Why Long Distance Relationships Fail

Upon request, here is the awaited by no one long-awaited sequel to my popular post “Why High School Relationships Fail”. I wish I had a legitimate statistic regarding how many of these relationships remain successful, but, I do not – however, I do strongly believe that more often than not they disintegrate. Before you start fighting me in the name of love, hear me out. Then you can violently disagree and curse me out, in the form of a polite and non-aggressive comment.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder. A true statement. After all, if you are infatuated with someone, shouldn’t you wish to see that person more and more? And when you’re not able to see that individual, your desire increases – you want what you can’t have, especially when it comes to love.

But what happens when you’re not able to see that person in the flesh for five months? Five years? Sure, distance may make the heart grow fonder, but it also makes it needier – one’s cravings for their companion can overwhelm them and distract them from other facets in their lives. Relationships should exist to enhance someone’s overall mindset, not to detract from their duties and emotional well-being. If Joe is constantly craving another Skype session with Sally every night instead of accomplishing his assignments at college or making new friends there, that’s a double whammy.

I’m basing this off of the “rules of attraction” I learned about in AP Psychology. There are three basic things that make people attracted to one another: similarity, proximity, and reciprocal liking. For the purpose of this post, I’ll elaborate on proximity, even though it is a self-explanatory concept. Proximity, or nearness to another person, is proven to burgeon the bonds people hold with one another. If you go to school and see attractive Andrew every day (and let’s say this Andrew is also smart, nice, and has a good heart) then the probability of you becoming attracted to him is way higher than you becoming attracted to beautiful Bob, who lives across the continent from you. Even if Bob possessed the same personality traits and physical features as Andrew, you would interact and associate with Andrew more regularly, thus allowing the relationship to flourish. This ties in with the mere-exposure effect, which states that the more you are exposed to an idea or individual, the more likely you are to like it.

Which is essentially why long distance relationships fail: the proximity of the people in the relationship is severely decreased. Hence, long distance. This leads to a myriad of other issues. Communication can become more difficult. It takes more time to get in touch with your significant other. No more simple “oh hey, let’s go to the library and chill together” or “yeah, let’s grab something to eat at Red Robin.” I hate to say this one, but some people may be tempted to cheat if they know they won’t get caught. There’s a plethora of problems that appear when people are separated, and I’m sure you guys are aware of them due to books/movies/media.

I had to include a Cyanide and Happiness comic. Just to continue the parallel with my other post. Beautifully edited, I know (it says “dog”).

Now, let me put forth a few disclaimers before the slaughter starts. I have never been in a long distance relationship, whereas I have been in a high school relationship, so I do not have firsthand experience with this. Notice that the title of the post is “Why Long Distance Relationships Fail”, not, “All Long Distance Relationships Fail” or “Why You Shouldn’t Attempt a Long Distance Relationship” or “Long Distance Relationships Are the Cause of Cancer”. Just throwing that out there.

On a final note, I do think long distance relationships have a significantly higher chance of surviving than high school relationships. This is because long distance relationships are not restrained to a certain age group. You could have a couple who has been married for 20 years but have been forced to separate for a few months because of employment issues. You could have a wife whose husband is in the military or vice versa. I know, with the right amount of trust and hard work and compassion these things can work out.

But not always. It is a tough route to take, and one I would advise against if possible. Especially for college relationships. Oh, the horror stories. College is a time of growth and meeting new people and expanding your horizons – essentially, change. You don’t want to be tied down to someone (unless you really really love them) at the start of college, or you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities. And you’ll regret it when you break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend in junior year and realize how you’re lacking in the social department.

Agree? Disagree? Have you been or are you in a long distance relationship, or do you know anyone who has been in one? I did generalize quite a bit in that last paragraph, as I know a couple of super strong long distance relationships between college students. However, with these things in mind, I hope that if you do pursuit a long distance relationship, that you will find solutions to combat the proximity/communication issue. Maybe I should write a “How You Can Make Long Distance Relationship Work” post… nah, that’s boring.

