Participate in a Research Study about Long-Distance Relationships

Fellow reader Laura is looking for couples to participate in a study for her doctoral dissertation:

After 18 years of being in a long-distance relationship, I decided to do my doctoral dissertation on LDRs!

I’m seeking long-distance couples who would be interested in participating in this study. I hope to learn about the relationships that long-distance couples have with their immediate and extended families  and close family friends. I also hope to learn more about relationship patterns that happen over the generations in the families of LDR couples.

Eligible participants for this study are those couples who:
1) have been in a long-distance relationship for at least a year
2) were in the same geographic location together as a couple for at least a year prior to beginning the long-distance relationship
3) are separated due to work, school, or family commitments (non-military couples)

Participants will be interviewed two different times, once with both partners together and once individually. Interviews will take approximately 1-1.5 hours each, and will be done via web-based communication software, so partners don’t need to be in the same location for the joint interview.

This study is open to all couples in committed relationships meeting the above criteria, including unmarried couples, couples of diverse ethnicity, and LBGTQ couples.

If you are interested in participating, or have questions or comments, please contact me via email at

Your help would be very appreciated. The hope is that once the dissertation is done, I can move closer to home and get back to seeing my spouse on weekends!

Laura Tejada, PCC, LMFT, NCC, Registered Play Therapist Sup, OH Licensed School Counselor

[This study is titled: Kith, Kin, and Kilometers: A Phenomenological Study of Long-Distance Relationships from the Perspective of Transgenerational Theory and has been approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Akron (#20110804).]

This is a great opportunity to share your story and experiences. :D If you think you might qualify to participate, contact Laura directly at the email address she provided.

The Keys to a Successful Long-Distance Relationship

People often ask me how to make a long-distance relationship work. The three most important factors are optimism, communication, and trust.

“Optimism” might seem like a strange one to have on the list, but it really is right up there with communication and trust. And that’s not to say that cynical, sarcastic people can’t have a successful LDR—but you at least need to have a positive attitude about the relationship itself, and have faith that the two of you will stay connected even though you’re far apart.

And by “communication,” I don’t mean that you have to be an expert speaker. Introverts can be just as happy in their relationships as extroverts. I simply mean that you and your partner have to find a way of reaching out to each other in a way—whether it’s chatting on the phone twice a day or sending a letter twice a month—that allows you to support each other, share with each other, and strengthen your bond.

“Trust” might sound pretty straightforward. But I don’t just mean trusting your partner’s ability to remain faithful to you while you’re separated. I also mean trusting your partner to remain invested in the relationship even when you have to go a long time without seeing each other. Trusting each other to bring up concerns before they become problems. Trusting each other, basically, to try.

However often you visit, however often you call, however you choose to arrange the terms of your relationship…if you have optimism, communication, and trust, all the rest will fall into place.

To Move or Not to Move?

Jamie writes:

I am currently in a now long-distance relationship. My boyfriend just left the marines and is now in another state. We know that we want to spend the rest of our lives together, but there is one issue. We can’t decide who will move. I have an 8 year old daughter, and have been established at a hospital for over 6 years. Not saying that I couldn’t find a job at another hospital. We did both agree that once we were married I would move to where he is. Now that he is out he is enjoying his family time that he missed for so long. He hates where I live and almost says he cannot do it. He is planning on starting school, and establishing himself.

What do I do?

Hi Jamie,

My girlfriend and I actually went through something similar when we started talking about moving in together. We always thought I’d move to where she lived—but when we sat down and really talked through all the pros and cons, it became clear that it made more sense for her to move here. I know it can be a difficult and almost overwhelming process, but maybe getting all your thoughts laid out in front of you will help.

I think the first step in your decision is to sit down and make a list for yourself. Write down all the reasons you’re hesitant about moving to where your boyfriend wants to live. Is it mainly that it’s a change and you’d be out of your comfort zone? Or do you have other concerns?

Reasons to move:

  • You’re sure that you and your boyfriend want to spend your lives together. His happiness is clearly a factor here–if he “hates it” where you live, that mindset could be tough to overcome.
  • Your daughter is young. At 8 years old, she’s at an age where she should be able to adapt and make friends in a new school.
  • You have good prospects of finding a job in your field in his city.
  • It will push you to grow and try something new.

Reasons not to move:

  • Can you see yourself and your daughter being happy there? You don’t say much about what you think of his city. If you have doubts about the schools or neighborhoods, your daughter’s well-being trumps his reservations.
  • Other ties you might have to your current city—consider any obligations to extended family in the area, and how your friendships will handle the distance (in a way, you’re trading a long-distance relationship with your boyfriend for a long-distance relationship with your family and friends).
  • Leaving a job you’ve been in for six years.

Unless you have serious concerns about your own or your daughter’s well-being in your boyfriend’s city of choice, I say you go for it. But give yourself an “out”: talk with your boyfriend and see if you can come to a “one year” agreement. That is, you agree to move to his city with your daughter. But if you’re miserable after sticking it out for a year, then the two of you will either move back to your home city, or move somewhere else completely new.

I know it’s scary to take such a big leap, and move away from family, friends, and a good job. But keep in mind that one of you will have to move away from the city you love if you want to be together, so the goal is to find the most appropriate and fair solution. If you can, arrange to visit him over a long weekend so you and your boyfriend can spend some time discussing the pros and cons in person—and maybe he can also give you a little more perspective on why he changed his mind. While you’re there, get a feel for his city. See if you feel comfortable there and if you can picture you and your daughter making it your home.

Long-Distance for Too Long?

Mo writes:

My story is a bit complicated. I met my boyfriend online on a social media site, never expecting or looking for a relationship. But it happened and within a few months of chatting every single night for hours, weekend telephone calls, a gazillion messages and emails, he bought me a ticket and I went over to see him. I ended up spending almost a month there and came back totally crazily in love.

