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Long Distance Relationships

Essay by   •  December 9, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  2,326 Words (10 Pages)  •  2,369 Views

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Long Distance Relationships:

Can They Work?

Two clichйs: Absence makes the heart grow fonder and Out of sight, out of mind. Which one of these two conflicting views is closer to the reality? As it turns out, it does not really matter that much since long distance relationships (LDR) suffer from exactly the same strengths and weaknesses as proximal relationships. Whether two people are going to have fulfilling relationship does not only depend on their geographical closeness. What matters is quality, not quantity. According to one expert on LDRs, "the majority of studies that have been done show no greater risk of an LDR breaking up than any other relationship (Guldner, 2004, p. 6)." An LDR relationship has the same likelihood of surviving as any other romantic relationship. In his studies Guldner (2004) found no connection linking the quality of the relationship and the physical distance between the two people involved. Erin M. Sahlstein (2001) came to a similar conclusion when she wrote that LDRs can be equally (dis)satisfying as proximal relationships on a global level.

So, then, what is the big deal about proximity? When it comes to interpersonal attraction and meeting potential romantic partner, proximity plays an important role. Elliot Aronson (2004) would argue that proximity is a major factor since people who are geographically close have a greater chance of falling in love with each other. Simple logic would tell us that we do not stand much of a chance of getting romantically involved with somebody who is across the globe from us. Of course, with the increased globalization via the Internet and modern technology, this cannot be ruled out; however, it is still much less likely to happen. Once we do get together other factors that I am going to talk about kick in and proximity itself looses some of its initial importance.

The next important factor that helps couples get romantically involved is similarity. According to Aronson (2004) "we fall in love with people who look like us and who have similar values, attitudes, beliefs and personalities (p. 315)." Since we are social beings we all have the need to love and be loved. Once we come across that person who attracts us by in most cases being similar to us, we start dating and establishing relationship. When the relationship has been established, the amount of time that couple spends dating prior to separation has shown little impact on the success or failure of the LDR. People, not numbers, are in charge of the destiny of the relationship (Guldner, 2004).

Before we go any further, we must attempt a definition of love. As we all know, love comes in many different forms and it is almost impossible to capture the meaning of such a strong concept in a definition. Love means many different things to many different people. Robert Sternberg developed a very popular and often cited theory of love called triangular theory of love (Trotter, 2004). Whether it is proximal or long distance, love between two people has the same possible ingredients: passion, intimacy and commitment. If a love relationship consists of mainly passion and intimacy, it is called romantic love. As the time goes on and relationship matures, passion tends to wear out and what we get is a combination of intimacy and commitment, called companionate love. However, the ultimate goal of any relationship should be what Sternberg calls consummate love, which is a blend of all three ingredients (Aronson, 2004). How or whether people achieve that goal depends on their personalities more than on the situational factors.

At this point I would like to tell you my story: One day a client walked in the office where I used to work. I had never seen him or talked him before that day. As soon as he walked in I was immediately felt drawn to him. His manners, the way he looked and the way he talked made a great impression on me. He radiated a certain sense of calmness and wisdom. He received the service he came for that day and then he left. Almost exactly one year after that initial contact we met again. Even though we had almost no contact at all during that year, when I saw him the same feelings came back. I approached him: he immediately remembered me and we spend next few hours engaged in conversation discovering that we share similar opinions on many issues. Before I could even recover from the initial shock of seeing him again, he asked me to go out for a walk with him the next day. I agreed and that was the beginning of our relationship. He had been divorced for ten years and had made a decision to never marry again. I had normally dated men closer to my age (in one case even younger than me) and would have never contemplated dating (much less marry) somebody 21 years older then me. However, the unlikely happened to both of us. A few months after our first date we got married. Today, five years later, we have two beautiful children and have been living in a long distance marriage for three and a half years.

It is definitely not easy for us to maintain a successful marriage being an ocean apart. Our relationship, as any other, has its strengths and its weaknesses. What I find the most important is the constant feeling of strong commitment, warmth and mutual emotional dependability. These feelings compensate for the lack of one extremely important ingredient: good communication. Intimacy requires that partners are able to talk about anything and to feel understood by the loved one. It became apparent during our marriage that neither of us have solid communication skills. I feel that lack of good, open communication poses greater threat to our marriage than the physical distance itself.

Guldner (2004) argues that being able to share feeling is very important, but what might be even more crucial is to be able to share day-to-day events. He says that social psychologists who study LDRs find that sharing every day experiences makes us feel connected to our partner. It is important that we strive to be involved in each other's day-to-day lives. The more interpersonally involved couples are, the more cohesive their relationship will be. I can definitely attest to how important that is since I feel that lack of the ability (not opportunity) to share little things, poses a major problem in my relationship with my husband. Guldner (2004) goes further to say that his studies have shown that there is no connection between how often couples see each other face-to-face and the quality of the relationships they have. Factors like personality, social support and the quality of the relationship play a much more significant role (Guldner, 2004).

One good indicator of the quality of the relationship is the ability to share negative feelings and to reveal things about ourselves that are not necessarily positive.

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