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Long-Distance Relationships by the Numbers: Infographic

Romantic image of a couple watching the sunset.

“Hey There, Delilah” by The Plain White T’s. 

“Come Back … Be Here” by Taylor Swift. 

“A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton.

There are dozens of songs that articulate the struggles of couples in long-distance relationships. However, the most appropriate anthem for Valentine’s Day has to be 2008’s “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” by Soulja Boy and Sammie.  (🎶 You know that I miss you, I just wanna kiss you🎶) LDR couples know that longing and loneliness can come with the territory. But on February 14, the miles feel all that much farther. 

At Wanderu, we feel your pain: All that back-and-forth travel to see your bae can be a burden on your budget. By serving up the cheapest bus, train and flight options, we can find (all in the same search), we hope to unite you and your long-distance lover just in time for the holiday. 

But sometimes being together on V-Day just isn’t possible. When it feels like every couple you know has a resy at P.F. Chang’s, while you’re stuck at home streaming “Schitt’s Creek” till that FaceTime date with your significant other, just remember: You are not alone. 

Thousands of Wanderu users are in long-distance relationships just like you. To show some solidarity this Valentine’s Day, we sent out a survey asking long-distancers what their relationships are like and how they’re handling the holiday. Here are some of the major highlights:

Valentine's Day infographic for people in long-distance relationships.

Beyond the top-line numbers, the results for each question — What are the biggest challenges? How do you stay intimate? What’s the best Valentine’s Day gift you’ve received? — show inspirational similarities between those doing long distance that we hope will carry you through until your next meetup.

1. Is this your first long-distance relationship?

While it’s true the majority of respondents are first timers, more than one-third are LDR veterans. 

What does that mean? Well, for some, it’s simply the way their dating hand was dealt. For others, it may just be the kind of relationship they’re used to, or what comes most naturally. The one thing we know for certain: The separation is hard no matter how much experience you have.  

Another thing we know for certain: We might just punch the next person that tries to console us with the cliché, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” 

2. How long have you been in a long-distance relationship?

Almost 70 percent of the folks we surveyed have been in an LDR for more than a year, including 18 percent for over three years. That’s a testament to how lasting these relationships really are. Yes, they may take more effort and energy than your run-of-the-mill romance, but that commitment is also, theoretically, why they endure.

3. How often do you see your significant other?

We’d need a photo finish to break the tie between couples who see each other monthly and those who travel bi-weekly. Whether you see each other 12 or 26 times per year (math! 🤓), all that travel takes a toll on both your time and your wallet. 

That’s why in your Wanderu search results, our default “Recommended” filter balances the best price with whatever option will get you there as efficiently as possible. And with some bus tickets starting as low as $1 if you book in advance (hello, Megabus and BoltBus!), visiting your partner doesn’t need to cost the same as your student loans.  

For some more LDR-specific travel hacks, check out this handy guide.

4. How did you meet?

Nearly one in three long-distance couples met in school, which is consistent with national trends — according to The Center for the Study of Long-Distance Relationships, 32.5 percent of all LDRs are college relationships. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re current students. Some couples start dating in school, then get jobs in different cities after graduation.

Also, considering how many people today meet  through online dating, it’s interesting that only 17 percent of LDRs in our survey started that way. Is that because apps like Tinder and Bumble are proximity based? Are app-based relationships less likely to last? Someone smarter than us needs to do the real research on that one, but we’re happy to speculate.

5. How far away does your significant other live?

The Proclaimers would walk 500 miles (then 500 more) to fall down at your door. 

But according to our survey, the most common distance range between couples in an LDR is 201 to 300 miles. For perspective, some city pairs that fall into that grouping: New York and D.C., Charlotte and Atlanta, L.A. and Las Vegas.

6. Which of the following is the primary way you stay in touch?

Text messaging handily beats out phone and video calls in this category, which makes us wonder: How did couples survive LDRs before the advent of SMS and WhatsApp, Skype and FaceTime?

Well, the actual answer may just be: They didn’t. 

At least there were a lot fewer of them back then — a May 2019 article in The Atlantic cites a couple of data sets that show how long-distance relationships have spiked since the year 2000. No doubt easier means of communication is a contributing factor. 

7. When you visit your significant other, you are most likely to travel by:

7. When you visit your significant other (or vice versa), you are most likely to travel by:

Bus travel is the most dominant transport mode among this group, by a lot

Now, caveat: We surveyed our own users, so these folks already booked some kind of ticket through our platform — somewhat skewing these results.

That said, you can also book plane and train tickets on Wanderu, all in the very same search. As a previous question showed, 72 percent of respondents live within 300 miles of each other, a distance more conducive to ground travel. And with buses often cheaper (and, sometimes, more direct) than trains in the U.S., maybe the majority favoring bus travel just makes sense. 

Gen-Z is also less interested in car ownership than generations before them. So if a lot of these relationships are made up of students (or recent students), it’s possible that many long-distance lovers really just feel bus travel is their best option.

8. You’d best describe your LDR as:

Did you know that 10% of all marriages in the U.S. started out as an LDR?

