LDR Problems? Look No Further!

Society, and even some researchers, believe that geographic proximity and frequent face-to-face contact are absolutely necessary for developing a successful, stable, and loving relationship (Ellis & Ledbetter, 2015). bigstock-Young-couple-silhouette-busted-64806478.jpgThis idea has placed a stigma on long distance relationships (LDRs): They are less satisfying and overall, well, crappy. But fear not because, on average, “the relationship stability, satisfaction, and trust reported by long distance (LD) couples are equal to or better than those reported by geographically close (GC) couples” (Jiang & Hancock, 2013, p. 557). This could be because partners in LDRs are much more disclosive during the time they do have to communicate. So, don’t lose hope yet. You and your bae are sure to make it through, especially if you understand where your problems are coming from, and which coping mechanisms are right for you.

(Jiang and Hancock, 2013)

 

First, let’s look at why long distance relationships are perceived this way. I think we can all admit that they really can be tough. That’s why you’re here, right?

There are four commonly known external and internal stressors on LDRs that are to blame.

External:

  1. Being apart from your partner is a defining quality of LDRs. Separation itself is a major source of stress that can damage or end a relationship, particularly for individuals who are more anxious about their relationship (Ellis & Ledbetter, 2015).
  2. Traveling to see your partner and planning face-to-face visits or communication opportunities can be problematic as well. It can be stressful when schedule don’t match up or communication preferences clash. man-person-people-train
  3. The economic hardship brought on by travel expenses and phone bills is a very real problem for a lot of LDR members. Traveling to see your significant other as often as you want can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars year.
  4. Given the cultural belief in the United States that value face-to-face contact and close proximity as necessary to maintain relationships, your friends and family may not support the relationships, or could become potential rivals or sources of comparison for you. Through this, you can potentially lose faith in your own relationship.

(Maguire & Kinney, 2010)

Internal

  1. Some individuals in LDRs experience frustration as a result of communication difficulties. When it isn’t easy to contact your bad, it can take a toll on you.
  2. Interpersonal or relational differences may promote couples to drift apart. After a few weeks of talking less and less, you may feel further away from your bae.14306645759838.jpg
  3. Inequity could be a stressor for LDR partners if there are perceptions that one individual is investing more into the relationship than the other. It becomes exhausting to try in a relationship when the action is not being reciprocated.
  4. Doubts about the relationship, including whether the couple will be together in the future can arise in an LDR. It is also common for there to be a decrease in trust ad an increase in suspicion.

(Maguire & Kinney, 2010)

Now, since we know what makes LDRs so hard and we also know that it is possible to have a successful LDR, lets look at the dos and don’ts (and maybes) of coping with common LDR stressors:

DON’T

If you are experiencing tension and stress in your LDR, do not use this method to cope with it:

Individual Coping

One type of communication-based coping involves strategies that are enacted independently from one’s partner but may influence the partner. For example, social withdrawal involves partners distancing themselves from others to manage emotional reactions to stress. The use of withdrawal has been associated with higher levels of anxiety, as well as lower levels of relationship adjustment pexels-photoreported that chronic daily stress might lead to more withdrawal, which would then lead to lower levels of relational satisfaction. Thus, we expect that the perceived helpfulness of withdrawal to be inversely associated with relational satisfaction.

(Maguire & Kinney, 2010)

MAYBE

If your relationship is stable enough and there is not a huge amount of stress and tension, these two coping mechanisms are possible options for redemption:

Dyadic Coping

With dyadic coping, relational partners work together to reduce stress. Such problem-focused coping efforts are aimed at managing or altering the problem, and are most frequently enacted when conditions are appraised as amenable to change. Partners who handle stress together tend to have higher levels of relationship satisfaction.

pexels-photo-226166 In an LDR problem-focused, dyadic coping may seem helpful in situations where there is less stress and less threat to the relationship, such as when relational partners know they will be together in the same city in the future and are happy about that possibility. But, because the use of joint problem solving by distressed couples causes frustration because they may never arrive at a solution, it may be that individuals in distressed LDRs will perceive dyadic coping as less helpful than those in relatively stress-free LDRs.
(Maguire & Kinney, 2010)

Social Support

A fourth type of communication-based coping is social support. Although seeking social support from friends and family can help to manage your emotional distress, it is inconclusive whether or not it is effectivedog-hugging-cat-video. While the approval and support from your social network may be an important coping strategy for your LDRs a lack of support or an overabundance of support could lead to negative relational outcomes such as decreased romantic involvement. (Maguire & Kinney, 2010)

DO

If you are having problems with your LDR, this coping method is sure to help you out:

Relationship-Focused Coping

A third type of communication-based coping response involves communication enacted to keep the relationship strong. This is sometimes referred to as relationship-focused coping. There is a growing body of communication research that investigates the strategies individuals use to maintain a satisfactory relationship.

Currently, there are five clear strategies:

  1. Openness: This includes direct discussion of the relationship. Never hesitate to talk to your partner about your concerns.
  2. Assurances: This is implications of a future together and commitment to one another. Your relationship will be stronger if you both make your intentions clear.
  3. Positivity: This might be the most obvious strategy. Be sure to present behaviors that make your interactions with bae cheerful and pleasant
  4. Sharing tasks: Going back to balance, both of you should show a willingness to take equal responsibility in the relationshiplong
  5. Use of social networks: Like mentioned before, social support can be a helpful coping mechanism. However, make sure you are getting a reasonable amount of support. Not too much, and not too little. After all, it is your relationship, not theirs.

 

(Maguire & Kinney, 2010)

So, instead of crying into your pillow and pretending it’s bae’s shoulder, think about how lucky you are. LDRs can be the most rewarding, stable relationships. Don’t let the judgment of society (and maybe a little research) make you think any less of your love life. In the end, distance can and does make the heart grow stronger, you just have to let it. Understand the roots of your problems and choose the right methods to cope with them.

References
Crystal Jiang, L., & Hancock, J. T. (2013). Absence makes the communication grow fonder: Geographic separation, interpersonal media, and intimacy in dating relationships. Journal Of Communication, 63(3), 556-577. doi:10.1111/jcom.12029
Ellis, N. K., & Ledbetter, A. M. (2015). Why might distance make the heart grow fonder?: A relational turbulence model investigation of the maintenance of long distance and geographically close romantic relationships. Communication Quarterly, 63(5), 568-585. doi:10.1080/01463373.2015.1078390
Maguire, K. C., & Kinney, T. A. (2010). When distance is problematic: Communication, coping, and relational satisfaction in female college students’ long-distance dating relationships. Journal Of Applied Communication Research, 38(1), 27-46. doi:10.1080/00909880903483573
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