Before the Internet, the smallest inclination of a successful long distance relationship was a rarity. Back then, the hundreds or thousands of miles between two companions left gaping holes in their romantic pursuits, with their pairings ending just as quickly as they formed.
So, the thought of a long distance relationship separated by an oceans-length was almost nonexistent then. With no social media apps or services like WhatsApp, there was simply no way to forego a full-time relationship abroad.
That idea has since been debunked. With the world’s expansion in technology, more people have begun to pursue long distance relationships. According to longdistancerelationshipstatistics.com, 14-15 million people in the U.S. consider themselves in a long distance relationship. And of the millions of engaged couples in America, 75% were at one time in a long distance relationship.
While for some, having a cross-cultural union is just as unrealistic now as it was in the past, researchers believe its rise is because of the Internet’s role in interconnecting people across the world.
“Technology is so advanced now-a-days, it’s easy to connect anywhere in the world,” said Elijah Cohen-Denson, a recent graduate from Ohio University’s international business program. “We have a better opportunity than previous generations to have long distance relationships and successful ones at that.”
Through his nearly three-year relationship, Cohen-Denson has been separated from his girlfriend for months at a time, especially while studying abroad. When he traveled to Cambodia to complete an internship, he says they both relied heavily on FaceTime and social media to maintain a sense of intimacy with them split by international waters.
“I think the ability to connect easier than ever has increased long distance relationships,” said O’Neal Saunders, a native of Columbus, Ohio. “You can use FaceTime, and though it’s not the same, it allows you to be closer.”
During his time in Spain this past May, Saunders forged a connection with a woman in Barcelona. He says the two aren’t in a relationship, but they’ve both communicated regularly since he’s flown back to the States. Like Cohen-Denson, he’s used features like FaceTime, Instagram and Twitter to continue upholding the connection they share.
But even with the world’s linkage, Saunders says building a relationship abroad isn’t for most. In fact, his friend, who accompanied him on his stay in Spain, also met a woman in Barcelona. They grew fairly close, he says, with them being nearly inseparable by the trip’s end.
Unfortunately for them both, their relationship ended once they got back to the U.S., which Saunders felt was from a lack of understanding.
“By only being in Spain for two weeks, he had to move fast to get to know her, hoping to catch her eye,” he says. “After about a week into the trip, they were together every night. The hard part is that they never talked about what would come after, so the communication subsided.”
Luckily for Cohen-Denson, him and his partner managed to stay together in light of their minor lapses in contact. He says with them spending so much time during the school year, it made their distance easier to bare.
But in his eyes, the distance wasn’t all that bad. While in Cambodia and his girlfriend in Italy, Cohen-Denson says, he was able to freely explore the cities he ventured to while traveling abroad. Though he certainly missed his girlfriend’s presence, her absence was an opportunity for him to fully invest in his experience.
“Some of the pros are that you get to experience another country without a boyfriend or girlfriend there, which gives you the opportunity to explore things that you really like,” Cohen-Denson said. “You’ll probably spend less money and they’ll always love the gifts you bring back for them.”
Though, a large percentage of long distance relationships falter once they pass a certain mark. According to SAGE Journals, a 2006 study shows that long distance relationships come to an end within three months. This timeframe is shortened even more once a relationship crosses national lines, as it’s even harder to maintain the spark that helped forge their linkage.
It’s proven, the cause of most long distance breakups spawn from a number of things, but the most consistent is inadaptability. It’s typically never the actual thought of distance. In fact, it’s usually the opposite.
According to a 2007 study by Katheryn Maguire, a professor at Wayne State University and the chair of its department of communication, long distance partners are less stressed and more satisfied over time. Maguire, and other researchers, have determined being away from one’s partner encourages them to see the positives of their significant other, rather than their glaring annoyances.
The resistance to change is the reason why many long distance relationships fail. Instead of accommodating their partner’s professional or personal transitions, whether it be their career goals or future plans, the relationship stretches thinly over time. Interestingly enough, according to SAGE Journals, a 1994 study shows that women are more prone to adjust to long distance relationships than men, as well as the breakups that often occur.
The most common way to salvage a relationship abroad is work, sometimes two-to-three times more than a domestic union. Based on research, on average, companions expect to visit each other twice a month, talk on the phone at least once every three days and look to move in together or reunite within 14 months. Predictably, most people can’t keep up with these demands, well, at least beyond a three-to-four month period.
For Saunders, it’s important to remain open minded while dating someone abroad. Whether it works out depends on people’s individual efforts, he says.
“I think it really depends on the people,” he said. “I think it is important for both parties to be open with each other so that everyone is on the same page. If both people are expecting the same thing and willing to go through the trials and tribulations of a relationship, it can work.”
Cohen-Denson differs from Saunders’ stance, as he leans more toward being single despite his own relationship’s success during his time in Asia.
“Yes, couples can make it work but I don’t think I would recommend it unless it’s absolutely necessary, Cohen-Denson said.”
In light of many of the negative aspects of dating abroad, Saunders says his experience has been just as fulfilling as the moments he’s dated women in his hometown — if not more.
“I would recommend it because at the end of the day it will broaden your cultural understanding, give you a different perspective and you also might discover someone or something you like in the process,” Saunders said.
Though their moments were brief, Saunders values the time him and his partner did spend together. In Spain, they both evenly exchanged their cultural customs and perspectives, a time he feels he’s largely grown from by simply embracing the moment and her companionship.
“I have experienced growth in cultural awareness, increased motivation to continue learning a second language, increased desire to go abroad again and got the opportunity to get to know a woman that has so many unique experiences and perspectives that women at home — for the most part — don’t have,” Saunders said.
When dating abroad, Saunders says, fully accept the shared experience of a cross-cultural relationship and its possibilities. However it ends, it’s a potential moment worth growing from.
“Keep an open mind and be prepared for a different experience than you’re used to, but also be prepared for it not to work out and be willing to accept that,” he said. “Embrace the culture and use it as an opportunity to learn.”