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Despite the challenges, long-distance couples may be building stronger personal bonds than those living closer together.
Published in the Journal of Communication, a new study found people in long-distance relationships have more meaningful interactions and higher levels of intimacy compared to couples who see each other every day.
For the research, 63 couples in their early 20s were surveyed online. On average, the couples in the study had been separated for 17 months, usually due to attending different colleges.
Dr. Crystal Jiang, of City University of Hong Kong, and Dr. Jeffrey T. Hancock, assistant professor of communications at Cornell University, suggested it is the limited amount of quality time together that explains the distinction.
“Those in long-distance relationships were
found to have more meaningful interactions.”
“Besides communication frequency, they also adapt their messages, for example, by focusing on more limited but relationally intense topics,” Jiang said. “The intimacy developed here is a psychological closeness – it doesn’t include physical or sexual intimacy.”
Researchers tracked the quality of communication (face to face, phone calls, email, texting, instant messaging and video chat) reported by participants for a full week.
While long-distance couples were found to have less contact online, they did utilize more tools to connect directly, including video chat.
Among U.S. college students, Jiang estimates 25 to 50 percent are currently in long-distance relationships. She points out these numbers would likely not have been seen without the Internet connecting people often a world away.