When a Google search to see what I

When I started my first my long-distance
relationship I was nervous, I had heard about how long-distance relationships
are unlikely to work in the long term. The only thing I knew to do, living in
the era of the internet, was to perform a Google search to see what I could
find to calm my nerves. If we search for those people looking for help by
typing in “long distance support group” then 5.6 million results are found. Evidently
people lack security with their long-distance relationships (hereon referred to
as LDRs), and seek comfort from others on the internet.
I was shocked to find that statistics suggest that the differences in success
rates between LDRs and close proximity relationships (hereon referred to as
CPRs) are not enough to be significant. Indeed, “Individuals in LDRs
demonstrate levels of relationship satisfaction, intimacy, trust, and
commitment almost identical to the levels demonstrated by individuals involved
in geographically close relationships, regardless of the amount of time spent
together,” (Mietzner). So why is it that LDRs get such a bad reputation?
According to CJ Arabia of examiner.com this is due to the fact that, “Being in
a long-distance relationship isn’t for everyone. That’s the reason long-distance
relationships have such a bad reputation. They’re hard, painful, difficult, challenging
and lonely.” I was unable to find any sources which did not agree with the
statement that going long distance provides challenges which are not present in
an CPR, but if that is true, one must question why it should not lead to
increased difficulties, and therefore more breakups than a CPR.
Well, the first question to address in regards to LDR versus CPR breakups is
why couples break up: the study “Breakup Distress and Loss of Intimacy in
University Students” published in 2010 attempts to answer this question. The
study placed reasons for breaking up into one of four categories: intimacy,
which includes trust, communication, love and emotional bonds; affiliation, the
amount of time a couple spends together, and their personal involvement in their
significant other’s daily life, as well as factors such as boredom and
dissimilarities; sexual satisfaction and attraction; and autonomy, the degree
to which both parties would like to function as individuals rather than a
couple (Field).It is clear that the category of affiliation is going to be
difficult for a long distance couple since a large part of it is time spent
together. Travel is expensive, time consuming and stressful or deployments can hurt
the time, so it is difficult to be together. In addition, both partners are
living their own lives, they have different schedules, and often they live in
different time zones. Often couples must find creative ways to manage their distances.
My wife and I used to simulate dates by using the screen sharing function of
Skype to watch movies together, we try to ‘go on a date’ once per month, when I
can. Many couples, including my wife and I, write letters to give a
physical sense to a relationship or talk about issues that we are uncomfortable
to talk face to face. The waiting for a weekly letter becomes an expected
ritual, and a late letter proves disappointing to the receiver. In addition,
it provides an outlet to just talk about problems without interruptions, and
the small physical mementos of everyday life—a program from a concert attended,
or a picture—are invaluable.
Another common problem is that certain personalities are better able to cope
with distance than others. The study “In Times of Uncertainty: Predicting the
Survival of Long-Distance Relationships,” examines the psychological idea of
negative affectivity as a basis for evaluating long distance
relationships. Negative affectivity is determined based on three personality
traits: “(a) Dispositional pessimism about the future, (b) low self-esteem, and
(c) the tendency to experience negative emotions such as anxiety and
depression.” The study confirmed that after a year, more people dealing with
high negative affectivity will break up than people with low negative
affectivity. It is even more evident in LDRs where the male partner has high
negative affectivity, because men are more dependent on face-to-face
conversation to solidify a relationship, tend to trust their women to support
them socially, and may be more likely to experience distrust due to distance
(Cameron).  One might argue, though, that this means that after a year
only the most committed of relationships remain.
According to the 2010 study “Commitment Predictors: Long- Distance versus
Geographically Close Relationships” LDRs do tend to have high levels of
commitment. The study defines commitment using the criteria of satisfaction,
investments and perceived alternatives. LDRs tend to have large investments, such
as methods of communication and costs of transportation to visit one’s partner,
that are insignificant in CPRs. These investments would be a complete waste if
the relationship were to end so it increases the involvement of those
participating in the relationship. As far as perceived alternatives, the study
suggests that because LDRs do tend to divide their time cleanly between
schoolwork, work, and relationship time, as well as other activities and often
lack the time to think about dating others. In addition, those in LDRs tend to
value and idealize their partners more, because they are not subject to seeing
their significant other in mundane situations, so alternatives seem less
attractive. As for the third category, satisfaction, it is not agreed whether
members of LDRs are more, less or equally satisfied as compared to their CPR
counterparts. This may be attributed to physicality being factored into
satisfaction. Whatever the case may be any resulting difference is negligible.
