6 Ways a Long Distance Relationship Makes You More In Love
The Perks of an LDR
Say the words "long distance relationship" to any couple and thoughts of of time zone troubles and four-hour phone calls send chills down their spines. When you're in love, it's hard to imagine not seeing your sweetie regularly.
But most of us will find ourselves in an LDR at some point. This year, seven million couples in the U.S. reported their relationship as being long distance and 75 percent of all currently engaged couples said that their relationship had included distance at some point. This isn't the craziest thing to imagine—between texts, gchat, and Skype, sometimes it feels like we are more in touch with our cross-country BFF than our Sunday brunch pals. A recent study from the Pew Research Center reported that almost a quarter of all relationships have an online element that keeps things going. But according to a new batch of research, an LDR help your relationship, not hurt them. (For starters: these 9 Health Benefits of Love.)
You're More Intimate
You would think the distance would drive you farther apart. Literally. But actually, studies show that the opposite is true: Couples in long distance relationships actually develop stronger, more intimate bonds than their close couple counterparts. A 2013 study from Cornell University found that couples in long distance relationships not only idealized their partners behavior more, but they also were more vulnerable and disclosed more to their partner.
According to the experts, a lot of this comes from good old fashioned phone calls. "On the phone, people tend to get a little more vulnerable," says Rebecca Hendrix, a couples therapist in New York. "You can get to know somebody a little bit deeper than you can when you're dating in the same city because if you're making the time to connect on the phone or Skype, you tend to have longer conversations."
You Become a Master of Communication
That Skype date schedule is so on point, it's no wonder couples in an LDR are better at communicating than the rest of us. All that intimacy-building phone time is actually making you better at communicating in general. Being apart forces your communication skills to be razor sharp—or else you face destruction. (It's one of the 8 Relationship Checks All Couples Should Have for a Healthy Love Life.) The Cornell study found that long distance partners go to greater lengths to overcome communication barriers."You're learning each other's communication styles and you're doing it in a way that's a little more non-threatening," says Hendrix. "Both people need to know what it is that they need to feel connected. And long distance couples make the effort to give that to each other."
You Commit 100 Percent
If you're in an LDR, the commitment is pretty clear. You can't exactly be ambiguous friends with benefits from opposite coasts. Therapists call this intentionality deciding versus sliding—your choice to be in the relationship is active, not something you just fall into over time. "More effort has to go into it if both parties have to continually recommit each day," says Hendrix. "This causes people to go slow in a relationship because you literally can't go too quickly. Sometimes when things go too quick too fast, things tend to blow up."
You Have More 'You' Time
Spending too much time together can stifle your growth, both as a couple and as individuals—and it's all too easy to fall into the rut of seeing someone who's just down the street all the time. "I'm a big believer in people in relationships cultivating a life outside of the relationship," says Matt Lundquist, a couples therapist in Manhattan.
For all of the downsides to an LDR (like never having your smart SO by your side for Tuesday night trivia), that's one major perk: lots of free time to invest in yourself and your own individual development. "Part of your job is to create an individual life where, when you do reconnect with one another, you can bring back the different kinds of stimulation, friendships, and experiences that you had separately," says Lundquist.
Your Sex Life Is Hotter
We like the sounds of this one: According to the experts, distance isn't all doom and gloom for your love life. Obviously, distance introduces a whole new element to the idea of monogamy. "Whether people want to believe it or not, living apart comes with temptation," says Lundquist. So this is a chance to get a little creative. Skype sex forces couples to get to know each other sexually in a new way, whether the relationship is brand new or you're handling distance years into the commitment. And don't underestimate the power of masturbation. A little self love has all the pelvic floor strengthening benefits of kegel exercises and several studies also show that regular orgasms (alone or with a partner) help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes. (Maybe bring these 5 Masturbation Tips for a Mind-Blowing Solo Session to your next Skype date.)
You Grow Healthier
Those overly dramatic declarations that our relationship is killing us might actually have some merit. Researchers at the Family Institute at Northwestern University found that married couples who lived in separate homes were less depressed, less anxious, ate healthier, and were more active than cohabitating couples.
These survey findings were supported by a 2013 study published in the Journal of Communication
, which found that long distance relationships actually include less anxiety (say goodbye to fighting over who left the seat up or getting pissed about someone showing up 20 minutes late). And the upside of not going out to dinner every other night? You eat smaller portions when you're not with your guy, according to a SafeFood report on portion size. Score one for the LDR (and your waistline). (Learn more about How Your Relationship Is Linked to Your Health.)