The Power of Communication in Navigating Long-Distance Relationships
Long distance relationships (LDR), not just of the romantic sort, but between friends and families as well, have become more commonplace with an uptick in migration. Although it is natural to believe that such relationships are less fruitful and harder to maintain, this does not need to be the case! Thanks to advances in technology and digital communication, it is easier than ever to care for and maintain such relationships.
Why is communication so important?
While successful LDRs are nurtured through a combination of many factors, effective and healthy communication have long been recognised as essential aspects to such positive outcomes. With the geographical separation involved in LDRs, regular engagement becomes even more crucial.
Positive communication habits, such as constructive accommodation (responses to people during conflicts) and capitalisation (responses to others sharing good news) is linked to increased relationship satisfaction (De Netto et al., 2021). In addition, greater perceived compatibility between partners has been found in relationships with greater communication skills (Alayi et al., 2011).
This trend is no different with couples and people in LDRs. Increased communication through digital means, such as text messaging, is linked to higher levels of relationship satisfaction (Holtzman et al, 2021).
What are some ways to improve long distance communication?
While physical separation may seem daunting, here are some tips to foster intimacy and communication despite the distance!
1. Use varied methods of communication (Wang et al., 2018)
Being able to seamlessly transition across various modes of communication (ie. face-to-face and virtual platforms) is a sign of relational closeness between people, which extends to greater relationship satisfaction as well. Hence, to improve the fluidity and quality of communication, it’s helpful to integrate engagements across different platforms as opposed to keeping certain platforms for specific interactions.
That being said, it’s preferable to keep critical issues (for instance, conflict resolution) to the platform with the most suitable level of richness, which naturally may be different from person to person.
2. Create “shared space” across the distance (Janning et al., 2017)
In an LDR, space is viewed as something that goes beyond a physical location, and refers to the meaning and intimacy created through communication patterns that are unique to the relationship. The uniqueness of communication explains why some people prefer to send physical notes of affection/concern, while others might curate video messages for one another.
Different modalities serve different purposes, and can speak to different facets in a relationship. Paper formats are viewed as deeply meaningful, thoughtful, and with their increasing rarity, perhaps even sacred. Digital formats tend to be more spontaneous and unfiltered. Visual and audio formats, meanwhile, best mimic the connection that comes from being present in the same physical space, bringing people together as close as possible while in reality still being apart.
Of course, the key is to curate experiences that best suit the interest of a particular relationship.
LDRs may seem difficult at the beginning and could impact emotional or mental well being, but by consistently putting in effort into the various aforementioned aspects, a solid foundation for a fruitful relationship may be built. All the best!
De Netto PM, Quek KF and Golden KJ (2021). Communication, the Heart of a Relationship: Examining Capitalization, Accommodation, and Self-Construal on Relationship Satisfaction. Front. Psychol. 12:767908. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.767908
Holtzman, S., Kushlev, K., Wozny, A., & Godard, R. (2021). Long-distance texting: Text messaging is linked with higher relationship satisfaction in long-distance relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 38(12), 3543–3565. https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075211043296
Zahra alayi, Teymor AhmadiGatab, Ali Babaei Zad Khamen (2011). Relation Between Communication Skills and Marital-Adaptability Among University Students, Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 30, Pages 1959-1963, ISSN 1877-0428, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.10.380.