Maybe you met someone abroad. Maybe someone from abroad met you. Either way, you’re wondering if those romantic feelings can lead anywhere at all because of the distance. Of course distance can pose some unique challenges compared to dating a local single, but you might be surprised to learn those extra miles could be the fastest track into your next serious relationship.
Does distance make the heart grow fonder? The short answer: Yes.
Two scientists, Crystal Jiang, City University of Hong Kong and Jeffrey Hancock, Cornell University, compared intimacy levels among couples in LDRs and local relationships. Surprisingly, the distance couples reported much higher levels of intimacy.
Researchers attributed the additional closeness to two unique characteristics. Firstly, the people in the LDR disclose more about themselves—more details, more vulnerability—that promote a higher rating of closeness versus the everyday chit chat from couples who live together. Secondly, distance couples tend to idealize their partners. Without opportunities to see their partner’s off days, people in LDR’s can hold on to that idealized version of their love interest longer.
In theory, my heart might grow fonder, but in reality won’t there be communication issues?
Ironically, couples communicating across distance enjoyed a greater sense of closeness than local couples. In one study published in the Journal of Communication, researchers found that although couples in LDRs weren’t always in constant communication, the overall quality of the communication was rated highly. After analyzing the diaries, texts, calls, and video chats, researchers learned that couples in long distance relationships shared more personal details.
Additionally, The Journal of Communication reports that the communication style between distance couples was rated less “problematic” than couples living closer—probably attributed to the fact that distance forces time between an emotional response and a reaction.
So, how much does the distance really matter?
Apparently, not that much. One study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy reported that couples living apart were just as happy as couples living in the same city. Even before the realities of distance set in, distance couples “perceived a lower likelihood of breaking up with their partner” when researchers wanted to measure commitment compared to locally-based relationships.
Ultimately, when these same participants were polled four months later about their relationship status, the break up rates between distance and local couples were the same.
Perhaps, we’re spending too much time wondering how the distance will make things harder rather than how it can help us get more intentional about connecting. If the chances of making love last are the same, why not see where those loving feelings take you?