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Does absence make the heart grow fonder?

first_imgBy R. Smith  When my boyfriend, in his most reassuring and pacifying voice, said “Don’t worry, it will all get easier when we are back at uni”, I just wanted to cry.  His university is across the country from mine. I just couldn’t see how it could be in any way reassuring to imagine that things would be better when we were apart. Yet looking back, I suppose he had made an interesting point: do long distance relationships work better than ones where the couple live near to each other? In fact, do relationships “work” at all?The idea of a long-distance relationship may seem like a recipe for disaster to those who have never been in one, but the reality is that they are becoming increasingly popular. More and more jobs now require you to travel long distances, often across different countries and different continents, and this is especially true for highly-educated workers. Perhaps the LDR (Long Distance Relationship) will be the standard model of the future? Greg Guldner, the director of the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, estimates that 14m Americans are in LDRs and a recent survey carried out by Orange Broadband revealed that as many as 1 million Britons are currently involved in an LDR. So how do we measure whether a relationship is successful – be it long or short distance? Is it in relation to our parents? Perhaps not: the Office for National Statistics says that more than one-third of marriages end in divorce. Or is it in relation to some idealised notion, perhaps from the media, about ultimate fulfillment, romance, and the unity of two beings into one? How can we correlate that rose tinted portrayal of love with the bleak reality that fewer and fewer relationships are now life long? Perhaps this is where long distance relationships get their edge. Someone who you see only once a week, fortnight, or even once a month, stands a much better chance of being the kind, attentive, loving person that society leads us to believe that we deserve. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and all that. Not that this is to say long distance relationships are easy. There is always that lingering belief that our partner would be this “perfect” all the time should we be lucky enough to see them. Damn those blessed with a boyfriend/girlfriend nearby!Yet those who do see their partner on a regular, if not daily basis, often moan about lack of quality time, and say that mere quantity is hardly anything to pine for. Your partner becomes your sounding board for all manner of petty daily annoyances, and you end up simply venting all your anger out at the one person you love instead of truly enjoying each other’s company.Yet if you concede that your relationship works better when you are further apart, isn’t that the same as saying that the relationship doesn’t actually work at all? Is it honest to say no one can stand someone they see all the time, or is that just a defensive mechanism we employ to reassure ourselves that our relationship is as good as everyone else’s?Perhaps it is romanticised idealism to imagine that relationships should work wonderfully on a daily basis. Maybe we just need to accept that a relationship that “works” does not need to be a constant source of joy and delight. In fact, perhaps a constantly joyful relationship is working less well, because there is no real reliance, no team work to struggle through difficult things together.  Surely that is the makings of a truly solid relationship.In an age where people are increasingly living apart from their partners it is interesting to ask why, and how, this is providing them with fulfillment. Is the idea of sharing a common life with someone no longer an ideal, or can it be achieved despite distance? Has the increasing value placed on independence come at the price of prioritising proximity, both physically and mentally, in our relationships? Perhaps the time has come to accept that for a growing number of people an ideal relationship is one that they can compartmentalise along with everything else in their busy lives.  They can enjoy it for short periods and then put it away to get on with something else before it gets too dull.last_img

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