Let’s take a look at how many people are in LDRs, success and failure rates, and answer the long-awaited question: how long do long distance relationships last?
While some of us can’t stand the thought of spending a week away from our partner, millions of couples around the world spend months or even years apart. Yet, many people manage to make long-distance relationships (LDRs) work despite the distance.
Just how many people are in LDRs? How do they make their relationships work?
Check out these stats from our research:
- LDRs spend an average of 14 months apart from each other before moving in together.
- There are an estimated 14 million long-distance couples in the United States, and 3.75 million of them are married.
- The leading cause of LDRs is work; a significant portion of these are military.
- The greatest recorded distance for an LDR is 12,371 miles – from Santiago, Chile to Xi’an, China.
- 70.9% of women and 64.4% of men who ended an LDR say it was because “the relationship didn’t progress.”
- 16.2% of individuals in an LDR report cheating on their partner.
- 75% of college students say they have been in an LDR at some point, with 35% currently in an LDR.
Table of Contents
Average Length of Long-Distance Relationships
Geographically-close relationships begin and end all the time; is there a difference for LDRs? Do they last longer or fall apart sooner?
Here’s the data on how long the average LDR lasts.
- One study found that long-distance relationships last 20 months, or 1.67 years, on average. (Research Gate, 2002)1
- On average, couples in a relationship for two years report being in a long-distance relationship for about one year. (Research Gate, 2004)2
- In general, long-distance relationships between U.S. adults last either 3-6 months or 1-2 years. Here’s a breakdown by percentage of the length of these relationships: (Statista, 2016)3
- Less than 3 months – 9% of American adults
- 3-6 months – 12%
- 6-12 months – 11%
- 1-2 years – 12%
- 2-5 years – 7%
- 5 or more years – 11%
- Never been in a long-distance relationship – 38%
- In Germany, one study found the average length of a long-distance relationship to be 2.86 years. (Fanny V. Jimenez, 2010)4
- 14 months of separation is the average time a long-distance couple spends separated before moving in together. (Easelly, 2019)5
How Common Are Long-Distance Relationships?
Most of us know someone in an LDR, but this data point illustrates just how prevalent they are in the U.S.
- 28 million people (14 million couples) in the U.S. are currently in a long-distance relationship. (Easelly, 2019)5
Longest Distance and Longest Time in Long-Distance Relationships
While most LDRs are a little over 100 miles apart and move in together after about a year, some of them take it to the extreme.
Here are the top stats for distance and length of time:
- 44 years is the longest time that a long-distance relationship has endured. (Atlas Obscura, 2016)6
- The longest distance relationship is from Santiago, Chile to Xi’an, China – 12,371 miles. (Atlas Obscura, 2016)6
Reasons Why Relationships Are Becoming Long-Distance
People love affection, cuddles, sexual interaction, and generally just being around their partner. So why would people choose an LDR?
Research attributes many LDRs to work and social media.
- Social media allows people to maintain relationships and begin new long-distance ones. (University of Wisconsin La Crosse, 2020)7
- Work is the leading cause of long-distance relationships, followed by school, then family. (Atlas Obscura, 2016)6
What Is the Average Distance in a Long-Distance Relationship?
What exactly does it mean to be in an LDR? You don’t have to have an ocean between you and your partner. In fact, most LDRs might actually be a LOT CLOSER than you would imagine.
- 17 people (from a 600-person survey) reported being separated by over 10,000 miles, though most of these were in Australia and New Zealand. (Atlas Obscura, 2016)6
- An average of 125 miles separates long-distance couples. (Easelly, 2019)5
How Often Do Couples Visit Each Other in Long-Distance Relationships?
Just because they can’t live together doesn’t mean they can’t see each other. Whether it’s by plane, train, or car, LDR couples see each other more often than you might think.
- Long-distance couples visit each other an average of 1.5 times per month. (Easelly, 2019)5
The Success and Failure Rates of Long-Distance Relationships
Despite the inherent hardship of being apart, more than half of all LDRs actually do succeed. The chances of success increase after the first few months.
Here are some data points on how many LDRs fail and succeed.
- Only 58% of long-distance relationships are successful. (Kiiroo, 2018)8
- More than one-half of long-distance couples reported that time apart made them feel closer together overall. (Kiiroo, 2018)8
- A study of 1,200 Americans and Europeans who either used to be or were currently in long-distance relationships found that only about 22% had “reunited.” (Online Doctor, 2020)9
- Slightly over half (50.4%) of long-distance relationships in the study had ended. (Online Doctor, 2020)9
- Eventually, 40% of long-distance relationships fail. Couples who don’t plan for changes like increased distance, physical loneliness, etc., have a fail rate of 28%. (Easelly, 2019)5
- If a long-distance relationship is going to fail, it’s most likely to fail within the first 4.5 months. (Easelly, 2019)5
How Do People Make Long-Distance Relationships Work?
With social media, cell phones, and internet apps, LDR couples are finding more and more ways to maintain their relationships, meet sexual needs, and connect with their partners.
Check out these factors and methods that contribute to the health of an LDR.
- People in long-distance relationships report less-frequent sexual fantasies about people other than their partner. Additionally, they have more frequent connection behaviors, online sex, and physical sex when together. (Taylor & Francis, 2018)10
- An increase in introspective behaviors likely helps maintain romance and sexual satisfaction in a long-distance relationship. (Taylor & Francis, 2018)10
- Sexual frequency is important in long-distance relationships, but online sex can’t always replace physical sex completely. (Taylor & Francis, 2018)10
- About 1 in 5 individuals in LDRs use Facetime or Skype to have long-distance sexual relations with their partner. (Online Doctor, 2020)9
Communication Among Couples in Long-Distance Relationships
While it seems obvious that LDR couples use phones to communicate, the average volume of their communications might surprise you.
