Long-Distance Relationships: Are There Any Benefits?

A couple embracing each other and smiling near a beachYou know the old saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” but does it really?

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Maybe so: According to a new study, people in long-distance romantic relationships can form stronger bonds than those in normal relationships. Dating couples in long-distance and normal relationships told researchers about their daily interactions using different methods: face-to-face, phone calls, video chat, texting, instant messaging and email.

For a week, the participants reported to what extent they shared about themselves and experienced intimacy, and how much they they felt their partners did the same thing, for the study in the June issue of the Journal of Communication.

Long-distance couples had greater feelings of intimacy due to two factors: They disclosed more about themselves and they idealized their partners’ behaviors, said study authors Crystal Jiang of City University of Hong Kong and Jeffrey Hancock of Cornell University.

Long-distance relationships are increasingly common and people use many kinds of communications technologies to maintain their romantic bonds, a journal news release noted. Recent figures show that 3 million married couples in the United States live apart. Between 25 percent and 50 percent of college students are currently in long-distance relationships and up to 75 percent have had one at some point.

Even so, many people believe that long-distance relationships are challenging.

Benefits Of A Long Distance Relationship

You’ll have independence. In many ways, people in long-distance relationships get the combined benefits of being single and of being a couple. You’ll have lots of time and freedom to devote to work or school, to maintaining friendships, and to exploring your own interests and hobbies–but you also have the support and companionship of a partner you can visit or talk to on the phone.

It will show how well you and your partner communicate. In an in-person relationship, there are so many ways to spend time together without actually talking—going to a movie, seeing a concert or a play, watching TV. When you’re long-distance, you’re forced to have conversations over the phone or webcam if you want to interact, and this can help you learn a lot about your compatibility, your shared values, and even how much fun you have together when there’s not a third-party source of entertainment.

It’ll test your relationship—in a good way. People in long-distance relationships can learn a lot about their partners in a short time: how the two of you deal with stress; how well you trust each other and whether that trust is vaild. It can teach you a lot about the strength and endurance of your relationship.

It forces you to take things slow. Not everyone needs this, but some of us have the tendency to commit to a relationship before we know what we’re really getting into. Being long-distance naturally puts off those big steps like moving in together, so you have more time to see if the other person is truly a good fit for you.

It helps you appreciate each other. It’s hard to take someone for granted when you only get to see each other once every few months—and this sense of appreciation, I’ve found, carries over to when you’re finally together again. And, it’ll make the “honeymoon period” last longer.

Even though long-distance relationships are hard, some of these “pros” are really important. If you can find ways to make it work, you’ll come out the other side with a deeper understanding of each other, and a greater appreciation for your relationship.

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