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34 Comments

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34 responses to “Why Long Distance Relationships Fail

  1. invisiblesimmer

    I’ve been in two long distance relationships. They are not the most pleasant thing in the world, and I almost feel I was in them just so I could say I was in a relationship. My first one was in Grade 11, and he was my first true boyfriend. All my life I had been dreaming of loving and being with someone. A few months earlier, I had had my first kiss with someone who was only interested in a one night stand and trying to get in my pants in order to win some stupid game. Of course I didn’t know this until afterwards. So I think part of the reason I wanted to be in this first relationship was because I wanted someone who actually wanted me.

    That one fizzled out after a few months because our personalities were too different. He was into the whole drinking scene whereas I liked staying at home. He was a social creature, I had my close friends and ate lunch in the math room playing chess to avoid everyone else. So it just wasn’t going to work out.

    My second long distance relationship (even though I told myself that I wouldn’t be in another one) ended a couple months ago, and again, having only lasted a couple months. He came into my life right when I needed him. I had been obsessing over a completely different ex boyfriend for almost 2 years at this point and was close to telling my parents that I think I need to go to therapy because I just could not let go of him. Then this new boy came into my live. I really liked him, but the only reason I think I was attracted to him was because he gave me an escape from my past inner battles. We had nothing in common once again, and we ended it.

    An important thing to note though is that I had met these two boys in a setting where neither of us lived. For example, it would be like meeting a guy in New York, but I lived in North Dakota and he lived in Maine. So this may not be the typical start to what some people think of as a long distance relationship, say with moving to go to college.

    So this was my experiences with long distance relationships. They were nice, but in the end, it wasn’t worth the effort and we broke up. I wouldn’t advise long distance relationships to anyone, but if you have known these people for awhile and believe you can handle it, it’s worth a shot.

    Kelly

    • I see… in a way I feel like long distance relationships can also serve as a test of “true love”, or a couple’s commitment to staying together. In your cases after awhile being apart you could tell that either your personalities or different or that you had nothing in common. Thank you for sharing your stories, and I’m glad that you have properly reflected on these relationships and why they failed to prep yourself for the future!

    • Unknown

      I agree and I believe long distance relationships don’t work for every one. The person I was in a long distance relationship with broke up with me hours ago. And he broke up with me because I cheated on him more then once and it wasn’t anything physically the two times I cheated just recently happened. And I lied too much to him through out the whole 3 years of the relationship and I did other things that I shouldn’t have done . And I really do regret everything I’ve done because he doesn’t deserve to be hurt and he doesn’t deserve to be lied to at all. He hurt me as well but I know what I’ve done and I’ve admitted to he’s never going to take me back for. And he said when we were texting if I loved him no matter what I would not have lied and before that when we were on the phone before he hung up he said you have yourself to blame and then the phone up. And has a right to say everything he said. I told him while we’re texting that I have a problem with being honest and it has nothing to do with him. And I feel like the only way I can be openly honest is if I go to speak to some one professionally.

      • I’m so sorry that this happened to you and your boyfriend recently, but I admire your honesty and how you don’t bother to hide your faults from yourself or anyone else. If you need anyone to talk to I’m here, and I wish you the best in moving forward!

  2. Elaine

    As someone who generally views relationships with the same distaste often reserved for the plague, or gum found on the bottom of one’s shoe, I’d like to say this is one area in which I can be objective (though I’ll actually just end up sounding pretentious) – basically, relationships = work, and that’s where the real problem is, not necessarily in the ‘miles to go’ of it.

    So, drawing from my platonic experiences: some of my best friendships are with people I’ve never even met in person, but the reason they end up working out is because of the effort both parties are willing to put into keeping that rapport going. Distance makes it easier to get lazy about that, if you’re not constantly required to see them or go out with them or do all those relationshippyish things. The same is true for distant friends – I don’t /have/ to write them. I don’t /have/ to think about them. Our lack of proximity allows me to become complacent more easily. But I don’t, because I, you know, actually care, so what it ends up coming down to is not the fact that we don’t see each other but the fact that we’re willing to circumvent that to make up for it. Laziness is a huge part of why relationships, distant or otherwise, fail.

    As for college, well, that seems like a whole new can of worms. It’s more about the new experiences rather than being apart, I would say; explosive growth that doesn’t include thinking about your significant other when it’s too busy chasing newfound freedom. But again, if you’re willing to work for it, then it’ll happen.

