Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Truth or Myth?

When I received my acceptance letter to begin the doctoral program at Auburn University, I was over the moon. I had recently finished my thesis and was ready to start a new chapter in my life, and then I met Ray. The next few months were a whirlwind; we spent almost every day together and each day I fell for him even more—then reality hit. I was moving soon and we needed to make a decision; can we, or do we even want to, give long distance a shot? We both realized that we didn’t want to lose each other and, despite the hurdles, we were going to do what it took to continue our relationship. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t as easy of a transition as I had hoped it would be, and I had some concerns over whether or not it could actually work being so far apart. Being the researcher that I am, I went in search for studies and statistics about long distance relationships and found some information that helped to ease my mind. With long distance relationships being on the rise due to career changes, deployment, educational goals (as in my case), and many other reasons, more research has focused on comparing these couples to couples who live in close proximity to each other (Guldner, 2003; Kelmer, Rhoades, Stanley, & Markman, 2013). What researchers have found is that after the first three months, couples in long distance relationships are no more likely to break up than couples who live near each other. This made sense to me, as our biggest hurdle thus far has been getting used to only seeing each other a few days out of every month compared to every single day. And, while at first it might seem like your relationship won’t be as satisfying because you won’t be together as often, it has been found that couples in long distance relationships report equal, and sometimes higher, levels of satisfaction (i.e., conversational quality, fun with their partner, love for their partner), intimacy, trust, and even commitment (Guldner, 2003; Kelmer, Rhoades, Stanley, & Markman, 2013). And, for the one thing that is probably in the back of people’s minds the most, studies indicate there is no increased chance of your spouse/partner cheating because of the physical distance from their significant other (e.g., Guldner, 2013). I also found a few tips that have been helpful in my relationship so far that you might also find to be useful:

1. Stay optimistic! It is easy to be down and negative about not seeing each other, but try to find the silver lining, like how great it was the last time you were together or about the great things you have planned for the next time you’re together!

2. Communicate. Do more than just text each other (I know that is easy nowadays, but it is also easy to misconstrue things in a text). Share the little details about your day and ask about theirs. It is also important to talk to your partner about things that bother you, especially if it is something that they have done (I’m not saying to place blame, but let them know how you’re feeling).

3. Don’t isolate yourself from others. It is important to have friends to do things with; it helps pass the time and serves as a distraction from how much you miss your partner or how lonely you might be without them!

Hopefully these things will help you in your current relationship or if you are wondering whether or not to pursue one that could end up being long distance. Like Ray told me, “Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.” He’s right, and I’m sure glad I did.

– Rachel Savasuk

Guldner, G. T. (2003). Long Distance Relationships: The Complete Guide. JF Milne             Publications, Corona, CA.

Kelmner, G., Rhoades, G.K., Stanley, S., & Markman, H.J. (2013). Relationship quality, commitment, and stability in long-distance relationships. Family Process, 52, 257-270.

For more tips and information you can go to the website for the Former Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships: http://www.longdistancerelationships.net/

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