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Does Distance Matter?: Geographically Close vs. Long-Distance Relationships (Part 1)

In this season of high school and college graduations, many dating partners are likely facing the prospects of being geographically separated. What should these dating partners know about long-distance relationships? Are long-distance relationships substantially different from ones that are geographically close? A first thing to know is that long-distance relationships (LDRs) are very common, with as many as 70% of college students at some point dating someone who lives far away from them.1 Even beyond college, employment opportunities and military service mean that many romantic partners spend substantial amounts of time away from one another. Scholars have accordingly focused their attention on whether (and how) LDRs differ from relationships that are geographically close (GCRs).

There is good news for LDR dating partners. Generally, studies find that LDR dating partners are not significantly different from GCR dating partners in terms of how close, affectionate, and nurturing they are with each other, and they are no more likely to break up over a 3-month period.2 Further, LDR dating partners actually report being more in love with each other and engaging in higher quality communication than GCR dating partners.3 These research findings indicate that LDR and GCR dating partners are more alike than different in terms of a number of important relationship characteristics.

Hopefully, these research findings will allow people in LDRs (or about to starting dating long-distance) to breathe a sigh of relief: distance is a common component of dating, and does not necessarily spell doom for the relationship.

Click here for Part 2 of this article.

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1Merolla, A. J. (2010). Relational maintenance and noncopresence reconsidered: Conceptualizing geographic separation in close relationships. Communication Theory, 20, 169-193.

2Van Horn, K. R., Arnone, A., Nesbitt, K., Desilets, L., Sears, T., Giffin, M., & Brudi, R. (1997). Physical distance and interpersonal characteristics in college students' romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 4, 25-34.

3Stafford, L., & Merolla, A. (2007). Idealization, reunions, and stability in long distance dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 37-54.

Dr. Jennifer Bevan - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Bevan's research interests center upon interpersonal and health communication, including the negotiation of difficult interactions such as ongoing conflict, jealousy, sexual resistance, uncertainty, and topic avoidance, as well as related psychological and physical health correlates of these experiences

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