Monday, January 27, 2014

Distance Is the New Closeness: Why does geographical distance increase romantic closeness?

Distance Is the New Closeness

Why does geographical distance increase romantic closeness?

Published on January 12, 2014 by Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D. in In the Name of Love

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Geographical proximity and frequent face-to-face contacts have long been considered as crucial for promoting romantic relationships. However, a growing body of research indicates otherwise: long-distance relationships often have equal or greater value in maintaining and promoting romantic relationships. Can we say then that (geographical) distance is the new (romantic) closeness? Is living apart together better than living together?

Closeness and romantic relationships

Closeness is a crucial element determining emotional intensity. Because emotions are highly personal, they are usually elicited by those who are close to us. When a person is detached from us, we are unlikely to have any emotional attitude toward her. Distance typically decreases emotional intensity, as it is contrary to the involved and intimate perspective typical of emotions. Love includes the wish to become as close as possible to the person we love.

Geographical proximity has indeed been considered essential to romantic love, one reason being that sexual interaction, which is part of such love, involves behavior such as fondling, caressing, kissing, and making love that necessitate geographical proximity. Moreover, in the past, the seeker’s “one and only” was likely to be found not far from where the seeker lived, as this required considerably less resources and effort than in the case of distant relationships.

Despite the above considerations, there are now increasing numbers of romantic couples who live at a geographical distance from each other. Commuter marriage is one such example. A commuter marriage is a relationship between people who are married and intend to remain so, but nevertheless live apart, usually because of the locations of their jobs, educational demands, and dual-career pursuits. They travel regularly in order to be together, often on weekends but sometimes less frequently. Distant relationships are a growing form of romantic relationship. Thus, more than 3.5 million Americans live apart from their spouses for reasons other than divorce or discord, and their number is increasing. Technologies, such as phone calls, videos, instant messaging, texting, and e-mails, enable direct and immediate communication that sustains a continuous meaningful romantic relationship despite the geographical distance.

It should be noted that the sector of the population that conducts a distant relationship is not genuinely representative of the whole population. Thus, couples in a distant relationship are on average more affluent and more educated. This may affect the universality of the empirical findings concerning distant relationships.

The considerable increase in distant romantic relationships can be (at least partially) explained by referring to the increased value placed on personal flourishing in romantic relationships, as well as in marriage.

The importance of personal flourishing

In his book, Passionate marriage, David Schnarch proposes to distinguish between the other-validated model of intimacy and the self-validated model. The other-validated model leads to the expectation of acceptance, empathy, validation, and reciprocal disclosure from one’s partner. This prevailing model involves profound dependency, in which a significant part of one's identity is based upon the other. As an alternative to the other-validated model, Schnarch proposes the model of self-validated intimacy, which relies on each person maintaining his or her own autonomy and self-worth. In this model, the foundation of long-term marital intimacy is differentiation, which is the ability to maintain one's sense of self while in close contact with the partner.

In line with the above distinction, we may distinguish between other-validated and self-validated models of romantic relationships. In the prevailing model of other-validated relationship, the value of the relationship is measured by the partner's attitude toward you. In this model, the agent's personal flourishing is secondary in assessing the value of the relationship. In the self-validated model, personal flourishing as well as joint flourishing is at the basis of romantic profundity. Joint flourishing is at the center of the attitude of love, as love is concerned with being with the other in certain ways. The personal flourishing of each partner is implied in joint flourishing. Love is not merely, or even mainly, a crush, but rather the wish to flourish together with a flourishing partner for many years. In Aristotle's view, human flourishing is not a temporary state of superficial pleasure; it refers to a long period involving the fulfillment of the natural human capacities.

About two centuries ago when love began to be recognized as an essential element of marriage, the prevailing model of marriage accorded with the other-validated model. As the man was the main, and often the sole, provider, his satisfaction was essential for the continuation of the relationship. A century later, when a greater percentage of women began to work and earn outside the home, the rate of divorce increased by a similar percentage. For those women, the partner's validation was of lesser concern. When the percentage of women going to work continued to increase considerably, the issue of individual flourishing became more significant, and since then the self-validated model has become more widespread.

