We’ve been focused on relationships this month at TFI Talks—but not all relationships face the same issues. For example, couples in long distance relationships often have unique stressors and situations to deal with.
Dr. Steve Du Bois Morgan Postdoctoral Clinical Research Fellow at The Family Institute provides today’s tips on how couples in long distance relationships can keep their partnerships strong, meaningful and satisfying.
The research is growing.
Research is increasing on the topic of long distance relationships, including at The Family Institute, where we are running a study on the topic. The research that’s already been conducted has produced mixed findings: For example, across studies, researchers have found that members of long distance relationships are more satisfied, equally satisfied, and less satisfied than members of proximal relationships.
What this means is we need to understand long distance relationships better. We know what communication frequency and style is important in both types of relationships. However, variables like type of contact (in-person, over-the-phone) may be different in long distance relationships and proximal relationships. Interestingly, there is evidence that members of long distance relationships communicate better than those in proximal relationships.
The stakes are high.
Simply put, being around one another promotes intimacy for couples. When a couple looks into each other’s eyes, or gently touches each other’s hands or face—these can initiate the release of oxytocin in both individuals. This oxytocin increases feelings of connectedness.
People in long distance relationships almost definitionally have fewer of these moments than those in proximal relationships. Related, some members of long distance relationships may disproportionately pressurize each of their moments together, because they have so few. In other words, for some members of long distance relationships, each moment spent together is high stakes, because those moments are rare. This pressure can make it hard to connect with someone you love (or at least like).
Keep your relationship strong when you’re together—and when you’re apart.
- Take the pressure off yourself to perform the grandest romantic gesture, or to utter the perfect loving words. These standards will likely stifle instead of inspire you.
- Generally speaking, you are likely to create more intimacy in-person, but if that’s not possible, utilize technology to get as close to this as possible (e.g. video chatting so you can see each other).
- Strive to incorporate newness into your relationship. Do something neither of you have done individually, together—a vacation to a new place, dinner or a date somewhere neither of you has been, or even something simple like taking a different route when you walk the dog together. The shared experience of newness bonds people, and it works against those pesky feelings of boredom that can creep up after being together a long time.
- There may be disappointment in long distance relationships with not being able to spend more moments together, including holidays, birthdays, or other expectation-filled events. However, couples in long distance relationships can re-frame these events as opportunities to create their own, unique experiences, more tailored to their relationships, and more on their terms.
Dr. Steve Du Bois conducts research on psychological and behavioral health. He has 10 published research articles, and has given over 15 presentations at professional national and international research conferences.
He also has experience providing individual, couple, and group therapy to individuals of all ages. He has worked with clients in Chicago-based community clinics, academic medical centers, and Veterans Affairs hospitals
To read Dr. Du Bois full bio, visit our website.
To learn more about The Family Institute, including our affordable couples counseling, visit our services webpage.