact, 32.5 per cent of all long distance relationships in the United States are made up of College students.

This article is meant to be a helpful guide for those students who are considering embarking on a new long distance relationship while also reaffirming those students who are currently in one. I will be addressing the most common myths and anxieties surrounding the topic.

“Out of Sight Out of Mind”

We’ve all heard this little adage which basically amounts to, “if you are not in constant contact with a romantic partner then you will lose interest in them”. With today’s technology it is very difficult to have even your worst enemy completely out of sight as we are constantly fed Snapchat stories, Instagram posts and Facebook statuses on the go. However, there is a prominent fear for some that not being in physical contact with their partner is going to cause them to miss out. Whether they’re worried about staying home in the evening to FaceTime with their special someone or that they will pass up someone better while waiting until the distance is over, this myth persists. The honest truth is that if the proximity to someone is the only thing that is keeping you from feeling this way then maybe you need to reevaluate the relationship. A study in 2014 published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that long distance relationships aren’t any unhappier than geographically close ones. The study states that, “individuals in a long distance relationship are not at a disadvantage” so it’s not totally valid to have this fear. I think the important thing is to consider your priorities and see where a relationship stacks up against your other commitments before getting into one. Take a good hard look at your life and be honest with yourself.

Long Distance is too Lonely

It is true that couples can go weeks or even months without seeing each other due to their geographic circumstances and this is going to be hard for even the most resilient couples. When someone isn’t there next to you at all times the relationship becomes almost something abstract and can take on this surreal quality as if it exists in a dreamworld. Some technologies are trying to combat this like apps that send vibrations so couples know their thinking of one another. There isn’t much that can replace that physical connection that is so special and vital. However, a few studies show that distance can actually play a role in enhancing certain aspects of a relationship. Researchers from Cornell University published an article in 2013 which found that distance can actually enhance certain types of communication. Couples are given an opportunity to explore several different styles and modes of communication so they learn which works best for them. They also learn the idiosyncrasies and nuances of communicating with their specific long distance partner because they are constantly engaging in that communication during long distance. That same study also found that long distance couples tended to idealize their partners’ behaviours. After all, it’s a lot easier to imagine your boyfriend as a chivalrous hunk when you don’t have to look at his dirty laundry or watch him talk with spinach in his teeth. Long distance may cause immediate loneliness, but in some cases these relationships are improved as a result of distance.

Long Distance Just Doesn’t Work for me

Honestly, this may be true. But when you meet that special person you will simply know right away whether or not they are worth a long distance experience. I don’t have any studies I can cite or statistics to support this sentiment. Instead, I have a personal story. One night in the summer of 2013 I enjoyed a lovely meal in the backyard garden of a very close friend. I was delighted when I found out his grandmother would be joining us and after a few bottles of wine I began asking her questions about her history. At the time I was struggling to make a long distance relationship work and wanted to gleam any advice I could from such a successful woman. She was in her mid 80’s and had lived through World War II, a francophone in Montreal. She told me that at the age of 17 the man she was seeing enlisted to fight in the War and was away from her for four years in Europe. After a dramatic pause she then told me with a smile that the man happened to be my friend’s grandfather. I was mystified by the revelation and humbled completely. To think that I was struggling with all of today’s technological conveniences with my long distance relationship and this woman endured not seeing her partner for years all the while worrying about his wellbeing during wartime. At that moment I knew that if you’re truly meant to be with a particular person, nothing, not even distance will come in between that relationship. As corny and unscientific as it sounds, some things are simply meant to be.

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