6 months later he came over to my side of the world (he lives in Europe, I live in Africa) met my family and won everyone over. I’d never been happier! fast fwd another year, and another visit from me to him and him to me…and him proposing to me last year June! I was over the moon but there was a taste of reality as after 2 years we still hadn’t managed to be in the same country.

And now after being together and trying so hard for over 3 years, I’ve decided to end it. I feel like we’ve lost the determination that we initially had and that his avoidance to deal with these issues has made me feel disconnected.

Sure he made expensive calls and called me everyday but is that enough? I’m scared that if I end it now it will be final and i’ll have made the biggest mistake of my life. On the other hand I’m wondering if I’m living in a dream world. He’s in Italy, I’m in South Africa, different races, different religions… ARRRGGHHH! It all gets overwhelming.

Hi Mo,

First of all, I’m sorry you’re dealing with all these complicated issues! I’m sure it seems like everything would be easier to sort out if the two of you could just sit down in the same room and have a conversation.

I guess my first thought is actually a question—do you feel like your relationship is ending solely because of the logistics of being long-distance, or are there other factors at play? One thing that jumps out from your comment is “his avoidance to deal with these issues.” It’s worth considering whether there are inherent differences in your communication styles or even your personalities. Sometimes these things are slower to come to light in a long-distance relationship, but cause problems when people eventually move in together. If that seems like it might apply to you, then in a way it’s good that you learned this about your relationship before taking such a big leap and moving to Europe, or having him move there.

On the other hand, if you feel like your issues center around the logistics of your relationship, and that everything is fine when you’re able to physically be together, there are a few other things for you to consider.

As you pointed out, I think it does actually bode well that your boyfriend was so committed to calling and visiting over three years. And even though your visits were rare, it’s a good sign that a month-long visit was such a positive experience. It sounds like you were both equally invested in the relationship for a long time, which says a lot about the connection you two have.

Being apart for so long is wearing, though, especially if you don’t have an end date in sight and there are lots of factors complicating whether you can actually be together. Consider what might be causing his avoidance, too. For example, maybe the two of you have always talked as if he’ll be the one to move, and now he’s not so sure he can do that. Look for parts of your plan he might be uncomfortable with, and see whether there are any alternatives.

If you want to try to make it work, tell your boyfriend that the two of you need to start planning an end date and working toward being together. Aim for real progress—slow but steady. Write down a list of the steps you’d need to take to be together: living arrangements, visas, jobs. And every week, each of you can be responsible for gathering information about one of the items on the list (it’s important that you *both* be working on this).

If you can (and I know this might not be feasible, depending on your obligations and/or the cost of plane tickets), maybe plan a short visit so you can talk through this in person, and see if you both feel that same spark; that same drive to find a way to be together. If so, you can talk about the next steps.

But if this relationship has run its course, that’s OK too. I know it feels like you’ve invested a lot of energy and time, but don’t look at it as wasted time—after all, you’ve had some great experiences, and I’m sure the relationship has taught you a lot about yourself. You can’t change what brought you here; you can only decide the best path for you going forward. At this point, though, I think you have nothing to lose by laying all your concerns out on the table—and asking him to do the same—and seeing where that takes you. If you can get to the root of his problem, maybe you can work it out and find that determination that was lost.

The “Pros” of a Long-Distance Relationship

You don’t always have a choice about whether you’ll end up in a long-distance relationship—that decision might be dictated by a job transfer, the military, or other circumstances. But sometimes, you do have a choice: You’re thinking about accepting an opportunity that’s in another state or country, or you’re just beginning to fall for someone who happens to live far away.

For those who do have a choice, that choice can be overwhelming. One way to break it down is to make a good old-fashioned “pros and cons” list. Today, I’ll look at the upside to being in a long-distance relationship.

The pros:

You’ll have independence. In many ways, people in long-distance relationships get the combined benefits of being single and of being a couple. You’ll have lots of time and freedom to devote to work or school, to maintaining friendships, and to exploring your own interests and hobbies–but you also have the support and companionship of a partner you can visit or talk to on the phone.

You can pursue an opportunity. Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and cope with the distance for a while if it means a brighter future for both of you. An example might be pursuing a specific degree at an out-of-state institution or accepting a temporary work reassignment that will lead to a promotion. In these cases, it’s good to have an end date in mind; this will help you both remember that it’s a temporary situation that will lead to a long-term improvement.

It will show how well you and your partner communicate. In an in-person relationship, there are so many ways to spend time together without actually talking—going to a movie, seeing a concert or a play, watching TV. When you’re long-distance, you’re forced to have conversations over the phone or webcam if you want to interact, and this can help you learn a lot about your compatibility, your shared values, and even how much fun you have together when there’s not a third-party source of entertainment.

It’ll test your relationship—in a good way. People in long-distance relationships can learn a lot about their partners in a short time: how the two of you deal with stress; how well you trust each other and whether that trust is vaild. It can teach you a lot about the strength and endurance of your relationship.

It forces you to take things slow. Not everyone needs this, but some of us have the tendency to commit to a relationship before we know what we’re really getting into. Being long-distance naturally puts off those big steps like moving in together, so you have more time to see if the other person is truly a good fit for you.

It helps you appreciate each other. It’s hard to take someone for granted when you only get to see each other once every few months—and this sense of appreciation, I’ve found, carries over to when you’re finally together again. And, it’ll make the “honeymoon period” last longer.

Even though long-distance relationships are hard, some of these “pros” are really important. If you can find ways to make it work, you’ll come out the other side with a deeper understanding of each other, and a greater appreciation for your relationship.