Can Long-Distance Relationships Really Work? (Answer!)

Long-Distance RelationshipsHave you ever been in a long-distance May-December rela­tion­ship? If not, would you con­sider it?

Most peo­ple either believe that long-distance rela­tion­ships can work, or that they’re doomed for fail­ure. What­ever side of the fence you’re on, you may be inter­ested to know that research shows dis­tance really does make the heart grow fonder.

A 2013 study in the Jour­nal of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion found that a long-distance May-December rela­tion­ship can be just as sat­is­fy­ing, if not more reward­ing than a rela­tion­ship where dis­tance is not a fac­tor. Researchers found that long-distance cou­ples were bet­ter able to share mean­ing­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion, like feel­ings and pri­vate thoughts, and were there­fore more likely to expe­ri­ence a much deeper level of close­ness and emo­tional inti­macy with each other.

How­ever, that doesn’t mean that a long-distance May-December rela­tion­ship doesn’t still take work. In fact, many would argue that it takes more work, because you don’t have phys­i­cal inti­macy to fall back on. But in the end, that’s what seems to make these cou­ples stronger.

If you’re in a long-distance May-December rela­tion­ship, here are a few ways to ensure that you and your part­ner will come out stronger:

• Always com­mu­ni­cate. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is crit­i­cal in any May-December rela­tion­ship, but when it’s long-distance, it’s even more impor­tant. That’s why it’s imper­a­tive that you make it very clear what your needs and expec­ta­tions are from the begin­ning. This can include any­thing from how often you expect to talk or see each other, to what you are and aren’t com­fort­able doing when you’re apart. And if you don’t feel like your needs and expec­ta­tions are being met, then you need to voice your con­cerns. As one researcher put it, issues arise when there’s a “dis­crep­ancy between your expec­ta­tions for rela­tion­ships and the real­ity of your cur­rent situation.”

• Set a date. It’s a lot eas­ier to cope with dis­tance when you have some­thing to look for­ward to and when there’s an end in near sight. So whether it’s you going there or your part­ner com­ing to you, try to set a date in advance for when you’ll be able to see each other in per­son again.

• Get cre­ative. Sur­prise your part­ner with a care pack­age in the mail, or send him a ran­dom card just because. It’s these types of lit­tle ges­tures that show that you’re still emo­tion­ally invested in the May-December rela­tion­ship, even though you’re not phys­i­cally together all the time.

• Make use of tech­nol­ogy. The dig­i­tal age can cer­tainly work in your favor if you’re in a long-distance May-December rela­tion­ship. Using video chat­ting, tex­ting, and other forms of dig­i­tal media can have a huge impact on your rela­tion­ship. When you’re dat­ing an older man, he may not be as tech-savvy as you are, but don’t be afraid to intro­duce dig­i­tal and tech­no­log­i­cal medi­ums; after all, it’s to ben­e­fit your rela­tion­ship so he’ll hope­fully be open to giv­ing it a try if it’ll keep the rela­tion­ship going strong.

• Be under­stand­ing and don’t keep secrets. When you and your older man live close together, you’re prob­a­bly going to play a big­ger role in each other’s lives. But when you’re far apart, it’s more than likely that you’ll each lead more inde­pen­dent lives. For instance, he might go out with friends that you don’t know very well or at all, and you might take up new hob­bies that he knows noth­ing about. That’s per­fectly nor­mal, so don’t freak out if he’s not avail­able 24/7. And what­ever you do, don’t keep secrets about what you’re doing or with whom. If you feel the need to lie about what you’re doing, you prob­a­bly shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

• Estab­lish your goal as a cou­ple. Are you in this May-December rela­tion­ship for the long haul? Is he? Are you plan­ning for it to end in mar­riage? These are things you might want to plan ahead of time, because it helps to know where the rela­tion­ship is going and it’s impor­tant to make sure that you’re both on the same page about it. If you’re plan­ning to get mar­ried, but you each live in dif­fer­ent states, it’s not going to work unless one of you is will­ing to relo­cate. Again, it all goes back to being open and hon­est about your expectations.


Jiang, L.C., et al., “Absence Makes the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Grow Fonder: Geo­graphic Sep­a­ra­tion, Inter­per­sonal Media, and Inti­macy in Dat­ing Rela­tion­ships,” Jour­nal of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion 2013; 63: 556–557.

Orwig, J., “Sci­ence explains how to make a long-distance rela­tion­ship actu­ally work,” Busi­ness Insider web site, Feb­ru­ary 18, 2015;

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About Isabella

I was never patriotic, so when Independence Day came, the last thing on my mind was to go out and celebrate. I was bored and I was lonely, and though they weren’t my normal crowd, thesse girls were friends and family members who I grew up with. But Diana had her man, Marsha had hers, and my cousin Lisa had her own. I was the only one who was single and my taste was just too high; the kind of men they dated did not appeal to me. I wanted the executive, the entrepreneur. I was 22 and unhappy about my life. I yearned to be in a relationship; I felt I had so much to give a man, and yet I was single. My friends and I waited for cab and I was still second-guessing whether or not I really wanted to go out. While we were waiting, an older looking gentleman driving a blue pick-up truck drove up to us. As he slowed, he said, “Don’t move. I’m coming right back!” He drove off, leaving a trail of his cologne, as he sped away to drop off the construction workers sitting in the back of the truck. Literally moments later, he came back, stopped in front of us, asked us where we were going, and told us to get in. It turns out his name was Keith. After Keith dropped us off, I realized I didn’t want to stay and asked him to take me back to where he picked us up from. He turned, looked at me, and said, “You were the reason why I picked you all up. I wanted to get to know you. So, I’m happy you decided to leave with me.”