Couples In Long-Distance Relationships More Intimate
July 21, 2013

Long-Distance Relationships Tend To Be More Intimate

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and now there's scientific evidence to support the old adage, courtesy of researchers from City University of Hong Kong and Cornell University.

According to USA Today's Molly Vorwerck, psychologists and study authors Crystal Jiang and Jeffery T. Hancock have discovered that individuals who participate in long-distance romantic relationships are more intimate with their significant others than men and women who spend time with their partners on a daily basis.

The study, which appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Communication, reports that couples who remain together despite the distance between them have more meaningful interactions with each other than those who see each other frequently. They are also reportedly more likely to idealize their partners, the authors wrote.

Jiang and Hancock asked 63 heterosexual couples, approximately half of whom lived together and half of whom were in long-distance relationships, to keep a week-long journal of their interactions with their significant others. The study participants were young couples, primarily college students around the age of 21, and those who lived apart had been separated for an average of 17 months.

Those interactions, according to, included face-to-face meetings, phone calls, video chats, text messages and emails. Each participant was asked to record how much information they shared about themselves, and how high of an intimacy level they experienced during the given interaction.

"The researchers...found, not surprisingly, that far-flung couples interacted fewer times per day. But these interactions were more meaningful," said Belinda Luscombe of "The couples who were in what was once called 'geographically impossible' situations tended to reveal more about themselves in each conversation and to idealize their partner's response to each piece of self-disclosure. They also spent more time on each interaction."

"Such disclosures and idealizations, studies suggest, are the building blocks of intimacy. So it's not surprising that the diaries reflected more satisfaction among the remotely placed partners," Luscombe added. "The couples who saw each other all the time, on the other hand, while recording more conversations, didn't make such an effort and were more realistic about their partners' responses."

Jiang and Hancock discovered that since long-distance partners tended to believe that their significant others were more likely to share personal thoughts and feelings, while also being more responsive to their own emotions, it enhanced positive perceptions about the strength of their relationships. However, Jiang warned that that could cause problems when they do reunite, as the "positive illusion" tends to disappear as they spend more time together.

Jiang told Vorwerck that she was not surprised by the results, and that they were indicative of the "adaptive nature" of interpersonal communication. She also noted that she believed as many as half of all American post-graduate students were currently in long-distance relationships, and that up to 75 percent had been in such a relationship at least once during their collegiate careers. Jiang also touted access to digital communication options such as Skype as one reason for that phenomenon, as they make it easier to bridge the geographic gap between two lovers.