In fact, they can be more personal than in-person relationships.
When we think about long distance relationships, a flood of thoughts, opinions and memories may come to mind. You may be someone who has experienced such a dynamic, and it may not have gone well.
Perhaps you know of people who experimented with long distance relationships that ended badly for them. It's pretty easy for us to assume that they don't work, since it's common for the failures of such relationships to be shouted from the rooftops so to speak.
What if I told you that long distance relationships can, however, be just as successful as in-person ones? You might find this hard to believe, but a recent study in the Journal of Communication supports that such relationships can work thanks to advances in the 21st Century.
With modern communication, such as video chat and instant messaging, people all over the world are finding ways to cultivate meaningful relationships from a distance. This might ring true for you or someone you may know, as well.
Maybe you're not convinced. After all, there are probably more stories than we count about people we know that haven't managed to keep the spark of a relationship alive after a few months or years of long distance communication. Still, there's something we need to make clear:
Long distance communication is, for many people, personal. For some, it's even more personal than face-to-face communication, and we're about to discuss how this is even possible.
To do this, we're going to identify several forms of communication and how they're used to make long distance interactions more intimate.
First, let's start with the telephone.
People have been talking on telephones for the better part of the last century, so it's typical for us to take the benefits of this communication for granted. Take a moment to reflect on some of the most meaningful conversations you've had over the phone before we continue.
Now, it's important to point out that a phone conversation forces our minds to perceive the voice we hear as being spacial to our ear. What this means is that it "seems" like the person is right there talking to us, though we don't actually believe this.
Still, this perception is powerful and can cause us to feel close to the person we are talking to. Additionally, many people feel secure and comfortable when talking over the phone because they cannot be seen.
This relative anonymity puts many people at ease, allowing the opportunity for them to discuss things they would have been too embarrassed to talk about in person. As a result, phone conversations can suit many of the relational needs a long distance relationship begs for.
Next: letters and email.
You've probably noticed in the past that the written word has a different type of impact. The ambiguity of it (due to our inability to read the messenger's body language) can force us to pay closer attention to the small moments and words being directed toward us.
Additionally, writing back and forth has its advantages. For one thing, your conversation with that person is essentially endless. Since you are able to write these letter when it is most convenient or suitable for you, you're able to keep the talk going over long periods of time.
This also means that you have more time to say what you want to say on paper, allowing you to use discernment and even creativity that may not be available off-the-cuff.
Letters and emails also make it simpler for you to express love, because writing "I love you" to someone may be a lot easier than having to show it through your actions every single day. This is because your interactions aren't plagued by the mundane tasks that may take the spark out of in-person relationships.
Last we have video communication.
Video chatting is easily the most intimate form of long-distance relationship, mostly because it is the only one that captures almost every type of sensory interaction. You can both see and hear the person, as opposed to just hearing their voice or reading their words.
Unfortunately, some studies have suggested that video may not actually be the best choice for sustaining a long distance relationship.
A recent study looked into how closeness is developed through long distance communication, and they discovered that factors such as time delay and lag actually help build closeness compared to the seamless communication.
They found that increased lag in the video actually improved the positive feelings of the females in the experiment, though there was no change for the males. The researchers theorized that this is because the female participants were more comfortable with communicating from a distance, rather than being both seen and heard. (Nowak, K. L., Watt, J., Walther, J. B., Pascal, C., Hill, S., & Lynch, M. (2004, January). Contrasting time mode and sensory modality in the performance of computer mediated groups using asynchronous videoconferencing. System Sciences, 29-38.)
There is an old saying that says it's unwise to meet your heroes. Could it be that this idiom rings true for people in relationships? If so, this is good news for long distance relationships.