When personal flourishing is at the center of the romantic relationship and marriage, the geographical closeness to the partner becomes of less importance. Moreover, very close geographical proximity to the partner may in many circumstances impede, rather than nurture, personal flourishing. It certainly does so when love is not profound.

Personal flourishing is indeed more evident in commuter marriages. Thus, commuter couples with dual careers are more satisfied with their work than are dual-career, single-residence couples. Karla Mason Bergen (2006) argues that many commuter wives describe their marriage as "the best of all worlds"; others describe it as "torn between two worlds." It is the best of all worlds as the wives are both independent and interdependent; they take advantage of opportunities for personal fulfillment, while still keeping their marriages intact. They are torn between two worlds, as their life is actually taking place in these two different environments. It should be noted that these commuter wives did not describe their experience as "the worst of all worlds." They framed the commuting arrangement as either positive or unproblematic for their husbands.

The romantic value of distant relationships

“Relationship at a distance can do things for the heart that a closer, day-to-day companionship cannot.” Thomas Moore

Having established that distant relationships can enhance personal flourishing, I turn to examine whether they can also enhance the romantic value of the relationship. I will do so by referring to Sternberg's three basic components of romantic love: intimacy, commitment and passion.

Generally speaking, intimacy is greater in long-distance relationships than in geographically-close relationships. Results of several studies indicate that communication in long-distance dating is more intimate, more positive, and less contentious than in geographically close dating. Long-distance couples report more intimate talk and activities. Openness and positivity—two strategies that may involve intimate self-disclosure—are the most frequently observed strategies in their communication, and these significantly contribute to relationship stability and satisfaction. All these types of behavior ultimately lead to greater intimacy (Jiang & Hancock, 2013).

The higher-levels of intimacy mentioned here refer to an average measure and there are romantic circumstances in which intimacy is higher in geographically close relationships as they have more frequent face-to-face communication. This is particularly true in the case of profound love.

Commitment and trust are important in all romantic relationships, but in long-distance relationships they have greater significance as there are more opportunities for events to occur that could threaten the commitment. Indeed, Laura Stafford (2005) argues that long-distance romantic couples (including both dating and married couples) generally enjoy equal or even higher levels of stability, satisfaction, commitment and trust than in comparable geographically closer couples. Whereas in geographically close relationships co-residence is perceived essential to the romantic relationship, in commuter marriage it is commitment rather than co-residence that is more important. The greater personal space typical of distant relationships does not necessarily involve sexual freedom. Indeed, the romantic commitment in commuter marriage is high and accordingly the percentage of extramarital affairs is similar to that of standard marriages. Divorce rates also appear to be similar.

Laura, a divorcee in her early forties, said that when she and her former husband lived in a commuting marriage, “I felt good about having my own personal space so I did not have extramarital affairs. After eleven years of marriage, when we moved with our three girls to a house of our own and I stayed in the house every day, I felt that my personal space and freedom were being violated by my husband and as if I was in captivity; at that time I began to have affairs.”

There is no clear empirical evidence concerning whether passion, which is expressed in sexual desire, is more or less intense in distant relationships. There are conflicting considerations on this issue. On the one hand, such relationships often provide a kind of change that may stimulate greater sexual intensity within the relationship. On the other hand, the limited time frame in which the sexual activities occur can be a stressful factor, as there is less opportunity for the couple to relax together and take their time. Moreover, if the sex is unsatisfactory, there may not be a chance during that visit to take it easy and try again, and the partners may have to go their separate ways feeling frustrated or disappointed until their next visit. Generally, even if there are moments of greater sexual intensity, the overall satisfaction from sex is unlikely to be higher and it may in fact be lower in comparison to co-residing couples' sexual satisfaction.

