Distance makes the heart grow fonder, or so people say, but long distance relationships change the structure of even the sturdiest romances. As higher educational systems and the job market cause people to move, relationships can struggle under the weight of distance. More and more couples are faced with living apart from one another due to job commitments, education or military deployment. The topic of long distance relationships (LDR) continues to be pertinent that even the 2010 film “Going the Distance,” starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, address the issue.
“LDRs can be equally successful. Face-to-face relationships have issues too. It is important to be honest and clear with what you want. Each member should be as forthright as possible and don’t play games,” said Martina Cortez, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor for Urban Balance, LLC.
According to the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, an estimated 2.9 percent of U.S. marriages are considered long distance, with one in 10 marriages reported to have included a long distance period.
One couple making an LDR work is Liz Skarr and boyfriend Nick Dobbes, who spent three years of college together, until Dobbes graduated in 2009, a year before Skarr, and moved to North Carolina to pursue his medical degree. The couple has spent the last year and a half long distance. “Technology has really impacted our [Nick and my] relationship. Although at times it may look like I am cuddling with my phone, it's really important to stay connected for a long distance relationship,” said Skarr.
The advancements with technology have meant that couples have the ability to communicate with one another and maintain a better, healthier relationship despite the physical separation. “The sweet thing about texting, just like for many other couples, is that it’s a little reminder that they are thinking about you. When Nick and I are at work or in class, it's really special receiving a little "I love you" text,” explains Skarr.
Technology has helped to bridge the gap that distances create, by developing new ways to communicate without being limited by the restriction of physical contact. Texting, e-mailing, phones calls, web- cams and Skype have provided different avenues to use while trying to maintain contact.
“Skype is important to have that visual of a person and helps with the long weeks and months of not seeing them all of the time,” said Dobbes. However, technology doesn’t replace face-to-face contact. With Skarr in Chicago and Dobbes in North Carolina, the 748 mile separation forces the couple to plan trips in advance and find ways to save money. The couple searches for deals on flights and utilizes their frequent flyer miles.
Many believe that entering into an LDR is cause for concern. “[LDRs] have to find ways to navigate through issues; be creative with quality time and keep face-to-face time sacred and schedule phone calls or have “dates” through Skyping each other. Technology has helped in some ways — texting, chatting — but on the other hand it cannot replace [verbal] communication. It is easier to misunderstand [via text or chat] what the other is trying to get across, make sure the communication is as clear as possible,” explains Cortez.
The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships provides a comparison of proximal relationships and long distance relationships that reveals that couples in LDRs are not necessarily at a disadvantage or at risk of committing to a relationship that can not last.
People tend to base their relationship experiences on their parents’ relationship status and use that relationship as a model or starting point for what they should look for in a relationship. However, the “baby boom” generation was the first to experience skyrocketing divorce rates, with 50 percent of couples splitting.
“[People involved in LDRs need to] be honest with themselves and what they are comfortable with, if they are okay with an LDR — be prepared for the stresses involved and if they’re not ready, that’s okay but be clear with what your comfort level is,” said Cortez.