We didn’t either. (At least not before reading that data set from The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships.) But after seeing that a whopping 88 percent of peeps in our survey described their relationship as “serious” (as opposed to the 8 percent who said, “I have no f*cking idea”), we believe it. 

No wonder Soulja Boy says, “I know that you like me, you my future wifey.” 

9. How do you stay intimate when you’re apart?

How do you stay intimate when you’re apart?

Here’s where things get juicy. 

When asked how they stay intimate, the top response was: By planning our next romantic meetup. Which, seriously, is just sweet and cute and rubs the rust right off of our jaded little hearts. 

Not that we’re judging anyone who answered “scandalous pics,” “sexy texts” or “phone play” — we’re only human, after all. 

Our favorite “Other” response: “Memes.” Not entirely sure what that means, but we have some ideas.

10. What’s your ideal vacation with your significant other?

For this question, we posed some sample scenarios and asked which one our respondents found most appealing.

With a plurality of the vote, “Spoon City — you’re doing lots of cuddling and probably streaming Netflix” won. And that fits! With so many days spent apart, LDRs just want some quality time together, away from the world.

“Sex-cation — you’re getting room service, baby!” tallied near the bottom. Maybe because overcooked strip steak at an outrageous price kinda kills the mood. Or maybe because the way we phrased it was kinda skeezy. (Sorry! 😳)

11. What are the biggest challenges of being in an LDR?

Rank the following challenges of being in an LDR

Above all else, the most significant challenge by a solid margin is “missing physical intimacy.” Despite advanced jumps in communications technology over the past two decades, nothing out there can effectively stand in for the actual touch of your partner, in person. (Yet.) 

Runner up is the cost of travel: All that back and forth takes a hit on your wallet, no doubt. (Pro tip: Try booking to a nearby town, like this article suggests. For instance, a ticket to Secaucus, NJ, may be cheaper than one to Midtown Manhattan.) 

Near the bottom? “Fearing your S.O. might meet someone else.” That just demonstrates this group isn’t one for jealousy, which you really can’t be when your person lives 201 to 300 miles away from you. LDRs are built on trust.

12. What are the best parts of being in an LDR?

What is the best part of being in an LDR?

Baby you’re a firework! 

It’s a toss-up between the pyrotechnics when you’re together again, and the knowledge that an LDR is making your relationship stronger and more durable. Of course, both can be true at once — and each is a trademark trait of what makes long-distance worth it. 

What’s not really seen as a positive: “You communicate more because you’re forced to.” That one is just an unfortunate reality. 

13. Would you move to your significant other’s city to be with them?

Almost 3 out of 4 people say they’d pick up their life if it was possible to relocate closer to their partner. 

The other 22 percent aren’t quite as compromising, and think their lover should be the one to move. And hey, you do you, boo. Moving is a big deal, and sometimes you’ve gotta put a foot down. 

The remaining 5 percent are pretty sure an LDR is as committed as they’re prepared to be. Unsurprisingly, this group was more likely to answer “casual” or “I have no f*cking idea” on Question 8. 

14. What’s the best (or weirdest) surprise you’ve ever received (or given) for Valentine’s Day?

This question was a fill-in-the-blank, so we’ll just share some of the more unique answers, along with overall trends. 

To that end, more than 10 percent of people said the best gift they’d received (or given) was a surprise visit — including one individual who took a secret 14-hour train trip just to get there. 

Flowers and teddy bears were called out multiple times. A few skip the holiday entirely, while it seems like others were applying that Adam & Eve podcast discount code. 👀

Among the more unique gifts written in: “socks,” “pickles,” “pizza” and “a two-person sweater.”

As for the very best answers, it’s a tie for the two most creative:

Answer 1: “A telegram! Old school and expensive.” We didn’t even realize these were still a thing, but yes, you can pay to have a uniformed courier hand-deliver a paper message to your loved one. Some of you may be thinking: Isn’t that just mail? But you’d be thinking wrong. 

Answer 2: “I gave a jar to him filled with 100 notes of why I love him, notes for when he misses me, and notes for when he is sad.” … …… ……… ………… 😭😭😭 That’s seriously the sweetest friggin thing we’ve ever heard. 

In the time it’s taken you to read through these survey results, Valentine’s Day is probably almost upon us. 

Still scrambling for a gift? With Wanderu, a surprise visit is still on the table! Just head to or the free Wanderu app to find buses, trains and flights to your flame, all in the same search. 

And if you’re celebrating in separate cities? Cheers to you for making it work despite the kilometers between you. 🥂 (That one is for all the Euro lovers out there.) 

Do you know someone who’s single? Don’t let Valentine’s Day drag them down — just shoot them a link to our ranking of the best cities to be single on Valentine’s Day.

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About the author
Tyler Moss

Tyler Moss

Tyler Moss has danced on tables at Oktoberfest and petted alpacas in the Andes. He prefers to eat at restaurants where the menu is in a language he can’t understand, and likes bars where the lighting is dim and the drafts are cheap. His writing has been published by Condé Nast Traveler, The Atlantic, New York, Outside, Atlas Obscura, Playboy and other fine venues.
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