Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder:

Science Proves There’s Some Truth to the Old Adage

An important study published in the online Journal of Communication found that the old saying is true. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder!

At least it does if you are actively involved in a long-distance romance. There are plenty of reasons that partners may be absent or far apart from one another, and growing fonder is not always the end result!

Long Distance Romance

In the Journal of Communication study published by L. Crystal Jiang and Jeffrey T. Hancock, the researchers tracked both long-distance and geographically close couples to gather information on their methods of communication like texting, phone calls, video chats, and in-person meetings. They investigated how often the couples communicated, the quality and content of those conversations, and how the participants felt about the communications with each other.

The results showed that long-distance couples felt closer to their partners and contacted each other much more often than couples who saw each other all the time.

The long-distance couples consistently had a more fantasized and romantic perception of each other. No big surprise there, considering they didn’t see the ordinary and boring side of each other every day.

It is easy to see how that first excitement of a relationship lasts longer when daily chores, child care and other “adulting” activities aren’t part of the relationship!

Honesty is the best policy if a long-distance relationship is going to survive and develop into a long term commitment. While the study suggests that the happiest couples are those that are most open in their communication, there is always the danger that a long-distance partner is feeding the fantasy and not showing his or her true colors!

Long Distance Marriages

It used to be fairly common for the husband to be away from home for long periods of time in military service or for work projects. Now it is just as likely to be the wife that is gone for months at a time on a tour of duty or civilian jobs like working on an oil rig, homeland security or on a political campaign!

Another version of the long-distance marriage is the commuter marriage, where both the husband and wife work and live in separate homes in different locations, usually because they each have high-powered professional careers. These couples live apart several nights a week for extended periods of time.

The Science Behind Absence Makes the Heart Grow Stronger-Right SizeIn these situations, there is still one “home base” for the couple, and they both expect the traveling partner to eventually move back home. Just like other long-distance romances, the key to making the heart grow fonder is frequent and meaningful communication. Meaningful communication is more than a daily phone call or email about household problems and bills!

The longer the absence, especially when children are involved, the more risk there is that fondness may turn to resentment.

The person acting as primary parent, chief cook and bottle washer for months to years at a time may eventually get tired of being the one responsible for the daily chores and having to be the one to say no to the children. The traveling parent should avoid undermining the other parent’s authority with the kids or acting like Santa Claus when they get home for visits.

It can be just as damaging to a marriage when the traveling spouse does come home to stay – if there isn’t some respect for the household rules and routines that developed while everyone lived apart. Make sure to make advance discussion of those issues part of your meaningful long-distance communication!

Short Term Separations

When romantic couples are separated, even for a few days, it can be distressing to both partners. A study published in the Journal of Personal Social Psychology looked at the physical and emotional changes to 42 couples over a period that included separations from 4 days to a week. They measured sleep, stress, physical symptoms and cortisol levels of the couples.

In most cases, the partner remaining at home suffered more distress that the partner who traveled, but the better and more frequent contact during the separation, the less anxiety for everyone.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder when you phone home!

Fonder After Breakup?

While absence really can make the heart grow fonder, that generally only works when there is already some fondness to begin with! If you’ve been kicked to the curb by your latest love interest, your ex is not automatically pining away for you.

On the other hand, some people don’t appreciate what they had until they throw it away. If your relationship ended because your spouse ran off looking for greener pastures with someone else, months down the road you just might get a call or email begging forgiveness, usually after you have moved on!

Better the Second Time Around

If the breakup happened after a committed relationship such as marriage, there will be intense emotions on both sides, but fondness may not be part of that – at least not for a while. So how is it that some couples get back together, better than ever after a breakup?

The failure of a committed relationship is tough on both partners who have built a life together and became part of each other before the split. Afterward, each person is left with something like a missing part that has to be repaired or replaced to get back to feeling whole again.

Depending on the reasons for the breakup in the first place, getting back together might be a possibility when they have worked on themselves and still can’t imagine life without the other.

While there are some folks that never take responsibility for their part in a breakup, research shows that the people who spend a lot of time thinking about the breakup, what caused the split, and working through the causes of the problems in the relationship ended up with a healthier and more positive self-concept.

In other words, they ended up a better person because of the breakup, and learned to function better as a partner. They took the time and made the effort to work through what happened and why. They got their stuff together! If they re-connect with their ex, they are bringing their best self to the renewed relationship.

Fondness Gone Bad!

Stalking is for real, and can be life-threatening. The rejected partner who becomes obsessed after a breakup tends to be the most persistent kind of stalker – and not all stalkers are men.

Women can be dangerous stalkers, and statistics show that 1 in 19 men have been the victim of a stalker! Female stalkers tend to be educated, devious and persistent.

An international study  of female stalkers indicates that the average woman stalked her victim for almost two years! Stalking behavior can range from social media stalking to telephone harassment to physical violence against the target or those close to him.

If you are being hassled by an ex that won’t give up, get educated on stalking. Don’t hesitate to protect yourself by contacting law enforcement.

Here or There

Regardless of geographical distance or separation, honest, meaningful and frequent communication is the key to making the heart grow fonder when two people are apart.

Have you been in a long-distance relationship? Are you thinking about getting back with your ex? How has absence affected your relationship? Please share your comments and questions below!

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