By Jenn Sturiale
Surprising the heck out of pretty much everyone, "absence makes the heart grow fonder" has been scientifically proven to be true -- but not for the reason our grandmas may have believed.
According to a recent study, all that time long-distance couples spend IMing, texting, video chatting and emailing really does help them forge a stronger connection. Partners who live in the same place could learn a thing or two, in fact.
"Long-distance couples try harder than geographically close couples in communicating affection and intimacy, and their efforts do pay back," says Crystal Jiang, Ph.D., coauthor of the 2013 study, which appeared in the Journal of Communication. "People in long-distance relationships often have stronger bonds from more constant, and deeper, communication than normal relationships."
We dove into the nitty-gritty research details so you can apply the secrets of long-distance relationships to your own local love affair, and have the best of both worlds: a strong relationship with a partner you can hug without first reserving a window seat. If you're lucky enough to live near your sweetie, a little energy directed towards creating closeness can result in big rewards. Here's how to make it so.
Good: Keep In Touch
Love notes can perk us up when the daily grind wears us down. One short and sweet text or email per day can make your lover's heart pitter-patter -- without causing his or her head to spin from electronic overload. Be sure to include an intimate and heartfelt detail in your notes as a key way to boost your bond. (Example: "Thanks for bringing me my coffee in bed this morning. I loved that -- and I love you.")
Better: Really Talk
It's easy to get stuck on conversational autopilot and spend too much time on the necessary but mundane details of everyday life. "Local couples' communication is more likely to be related to daily routine, such as planning dinners," Jiang points out. "They are less motivated to adapt their communication to focus on intimacy."
So, try lifting things to a higher level. While cooking with your partner, share the funny-sad story behind your deathly fear of peas; tell each other your childhood-pet stories while walking the dog. Begin to see each conversation as an opportunity for connection, from your heart to your partner's.
Best: Communication For The Win
Learning communication techniques such as Imago Relationship Therapy (which focuses on becoming empathetic about your partner's childhood wounds) or Nonviolent Communication (which emphasizes "deep listening") can help you clear old emotional blockages and access more meaningful ways of connecting with your partner. With just a little know-how and an upgraded approach, you'll soon notice the warm fuzzies of a deeper love connection.
"The key thing is to spend effort to maintain relationships," recommends Jiang. "I think the spirit here is to stay positive about your partner, tell your partner about your needs and concerns, and encourage yourself and your partner to be responsive to each other’s needs."