If you’re in a long-distance relationship, you might be curious to learn what’s “normal” for dating at a distance. While long-distance relationship statistics and facts rarely tell the whole story, they do a great job of highlighting trends.
Lucky for us, long-distance relationships are an intriguing research subject for scholars. Researchers have studied them through a variety of lenses, including communication, counseling, and interpersonal relationships. Private companies have also conducted surveys.
What The Research Says (Updated 2020)
After combing the internet for long-distance relationship statistics and facts, I’ve compiled the most credible and applicable research below.
It’s important to note that since many college students are in long-distance relationships, most scholarly work has focused on college students between 18-24 years old. Additionally, a lot of long-distance research is from the previous century (think the 1980s and 1990s). While we can learn from these findings, even research from the early 2000s may not be relevant today. It’s unclear how deeply the technological advancements of the past 20 years have affected long-distance couples.
In this article, I’ll explore these five questions using cited statistics:
- What percent of long-distance relationships work?
- What percent of relationships begin long-distance?
- What percent of college students are in a long-distance relationship?
- How has technology impacted long-distance relationships?
- How can I make a long-distance relationship work?
As a bonus, at the end I’ll address the question, “Are there any benefits to long-distance?”
5 Well-Researched Long-Distance Relationship Statistics
A 2018 survey found that 60% of long-distance relationships last. Academic researchers report that 37% of long-distance couples break up within 3 months of becoming geographically close. Couples are just as likely to break up during the distance phase as they are after distance ends.
However, the health of a relationship depends on more than whether it lasts. In the book, Maintaining Long-Distance and Cross-Residential Relationships, Laura Stafford asserts that long-distance dating relationships are often more stable than geographically-close relationships.
“Most studies have found equal or even higher levels of satisfaction, commitment, and trust in (long-distance dating relationships) compared to geographically close ones,” she writes.
Still, her book also highlights that long-distance couples are more likely to form idealized images of each other. When you can’t observe your partner’s responses to everyday situations, you’re less likely to see their flaws surface.
A 2018 survey of long-distance couples found that 27% had never lived near each other. About 50% of couples in the survey had met each other online.
Academic research suggests as many as 75% of college students have been in a long-distance relationship. This high statistic may be due to the fact that more students are attending out-of-state universities and colleges than ever before. According to the Department of Education, twice as many freshmen leave their home states for college compared to 30 years ago.
Pew Research reports, “One-quarter of internet users with recent dating experience (24%) have used the internet or email to maintain a long-distance romantic relationship.”
Long-distance couples also use social media more than other couples. While social media can provide feelings of connection, it can also breed jealousy and be used to monitor faithfulness and commitment.
Video calling has drastically changed the landscape of long-distance communication. Despite the limits of technology, a 2013 study found that disruptions in audio or video quality aren’t always a bad thing. Couples often use interruptions as an opportunity to clarify meaning, give a compliment, or insert a joke.
Atlantic writer Joe Pinsker asked researchers for their best tips to sustain a long-distance relationship. They said:
“1. Communicate over a variety of platforms to make up for the constraints of each (and write letters, which can serve as nice physical reminders of the relationship).
2. Come up with a plan for how and when to have hard conversations.
3. Share small, mundane details and, when possible, everyday experiences, such as streaming a movie together.
4. Make time for both routine check-ins and spontaneous conversations.
5. Remember that living together might be an adjustment.”
Are there any benefits to long-distance?
These statistics prove that, contrary to popular belief, long-distance relationships are not completely hopeless. Surprisingly, the outlook for long-distance relationships is brighter than it seems.
The biggest benefits of long-distance are not in the present, but the future of your relationship. My husband and I spent most of our dating years in different states, and it was agonizing. Yet when I look back on our time apart, I can see how God used the experience to shape us into who we are today.
If you’re just starting a long-distance relationship, this letter will encourage you that you’re not alone, and that you can survive this season.