There is then a general correlation between personal flourishing and the romantic value of the relationship. This is understandable in light of the central place that intimate romantic relationships have in our life. However, this correlation is not perfect. Sometimes when love is very intense it may hinder the person from concentrating on her work, thereby reducing her overall personal flourishing. Such a phenomenon, which is typical at the beginning of a relationship, does not usually last for a long time. In the long run, profound love increases positive emotions and the energies of the lover, who typically experiences a calm-energy state that is ideal for personal flourishing.

Concluding remarks

"Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans fires." François de La Rochefoucauld

Determining the optimal geographical and temporal distance is crucial for personal and joint flourishing. In contrast to the romantic ideal of unity and fused identity, being too close to the beloved may, in some circumstances, decrease love. Some kind of distance, providing a greater personal space and enabling greater personal flourishing, is essential for profound love. Significant physical distance may harm the relationship; however, a more limited distance may be beneficial.

Personal flourishing is central to profound love, but there are various ways to achieve it. Distant relationships are one such manner, which for many couples suits their lifestyles and helps their relationships. Of course, it is not beneficial for all people in all circumstances. Thus, it may be good for a certain period in one's life, but when people get older and their relationship satisfaction derives more from calmness, rather than excitement, a distant relationship may be of lesser value. There are also other ways to achieve and ensure your personal space that are less expensive and more convenient.

Distant relationships involving profound love are a growing phenomenon that more and more people find useful. It seems then that (geographical) distance might indeed be the new (romantic) closeness, though it does not eliminate the value of other types of romantic closeness.


Bergen, K., M., (2006). Women's narratives about commuter marriage. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Jiang, L. C. & Hancock, J. T. (2013). Absence makes the communication grow fonder: Geographic separation, interpersonal media, and intimacy in dating relationships, Journal of Communication, 63, 556–577.

Stafford, L. (2005). Maintaining long-distance and cross-residential relationships. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

To view the original article, click here

Monday, January 20, 2014

Self Control is Critical to Success

Self-Control and Success

Why does early self-control ability predict later success?

Most of us believe that a certain amount of self-control is crucial for success.  In order to succeed in the modern world, you need expertise in some area.  Gaining that expertise requires work and practice.  The discipline to work or practice at something means that you have to give up things that might be fun right now in order to engage in actions that will be rewarding in the future. 
Research by Walter Mischel, Yuichi Shoda, and their colleagues supports this link.  They looked at the relationship between the delay of gratification task developed by Walter Mischel in the 1960s and later performance. 
In the delay of gratification task, young kids (often preschoolers) are put in a room where they are seated in front of a desirable food (like a marshmallow or cookie).  They are told that the experimenter is going to leave the room for a while and that if they have not eaten the treat while the experimenter is gone, they will get two treats instead.  The experimenter then leaves the room for a period of time (often about 10 minutes) and then returns.  The amount of time that a child is willing to wait in order to get the extra treat is a measure of self-control.  Mischel, Shoda, and their colleagues find that the amount of time that children will wait as preschoolers is related to many positive outcomes in adolescence such as higher grades, greater social competence, and a better ability to deal with stress.
What is going on with this delay of gratification task? 
On its face, it clearly measures some kind of self-control ability.  However, it may also measure other factors like intelligence that could ultimately lead to differences years later.  An interesting paper by Angela Duckworth, Eli Tsukayama, and Teri Kirby in the July, 2013 issue ofPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin explored the delay of gratification task in more detail. 
They examined the data from 966 children who were given the delay of gratification test as preschoolers as part of a longitudinal study.  In addition to this test, there was information from parents and caregivers about ability to focus attention, impulsivity, temperament, and intelligence.  In 9th grade, these same students were assessed for their grade-point average, achievement test scores, their body mass index, and their tendency to engage in risky behavior.  A variety of other demographic characteristics were also measured including parental education level, SES, gender, and race/ethnicity.
In this study, performance on the delay of gratification task was related to both parent/caregiver ratings of self-control as well as measures of intelligence.  A statistical analysis was then used to look at how these measurements in preschool related to outcomes in ninth grade.  The delay of gratification task did not predict anything on its own.  Instead, higher self-control at age 4 predicts higher standardized test scores, higher GPA and lower body mass index in ninth grade.  Higher intelligence at age 4 strongly predicts higher standardized test scores in ninth grade.  There is a weak relationship in which higher intelligence at age 4 also predicts slightly higher body mass index in ninth grade.
What does all of this mean?
Grade-point average in school is a better predictor of future success than just standardized test scores, because GPA reflects a combination of overall ability level and willingness to work hard in school.  Self-control is related to people’s ability to work hard to achieve their long-term goals.  This self-control is also reflected in a lower body mass index, suggesting that people with a high level of self-control at a young age do more things to take care of themselves as they get older.
If you were lucky enough to be born with a high level of self-control as a child, then that bodes well for you in the future.  But, what if you are a “one-marshmallow” person, prone to give into short-term temptations?
In that case, you have to find ways to protect yourself from yourself.  One important thing you can do is to remove temptations from your environment.  You cannot give in to playing video games rather than studying if you don’t have any video games in the house.  You cannot eat too many potato chips if you don’t buy them. 
A second thing you can do is to engage with people around you to help you achieve your long-term goals.  Find a study partner and work with them on classwork.  Get an exercise buddy and let that person nag you to go to the gym.  Spend more time with people who have achieved the kind of success you hope for.  Their goals and habits will start to affect the way you act.

