LDRs are nothing new, of course. Military personnel, academics, truckers, salespeople, athletes, and entertainers have loved across the miles for years. But experts attribute the prevalence of LDRs today to a number of factors. One is that the working world looks a lot different, and requires different training, than in previous generations. "There are more women having careers, and there's more specialization these days," says Seetha Narayan, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Long-Distance Relationships. "Many couples invested a lot in their careers, and now they have to follow through. They usually think of it as temporary—this is for now, I'll put some time into building my résumé and expand my future options."
Second, the world is a smaller place. "Before, people met one another by proximity," explains Greg Guldner, PhD, director of the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships. "You married your classmates, you ran into people who lived in the same town. That's really changed now with the types of careers people are taking. There are many, many more conferences—this is a theme that comes up over and over again: People meet someone at conferences that are either national or international."
Technology is also increasing the number of people who are meeting at a distance. Consider the growing popularity of online dating services. People look in the four zip codes around them, and if that doesn't work, they expand their search. "Because of the isolation that is built into our society right now, people are more willing to take a risk with a long-distance relationship," Guldner says. Add it all up, and you've got a lot of people logging a lot of cell-phone minutes.
Unless, of course, it costs your significant other 31 cents a minute to call your international cell phone, in which case you must ask him to call you on a pay phone down the street. When you finally make it to said pay phone—no easy task when you consider that the phrase "yield to pedestrian" doesn't have much resonance with the average French driver—you then obsess over the nasty pay-phone receiver and how many people have breathed all over it or touched it with fingers that have been God-knows-where. In other words, my phone conversations with my husband were not exactly the breathless, romantic calls I'd imagined they'd be, the kind where you whisper sweet nothings into your lover's ear.
Instead, we spent three months communicating through emails, text messages, and, yes, quick phone calls, usually about the most prosaic of things. As it turns out, that's one of the surest ways to a successful LDR.