Long Distance Relationships

A long-distance relationship (or LDR for short) is considered long-distance when communication opportunities are restricted because of geographic distance and the partners in the relationship desire a continued, close connection.

Did you know...

  • 25% to 50% of college students are in an LDR at any given time
  • 75% of college students at some point have been in an LDR (Stafford, 2005)

Do Long Distance Relationships Work?

Yes, they do! But it takes work on both ends of the relationship in order for the relationship to remain intact.

Before the Separation

It is important to determine the rules and terms of the relationship before the separation takes place. Problems can arise if one partner believes that the relationship is casual and open, while the other is making sacrifices and putting effort into a monogamous relationship. To reduce such confusion, engage in open and honest communication about the separation and discuss what each of you wants from the relationship.

Important Traits for LDR Couples

Trust – Trust is essential for both parties in order for an LDR to survive. It's especially important in a long-distance relationship because often there is a fear that your partner will end up with another person. Lack of trust can lead to doubt, jealousy, suspicion, and paranoia.

Commitment – It's difficult to put in the effort necessary to make an LDR work without commitment. The temptation to cheat may be too inviting to individuals who are not committed to the relationship.

Independence – It's helpful for both parties to have some independence due to the long period of separation. With long-distance relationships, it is difficult to depend on one another for gratification and happiness. Partners who have their own circle of friends and participate in enjoyable hobbies may fare better than couples who are too dependent on each other.

Organization – It's helpful for partners in an LDR to be well organized, so that they can schedule time for the other into their agenda every day.

Pros and Cons of an LDR


  • Appreciate the separation in order to focus on school and on each other when together
  • Freedom and autonomy
  • Sense of rejuvenation when you see your partner in person
  • Appreciation for the relationship
  • Better rested than those in close-proximity relationships
  • Perform better academically


  • Pressure to make sure time spent together is high quality
  • Pressure to avoid disagreements
  • When separated again, you feel let down or sad to return to your everyday lifestyle without your partner
  • Sometimes distance creates too much of a gap
  • Feelings of loneliness heighten the need for security
  • Difficulty maintaining intimacy

Tips for Success

  • Set up phone dates and take them as seriously as physical dates.
  • Send emails and letters.
  • Call randomly, even if it's only for two minutes, to see how your partner is doing.
  • Surprise your partner with small, personal, and loving gifts.
  • Send a personal item that you use frequently that would instantly remind your partner of you.
  • Keep open communication with your partner.
  • Share your plans for the upcoming week.
  • Rent the same movie and have a movie date.
  • Look at the stars together and talk about it over the phone.
  • Buy the same book and discuss it together.
  • Mail a note or stuffed animal sprayed with your cologne or perfume.
  • Send each other a plant to take care of.
  • Try webcam dates.
  • Visit your partner (if you can afford it).

Endure the Distance

While it can be sad, frustrating, and depressing at times to miss someone, you'll find that you are able to handle it. Even though you miss your partner, it's normal and healthy to accept the distance and direct your energy to things you can control. You can…

  • Be active on campus.
  • Join a club.
  • Go see a movie in a genre your partner doesn't like much.
  • Attend social events.
  • Study.
  • Make new friends.
  • Go to a museum.

There are a million things you can do, and the more you do, the more you have to talk about with your partner the next time you talk.

Rules of the Road

The rules between two people in a long-distance relationship need to reflect what both members want and are able to handle. The key is being able to follow through on your promises. If you are in an LDR, consider what rules you have already established. What's working? What isn't? What do you want to change? Is there anything you are afraid to tell your partner?

If the rules you agreed upon aren't respected, they won't mean much. If you agreed because you felt pressured or didn't want to lose your partner, you might soon feel resentment.

You should only agree to not seeing other people if both of you are in agreement that this is what you both want in the relationship. Consider these questions:

  • Do I feel ready to promise that I won't see anyone else?
  • Do I think it's going to be hard to go to a social event and feel that I'm not allowed to form any other relationships?
  • Might this cause me to meet other people and go behind my partner's back?
  • Will I feel resentful or tied down?

This has to do with your own sense of readiness. It isn't fair to either of you to make promises that you can't keep or don't want to, just to keep the relationship.

Tip: Don't hang on to a long-distance relationship just because it's safe and secure.

Secret Tips for Success

These tips will help if you are in a long-distance relationship or a close-proximity relationship:

  • To stay together, you must remember to play together.
  • "Why" questions almost always trigger a defensive reaction. Ask real questions to elicit new information, not yes or no answers.
  • Consider your partner's motives. Ask yourself, "Do I truly believe my partner intended to hurt me?" Then discuss the behavior of both people, and work towards acting differently the next time.
  • Eliminate the words "always, every, never, forever" from your dialogue.
  • Learn to say "sorry." It's an important part of moving on from an argument.
  • Talk a lot and often. Communication is key to success!
  • If you're in a co-ed residence hall on campus, be careful about dating a floor mate.

A Final Word

Long-distance relationships are emotionally challenging, but if you can make it, they are also worth it.


  • The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run into in College (Harlan Cohen, author)
  • Maintaining Long-distance and Cross-residential Relationships (Laura Stafford, author)
  • AskMen offers helpful information and advice, including LDRs.