Entering a long distance relationship is definitely daunting, and it’s not an easy decision to make. Long distance relationship statistics might give you a better idea of what to expect.
The good thing is that there are already several studies and findings to give you some insight on how long distance relationships (LDRs) work, and how they turn out.
Here’s a list of key statistics I found:
- There are up to 14 million long distance relationships in the US, including 3.9 million married couples
- 35% of college students are in an LDR at any given time
- The average distance is 125 miles
- The biggest challenge is lack of physical intimacy
- The average length of is 2.9 years
- Long-distance doesn’t affect the quality of your relationship
- Uncertainty about the future can greatly stress an LDR (duh)
- One-third of couples break up after reuniting
- People in LDRs form stronger bonds
- 58% of LDRs succeeded, and over half of partners in a long distance relationship feel closer to their partner
Let’s get into the findings.
1. There are up to 14 million long distance relationships in the US (and about 3.9 million married spouses live apart)
Are you worried about feeling different by being in a long distance relationship?
If you start one, you won’t be alone. According to Long Distance Relationship Statistics, up to 14 million people in the US also consider themselves to be in a long distance relationship. That’s a lot of lonely hearts.
Note: This site has been heavily referenced, but I don’t see any solid sources or data to back up this number. I’d take it with a grain of salt. The main takeaway is that you will not be the only one!
Many married couples are also in long distance relationships. The Economist claims that “about 3.9 million married Americans aged 18 and over live apart from their spouses, up from around 2.7 million in 2000”. Caroline Tiger in her book The Long-Distance Relationship Guide: Advice for the Geographically Challenged wrote that the U.S. Census Bureau classified 2.4 million marriages as “commuter marriages”, where one spouse moves to follow a job opportunity.
So, rest assured that there are at least millions of others like you going through the exact same challenges. (And that’s just in the US!)
2. 35% of college students are in an LDR at any given time
According to this 2005 study, up to 35% of college students are in a long distance relationship at any given time.
75% of college students also reported having had a long distance relationship.
If you’re walking through campus, chances are one in every three people you see are in a long distance relationship. So no need to feel like you’re the only one out there.
3. The average distance of long distance relationships is 125 miles
The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships claims that the average distance of long distance relationships is at 125 miles.
Similarly, in a 2014 study conducted by KIIROO, a sex toy company (NSFW) participants stated that living at least 132 miles away qualifies as a long distance relationship.
Keep in mind that these figures are just averages. In my view, there’s no “minimum” distance for a long distance relationship. If you can’t be with them, and you can’t see each other easily, that still counts. Your struggles are just as valid as everyone else’s!
4. The biggest challenge in LDRs is lack of physical intimacy
In the same study of 1000 people conducted by KIIROO (NSFW), they found that the biggest challenge for long distance couples was a lack of physical intimacy. No surprises there.
When my wife and I were living apart, this was definitely up there as one of the biggest challenges. Many, many times we’d say how much we’d miss the other person’s touch. (Our reunions were wonderful, though!)
The other challenges identified in the study included:
- Feeling worried that the other person would meet someone else
- Feelings of loneliness
- The expense of visiting each other regularly
- Growing apart from the other person
- Lack of communication
- Time differences
- Different preferences on means of communication.
5. The average length of an LDR is 2.9 years, and the average time apart is 14 months
According to a 2010 German study of long distance relationships, the average length of a long distance relationship is 2.9 years, with the standard deviation being 3.2 years.
By comparison, the average length of a “proximal” relationship was 7.3 years—more than double—with a standard deviation of 7.5 years.
However, it’s important to note that long distance relationships are different in nature to geographically close relationships. Also, things like age and marital status can have an effect on these averages, too.
Another February 2016 online survey of 2,252 respondents showed 12% in a long distance relationship of 1 to 2 years. 11% of respondents were in an LDR of 5 years or more. (38% were never in one to begin with.)
Finally, according to this site, the average time apart for long distance couples is 14 months. Remember that how far apart you are, how easy it is for you to travel and see each other, the length of the relationship, and other factors can affect this number. (I can tell you that our time apart was much longer than that!)
