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Long-Distance Relationships: Literature Review Essay

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Updated: Jul 4th, 2021

Introduction

Long-distance relationships are common phenomena in the contemporary world. Factors such as job assignments and education force couples to live miles away (Kelmer, Rhoades, Stanley, & Markman, 2013). The general perception is that long-distance relationships do not work. Most people argue that it is difficult for couples to wait for each other for an unspecified duration. Individuals opposed to long-distance relationships are unwilling to live a life characterized by Skype calls and expensive travels (Kelmer et al., 2013). Despite the negative views that many people have regarding long-distance relationships, research shows that there are couples who are in such arrangements and happy with the way they relate to each other. Being in a long-distance relationship does not necessarily result in negative interaction. Individuals who have defied the general perception about long-distance relationships have proved that the arrangement strengthens companionship. This literature review will discuss how long-distance and extended amounts of time reinforce relationships.

Improved Intimacy

The popular knowledge has it that distance impacts romantic relationships, and that being away from one’s spouse or partner affects their happiness. Individuals in support of this argument hold the adage that “out of sight, out of mind” (Mark & Jozkowski, 2013). They do not understand how couples can allege to be happy yet live miles away from one another. Recent research shows that absence has significant impacts on relationships because it results in couples missing each other, thus developing compassionate feelings (Mark & Jozkowski, 2013). Indeed, men and women who do not meet on a regular basis have more meaningful relationships than those who live together. According to Mark and Jozkowski (2013), couples in long-distance relationships have higher chances of sharing valuable emotions and thoughts than those who interact on a daily basis. Additionally, they are likely to romanticize their spouses’ behaviors, resulting in a better sense of intimacy.

Couples should not part ways if circumstances do not allow them to live together. Research shows that geographical distance does not prevent spouses from sharing intimacy. A study on 63 heterosexual couples aged below 21 found that they were happy in their relationships despite having limited interactions (Mark & Jozkowski, 2013). They claimed that their occasional communications were extended and more consequential. The interactions gave them an opportunity to share their emotions and talk more about themselves. Studies are yet to confirm why long-distance relationships promote deep interactions. Nevertheless, there are propositions that men and women who do not meet regularly can romanticize their spouse’s confessions.

Technology has revolutionized the nature of long-distance relationships. In the past, people could only communicate through telegraphs or letters, which took time to reach the intended persons. The correspondence between couples could take days, if not weeks. Today, social platforms like Skype, Facebook, and Twitter have made it possible for couples to communicate instantly, bridging the geographical distance between them. Bao and Lyubomirsky (2013) argue that technology enables couples in long-distance relationships to read each other’s facial expressions as they communicate, which boosts their intimacy. At times, partners may get distracted when talking via phone. However, they tend to pay attention to each other if chatting via video calls.

The critics of long-distance relationships argue that the allegation that it enhances intimacy overlooks factors such as stress and loneliness that are attributed to living apart (Firmin, Firmin, & Lorenzen, 2014). Some relationship therapists posit that not all couples who are in long-distance relationships are happy (Bao & Lyubomirsky, 2013). The counselors allege that they occasionally come across men and women who regret living apart. Some spouses even disclose to them that they are doubtful of their relationships. Some counselors admit that they do not encourage couples to live separately as such a relationship is quite stressful (Bao & Lyubomirsky, 2013). The major problem is that most of the existing studies focus on the demerits of long-distance relationships. Nevertheless, it is imperative to appreciate that such relationships are not inevitably bound to fail. Technology has made it possible for couples to remain in a romantic relationship despite the distance between them.

Enhanced Communication

Communication is paramount in a relationship. Long-distance or geographically close relationships cannot work without adequate connection between couples. One of the mistakes that spouses make is failure to have heart-to-heart conversations with their partners (Jiang & Hancock, 2013). Instead, they live like two strangers without knowing how the other party feels about their behaviors. Research shows that partners in long-distance relationships endeavor to show understanding and love. According to Borelli, Rasmussen, Burkhart, and Sbarra (2014), couples who live together have a propensity to disregard their daily interactions. The fact that they see each other on a regular basis makes them believe that they understand their partners’ thoughts and feelings.

It might not necessarily be the case since some couples may conceal their emotions to please their partners. On the other hand, couples in long-distance relationships take advantage of the time that they interact to express their feelings. Jiang and Hancock (2013) hold that spouses in long-distance relationships make sure that they utilize their communication time fully. They share not only their emotions and feelings but also thoughts. Eventually, they gain experience in how to speak with one another. A study on couples who lived distances apart found that most men and women believed that their partners did not hide their thoughts and feelings during conversations (Jiang & Hancock, 2013). It helped not only to understand one another but also strengthen their bond.

Couples in a long-distance relationship are better at communication than those who live together. Living apart compels partners to enhance their communication skills to avoid misunderstandings. As per Jiang and Hancock (2013), Cornell researchers found that long-distance couples work hard to defeat communication challenges. They learn each others’ ways of communicating, thus knowing what to say or not to say during a discussion. For a long-distance relationship to work, both parties must know what they require to feel connected. Communication between spouses enables them to understand each other’s needs and work towards fulfilling them.

Being in a relationship entails more than just watching movies together and having sex. Jiang and Hancock (2013) claim that individuals ought to take advantage of relationships to discern how to connect on different levels with their partners. Couples who experience the challenges and joy of being in a long-distance relationship acknowledge that there are multiple ways of strengthening love than just being together. According to Jiang and Hancock (2013), individuals who survive long-distance relationships do not let the geographical gap thwart their intimacy. Instead, they look for alternative ways of communication that enable them to connect. Some couples share surprise gifts while others send thoughtful messages to partners to remind them of their love.

