Listen to this. A sociologist in 1932 looked at thousands of marriage licenses in Philadelphia and found that close to 40% had lived within a 20 block radius of each other before marriage; one out of eight had lived in the same building. Other sociologists in that era found similar patterns in other big cities and also in small towns. Our parents and grandparents sure didn’t set their sights very far to find their soulmate.
Fast forward to today. I’m wracking my brain trying to think of anyone in my circle of family and friends who married the girl or boy next door. Some met at university, others at work, and more and more have met on-line. As single people are casting their dating net wider, some are in relationships with partners who don’t even live in the same city never mind the same postal code.
Are you one of those people who is daunted by love at a distance? Well, I came across some research that may give you reason to cheer. A 2013 study by Cornell University/City University of Hong Kong suggests long-distance partners feel more intimate with each other compared to geographically close couples. The researchers found that couples in a long-distance romance shared more about themselves and idealized their partners’ behaviors when their communication was via text or mobile media. They indicated making more effort to overcome the constraints of not being able to communicate face-to-face.
So I wonder, then, if the take-away is that people in long-distance relationships try harder and get more creative to communicate with each other. And, given that intimate communication is the bedrock of any great relationship, maybe that works to their advantage?
I have a perspective on this. A number of years ago my husband started to travel on business quite extensively. By my estimation, he is out-of-town at least half of the time. I don’t think love at a distance has hurt our relationship, and I agree that communication is key. Here are my three tips for communication in a long-distance romance.
1. SAY SOMETHING CLEVER
Being in different cities can elevate the conversation beyond the day-to-day routine banter that most couples engage in. There’s no point arguing about whose turn it is to take out the garbage or pick up milk at the grocery store because it’s every man (or woman) for themselves in different geographic camps. Communicating at a distance opens up space to engage in interesting chatter. But unlike in face-to-face communication where gaps in continuous conversation are expected, it’s more awkward to be staring at each other in silence on Skype, for example. So make those social media minutes memorable. What can you say that warms your partner’s heart, peaks their interest or makes them laugh?
2. DON’T INTERROGATE
A long-distance relationship requires more trust. After all, it’s not possible to monitor your partner’s coming and goings as easily as when you are in the same city. But keep interrogation out of your communication. Avoid asking questions such as “Why didn’t you pick up your cell?” or inquiring, “Who just texted you?” in a suspicious way. And don’t constantly ask them to account for every minute of their day searching for clues that they may be having too much fun with other people. You either trust your partner, or you don’t—and that isn’t dependent on distance.
3. PAY ATTENTION
It takes a certain skill to communicate long-distance. It’s harder to read body language—that important intangible factor in communication. And your partner may not be able to tell if you are paying rapt attention to them or texting five other friends at the same time. Devoting your undivided attention to your partner by carving out time that is dedicated just to the two of you to communicate is important. And, keep the lines of communication open by communicating every single day if possible. Not every conversation has to be “deep” but those frequent check-ins that demonstrate that love and support are constant, despite the distance, affirm commitment to the relationship. It should never be out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
We have little control over where Cupid’s arrow lands. Sometimes it lands on someone many kilometers away from us, other times only a few. But even then, our significant other may have to move because of a work, school or a family commitment. Despite the distance, those lines of communication can stay open and even strengthen.
Can your relationship go the mile?
Source (first paragraph): Modern Romance; Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg, Penguin Books, 2015
Photo credit: Flickr-Metropolitan Transportation
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