It’s early on a sunny morning in April. I’m waiting at Adelaide airport with a now cold coffee and trying to settle the butterflies in my stomach. I keep an anxious eye on the arrivals board and have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. After all, it’s not every day the man of your dreams moves half way across the world.
For anyone who’s been in a long-distance relationship (LDR) this scenario should be pretty familiar. And research in the US suggests that LDR’s are increasingly common, especially among generation Y.
Students have always been mobile. Today, with fierce competition in the job market, and so many gen y-ers wanting to experience life before settling down, travel is almost obligatory for anyone under 30. And while in the past we may have been happy with a holiday fling, technology has made keeping in touch easier than ever before. Combine this with trends that see people with more disposable income as a result of living with their parents for longer and more time spent studying and it’s easy to see how your holiday fling can turn into something a little more serious.
In 2002 an American university surveyed 450 students and discovered that over half were in an LDR, or had been at some stage. While no statistics exist for Australia it is fair to assume numbers are similar here.
The now defunct Centre for the Study of Long Distance Relationships found a number of factors contributed to the increase in LDRs. These included social, environmental, economic and technological factors.
Many young people now travel, volunteer, work or study abroad. Communicating with someone who lives in another city has never been easier because of email, Skype and Facebook. Travel is also much cheaper and easier than in the past.
In 2007 Rachael* went to Canada to study for six months. While there she became involved with Greg, a Canadian student.
“We met in Canada while I was abroad on student exchange and began a casual relationship that became serious. We decided to continue our relationship after I left for home. Our long distance circumstances were inevitable because we both had a year of studies left to finish our undergraduate degrees (he in Canada and me in Australia).
It’s difficult to determine whether LDRs are more common in younger or older people, but researchers say it is easier for young people to become involved in an LDR. Generally younger people have fewer responsibilities to family or work, so it’s easier to be flexible. As people get older they usually become more practical and are potentially less likely to become involved in an LDR because of perceived obstacles.
Surprisingly the frequency of break-ups in LDRs are only higher than ‘normal’ relationships in the first six months. Research suggests that if you can make it past six months in an LDR that the relationship will be stronger than if both people are present.
LDRs aren’t easy. You don’t have that ‘special someone’ close to you on a daily basis, and you miss out on important parts of each other’s lives. All your savings go towards phone bills and plane tickets (or bus tickets or train tickets or petrol). Trust is absolutely essential.
There are some positives however. You know that you’re together because you want to be, not just out of habit. The time you do share is extra special, and you appreciate each other more. Long-distance can also give your relationship a solid foundation.
I asked Rachael whether she would do it again.
“I’m not going to lie, it was tough! The long distance is worth it when you’re confident it’s going to work but there’s no doubt you have stressful days. These days can lead to thoughts of throwing it all in, but then you get through the stress. You see or speak to your partner again and you suddenly think, ‘how could I have been so weak as to have thoughts of throwing the towel in when we have worked so hard at maintaining our relationship!'”
And as for my LDR? With him in Zurich and me in Adelaide, we weren’t just at opposite ends of the world; we were also at opposite ends of the alphabet. It wasn’t always easy, but after 14 months, more than 90,000km, about $5000 in airfares and countless text messages we’re finally in the same place at the same time. And it was worth the wait.
*Names have been changed