When I started my long distance journey, I was already in my mid-to-late 20s. My mindset was considerably different to when I was in my early 20s. That may have been a contributing factor to the length of my long distance relationship, clocking in at 6 and a half years.
6. Long distance doesn’t affect the quality of your relationship
A 2014 study found that there actually aren’t that many differences between long distance relationships and geographically close relationships.
The results of the study suggested that “individuals in long distance dating relationships are not at a disadvantage”. It goes on to say that the characteristics of each person and the relationship itself are predictors of relationship quality. Success in a long distance relationship really is up to the players involved!
7. Uncertainty about the future can greatly stress an LDR
A study of college student long-distance dating relationships revealed that people who weren’t sure if they could ever live in the same city as their partner were “significantly more distressed” and “less satisfied”.
The study also found that when couples discussed and evaluated the future, this uncertainty wasn’t as problematic.
Discussing the future together and making sure that there is an end in sight is incredibly important.
My wife and I considered some long term strategies initially, but there were so many hurdles that discouraged us, especially as an international couple. It got to the point where we would put it off, week after week, until the stress of just not knowing began to take its toll.
We resolved it by setting aside our fears and really discussing compromises to ensure a happy future together. Thankfully, we had a happy result, albeit after several years of waiting!
8. One-third of couples break up after reuniting
A 2006 study of couples that closed the distance found that a third of those couples end their relationship within 3 months of being back together. The study cited things like:
- Loss of autonomy and being able to do things they normally did before they got back together;
- Increased knowledge (both positive and negative);
- Difficulties in managing time, and;
- Increased conflict and jealousy.
I’ll admit it—when I reunited with my wife, I also found that I was doing fewer of the things that I used to do when we were apart. I used to play games at all hours, or work on novels for days on end.
I didn’t do those things anymore because I felt obligated to spend time with her, since we were apart for so many years. Now that we finally reunited, I had convinced myself: why wouldn’t I want to spend every waking moment with her?
The problem was that I had to relearn how to use my own personal time. I also needed to remember to communicate those feelings to her as well.
Once I did that, I found that I was still able to enjoy a wonderful relationship with her, and also enjoy my hobbies as well. (She actively encourages me to play more games…which really throws me for a loop sometimes!)
9. People in long distance relationships form stronger bonds
According to a 2013 paper published in the Journal of Communication, people in long distance relationships have “equal or even more trust and satisfaction” compared to geographically close relationships.
It found that long distance couples shared more about themselves in their texting and video chats. It also showed that these couples idealized their partners’ behaviors. These tendencies resulted in an increased intimacy between long distance partners.
For us, this definitely rang true. We had to find more creative ways to communicate and reach out to each other to overcome the distance. It also made our more serious talks much more intimate and meaningful. Distance really does make the heart grow fonder.
10. 58% of LDRs succeeded, and over half of partners in a long distance relationship feel closer to their partner
Back to the study conducted by KIIROO (NSFW): their interviews showed that the time spent apart made long distance couples feel closer to their partner in the long run. Not only that, but 58% of the interviewees reported success with their LDR.
Another 2007 study found that LDRs can exhibit more stability than relationships that were geographically closer. The theory is that if you’re already committed to each other while being apart, it’s likely your relationship is already quite strong.
This was especially true for us. While we were apart, we were never focused on how the situation affected us individually—it was always “us” against “the problem”.
Working together on closing the distance strengthened our relationship. We had to face problems as a couple and lay it all out to bare.
It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but all that hard work really paid dividends for our relationship.
If you and your partner are willing to put in the same amount of work, I think you both have a huge chance of feeling even closer to each other before you started.
Statistics are helpful, but…
Numbers and averages can certainly help with whatever decisions you make. Just keep in mind that your relationship is unique, and every situation is different.
You may see and receive a lot of advice telling you that if you’re entering a long distance relationship, it’s as good as done and you may as well end it all now.
The thing is, those people aren’t in your shoes, and they’re living a life different to yours.
Communicating regularly and often, finding ways to keep your romance alive, and planning for your final day can all help you succeed in closing the distance for good.