The Long-Term Potential of Long-Distance Relationships

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Now that people can meet each other on the Internet and stay in touch every day through a variety of technological options, long-distance relationships are extremely common. To assess whether a long-distance relationship has long-term potential, you need to determine what you want from the relationship, what your partner wants and how you handle the distance between you.

Shared Goals or Shared Opportunity

If you think your long-distance relationship might have a chance of becoming a long-term commitment, the first thing to do is to figure out whether both of you want the same thing. If you see the distance between you as being a matter of circumstance when your partner sees it as a positive benefit, the relationship is unlikely to last. Some people prefer long-distance relationships because they aren't ready to commit to one person or give up their independence and they want to control the amount of time they spend with a partner. Rather than assuming you know what your partner wants, it's better to ask.

Security and Its Opposites

If you know that you both want to be together for the long term but you can't be together right now, the next thing to consider is whether both of you can handle the separation. A 2012 study by researchers Carole Pistole and Ji-yeon Lee at Purdue University found that people in long-distance relationships showed one of three typical attachment styles. People with a secure attachment style preferred to be with their partners but did not feel anxious when apart. People with an anxious attachment style felt insecure, critical and negative when apart from their partners. People with an avoidant attachment style tended to resist true intimacy, but found separation painful.

Handling Anxiety

When one or both partners in a long-distance relationship have an anxious or avoidant attachment style, the best way to handle it is to concentrate on positivity in every area. Give the anxious partner a lot of verbal reinforcement and refrain from criticism of either your partner or yourself. The Purdue University study suggests that partners who live far away from each other may have more success if they encourage a slightly idealized view of each other and stay in touch on a daily basis. If you have a secure attachment style and can handle any anxieties your partner may have with a positive attitude, the relationship may have long-term potential. If you have an anxious or avoidant attachment style, ask yourself whether you can handle the emotional stress of being apart and whether your partner is prepared to offer the support you need.

Staying Close Through Technology

Couples separated by thousands of miles can now look at each others' faces every day over the Internet and exchange calls or text messages no matter how far apart. New technologies may soon allow even more closeness for long-distance couples, such as a pillow developed by an inventor named Joanna Montgomery that glows when your partner lies down on it and even allows you to listen to his or her heart beating. Not everyone would be interested in going that far to feel close, but the Purdue University study does suggest that regular contact can overcome some of the anxiety of separation and increase the chances of a long-term relationship.