Here are the numbers:
- On average, a long-distance couple will send 343 texts per week. (Kiiroo, 2018)8
- Long-distance couples spend 8 hours per week video chatting or on the phone (Kiiroo, 2018)8
- Long-distance couples write each other 3 letters per month on average. (Easelly, 2019)5
- Phone calls between long-distance couples are about 2.7 days apart. (Easelly, 2019)5
Top Reasons for Long-Distance Relationships Ending
No one wants to see an LDR fail, but nearly half of them do. These are the main issues that can cause an LDR to fall apart:
- Here’s a breakdown of the top causes for LDRs ending by both gender and the percentage of men or women who claimed it was the cause. (Online Doctor, 2020)9
1. Relationship didn’t progress
- 70.9% of women
- 64.4% of men
2. We grew apart
- 53.8% of women
- 50.5% of men
3. Lack of sex
- 38% of women
- 59.7% of men
4. Differences in social life
- 50.5% of women
- 47.3% of men
5. Financial strain of traveling
- 54.9% of women
- 41.8% of men
6. Not willing to make the sacrifice
- 39.6% of women
- 32.3% of men
7. Interest in other people
- 21.7% of women
- 28.7% of men
8. No set plan to reunite
- 15.8% of women
- 20.1% of men
Cheating in a Long-Distance Relationship
As with any kind of relationship, cheating happens. This data point shows just how often it happens in LDRs.
- 16.2% of individuals in an LDR cheated on their partner. (Online Doctor, 2020)9
Long Distance Relationships in College
Whether they’re hanging on to high school sweethearts or finding love in their travels, college students are the demographic with the highest density of LDRs.
Oddly enough, getting geographically closer can sometimes be a bad thing in these relationships. Check out these data points on college LDRs:
- 35% of college students are currently in an LDR, while 75% claim to have been in an LDR at some point. (SAGE Journals, 2014)11
- One study found that of 155 students who had ended LDRs, 43.3% had broken it off after becoming geographically close, while 57.7% ended it while it was still long-distance. (Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2006)12
- The same study found that 15 male and 21 female college students had their LDRs fail, on average, 1.25 months after reuniting. (Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2006)12
Married Couples in Long-Distance Relationships
It might surprise you just how many marriages in the US are long-distance. These statistics show the numbers for long-distance marriage:
- 10% of US marriages began as LDRs. (Easelly, 2019)5
- 2.9% of American marriages are currently long-distance. (Easelly, 2019)5
- On average, long-distance lasts 14 months before the couple moves in together.
- There are 3.75 million long-distance marriages in the U.S. (Friend Lamps, 2020)13
Challenges in a Long-Distance Relationships
Being in a long-distance relationship is inherently difficult. The following data paints of picture of the specific struggles that LDR couples report having the most trouble with:
- Here are the top 8 reported challenges of LDRs, along with the percentage of people who claim that they’re a serious issue. (Kiiroo, 2018)8
- Lack of physical intimacy – 66% of people
- Worried their partner will meet someone else – 55%
- Feeling lonely – 50%
- Expensive to visit each other – 45%
- Growing apart – 43%
- Lack of communication – 40%
- Time difference – 33%
- Different opinions on communication (Call vs. Text, etc.) – 24%
- The hardest time in an LDR is the 4-month mark. (Kiiroo, 2018)8
While we all want to be close to our partner or partners, it simply isn’t always possible. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible either – about half of LDRs do succeed.
If you’re in an LDR, make sure you and your partner have a plan to “reunite” and be together again. Maintain your relationship both sexually and emotionally through travel and the internet, but don’t strain your finances on visits.
Ultimately, lack of intimacy and relationship progression are the two biggest LDR killers, so take steps to research new and exciting ways to meet your sexual needs and continue to grow your relationship emotionally.
- Research Gate, 2002. A study of 114 individuals in the U.S. who are in a long-distance relationship authored by Marianne Dainton, Ph.D., and Brooks Aylor, Ph.D.
- Research Gate, 2004. A study examining twenty heterosexual couples about togetherness and separation, authored by Erin Sahlstein Parcell and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
- Statista, 2016. Results of a 2015 survey of 2,252 American adults showing the longest periods of time people claim to have been in a long-distance relationship.
- Fanny V. Jimenez, 2010. A dissertation by Fanny Jimenez, M.A., at the Humboldt University of Berlin (der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) on the psychological processes that affect distance in long-distance relationships in 971 Germans.
- Easelly, 2019. An analysis of a 2019 survey of 200 Americans in long-distance relationships authored by Kai Tombac.
- Atlas Obscura, 2016. A survey of 600 worldwide respondents to determine the greatest distances, lengths of time, and other data points on long-distance relationships.
- University of Wisconsin La Crosse, 2020. A study of 12 Americans conducted by Morgan Kuske to analyze social media’s impact on maintaining long-distance relationships. Published in the UWL Journal of Undergraduate Research.
- Kiiroo, 2018. Lifestyle post that unpacks the results of a 2018 survey of 1,000 Americans who are currently in a long-distance relationship.
- Online Doctor, 2020. Analysis of a survey of 1,200 Europeans or Americans who have been in or still are in long-distance relationships.
- Taylor & Francis, 2018. A comparative study of 468 Americans either in long-distance relationships or geographically-close relationships that was published in Sexual and Relationship Therapy.
- SAGE Journals, 2014. A research article analyzing a 2009 study of 533 adult Americans and the aspects of their long-distance relationships. Published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
- Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2006. A study of 335 American undergraduates in long-distance relationships authored by Laura Stafford, Andy Merolla, and Janessa Castle, and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
- Friend Lamps, 2020. An editorial article written on the numerical data surrounding long-distance relationships in the U.S.