True or False? Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
We’re all familiar with the old proverb, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But have you really stopped to think about whether there is any truth to it? Before we dive into the details, here is a quick history lesson: this phrase, in some form or another, can be traced back for 1,000 years! The earliest version of the phrase is credited to Roman poet Sextus Propertius, known for his books of elegies.
Now, here’s the most important question: is it true? It turns out, old Sextus may have been on to something! Let’s take a look at the research surrounding the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” how much space is healthy in a relationship, and some practical advice for those in long-distance relationships.
Does Absence Really Make the Heart Grow Fonder?
It turns out, there’s actually some truth to this phrase! A study published in the Journal of Communication found that couples in long-distance relationships have more meaningful interactions than those who see each other every day, leading to higher levels of intimacy. Since couples in long-distance relationships have limited face-to-face interactions, they try harder to keep the romance alive with frequent communication and deeper discussions about things like love, trust, and future plans.
Ultimately, those in long-distance relationships build a psychological closeness that doesn’t include physical or sexual intimacy. They also use more channels for communicating in addition to text messages, including video and phone calls. Does this mean long-distance relationships are better than close-proximity ones? Not at all! According to a separate study, it just means that, as humans, we invest more in relationships when there is a risk of this relationship weakening. We want to keep the spark alive, no matter how far apart we are.
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How Much Space Is Healthy for Romantic Relationships?
Long-distance relationships aside, how much space is actually healthy for a romantic relationship? First, let’s think about what “space” actually refers to. When we talk about space in romantic relationships, it means taking time to indulge in self-care by focusing on yourself and your own needs. This puts you in a better mindset to take care of your relationship with your partner.
So, how much space do you need? In short, it’s all about finding the right balance. The key is to allow enough space for each of you to grow individually without drifting too far apart as a couple. You need to establish healthy boundaries and actively work to ensure you don’t become too dependent on each other.
Let’s say you love reading books, but your partner is more of a movie person. A great way to incorporate healthy space is to spend some time alone reading while your partner watches a movie. Sit in another room, on the back porch, or at a local coffee shop. Spending time apart doesn’t have to be complicated! Each of you is still getting alone time to focus on something that makes you happy. When you find the right balance, that little bit of distance is enough to make you more grateful for each other and bring you closer together.
Healthy Space or Growing Apart?
Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but what happens when there’s too much distance? There’s a difference between healthy space and growing apart as a couple. Long-term, exclusive relationships can definitely go through rough patches sometimes, but here are some signs that you may be drifting apart:
- You share good or bad news with other people instead of your partner
- You’re not spending your free time together
- You’re not as physically intimate
- You’re not as excited about a future together
- You avoid tough conversations (and feel like there’s no point in having them)
- You feel lonely even when you’re together
- You look for reasons to start arguments
- You don’t talk much anymore
Growing apart does not necessarily mean your relationship is headed for failure. You might just need a little help getting things back on track! A therapist or relationship coach can help you pinpoint your issues and find ways to restore intimacy, trust, and emotional closeness. (Of course, you both have to be passionate about saving the relationship.)
Feel like you and your partner are growing apart? The relationship coaches at Relish can help! Your lessons, quizzes, and insights are customized for your specific needs as a couple. Download the app and get your first week free.
The Challenges of Long-Distance Relationships
If you’re in a long-distance relationship, absence makes the heart grow fonder, but there are still some potential challenges that can pop up. Growing apart is certainly a possibility, but there are also smaller issues, including:
- Running out of things to talk about
- Being upset if your partner doesn’t respond immediately to your communication
- Trouble connecting when you’re in different time zones
- Feeling insecure or jealous
- Putting your personal life on the backburner
- Trying to talk too much
It’s no secret that long-distance relationships can be incredibly hard. The one person you want to spend all of your time with is miles away, and that can feel discouraging! Challenges are bound to arise, but if you’re both committed to making it work, you can power through.
Tips for Staying Close In a Long-Distance Relationship
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy! Here are a few tips for a successful long-distance relationship:
Take Advantage of Technology
It takes three of you to make a long-distance relationship work — you, your partner, and technology! The digital age has brought us so many ways to communicate, and video calls using Facetime or Skype can work wonders in establishing a sense of closeness. Send pictures, texts, emails, videos — anything to keep you feeling connected.
Share the Little Details
When talking to your long-distance love, make them feel like they are there with you. If you went to dinner with a friend, tell them who, where you went, what you had for dinner, and any other little details that give them a vivid visual of your day. It will make them feel like they were there to witness it, even from miles away.
Plan an End Date
You don’t want to be apart forever, so it’s important to talk about a potential end date for all of the long-distance. Do you plan on living in the same place at some point? When will that happen? You and your partner need to be on the same page about the future of your relationship, which means a total commitment from both sides.
Do Things Together
It’s still possible to do stuff together even when you’re apart! Pick a Netflix show and binge-watch at the same time. Play online games together, read the same book, or plan a movie night over Skype. It can help you feel like you’re together physically while fueling emotional connectedness.
Talk to your partner about what the “rules” of your relationship are and what you expect from each other. While you shouldn’t need to check in before every social outing, make sure you’re aware of what would make them uncomfortable. Basically, before doing something and posting about it on social media, think: would my partner be upset about this?
So, does absence make the heart grow fonder? Absolutely. But remember, there’s a difference between a healthy amount of space and growing apart. Make sure you’re frequently communicating with each other about your needs, establish a strong foundation of trust, and remember to take time for yourselves.
The expert relationship coaches at Relish can help you work through a long-distance relationship with customized lessons, quizzes, and insights that you can share and discuss with each other. Take the quiz to start your 7-day free trial!