Speaking from experience, long-distance relationships can be the worst. Missing your significant other leads to frustration, which leads to anger, which leads to fights that can’t end in sex and snuggling. For some reason, people keep trying them and sometimes they even work out in the end. In fact, a study conducted by Crystal Jiang, from the City University of Hong Kong, and Jeffrey Hancock, from Cornell University, has found that people in LDRs are more likely to form strong bonds than couples who see each other in person regularly.
In the study, as reported in Science Daily, dating couples in both long distance and geographically close relationships were asked to report their daily interactions over the course of a week. This included face-to-face talking, texting, phone calls, emails, video chat, and social media. The couples were also asked to report how much they shared about themselves and how intimate they felt with their partner during these interactions.
Jiang and Hancock found that couples in long-distance relationships actually experience more intimacy than couples that are geographically close. According to Science Daily:
When comparing the two types of relationships, Jiang and 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.
Practically, these conclusions make a lot of sense. If you see your partner every day, there is no real reason to have unsolicited, personal, and meaningful conversations. When you go months without physically see your significant other, however, you have to have intimate conversations to keep your relationship real and relevant. Just the other night, I was video chatting with my boyfriend who is living in Seattle for the summer. I have found that even though being apart for so long sucks (a lot), we have longer and less interrupted conversations when we can’t physically be together because it’s really all we have. All we can really do to connect is talk. While frustrating, our video chats definitely consist of deeper conversation than a typical dinner date would.
I also totally understand the conclusion that people idealize their partners. When you don’t see someone often, it is easy to forget about small annoying habits they have or look back on past experiences like they were some kind of lost paradise. Although idealizing a partner can be dangerous, it can also make help someone appreciate the good things about his or her partner while embracing (or at least ignoring) the imperfections.
Despite these findings, I don’t think there is a long distance couple out there that wouldn’t rather be geographically close. Maybe what we can take from this study is that there is a light at the end of a long distance relationship. If a couple can make it through their time apart, there is a good chance that they will be closer emotionally once they can be closer physically.