Does distance make the heart grow fonder?

by Lainie Fraser, Contributor

Relationships come and go and sometimes they seem to do it at the worst possible time. Maybe life has other obligations or maybe the problem is distance.

A recent study completed by Dr. Crystal Jiang and Dr. Jeffrey Hancock, psychologists at the City University of Hong Kong, found 3 million married couples live apart in the United States, and 25-50 percent of college students are currently in long-distance relationships.

A relationship starts at school, and when the semester comes to an end the two people involved realize they no longer live steps apart, but in fact miles. At San Diego State, the walk from Cuicacalli to Chapultepec can seem like an eternity, but imagine a distance of thousands of miles. New love cringes at the thought of separation. 

These miles of separation seem to get a bad rap, when in fact there can be a lot to gain from a long distance relationship.”

Equal Commitment

“Without equal commitment there is one person doing all the work, which can cause a major strain on a relationship,” psychology sophomore Hailey Ashton said, who is an experienced partner in long distance relationships.

Jiang and Hancock, recently published research findings in the “Journal of Communication,” which found that “long-distance romantic relationships are of equal or even more trust and satisfaction than their geographically close counterparts.”

Going long distance requires an extreme amount of effort from both ends. The positive is when the couple is reunited geographically, being committed and working for the relationship will come naturally.

Balance

Many people have stories of losing friendships or opportunities because they entered into a relationship.

“A balance between friends and your significant other is key because you need not depend on one person for your happiness,” Ashton said. “It’s good to enjoy your time together, but you need to make sure you maintain your friendships, because those are the people who will be there for you when your significant other is not.”

Sometimes friends feel abandoned, and it can feel near impossible to give attention to all parties involved. Long distance relationships allow for the balance to become easier to get a handle on. If a couple physically cannot spend as much time together as they wish, they will have time for others in their lives.

Effective Communication

Communication is something that plagues many relationships. The distance may turn a couple’s attention to phone calls, text messages or maybe Skype, to compensate. This removes body language when talking about anything, good or bad. Not only is the other person not physically accessible, but also they are unreadable. Going long distance allows for a couple to learn the way they text and sound. Long distance couples have to pick up on vocal cues, or even emoticon uses.

Jiang and Hancock have found, “long-distance couples disclosed themselves more, and they idealized their partners’ behaviors. These two tendencies become more manifested when they communicated in text-based, asynchronous and mobile media because they made more efforts to overcome the media constraints.”

“The only thing you have in long distance relationships is communication,” Ashton said. “Without effective communication you have no relationship. Period.”

Finally, maybe one of the people involved is living in an exciting place, and the distance allows for some exotic travel and adventure. In the throes of a long distance relationship, the separation may seem never ending and unbearably painful, but there is a lot to learn in the time spent apart that will only make the time together better.