How To Make Long-Distance Love Work

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Couple saying goodbye on train
Make your bond strong enough to weather the distance.

My heart went out to Russell Crowe, when the bad-boy superstar was arrested and charged with second-degree assault and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon after attacking an employee at the Mercer Hotel in New York. As Crowe later explained to David Letterman, he had repeatedly tried and failed to call his wife in Australia. I'm not condoning the use of a phone as a weapon, of course, but long-distance relationships can be tough enough to make even the calmest person edgy, much less a hard-rocking gladiator with a temper.

When I heard about Crowe's rage, I'd just spent three months apart from my husband, Andy, in Tours, France, attending a language institute and living with an unconventional host couple in their fifties. (By "unconventional," I mean that they had matching red leather pants. He gardened in his Speedo. Their home had leopard- and zebra-print decor and dozens of stuffed—by a taxidermist—animals. I've seen her breasts. Have I said enough?)

 

My first reaction on the day I arrived, exactly six months after Andy and I were married, was not aggression but something akin to hysteria. Exhausted by 15 hours of travel, I actually cried in my coq au vin when my hosts, who had already revealed their penchant for public displays of affection, asked me how my husband felt about my leaving him for so long. Later that night, despair escalated into a tantrum to rival Crowe's when I discovered I had only one minute's worth of prepaid cell-phone time left.

It's a scenario many know all too well. Despite the teary goodbyes, lonely nights, flight delays, and outrageous phone bills, an estimated 14 million Americans are currently in LDRs, according to the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships. That number includes couples of all kinds, from those who fell for each other while living on opposite coasts to those who've been married for years but decided to live apart while she takes that plum international assignment or he goes back to school.

How do they do it? The simple answer is that, barring the occasional attack on a hotel clerk, long-distance relationships can work—and work well. Research suggests that they don't break up at any greater rate than traditional, geographically close ones. Plus, multiple studies have found that LDR couples' levels of relationship satisfaction, intimacy, trust, and commitment are identical to their geographically close counterparts. LDR couples might worry more about infidelity, but they don't actually cheat more.

Next: Why there are more LDRs today than ever before...

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