A long-distance relationship (LDR) (or long-distance romantic relationship (LDRR)) is an intimate relationship between partners who are geographically isolated from one another. Partners in LDRs face geographic separation and lack of face-to-face contact. LDRs are particularly prevalent among college students- constituting 25% to 50% of all LDRs. Even though scholars have reported a signiﬁcant number of LDRRs in undergraduate populations, long-distance relationships continue to be an ‘understudied’ phenomenon.
Characteristics of LDRs
LDRs are qualitatively different from geographically close relationships; that is, relationships in which the partners are able to see each other, face-to-face, most days. According to Rohlfing (1995) he suggests the following unique challenges for those in long distance relationships:
- Increased financial burdens to maintain relationships
- Difficulty maintaining geographically close friendships while in long-distance romantic relationships
- Difficulty judging the state of a relationship from a distance
- High expectations by partners for the quality of limited face-to-face meetings in the relationship.
LDRs with Friends and Family
Not all long-distance relationships are romantic. When individuals go away to school, their relationships with family and friends also become long distance. Pew Internet (2004) asserts that 79% of adult respondents from the United States reported using the Internet for communication with family and friends. Also, Pew Internet (2002a) states that because of new technologies, college students will have greater social ties with their friends than their family members. Therefore, examining email among college students helps explore how the Internet is affecting college students emotionally and socially.
In the United States
Long distance relationships are becoming increasingly common in the United States. In 2005, according to The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, an estimated 2.9% of marriages in the United States were considered long-distance, with 1 in 10 marriages reported to have included a period at long distance within the first 3 years. This means that in 2005 approximately 3.5 million people in the US alone were involved in long-distance marriages. It is harder to know how many non-married couples are in a long-distance relationship but according to The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships there was an estimated 4 to 4.5 million college couples in the US which were in non-marital LDRs.
Ways to stay connected
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New communication technologies such as cellular phone plans make communication among individuals at a distance easier than in the past. Before the popularity of internet dating, long-distance relationships were not as common, as the primary forms of communication between the romance lovers usually involved either telephone conversations or corresponding via mail. According to Pew Internet, American citizens were asked how often they used the Internet on a typical day, they reported 56% sending or reading email, 10% reported sending instant messages, and 9% reported using an online social network such as Facebook or Twitter. However, with the advent of the Internet, long-distance relationships have exploded in popularity as they become less challenging to sustain with the use of modern technology.
Couples who have a routine, strategic relational maintenance behaviors, and take advantage of social media can help maintain a long-distance relationship. Having positivity (making interactions cheerful and pleasant), openness (directly discussing the relationship and one's feelings), assurances (reassuring the partner about the relationship and the future), network (relying on support and love of others), shared tasks (performing common tasks) and conflict management (giving the partner advice) are some of the routine and strategic relation maintenance behaviors 
Relationship Maintenance Behaviors
Intimate relationship partners constantly work to improve their relationship. There are many ways in which they can make their partner happy and strengthen the overall relationship. The ways in which individuals behave have a major effect on the satisfaction and the durability of the relationship. Researchers have found systems of maintenance behaviors between intimate partners. Maintenance behaviors can be separated into seven different categories: assurances in relation to love and commitment in the relationship, openness in sharing their feelings, conflict management, positive interactions, sharing tasks, giving advice to their partner, and using social networks for support (Dainton, 2000; Stafford, Dainton, & Haas, 2000).
Dindia and Emmers-Sommer (2006) identified three categories of maintaining behaviors that are used by partners to deal with separation. “Prospective behaviors, such as telling the partner goodbye, which addresses anticipated separation; introspective behaviors, which is communication when the partners are apart; and retrospective behaviors which are basically talking to each other face to face, which reaffirms connection after separation.” (Dindia, & Emmers-Sommer, 2006). These are known as the relationship continuity constructional units (RCCUs). Maintenance behaviors as well as the RCCUs are correlated with an increase in relationship satisfaction, as well as, commitment (Pistole et al., 2010).
In a study of jealousy experience, expression, in LDR's, 114 individuals who were in LDR's indicated how much face-to-face contact they had during a typical week. Thirty-three percent of participants reported no face-to-face contact, whereas 67% reported periodic face-to-face contact with a mean of 1 to 2 days. The researchers compared LDRs to GCRs (geographically close relationships) and discovered that those in LDRs with no face-to-face contact experience more jealousy than those with periodic face-to-face contact or those in GCRs. Furthermore, those without periodic face-to-face contact were more likely to use the Internet to communicate with their partner. They found that the presence of periodic face-to-face contact is a crucial factor in the satisfaction, commitment, and trust of LDR partners. Those who do not experience periodic face-to-face contact reported significantly lower levels of satisfaction, commitment, and trust.