    Passive-aggressive skepticism over all things Psychology aside (heh heh…), people are unique and we can’t fit our experiences – or our relationships, platonic or otherwise – into neatly-labelled boxes. The closest we come are Statistics, really. You know, logic 😉 But more to the summarizing point – it’ll work if the people do, and to pragmatic old me, that quite simply seems to be that.

    • Yep! Definitely agree with your summarizing point, and everything else you’ve written. I guess when it comes down to it, it depends on whether the people are willing to put up with the “work” that is entailed in a long distance relationship. Perhaps those who were meant to be don’t find it to be “work” at all. Thanks for offering your insight, as always, Elaine!

  3. I was in a long distance relationship for two years, we were married for the second year. The biggest challenge was the day-to-day. When we saw each other, it was so tempting to go out and do something special. All our time was special party-mode time. So when we did finally get to be together all the time, it was very different. We had forgotten how to just BE together.

    It’s been 17 years, and I wouldn’t go back to the long-distance thing. I recommend it to no one.

    • Aw, that does sound like a difficult situation. That certainly is another issue with long distance relationships, as the chemistry could become tangled or awkward… anyway, thank you for sharing your experience!

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  6. I am about to embark on a long distance realtionship and have started a blog about it. I guess we will have to see if we are strong enough to see this through

    http://ourlongdistancerelationship.wordpress.com/

  7. Maggie

    I suppose I’m no one, then, since I was really anticipating this. :p I agree with your whole post, especially the bit about not wanting to be tied down to someone at the start of college, or I’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities. It applies to me. Sort of. Kind of. Maybe a little. I also loved the humour. I agree with what Elaine said, as well. By all means, please write a “How You Can Make Long Distance Relationship Work” post if you ever have the time. I love reading your posts~!

    • Ha ha, you know I’m joking. (: Yep, Elaine is definitely a wise voice and a brilliant writer. I’ll see if I can write that post, but I’d feel even worse about having no experience in a serious long distance relationship… maybe! I will always keep posting though.

  8. crying because Glee revealed that Klaine is breaking up, and they were going to do long distance T~T

  9. Haley

    My ex and I dated for 2.5 years. We broke up because we went through a year of long distance, but he has a lot on his plate. He is going to college like me, getting a job, in the military reserves, and having to pay for his phone bill, apartment and car. Yeah, so I can’t exactly come first in his life. Also, distance changes feelings in a way that makes it feel different than if you two were living next door to each other. You have to be in love with the thought of them practically. I disagree with comments regarding “if you truly love them, it’ll work.” sometimes that’s not the case. Have you ever heard of the phrase that talks about letting the bird out of the cage so it can be free because you love it that much ? Sometimes you both need to grow in order to maybe get back together and get married. Again, depends on age. We are just 19 so we need to experience more things socially. Long distance really distracts a college student, and I recommend a break up that is clean and friendly before entering NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU POVE THEM, because you want them to be happy, right ?

    • Hm… I see what you’re saying. Great point regarding the bird out of the cage – sometimes what is best for the other person is letting them go in order for them to succeed in other facets of their life. It does depend on myriad factors and love doesn’t always mean maintaining a romantic relationship. Sometimes it means doing whatever it takes to let the other person be happy, even if that means not being with them.

      Thank you for sharing your perspective, it is a unique one compared to what I have heard so far!

  10. Sigh.
    As much I hate to admit it, but you’re absolutely right.
    I JUST broke up today and trust me it really doesn’t bother me that much
    Long distance really sucks all patience out of you.

    Keep writing.

    With warm regards
    Sanah 🙂

    • Even though it doesn’t bother you too much, I’m sorry to hear that Sanah. It sounds like you’re moving on (if you haven’t completely moved on already), so good for you!

      Thanks, and thanks for reading and commenting!

