With so many couples meeting through social media, an increasing number of single people find themselves in the position of considering whether a long-distance relationship will work for them – and not just for the moment, but as a lifestyle in a committed relationship. If you are one of those people, the answer to that question will, of course, be very much related to your particular situation. However, armed with an understanding of what it is like for “commuter couples”, you may be better able to answer the question for yourself.
In a recent study, researcher Danielle Lindemann from Lehigh University conducted in-depth interviews with 97 college-educated people who are married but do not live with their spouses because of their careers. She found that these couples often talk about the tension between their independence and interdependence on each other. Although they do not see each other in person on a daily basis, they report being in daily contact to connect emotionally and co-manage tasks through technology, such as phone calls, emails, and texts. They like having a companion and enjoy the time they spend together. Importantly, many feel connected, which is partly achieved through technology. A number of couples – especially those who lived farther apart and saw each other less frequently – said that they felt living so far apart helped their “interconnectedness.” As one participant said, “We’ve learned that just because you don’t see each other, it doesn’t mean you’re not together.”
If you are thinking about a long-distance marriage, it might help to ask yourself these questions:
- Am I okay with the idea of only seeing my partner occasionally for the long haul? (Be as clear as possible about what “occasionally” means in your situation.) Is my partner okay with it?
- Do my partner and I have good enough communication to work through issues that might arise related to the tension in trying to balance independence and interdependence?
- Do my partner and I communicate well in discussing other areas of conflict or difference?
- Are my partner and I prepared to handle negative judgments about our lifestyle from others? (The study found 66% of respondents felt judged, especially by family members.)
- Do my partner and I feel a strong sense of connection and a willingness to work together to keep our relationship strong despite the distance?
- And, if your relationship is already a long-distance one, be honest with yourself: Do I feel that our relationship is working well enough now that it seems likely that committing to a lifetime together, but geographically apart, could work well? (If you are struggling with jealousy, loneliness, or other issues, you can expect that they will continue and may worsen over time if you marry.)
Think carefully about your situation and the questions above. While you may love your partner, that is not enough. In order for a commuter relationship to work, you must both be comfortable with the lifestyle that comes with it.