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Does Distance Matter?: How To Manage Geographic Separation in Relationships (Part 2)

Romantic partners have been involved in long-distance relationships ever since humans started traveling great distances to hunt, gather, explore new lands, and engage in battles. Now, these long-distance relationships (LDRs) are aided by emerging technologies such as Facebook and Skype that allow us to be connected despite the miles between us. In our first post about LDRs, we noted that LDRs are fairly common and similar to geographically close relationships (GCRs) in terms of markers of relationship quality, such as closeness, affection, and likelihood of the relationship ending. If this is the case, how do people in long-distance relationships make them work? What are some challenges that are specific to LDRs and how can they be managed?

When it comes to relationship satisfaction in LDRs, research findings are mixed. Relational satisfaction is important because it is widely considered by relationship researchers to be a major indicator of a relationship’s quality. LDR partners are found to be less satisfied with their relationships than GCR romantic partners.1 However, both LDR and GCR romantic partners’ relationship satisfaction positively influence how committed they are to their relationships.2 What can contribute to LDR romantic relationship satisfaction? First, those who feel certain that they would eventually live in the same city are more satisfied with their relationships.3 Visiting one another can help too, as LDRs where periodic face-to-face contact occurs are more committed and satisfied than LDRs with little to no face-to-face interaction.4

Overall, research findings suggest that the future prospects of living close to one another and visiting each another, at least occasionally, can go a long way for romantic partners to successfully manage the distance between them. Distance is not necessarily an obstacle or challenge that has to be overcome in romantic relationships-- if managed well, those in LDRs can be just as satisfied as GCR partners.

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1Van 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.

2Pistole, M. C., Roberts, A., & Mosko, J. E. (2010). Commitment predictors: Long-distance versus geographically close relationships. Journal of Counseling and Development, 88, 146-153.

3Maguire, K. C. (2007). ‘‘Will it ever end?’’: A (re)examination of uncertainty in college student long-distance dating relationships. Communication Quarterly, 55, 415-432.

4Dainton, M., & Aylor, B. (2002). Patterns of communication channel use in the maintenance of long-distance relationships. Communication Research Reports, 19, 118-129.

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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