  11. TopG

    Yoh i hear u owt’ but im in a long distance too, and eventually im a boy im so inlove with my girl friend bt we’ve only been together for just 9months. But when i finished ma matric i had to go to university so she promises me dat she’ll only l0ve nd i promised the same. We kept contacting each ada evryday nd sometimes we even fight. And the next bad thing dat happen’d she just went for another social network which i d0nt know of. This one time i decided to go home see my folks nd see my wife to be, she got happy i was coming to town bt she knows very well that she’s cheating on me bt trys to hide dat wit her beautiful smile’ ok so i take her out to have dinner and talk so during ths very same dinner his other boyfriend just phones her eventualy when i’m with her, her phone stays by me. So i saw the call and i jst gave her the phone, knowing nothng i jst suspected that something fishy was going on because she was very shy nd gentle speaking to ths guy on the phone. I got angry forced her to spit it out and refused nd denying it. I told her we breaking then she explained the whole story and i was just too sad i trusted her wit all my heart nd she just killed that, and what makes me cry is dat she did this within 24days i’ve only been gone for 24days, when wil 3years get finish?. And second of all my parents know her, i actually brought her to see my family. Long distance relationships are hard. How must i trust that she wont pull the same stunt she pulled. And if i never found out she will still be dating the guy. Pls ppl gv me some advices. Should i let her go Or should i not ?

    • I’m so so sorry this happened to you. Reading your comment made my heart hurt, and I’m sorry that the faith between you two has been cut. While I don’t know the entirety of the situation or the exact personalities of the people involved, as I say with most people who ask for my advice I think you should talk it out with her and see if you have it in your heart to forgive and move on. Just sit down with her and have a heart to heart – if you think she’s learned her lesson about not cheating and you’re feeling forgiving perhaps you should forge ahead. However, if this hurts too much, I would recommend not talking for a bit and putting the relationship on hold. This will give both of you time to heal and maintain a casual friendship, so later on maybe the romance will be rekindled. Good luck, I am wishing the best for you.

  12. Brittney

    I have been in a long distance relationship for almost eleven months. I have known him for almost two years. We have actually gotten to meet in person four times since we got together. Before him I never was in or wanted a long distance relationship. I actually thought they were just to make desperate high school girls or guys feel better about themselves. I just never believed in them, I guess. When my boyfriend and I became an official couple, it was on not very good terms. There was this huge incident where there were other females he was talking to and what-not. Yes, we were not official… but there was still no one else involved. Well, there wasn’t supposed to be. Even since we have been official, I have caught him talking to other girls several times over the internet. Not just, “Hey what’s up?” but it was him telling them how beautiful and perfect they are. Only one of them lived in his state though. When he had his facebook account I logged on and saw like five other females he was talking to. He never went out and actually had any type physical/sexual contact with anyone or even kissed anyone since we have been together (as far as I know). I don’t know what to do. I get jealous, obviously… I don’t trust him as much, because throughout all of the times I caught him ‘cheating’, he has of course lied and tried to talk his way out of it. It doesn’t work. I am not easily convinced, thankfully. Right now, I consider him as a cheater or at least someone that cheated in this relationship. Is this bad that I think that? He never actually went out and did anything with anyone, but should I end the relationship anyway? I really don’t want to end it, and apparently he doesn’t either. I also don’t want it to seem like I have no self-esteem, and I am just with him because ‘I luv him so much!’ We tried taking a break, and four days later he called because he wanted to get back together. When we are together it feels almost surreal, but when we are apart sometimes all I feel towards him is distrust and sometimes even hate. I don’t hate him, but I hate what he has done. We are constantly fighting about almost the same thing everyday. It’s either the lack of trust I have for him or his tendencies to be completely careless. Anyways, I really don’t want to be with someone who cheated on me… but should I even consider what he did as cheating? I don’t think very many other girlfriend’s would approve of what he did. A few of my female friends act dramatic and tell me to leave him and never speak to him again. They aren’t much smarter when it comes to anything, really. So why would I take advice from someone who doesn’t really have a decent head on their shoulders? I love them, but I will not take their advice. It would be awesome if you could give me you input on this. I have read a couple of your posts and you seem to be good at this stuff. This has been bothering for quite some time now. What should I do, if I should do anything? Do I just let this continue and risk him possibly cheating on me? This time more than just messages, but like actually hooking with someone. Should I just sit and see what happens? I also forgot to mention, I am in high school. This year he is a senior, so that means coming up in August he will be attending college. I am not excited.

    • I’m sorry for my super late response and what you’ve been going through in your relationship. I honestly think in the end it’s up to you and what you feel in your heart, but I can offer you my advice, just keep in mind that I have an extremely limited view of things because I do not know you or your boyfriend personally (or at all). I feel like you should do your best to communicate with your boyfriend and tell him exactly what you just told me; reveal to him all of your fears and anxieties. If he truly cares about you, he will listen and attempt to assuage your concerns somehow. I don’t think forcing yourself to ruminate over it excessively without actually discussing anything with him will help much. Be true to yourself and ask if you want to commit to a long distance relationship – now that it’s August – with all of the extra effort it will entail. Ask yourself if you care about him enough to risk that… but from what you’ve commented here, it feels like you’re already pretty stressed out, and at that point he hadn’t moved at all yet.

