There’s no denying it: long distance relationships – of any kind – are tough.

But new research suggests there’s an answer to keeping them alive – and your gender may provide a clue.

University of Oxford researchers have found that while men require face-to-face time (preferably while bonding over activities) to keep a long-distance friendship going, faraway female relationships are more likely to be sustained by lengthy phone calls.

“What determined whether [friendships] survived with girls was whether they made effort to talk more to each other on the phone,” said professor Robin Dunbar of the study that focused on students leaving home for the first time.

Talking had zero effect on boys’ relationships, the researchers found.            

“What held up their friendships was doing stuff together,” said Dunbar.

“Going to a football match, going to the pub for a drink, playing five-a-side. They had to make the effort. It was a very striking sex difference.”

The research involved asking 30 students in their final year of public school to compile detailed lists of their friendships and how close they were. Four months later, many of the students left for university. Researchers followed up with the students nine months and 18 months after the initial assessment.

Dunbar said different styles of friendship between the sexes could explain their findings.  

“This is about the idea that women clearly have much more intense close friendships,” he said. “They’re very intense, very like romantic relationships – in the sense if they break, they break catastrophically.”

By comparison, men are more likely to have more casual friendships.

“They tend to have a group of four guys that they do stuff with,” he said. “With guys it is out of sight out of mind. They just find four more guys to go drinking with.”

h/t The Guardian