Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Long Distance Relationships...a Do or a Don't?

This isn't an easily answered question. I work with many young adults, and I find that a significant percentage are involved in long-distance romantic relationships. These relationships seem especially prevalent among college students for a variety of reasons. Students may carry high school relationships into college, while some students meet friends of friends while traveling during an academic break. Whatever the reason, these relationships have unique advantages and disadvantages.

Absence may make the heart grow fonder--or at least prolong the "honeymoon" portion of the relationship. That new lover retains their novelty when you only get to see them once every couple months. People tend to stay on their best behavior in the initial phases of a relationship. The distance forces couples to communicate and get to know each other through phone conversations, emails, and texting. Physical contact is less frequent, which means that sex can be even more exciting when it finally happens. (Nothing like weeks of texting to add to the anticipation). But these advantages can also have serious drawbacks that can potentially derail a new relationship.

Physical distance can make it more difficult to get to know a potential partner and build real intimacy. To truly know someone, you need to see see their many facets--not just their best. This takes more time in a long-distance relationship. Communication can be more difficult because emails and text messages and even phone calls lack the nonverbal information that adds so much to a conversation. Couples in long-distance relationships may be prone to miscommunication and misinterpretation. I also find that jealousy plays a more significant role in long-distance relationships. Having an affair with someone you barely know is exciting in part because you can project all sorts of traits onto the person. While many people idealize their romantic partners, others project their fears and baggage from past relationships. Both scenarios create problems and both blind you to the reality of the relationship you are currently creating.

The key to long-distance relationships is communication. Talking to your partner about your needs, wants, and fears foster real intimacy and helps prevent misunderstandings that can thwart the best relationships.

1 comment:

Brooke said...

This is a great point! Getting to know someone's true nature is much more difficult in a long distance situation so communication and honesty are even more important.