Long Distance Relationships

Title page



Literature Review

There are many aspects that need to be considered when looking at romantic long-distance relationships. This type of relationship varies greatly from relationships in which the partners live near one another in a number of ways including communication, idealization, and relationship satisfaction. These ideas need to be addressed when discussing the transition, maintenance, and coping solutions of the relationship. The styles of communication and level of idealization in relationships directly relates to the satisfaction of a long-distance relationship (Schulman, 1974; Stafford & Reske, 1990; Taylor 1967). These things, idealization and satisfaction, need to be kept in mind in assessing the value of maintaining a long-distance relationship.


Communication is one of the most central aspects to a relationship. It has been argued by Parks (1982) that “frequent communication and high levels of self- disclosure are equated with relationship development and intimacy . . . [and] leads to accuracy and understanding” (p. 87). According to Stafford, “communication of individuals in long-distance relationships was more restricted than the communication of individuals in geographically close relationships” (p. 277). This restricted communication in long-distance relationships will eventually lead to becoming more idealized or steer couples to perceive their partners inaccurately (Gerstel & Gross, 1984; Murstein & Beck, 1972; Taylor, 1967).

Many of the adverse effects of long-distance relationships are quite obvious and generally expected by those who enter into or find themselves involved in a relationship separated by distance. One such adverse effect is the difficulty in communicating efficiently and effectively between partners. With good communication always playing a key role in lasting relationships, it is not hard to understand how a lack of good communication can be detrimental to a relationship. This is a problem that Schulman (1974) indirectly addresses in her writings on idealization between couples. She and Taylor (1967) believe that communication can often be blocked on subjects of potential conflict, and thus, result in gross misconceptions of the ideals that each partner in a relationship possesses. These misconceptions are then carried into marriage where the partners eventually become aware of them, through “day-to-day intimacy of married life,” and the problems are much more difficult to address (Schulman, p.145). For unmarried couples, taking advantage of the opportunity to spend even minimal amounts of time each day together in intimate conversation can reduce the risk of bringing partner misconceptions into a later marriage (Ball & Henning, 1981). Those in long-distance relationships generally possess only limited means of communication and are at an extreme disability in addressing this issue.

Another aspect that should be mentioned is the different communication styles of men and women as discussed by Wood (2001) and Tannen (1990). These authors point out that men and women do not always communicate clearly to the other sex. An example of this would be in telephone conversations, where men are less likely to talk about what they really feel. These gender barriers, along with distance barriers present many problems for long-distance relationships.


Interdependence is an important aspect of most relationships and it is built on sound communication between couples. Stephen (1987) discusses how good communication allows for a “shared construction of reality” (1987). This shared reality is one in which the members of a relationship rely on each other for nearly everything. This is the foundation for the building of their interdependence. Stephen announces his prediction that, “the relationship between symbolic interdependence and the amount of time spent talking during an average day would be much stronger for separated as opposed to non-separated couples” (p. 198). The implications of this prediction are extremely important to the health of long-distance relationships. The reason is that it places a much larger burden on the members of a long-distance relationship, forcing them to communicate through talk more often than those who are not geographically isolated, in order to maintain a healthy interdependence in the relationship.

One of the major problems of long distance relationships is the idealization that occurs between the couples. According to Schulman (1974), idealization makes the relationship seem to be going well, even if there are conflicts, just because the partner has an idealized view of their significant other. This may occur because the communication between long distance couples is somewhat more restricted than those who live close together,