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Alexander has been contributing for THS for over a year! While he attained a major in communications at SFU, he also recieved a minor in Psychology. Despite those accomplishments, Alex has also never had a full cup of coffee (crazy right?!). Alex is a lifelong sports fan and will defend his Seattle Seahawks to the death, especially if faced against a 49er fan. While Alex's long-term goal is to become a marriage counsellor, he also has a strong passion towards writing that he looks forward to exploring.

Closing The Gap: Technology’s Role In A Long Distance Relationship

Photo Credit: Alex Keobke

Photo Credit: Alex Keobke

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. For many individuals this phrase becomes apparent once they have engaged in a long distance relationship. An estimated 75% of college students will engage in a long distance relationship at some point in their lives. While for many this may be due to pursuing career aspirations, there is no shortage of reasons as to why a relationship may be forced to become long distance. If your relationship does become long distance, there are inherent struggles that may come with it. This includes, but is not limited, to the inability to physically be with your partner. Unlike 15 years ago, technology today is making a long distance relationship seem more viable, even if it comes with ramifications.

It is important to outline both the areas that are difficult, and the elements of your relationship that may get enhanced by the distance. However if you and your partner are able to communicate effectively, and work on your issues, then there is no reason to believe your relationship will not survive.

When my parents engaged in a long distance relationship decades ago, they went months without seeing each other’s face. Despite only being able to communicate through expensive calls, my parents realized their relationship was still one worth salvaging. Thankfully for people entering long distance relationships in today’s society, the idea of phone calls costing $18 a minute (my dad’s rate) is unheard of. Furthermore with video chatting, you may feel like your partner is still right beside you. Technology does wonders in keeping people connected no matter where they are in the world. When you feel your partner is always accessible it becomes paramount just how much you value that connection and communication. You may also find your partner’s overall confidence in your relationship improving alongside your communication. Your partner may be far away, but you can still always feel connected.

Research conducted by Carmen Neustaedter and Saul Greenberg, professors for SFU and University of Calgary, looked into the role of intimacy in a long distance relationship. In contrast to purely audio conversations participants greatly enjoyed being able to use video chat. While there were technological difficulties (such as buffering), technology still leads to forms of communication that were unfathomable only a few years ago. Participants also praised video chatting for the ability to see your partner’s facial reaction. By being able to see your partner, no matter where they are, it increases the level of familiarity and this can lessen the feel of distance. Facial recognition can also play a big role in preventing things at getting misinterpreted, in contrast to only using words without tone.

Video chatting is also accessible on the go with many participants talking about how they can video chat at work, as well as at home. With technology in phones increasing people are never too far from a webcam. Technology is both plentiful, and often easy to set up for you and your partner. Couples also talked about how they would often leave the screen open even if there was not any current discussion. They may fall asleep to their partners face, or do typical activities like eating dinner, all while bonding with their partner over technology. By being able to communicate everything you do with your partner, it may lessen the impact of physically not being there.

While many couples utilize technology to feel closer it can also come with ramifications. An article by writer, Aliana Dockterman for TIME, discusses how their partner always being available, be it via text or otherwise, made her and her partner feel more disconnected. Dockterman’s anxiety would increase if suddenly a text or video call goes ignored expecting that because her boyfriend could respond, he should. By being able to always see her partner, but not touch, it also increased the frustration that they were so close and yet so far away. Technology can create a dangerous precedent that your partner should always be there, even if that would not be an expectation in a local relationship.

Technology also allows us to share our stories over social media. My funny jokes become tweets, and adventures become captured and shared on different platforms. However for Dockterman and many others in a long distance relationship, she was finding out most of the things about her boyfriend through social media. This can often leave you frustrated if at the end of the day, you are still left with only being able to communicate with your partner through words and stories. It is also tough to always hear about your partner’s stories, and know that you could not physically be present for them. By being able to also primarily bond over technology, partners may feel frustrated at only being able to communicate, and not relax in a hug at the end of a day.

The difficulty of technology can also become apparent when going through a disagreement with your partner. While video chatting and facial reactions can help, tone can still often be misinterpreted through technology. The frustration may increase if you are wishing to communicate your points in ways that technology does not provide.  While disagreements happen in person, it can be monumental to be able to hold your partner’s hand or look at them through the disagreement. However when the only form of communication is through technology, it can make the disagreement even more stressful for both of you and make it harder to move on from the fight.