Sense of Autonomy

One of the unique features of long-distance relationships is the sense of independence that couples develop. Firmin et al. (2014) argue that living miles away from one another results in couples developing individual freedom, identities, and a sense of control, which are vital to a relationship. In instances where couples live together, one of the partners may feel overwhelmed or “crowded” by the presence of the other. Such feelings affect their relationships, forcing them to drift apart. On the other hand, couples that live a distance apart are not bothered by their partner’s proximity. One may argue that living apart leads to couples developing jealousy and a sense of insecurity, which affect their relationships. However, couples who trust in each other are not afraid of living separately. Firmin et al. (2014) aver, “Fully trusting your partner and their actions as they live away from you is a true act of faith and a testament to the health of your relationship” (p. 63). Despite the freedom that the couples who live apart have, they consult each other before doing anything.

Firmin et al. (2014) claim that men and women treasure the dynamics attributed to long-distance relationships such that they miss them when they finally settle together. A study conducted in 2006 found that at least 33% of couples who were in long-distance relationships could not sustain their love for each other after moving in together (Firmin et al., 2014). Some spouses cited loss of autonomy, jealousy, disagreements, and time management as some of the factors that contributed to breakups. It showed that long-distance relationship was not only good for the couples but also appreciated and ideal. Therefore, the interaction is healthy for men and women who prefer autonomy and trust each other.

Improvement of Sex Life

Relationship experts argue that distance should not interfere with an individual’s love life. Morey, Gentzler, Creasy, Oberhauser, and Westerman (2013) argue, “Distance introduces a whole new element to the idea of monogamy” (p. 1774). Even though many couples won’t admit it, long-distance relationships have the temptation. Some people develop the urge to establish new relationships with men or women who live close to them. Only couples who are disciplined and dedicated to a relationship can withstand the urge. Morey et al. (2013) assert that men and women who are creative overcome the temptations associated with living apart. Skype sex allows couples to understand each other sexually. There are intimate things that husbands and wives cannot share face-to-face due to being shy. However, they can say them freely via Skype, making it possible for them to improve their sex life.

Appreciation of One Another

Couples are liable to taking each other for granted when they spend a lot of time together. They get preoccupied with their everyday activities and programs such that they do not have time to value each other’s presence. It underscores the reason most husbands and wives who live together are caught up in petty squabbles that result in break-ups. Such challenges are mostly witnessed in times of stress, especially if one or both partners had a rough day at work. Borelli et al. (2014) argue that being away from your spouse can be useful for both of you. Distance teaches couples the significance of their relationship. Consequently, men and women appreciate the time that they spend with their partners. They begin to miss their company, jokes, and laughter. Such feelings are not wrong because they enable couples to understand how much they love their partners, thus appreciating their presence whenever they meet.

Tests the Love

Most people tend to think that couples who live together have greater love, which is not always correct. Many men women who spend a lot of time together break up when distance separates them. The inability to cope with the distance leads to partners dissolving the relationship. Borelli et al. (2014) maintain that it is depressing to find that many couples are willing to sacrifice their relationships for the immediate safety attributed to living together. They fail to realize that being apart may give them a chance to grow individually. Moreover, the separation is mostly short-lived. Hence, couples are confident of being together in the future. A long-distance relationship helps to gauge the husband’s and wives’ love for one another. Borelli et al. (2014) posit, “To be ready to spend days, weeks, or even months apart is a great sacrifice, and in the end, it can bring much happiness when you and your partner are reunited” (p. 1091). Nevertheless, this demands commitment from both parties.

Conclusion

Long-distance relationships are not always destined to fail, contrary to what many people believe. One of the mistakes that couples commit is to focus on the negative attributes of the relationship. In a situation where men and women love each other, long-distance relationships can help to strengthen their connection. Couples who live apart appreciate the significance of communication and work hard to understand and meet each others’ needs. Living apart makes husbands and wives to miss and value each other, thus treasuring the moments that share. It becomes easy for partners to resolve their differences because they do not like to lose one another. Separation helps to determine the couples’ commitment to a relationship.

References

Bao, K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2013). Making it last: Combating hedonic adaptation in romantic relationships. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(3), 196-206.

Borelli, J., Rasmussen, H., Burkhart, M., & Sbarra, D. (2014). Relational savoring in long-distance romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 32(8), 1083-1108.

Firmin, M., Firmin, R., & Lorenzen, K. (2014). A qualitative analysis of loneliness dynamics involved with college long-distance relationships. College Student Journal, 1(1), 57-71.

Jiang, L., & Hancock, J. (2013). Absence makes the communication grow fonder: Geographic separation, interpersonal media, and intimacy in dating relationships. Journal of Communication, 63(3), 556-577.

Kelmer, G., Rhoades, G., Stanley, S., & Markman, H. (2013). Relationship quality, commitment, and stability in long-distance relationships. Family Process, 52(2), 257-270.

Mark, K., & Jozkowski, K. (2013). The mediating role of sexual and nonsexual communication between relationship and sexual satisfaction in a sample of college-age heterosexual couples. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 39(5), 410-427.

Morey, J., Gentzler, A., Creasy, B., Oberhauser, A., & Westerman, D. (2013). Young adults’ use of communication technology within their romantic relationships and associations with attachment style. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(4), 1771-1778.

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