  13. Sujatha

    I live in India and was in a long distance relationship with a guy in Toronto, Canada for more than 2 years (since Feb-2011). I recently broke up with him because I realized that the relationship had gradually become a co-dependent one. I started losing interest since mid-2012 as I realized that he was commitment phobic and was still missing his dead common law wife who had passed away in Nov-2008. I began to understand that I was always pushing and forcing myself on him and obliging his requests each and every time. It was one-sided right from the beginning. I am a widow since Jan-2008 and a single mother and was looking for a partner to marry, not to fool around. I realize that he just wanted me to be his friend with benefits all along. Atleast, I appreciate him for the fact that he was honest about his expectations. It made me realize that I am actually much happier now without a husband. Though there are some fond memories, I still will never ever recommend long distance relationships to anyone. It’s definitely not worth the time, energy, money and emotions. Unless you are willing to risk all that for someone whom you may/not barely meet in the future. Good luck to the brave ones who dare!

    • Sujatha, I’m sorry that you’ve had to endure heartbreak in your life, but I admire and respect the tenacity with which you continue to show. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and the experiences you’ve went through in a long-distance relationship, and good luck to you in the future!

  14. matilda

    I just read all of these comments, so I figured now would be a good time to uplift those readers who are in long-distance relationships, and are trying to stay positive. In my lifetime, I keep hearing about old couples who met when they were younger and have been together ever since. But why is it, then, that all these long-distance attempts are failing? I have been dating my boyfriend for seven months, and he is three years older than me. He is taking a gap year to israel, and we’re doing long distance. Yes, it sucks and i miss him every single day, but in terms of ending it, I would never even consider. I love him, so why would it make sense to end things? Alot of times, I feel like people who were in love in high school (or said that they were) believe that they can make it long distance together. When it fails though, perhaps they weren’t as in love as they thought they were, or said they were. Maybe their true love was overshadowed by the benefits of being in a relationship (status, gifts, loving words, etc). So anyway, my point is is that I know that long distance can work, and I would never want anyone to feel as though they don’t have a fighting chance, bc other relationships have failed. Comparing your relationship to others is like comparing apples to oranges, and there isn’t any real point. thoughts?

  15. Belle

    Actually, I’m currently in a long distance relationship. We survived the first year of our long distance relationship. For me, it just depends on the couple, yeknow, if they are really loyal to each other and if they really love each other. But the most important thing in this type of relationship is communication and trust. Long distance couples should always have a communication, whether its text messages, phone calls, chats or whatsoever. But I’m glad that even though we’re long distance and we’re having some busy times because we’re also currently studying, he still have time to visit me despite of the distance and the time he spends in traveling just to see me.

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  17. Lindsey

    Honestly I’m debating on continuing my relationship to long distance. I’ll be studying abroad in Germany for 10 months starting in the summer and I’m not sure if we should break up or try to stay together. The idea of us breaking up breaks my heart and I get a little teary eyed because I really really like him. Even so I don’t want him to be held back by a relationship when I’m not going to be here for almost a year, it wouldn’t be fair to him. We’ve only been dating officially for three months but he has told me that he hopes we last for a really long time if not forever and I can’t help but agreeing. I can honestly see myself marrying him.

  18. Serg M

    I am about.. to get broken up by my girlfriend.. we met only 2 months ago.. yet being for a year togehter.. n next time shoudl have been.. in another 2 months from now… we had so much fun.. loved.. talking to each other.. but recently.. she was needed into physical contact.. she wanted to meet me..she wanted.. n so did I .. wanted her to wait.. told her please wait a bit.. she said alright.. n after a while.. it seems she wanted still more.. it hurts me to know that.. I wanna make her happy.. i want to make her happy.. now she thinks ifor not to break up with me.Seems 3 days left of our break.. n then il know the answer.. love hurts so much espcailly when ur about to losing someone u love.. because of the distance XP dont know what to do anymore..

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