Another study generated a sample of 335 undergraduate students who were in LDRs and became geographically close. Of the reunited couples, 66 individuals terminated their relationships after moving to the same location, whereas 114 continued their relationship.
Based on the analysis of the open-ended responses, 97% of respondents noted some type of relationship change associated with the LD-GC (geographically close) transition. When the respondents were asked about having the ability to more face-to-face time when GC, and the enjoyment of increased time spent together most comments were positive. For example, ‘We ﬁnally got to do all the “little” things we’d been wanting to do for so long; we get to hold each other, wake up next to each other, eat together, etc.’ Many Individuals reported a loss of autonomy, following reunion. For example, many individuals liked and missed the “freedom” or “privacy” the distance allowed. Reports of “nagging”, demanding or expecting “too much” were also frequent responses. Several individuals reported more conﬂict and ‘ﬁghting’ in their relationship after it became geographically close. Many said they felt the conﬂict in their relationship was not only more frequent but also more difﬁcult to resolve. For example, one individual stated that, when his relationship was long distance, he and his partner ‘fought less and if we did ﬁght, problems were solved in a shorter amount of time. For some individuals living in the same location led to increased feelings of jealousy. After witnessing their partners’ behaviour, some participants said that they became increasingly concerned that their partners were currently ‘cheating’ on them or had ‘cheated on them in the past.’ Reunion allowed the discovery of positive as well as negative characteristics about their partner, feeling that the partner had changed in some way since the relationship was long distance.
- Maguire, Katheryn C.; Terry A. Kinney (February 2010). "When Distance is Problematic: Communication, Coping, and Relational Satisfaction in Female College Students’ Long-Distance Dating Relationships". Journal of Applied Communication Research 38 (1): 27–46. doi:10.1080/00909880903483573.
- (Rholfing, 1995)
- "The Internet and daily life: Many Americans use the Internet in everyday activities, but traditional ofﬂine habits still dominate".
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- Long Distance Relationships Statistics
- Zucker Saltz, Lizzie (2009). Crafting Romance. Athens: Athens Institute of Contemporary Art. p. 5.
Certainly one of the reasons that long-distance relationships are so difficult to maintain is due to the physical separation that no advance in communication technologies has yet been able to reconcile. Playfully drawing our attention to this fact, Cindy Hinant's telephone sculptures tease out the sexually suggestive language of telephone services that insist on denying the separation of the speakers...Here the objects of communication-the now outdated landline telephones-take on the physicality of human relationships, not against technology's domination but by and through it. As we shift over to cellular phones, Hinant's sculptures are both nostalgic for the materiality of older devices and instructive as to the ways in which we might preserve for our modern age what Jean Baudrillard called the 'ecstasy of communication.'
- Johnson, A.; Haigh, M.; Becker, J.; Craig, E.; Wigley, S (2008). "College Students Use of Relational Management Strategies in Email in Long-Distance and Geographically Close Relationships". Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13 (2): 381–404. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2008.00401.x.
- Haque, A (September 2013). "Maintaining Trust in a Long Distance Relationship". Expatriates Magazine (2): 21.
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- Stafford, Laura; Andy J. Merolla; Janessa D. Castle (2006). "When long-distance dating partners become geographically close". Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 23 (6): 901–919. doi:10.1177/0265407506070472.
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- Seetha Narayan, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Long-Distance Relationships (Alpha Books: 2005)
- Rohlﬁng, M. E. (1995). Doesn’t anyone stay in one place anymore?’’ An exploration of the understudied phenomenon of long-distance relationships. In J. Woods & S. Duck (Eds.), Understudied relationships: Off the beaten track (pp. 173–196). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
- Pew Internet & American Life Project. (2002a). The Internet goes to college: How students are living in the future with today’s technology. Retrieved October 15, 2005, from http://www.pewInternet.org/pdfs/PIP_College_Report.pdf
- Pew Internet & American Life Project (2004). The Internet and daily life: Many Americans use the Internet in everyday activities, but traditional ofﬂine habits still dominate. Retrieved October 11, 2007 from http://www.pewInternet.org/PPF/r/131/report_display.asp