Delyn Bull, an E&H senior, has been in a long-distance relationship for the past three years. She plans to marry her fiance Mark in the coming months. By all accounts, Delyn’s long-distance relationship is a successful one. But what makes long-distance work for some people, and not others?
“I think a lot of it has to do with a person’s ability to communicate,” said Delyn, “and a person’s ability to trust. Without those two things, it’s really a shot in the dark.” She also listed an individual’s personality and expectations as influencing factors in whether or not a long-distance relationship can work. “It’s not for everyone,”
“It’s not for everyone,” Delyn added. “It’s not easy. Love isn’t easy. Falling in love is easy, but loving someone is not easy.”
For E&H alumna Megan Henderson, the struggle of being in a long-distance relationship has been exacerbated by the fact that her boyfriend lives in the United Kingdom. However, she has enough experience to know how to handle the distance.
“We always remind each other that it’s not forever, it’s just for right now,” said Megan. “We find ways to make time for each other.”
In a study published by the Atlantic in a 2013 article, researchers at Queen’s University in Ontario determined that “those in [LDRs] are no less satisfied than those in [geographically close relationships].” LDR is a shorthand term for long-distance relationships.
As reported by Julie Beck of the Atlantic, the Ontario-based study also found that “greater distance apart actually predicted more intimacy, communication, and satisfaction in [LDR] relationship[s].” This study used a diverse sample of people of varying sexualities, as well as non-students.
In Delyn’s case, she has never been in a serious relationship that wasn’t long-distance. However, she understands the drawbacks that are often associated with long-distance romantic relationships.
“People often say, ‘oh my gosh I could never do that.’ That’s annoying, but it’s also almost encouraging to me,” explained Delyn. “Like, you can do this thing that other people really struggle with.”
However, according to a 2014 article by CNN, there is another study that shows how people in LDRs can actually benefit from the distance that so many find daunting. The article references a 2013 study published in the Journal of Communication.
“Long-distance couples try harder than geographically close couples in communicating affection and intimacy, and their efforts do pay back,” said Crystal Jiang, coauthor of the study referenced in the CNN article.
That effort between couples in LDRs can go a long way. And in Megan Henderson’s case, that effort and dedication can even cross an ocean. Her and James have been in a relationship for six years, and social media apps have played a large part in keeping their love alive despite the distance.
“We Snapchat daily, so that we get to see each other at least once a day,” explained Megan. She also listed Skype, the video chat and messaging app, as another source for long-distance communication. The couple also frequently watch the same TV show episodes together via streaming online or through Netflix.
“It makes us feel like we’re sitting together, and it gives us something to talk about and look forward to,” said Megan, in reference to watching TV episodes with James in real time.
While smartphones and social media have made communication in long-distance relationships much easier, Delyn admits that the availability of that technology only frustrated her, due to the unique nature of her relationship with Mark. Her fiance attended the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado throughout several years of their relationship; and during those years, he was often unable to contact her through common social media apps.
“The Academy blocks Skype, [and] Mark doesn’t have Apple so we couldn’t FaceTime,” explained Delyn. The couple was forced to find alternate apps for communicating. Mark is currently undergoing police academy training with the Charleston Police Department in South Carolina, where he is not able to use his cell phone during the week.
“So have the technology and not being able to use it is possibly more frustrating than him being in Colorado,” said Delyn. “It’s very difficult, especially planning a wedding.”
Mark now lives only two hours away from Emory & Henry’s campus, instead of fourteen hours. While this has lessened the strain on his and Delyn’s relationship, it adds the complication of adjusting to living their relationship in-person.
“It’s actually going to be really strange living with the person that I’ve been dating for three years, after we get married,” said Delyn. She commented that it’s rare for her and Mark to sit down and have a full conversation together while they are visiting in-person, since they’re both too preoccupied with physically seeing each other to talk about real-life issues. In contrast, their conversations on the phone are short and to the point–they resemble to-do lists more than love letters.
For many people in LDRs, technology can only do so much for mimicking the in-person interactions that define a modern relationship. This can be especially true for those in extremely long-distance relationships, like Megan Henderson.
“I don’t think there’s a good way to deal with distance. As long as you trust, love, and make time for one another each couple can find their own way to struggle through the distance,” said Megan.
– Orion Rummler