In today’s digital age, many relationships are now long-distance for some period of time. With tools like Tinder’s passport, you can meet the love of your life all the way across the world… all while sitting on your couch. It’s no wonder long-distance relationships are on the rise! While the digital age has brought us these amazing relationships, they don’t come without their own challenges.
One of the biggest concerns that arise in long-distance relationships is infidelity. The lack of physical presence can make the opportunity to cheat easier and more enticing. Plus, it can be harder to communicate, set boundaries, and spend quality time together. Let’s explore whether long-distance relationships are more vulnerable to infidelity and what steps can be taken to strengthen your relationship.
Before diving into whether long-distance relationships are more vulnerable to infidelity, it is essential to understand what infidelity means. Infidelity is a violation of the agreed-upon rules of a relationship, where one partner engages in sexual, emotional, romantic, or micro-cheating behavior with someone outside of the relationship. It is a breach of trust, and it can cause significant harm to the partner and the relationship. The bottom line is, infidelity can take many forms, ranging from one-night stands to emotional affairs to little comments made to someone they’re interested in.
The Challenges of Long-Distance Relationships
If you’ve ever been in a long-distance relationship, you know the struggle. Seeing your loved one only once and a while, saying goodbye, planning FaceTime sessions, texting all day, stressful communication, and the list goes on and on.
Moreover, long-distance relationships often involve extended periods of time without physical intimacy, which can be a challenge for some couples. The lack of physical touch and presence can make it difficult to maintain a connection, and also leave open the door for physical intimacy with someone else.
Let’s dive into some more challenges that exist for the long-distancers:
A major issue for those in long-distance relationships is time differences, especially if you live really far away from each other. Time differences can make it difficult to communicate effectively and maintain a regular schedule for video calls or phone calls. When one partner is asleep, the other may be awake, making it hard to find time to talk. Not to mention, jobs, family life, social life, and other activities that add on to the scheduling difficulties!
Limited Physical Intimacy
Long-distance relationships often involve extended periods without physical and sexual intimacy, which can be a challenge for some relationships. Not only does lack of physical intimacy affect the ability to maintain a romantic connection, but it can also contribute to the desire to cheat. Especially when you throw in social gatherings and alcohol, it can create a lot of temptation.
Miscommunication can happen in any relationship, but it is especially common in long-distance relationships. When partners communicate primarily through text, call, or video chat, it can be difficult to convey tone and intention accurately. This can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.
For example, let’s say you are really upset with your partner and you try to convey that by being “short” via text. But they’re having a busy day, so they don’t really realize your “shortness.” This, in turn, makes you really upset that they aren’t validating your feelings. But what you didn’t realize is that your partner had no idea you were upset because they could read your tone or body language from a quick text.
The lack of physical presence can make it difficult to build and maintain trust. Without body language, frequent in-person communication, and the ability to spend quality time with each other regularly, doubts and insecurities can creep in, leading to trust issues.
Long-distance relationships often involve the cost of travel to see each other, which can be a financial burden for some couples. This can lead to stress and anxiety about how to make ends meet while maintaining the relationship. Not to mention, if you two have plans to move in together or live in the same city one day, this costs money!
Are Long-Distance Relationships More Vulnerable to Infidelity?
Not necessarily! Cheating really depends on the situation. 22% of people in a long-distance relationship admit to cheating compared to the general statistic that 44% of unmarried men and women cheat and 20% of married couples in the U.S. cheat. From these numbers, it appears that long-distance relationships may NOT be more vulnerable to infidelity!
It’s easy to think that the lack of physical presence would contribute to a rise in cheating, but maybe we shift our thinking. Maybe if people are in a long-distance relationship, they are truly dedicated to their partner and will go the “extra-mile” to make it work. Why would they cheat and ruin such a great relationship that they’ve worked so hard on?
How to Strengthen Your Long-Distance Relationship
To say that there is a “magic sauce” in preventing infidelity is like saying there’s a “magic sauce” to falling in love–impossible. Preventing infidelity is too nuanced to say what will effectively “prevent” it or not. But, what we can help you do is strengthen your current long-distance relationship and provide you with tools to make your relationship the best it can be.
Communicate Openly and Regularly
Communication is key in any relationship, but it is even more important in long-distance relationships. Regular and open communication can help build trust, reduce misunderstandings, and maintain intimacy. Couples should make an effort to communicate regularly through video calls, phone calls, and text messages. And not just any old communication, real, heartfelt, open, and honest communication. This means talking about feelings, goals, dreams, and even uncomfortable topics, like marriage, death, divorce, past relationships, traumas, secrets, etc.
Establishing clear boundaries is a key aspect of any relationship, including a long-distance one. Couples should discuss their expectations, needs, and boundaries to ensure that they are on the same page with everything involving their relationship. This includes discussing what constitutes cheating and what behavior is acceptable outside the relationship.
Planning visits can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, and provide an opportunity to build physical intimacy. Couples should try to make an effort to see each other regularly, even if it’s just for a few days. This also gives each person something to look forward to and talk about!
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology can be a valuable tool in maintaining long-distance relationships. Couples can utilize FaceTime, texting, Zoom, and even fun apps that help facilitate meaningful conversations to stay connected and share experiences. They can also use social media to keep up with each other’s lives and send each other fun memes, videos, and pictures.
Seek out a Support System
Long-distance relationships can be challenging, and it’s essential to have a support system in place. Couples should seek support from friends, family, and/or a therapist to help them navigate the challenges of long-distance relationships. Being able to talk out the difficulties, tensions, and even wins of your long-distance relationship can help you work through your own emotions, worries, and thoughts and ultimately help you be the best version of yourself that you can be!
Trust Each Other
Last but certainly not least: trust. Trust is the foundation of any relationship, and it is critically important in long-distance relationships. Both partners should make an effort to build and maintain trust by being honest, reliable, and consistent in their communication and behavior.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about long-distance relationships
Q: Can long-distance relationships work?
A: Yes, long-distance relationships can work with effort, communication, and trust. But, at the end of the day, there’s typically a light at the end of the tunnel for a long-distance relationship (i.e., plans to live in the same zip code). Without plans to eventually live near each other, maintaining long-distance forever could prove very difficult.
Q: Why do people cheat in long-distance relationships?
A: Just like with any relationship, people cheat in long-distance relationships for various reasons, including mere temptation/opportunity, loneliness, insecurity, unsatisfying relationship, etc.
Q: How do I know if my partner is cheating in a long-distance relationship?
A: Signs of cheating in a long-distance relationship may include decreased communication, secretive behavior, and a sudden change in behavior or mood. There could also be no signs! It really depends on the situation and people involved.
Q: What should I do if I suspect my partner is cheating in a long-distance relationship?
A: If you suspect your partner is cheating, (while it may be difficult) it is crucial to have an open and honest conversation with them about your concerns.
Long-distance relationships can be tough, but they are not necessarily more vulnerable to infidelity than other types of relationships. Infidelity can happen in any relationship, it’s based on a multitude of factors outside of geographic proximity. However, having the long distance can create some obstacles that may put a strain on the relationship.
David F Khalili is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, board-certified sexologist, author of Mental Health Workbook for Men, founder of Rouse Relational Wellness, a boutique sex and relationship therapy center serving San Francisco and all of California, and recently started Rouse Academy, an online learning platform to address sex and anxiety. You can learn more about David’s practice at rousetherapy.com.