For years, people have thought that long-distance relationships are almost always destined to fail… but is that really true?

A study has found that people in long-distance relationships often have stronger bonds from more constant — and deeper — communication than traditional face-to-face relationships.

Welcome home hug - Marines

Long-distance couples disclose more and idealize partners’ behaviors

Researchers from Cornell University asked dating couples in long-distance and geographically close relationships to report their daily interactions over different media: face-to-face, phone calls, video chat, texting, instant messenger and email.

Over a week, they reported to what extent they shared about themselves and experienced intimacy, and to what extent they felt their partners did the same thing.

When comparing the two types of relationships, researchers Crystal Jiang at the City University of Hong Kong and Cornell’s Jeffrey Hancock, found that long-distance couples felt more intimate to each other, and this greater intimacy is driven by two tendencies: 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.

>> Memories of your love life can make all the difference

Long-distance relationships have been unexplored for years. One of the reasons may be that the general public believes such relationships are rare and not normal.

Previous studies have focused on how couples cope with problems, such as jealousy and stress, but until recently, several studies have shown that long-distance relationships are not always problematic. Some surveys even indicate that long-distance couples have equal or better relationship qualities than geographically close couples.

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This research, published in the Journal of Communication, was designed to observe what exactly happens in long-distance relational communication, particularly in comparison to geographically close ones.

Living apart not always a bad thing for romance

Long-distance romance is much more common than it ever used to be. Couples get separated for a variety of reasons, due to modern mobility, and they choose to maintain the relationships through all kinds of communication technologies.

Recent statistics show that 3 million married couples in the US live apart; 25 to 50% college students are currently in long-distance relationships, and up to 75% of them have engaged in one at some point. On the other hand, people think long-distance relationships are challenging.

>> Long-term love: 5 secrets for success

“Indeed, our culture, emphasizes being together physically and frequent face-to-face contact for close relationships, but long-distance relationships clearly stand against all these values. People don’t have to be so pessimistic about long-distance romance,” said Jiang.

“The long-distance couples try harder than geographically-close couples in communicating affection and intimacy, and their efforts do pay back.”


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About: "Absence Makes the Communication Grow Fonder: Geographic Separation, Interpersonal Media, and Intimacy in Dating Relationships," by L. Crystal Jiang and Jeffrey T. Hancock. Journal of Communication, Volume 63 Number 3, pages 556-577. doi:10.1111/jcom.12029

Photo credit(s): Top photo: Cpl. Colton Duran, an aircraft mechanic for the EA-6B Prowler with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2, hugs his wife Cathia during a return ceremony at the squadron’s hangar aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC. Photo by Lance Cpl. Stephen Stewart. Courtesy of DVIDSHUB.

Original publication date: July 15, 2013

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