Ponnada: Long-distance love

BY SRI PONNADA | JULY 23, 2013 5:00 AM

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As the end of summer slowly dawns upon us, some people may be worrying that summer isn’t the only thing ending.

For recent college and high-school graduates in relationships, moving to another city, state, or perhaps country could mean leaving their better half behind. After all, they say long-distance relationships never work. Or do they?

According to a new study just published in the Journal of Communication, long-distance relationships are actually stronger than relationships between couples who live together or close by. Surprising, right?

Research shows that people in long-distance relationships reported feeling emotionally closer to their partners than people in relationships with people who were literally (geographically) closer.

UI senior Audrey Smith met her now-ex-boyfriend of two years at her church in North Carolina. The two started dating in July 2010, a month before Smith left for her first year of college.

Smith and her boyfriend saw each other about once every three to four months and talked on the phone or Skyped every day.

“Being long-distance helped us develop a very strong emotional closeness because our only way of staying in contact was talking to each other,” Smith said, “Whether that was talking about our day, playing games over the Internet, or reading to each other.”

Smith’s past relationship is certainly not an aberration. The researchers noted that 3 million married couples in the United States live apart. Up to 50 percent of college students are currently in long distance relationship, and up to three-quarters of college students said they have been in a long-distance relationship at some point.

Technology has made the once-dreaded long distance much more doable. It’s not like back in the day when the only way you could keep in touch with your sweetheart was by sending her or him a handwritten letter via Pony Express or carrier pigeon. We’ve got Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp, email — you name it.

However, the very reason that love is blossoming with your faraway partner may be because he/she is faraway. This new study and others before it have shown that long-distance partners tend to idealize each other, or see them in unrealistically positive terms.

UI junior Paige Allison didn’t idealize her long-distance boyfriend, she said, but sometimes the reason they didn’t fight is that they were in a long-distance relationship.

“We had to deal with not being able to talk to each other for long periods of time,” Allison said, “So when we did get to talk to each other, we had to put any issues we had aside because that was the only time we had to talk to each other because we didn’t want to waste it by fighting or doing pointless things like that.”

Allison and her boyfriend had to maintain a long-distance relationship for almost a year and a half. She said that although she was initially not fond of the distance, it definitely made the two grow closer and mature a lot faster than she anticipates they would have in a “regular” relationship.

You may not live in the same place and see each other in person very often, but that doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t as intense or that your relationship isn’t as serious. Distance doesn’t prevent you from having a meaningful and successful relationship.

So those of you on your way to Iowa City or on your way out of here: Don’t fear. Absence does seem to make the heart grow fonder, after all.

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