That inability to physically comfort your partner is problematic for many people in a LDR, and technology is a cold substitute for a warm hug. While technology such as video chatting may make it seem more commonplace to be intimate or ‘sext’ with your partner, research finds that not to be the case. Neustaedter and Greenberg found that individuals would often talk about how awkward they felt being sexual over technology. For many this was linked to the fact that it made them more frustrated as it was a reminder of what they could not have. While this is understandable, it is important to also realize that your relationship has some physical or sexual element and that this does not disappear because of distance. The foreign nature of being intimate with your partner can become hazardous when couples get a chance to spend time with each other in person. The anticipation of the distance closing is anxiety inducing enough, without the pressure to be physical enough to make up for lost time. This can lead to any physical element feeling forced, and your relationship may struggle as a result.

It is also important to not allow the lack of sexual intimacy to impact your self-esteem. Not being physically intimate with someone can lead to your partner feeling undesired. This undesired feeling can be magnified if your partner is not putting in the effort to making you feel appreciated. Gestures like flowers or picking up dinner are easy to accomplish in person, but when you are faced with a distance, you and your partner need to come up with creative ways to show love and affection. Your ability to verbalize how you feel is never going to be put more to the test, but this will hopefully lead to long-term growth for your relationship.

While you lose that physical nature there are still plenty of areas where your relationship may grow. The bread and butter of any long distance relationship is the couples ability to communicate their issues. It might be easier to talk over problems in person, and it is okay to know that. However the results from being able to talk things out online or far apart should only increase your confidence with one another. Proper utilization of video chatting can be a big step in making the serious conversations seem feasible, even if it is not the most ideal scenario. Distance challenges us by making us be actively aware that part of your heart is far away. However that distance allows you to constantly be reminded that your time together is precious.

Photo Credit: Alamy

Research conducted by Melissa Hugel, a writer for News.Mic, discovered that couples who engage in a long distance relationship also excel at becoming interdependent. What this signifies is being able to enjoy your partner without losing your own sense of independence. By being able to keep your lives separate you are always able to allow your identity to flourish. The wrong relationship, which far too many people are in, are ones that see your identity become interchanged with your partner. That may seem only natural over time but can have hazardous effects if it impacts your own sense of personal identity. It is also important to point out the potential ramifications of this when your lives stop becoming long distance. You may have enjoyed that sense of freedom or time that is now taken up by your partner. It is important to balance your time, and your time with your partner and this may be easier when your partner is not physically around.

Long distance relationships can also allow for some periods of loneliness as you find yourself with a lot of free time. While this can be harrowing, especially if you’re used to your partner being around, it could in fact be a positive. Many individuals in a long distance relationship may use that free time to pick up a new hobby or skill. You may also use that time apart to learn more about yourself and the traits that you bring to your relationship.

You should not enter a long distance relationship without first putting in a lot of thought. A healthy discussion needs to be had between both parties. You need to be honest about what you can and cannot handle because there are ramifications to entering this type of relationship. If it is going to be long distance, why is that the case and is there an established timeline? It might not be so hard when you know your partner is back in six months, as opposed to an open-ended commitment.

When the relationship can work, there are great advantages to being in a long distance relationship. Interdependence is a skill that any healthy relationship should strive towards. Being removed from your partner may be hard, but it can also help you avoid becoming so wrapped up in your partner that you forget who you are. Distance can make you feel incredibly fortunate if you are with the right partner that still pushes for that communication. Despite the ramifications of technology there are also still monumental benefits to what it allows you to do as a couple. Entering into a long distance relationship is a test of that there is no doubt, but it is a test that you need to believe that you and your partner can handle. There are shortcuts through technology that make the task less daunting, but like all good things you will have to work for it. However when you put in the effort and how your relationship works and you will be glad you did. You can get an incredible insight both on who you are, and how you can communicate with your partner.

Ultimately it comes down to the question as to what is worth it. For myself, any many others, while a long distance relationship is difficult it is not as difficult as life without your partner.

No matter where they live in the world.

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2 Comments on “Closing The Gap: Technology’s Role In A Long Distance Relationship”

  1. nicolettepags April 29, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Leatherbound.

  2. Nana April 30, 2015 at 6:28 am #

    I think technology plays an important role in LDR! My boyfriend and I use couple apps like happycoupleapp to keep in touch and stimulate our talks!

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