Uh, this was really weird for me to read because I'm coming from a position of having had two face-to-face relationships (1995-97) before having ever had any long-distance ones, and having since then (1999-present) pretty much given up all interest in face-to-face relationships for the time being, because I found that long-distance ones are a lot less stressful and make me a lot less insane.
I realize that in a long-distance relationship, the distance tends to cause definite stress. But that doesn't mean it's safe to assume that the distance isn't also preventing other types of stresses. In my experience, for one thing, when somebody's got their hands on my sex organs, or has any possibility of putting them there in the near future, it becomes extremely difficult to think clearly about anything else. When it's time to leave a long-distance relationship, I don't tend to have any trouble noticing; but when it's time to leave a face-to-face relationship I'm often blinded by my desire to keep getting touched.
It's not that the sex has been so fantastic, either: I agree with you that sex (at least as far as I've experienced it) is very overrated. But it's the sex drive I'm talking about: my crazy need to keep trying to make the sex into something just as fantastic as the ads for it pretended it was. As long as there's a body right in front of you to touch and have sex with, that drive can really screw with your intentions to conduct yourself sanely. Whereas when there's a buffer of several thousand or hundred thousand miles between you and the body you're after, the drive still makes you just as insane but the effects of the insanity are a lot less dangerous. It's like the difference between going insane in the middle of a highway carved into the side of a mountaintop and going insane in a padded cell.
Or maybe that's the wrong analogy: maybe it doesn't make you quite as insane after all. What I want to say is that I know I can love every bit as deeply in a long-distance relationship, but that the same depth of love doesn't lead me into the same degree of risk. There's still risk and there's still pain, but . . . let's try an another analogy. Maybe it's like the difference between driving a narrow twisting highway carved into the side of a mountaintop, straining your eyes to see the road as the sun goes down and suddenly realizing your left headlight has burned out, knowing that if you miss a turn anywhere you could drive straight off the edge of a cliff . . . versus driving the same road in the same conditions but while also tripping on LSD.
You're not necessarily more scared in the second situation. In fact, it might be a lot of fun. But the actual danger is a million times worse. And even though you might love the person at the end of the road equally much in both cases, it is my (unpopular) opinion that you're more likely to actually reach the person at the end of the road if you stay sober and un-drugged enough to avoid driving off the cliff.
Do bear in mind, at least, that just as the glorious adulation our society heaps upon sex turns out to be so ridiculously excessive once you actually experience sex for yourself, so too the glorious adulation our society heaps upon face-to-face relationships might turn out to be equally ridiculously excessive once you actually try your hand at one long-term.