Originally published on Mic.com
Leah, 25, from Arizona, was hesitant when she first began developing feelings for Stephen, a 22-year-old from Northern Ireland she met on the photo-sharing app Fling. Long-distance relationships are hard, she knew, and she worried that she would hold him back in his everyday life. But they decided to give it a try, and six months later, they’re still going strong.
Online dating and tools like FaceTime and Skype, not to mention a tough job market that forces people to move more, have made long-distance relationships more common than ever. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 3.6 million married Americans are living apart (a 40% increase since 1999), and the former Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships puts the number of college students in LDRs at 4.4 million.
For couples like Leah and Stephen, it can really work. “The biggest positive surprise has been that we have made this work for so long already,” Leah told Mic, “and that I have discovered what love really is.”
It sounds cheesy, but it’s true: The challenges of LDRs end up revealing what really matters in a relationship, long-distance or otherwise. Here are the things you learn after living with your love hundreds of miles away.