We often turn to those closest to us for support when confronted with difficult situations. When financial trouble strikes, we turn to family for financial help (i.e., tangible/material support). Or, when things at work drive us crazy we turn to our partners, sometimes for advice (i.e., informational support) or simply for a warm hug (i.e., emotional support). In romantic relationships, being able to turn to a partner for support during stressful times has long been considered a crucial part of what makes a relationship work.1 Knowing that you can turn to your partner for support conveys a number of important pieces of information about your relationship. A supportive partner can be trusted to act in your best interests, demonstrates that he or she really cares about you, empathizes with you, understands you well enough to know that support is needed, and is responsive to your distress signals.
Entries in proximity (6)
A co-worker of mine recently asked me if she could set me up with a guy in another department at my university. Since my divorce about 2 years ago, I have only started dating again the last few months, but I have not told her much about my personal life. Although I like one man I have recently started dating a lot (The Consultant), I did not want to tell my co-worker about him quite yet. I am sure her intentions to set me up with a colleague are good, but I tend to shy away from workplace set-ups due to the complications that can arise.
As I look out my office window at the freshmen moving into the dorms, I’m reminded of a classic study of student housing at MIT demonstrating the importance of physical proximity on forming friendships. Most college friendships developed between people who lived near to each other; those living close to stairwells and mailboxes (i.e., gathering places) became the most popular residents. So if you want to make friends, be seen and interact with others.
Festinger, L., Schachter, S., & Back, K. (1950). Social pressures in informal groups: A study of human factors in housing. Palo Alto, California: Stanford University Press.
"DX" asked the following question: I'm wondering if there are any studies about long distance relationships? There's just so much knowledge I believe to be gained from focusing on such a very difficult but highly rewarding relationship type.
Dear DX-- You are exactly right; there's a lot to be learned by looking at the dynamics of long-distance relationships (or what those of us in the business affectionately refer to as "LDRs"). Fortunately, researchers have not neglected this common relationship context. Please see our previous posts by SofR contributor Dr. Bevan (see here and here).
Additionally, below I've pasted an excerpt from our forthcoming book, where I answer the question: Is distance bad for relationships?
Decades ago psychologists discovered that simply being close in physical proximity to another person increases liking and attraction for that person. Scientists call this the “mere exposure” effect. Earlier this season on How I Met Your Mother, the mere exposure phenomenon was in full effect, illustrated creatively through Barney Stinson’s "Mermaid Theory."
Rather than simply giving a top ten list of where individuals meet, we're arming you with the basic principles at play during initial encounters:
(1) Physical closeness leads to psychological closeness. You have to interact with a person to have a relationship with him or her, and being around each other ups the chances of having an interaction. Potential partners are all around-- in your neighborhood, in one of your classes, in your church, or in a cubicle down the hall. Not only does physical proximity increase the odds of meeting and interacting with someone, but just seeing a person a lot can lead you to like them more (known as the “mere exposure effect”).1 The girl (or guy) next door will have an advantage in winning your heart because you see that person more often. Like a fungus, she (or he) is going to grow on you whether you realize it or not.