The study suggests that one of the large parts of satisfaction in an LDR is
optimism about the future (Pistole).
Another study, “Would You Do It Again?” investigated the individual’s happiness
with the relationship and their willingness to be involved in another LDR regarding
the skills the individual notes that he or she developed during the
relationship. The study found “Three major skills were reported from most
participants. They were trust, patience, and better communication skills,” in
addition, those who would consider doing a LDR again and those who certainly
would reported that they gained time management skills and independence. The
‘maybe’ group also reported that they gained skills in non-physical intimacy,
but oddly the ‘yes’ group did not report the same skill. In addition, those in
the ‘no’ group reported problems like negative affectivity (Mietzner).
One can draw from this that those skills are what allow LDRs to be sustained.
To relate it back to “Breakup Distress and Loss of Intimacy in University Students,”
it seems that the three major skills gained in LDRs: trust, communication, and
patience all fall under the category of intimacy as defined by that study. The
results of the study showed that the most common reason for couples in the
given sample to break up was a lack of intimacy, followed closely by
affiliation. Sexual problems also accounted for a large portion of the
breakups, and autonomy was the least common reason by a large margin (Field).
While people notice that LDRs are going to have negative effects on
affiliation, they, it seems, are less likely to notice the increased intimacy
of LDRs. Therefore, it seems that the two largest reasons for couples to break
up would be vaguely balanced out by the advantages and disadvantages of LDRs.
The last variable to consider is what the bad reputation does to LDRs. People
hear that they end badly, they think about how far away one will be from a
boyfriend or girlfriend, and it’s an uncomfortable long-term arrangement. 
On a support thread one user notes, “I find it difficult to be faithful, not
because I crave sex, or I become interested in other women, but simply because
I need affection,” which attests to the reality in some fears of long distance
(I am in a Long-Distance Relationship). Often people do need physical support
and need the presence of their partner, and people fear that distance will not
allow them the same sort of connections that they can get from a person who is
nearby. All these reasons combine to form a general hesitancy to become
involved in an LDR. Yet it is also conversely true that LDRs may start out in a
better place than the average CPR because “the very fact that someone wants to
pursue the relationship knowing that it is going to be harder makes it a
stronger relationship already,” (Long Distance Relationships have a Bad Rep).
Visiting long distance support forums, people use their relationships as a
jumping off point to form bonds with others who have similar problems. The
forum at lovingfromadistance.com provides a special area for people to brag
about their relationship, the same way a CPR couple would. One user says, “…she’s
the one that can make me smile throughout the bad days…She says the cutest
things and writes me emails whenever she can… My wife makes everything better.”
Oftentimes they recognize that they never themselves expected to be involved in
an LDR, “When she told me ‘I love you’ I actually didn’t believe her because I
thought she was joking. But after thinking about it, I realized that I love him
too,” another user notes. Most are optimistic, they really care about one
another, but most recognize that LDRs are not easy; yet another user notes says
that he and his partner “…are both realistic and know this isn’t going to be
easy, and that we have years before we can close the distance. But we fit so
well together, we love each other so much, that we can’t give up on this,”
(Loving from a Distance).
In the end, it seems, most LDRs are essentially the same as other
relationships. They have their advantages and their disadvantages, and there
are both issues and skills that develop because of an LDR that are not
prominent in CPRs. Both types of relationship can be long-term fulfilling
relationships; it depends on what the individual needs in a relationship. The
bad reputation of LDRs is due to exaggeration of the negatives, without enough
stress placed on the positives of LDRs. This reputation is certainly not
deserved. For me the real effect of this research has been to value what I have
more, my wife and I don’t have a lot of the issues that many other LDRs are
forced to face. We live close enough that we can see each other several times a
month. We don’t have to deal with time-zone differences. And the fact of the
matter is that even if stepping into an LDR is scary, I’m not sure that
deciding to begin an LDR with someone is any scarier than beginning a CPR with
someone, because in the end you are still offering yourself up to get hurt,
there is no difference there. The difference, it seems, is merely one of
reputation and only by recognition of the exaggerations can people begin to
destroy the myth that long distance relationships are doomed from the start.