To view the full article, click here

Monday, January 13, 2014

Getting Positive Affirmations To Work For You

Getting Positive Affirmations To Work For You

I know some people hate positive affirmations, but there is some scientific proof that positive affirmations work. The most important thing, however, is finding out if they will work for you? And, if they're not right now, how can you get positive affirmations to work for you?

The Secret Trick in Using Positive Affirmations Successfully

Maybe you want to use positive affirmations to build self-esteem or cure anxiety and you're wondering, "What's the secret to getting them to work for me?" Farnoosh Brock, the founder of Prolific Living, lays it out: "The moment I started to believe that they work, they did."
Ms. Brock notes that if you begin using positive affirmations "expecting" them to work, looking for proof that they work, you'll be very disappointed and sick of hearing yourself. However, says Brock, "if you have complete faith in the power of positive affirmations and in the magic of believing first what you want to manifest, you will surpass your own highest expectations of yourself." And that is the secret, believing first without requiring proof; having faith.
(Check out our Pinterest page for some positive affirmations.)
Your Thoughts
Today's Question: Do affirmations work for you? If so, what positive affirmations do you use to discourage negative thinking? We invite you to participate by commenting and sharing your feelings, experiences and knowledge on the HealthyPlace Facebook page.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Courage for the Unknown, by Diane Eppler Adams

Hi everyone! Please check out this wonderful piece from the Diane's newsletter on Courage for the Unknown. It talks about many key points that we all can relate to for 2014! Enjoy!

Courage for the Unknown 

Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.
~ Aristotle

As we continue to move through a time band containing the epochal challenge between Uranus in Aries and Pluto in Capricorn, the year ahead once again holds great potential for breakdowns and breakthroughs.

We are not only being encouraged to transform, but, for many of us, we are forced to leave behind the familiar comfort of what life has been in order to venture into uncharted territory.

Fear of the unknown is a natural first response, but trying to hold on only creates suffering. The question is, how do we move forward when the path is uncharted? Courage holds the key.

In a recent Huffington Post article written by Carolyn Gregoire, the author provided six powerful suggestions for loosening the grip of fear and becoming more courageous. I would like to share them with you.

Be vulnerable.

Feeling unworthy can leave us living lives based on fear. It is our fear of letting others see who we really are and opening the potential for criticism that may prevent us from taking a courageous step forward. What is the fear? Why are we protecting ourselves? Courage and vulnerability go hand in hand.

Acknowledge your fears.

In order to act courageously, we need to be honest with ourselves about our anxieties and limitations. Living authentically requires that we admit our fear and know the risks, but choose to work through them to act with courage.

Expose yourself to what you fear.

The only way to deal with fear is to move through it. Force yourself to face what you fear. Fear casts a shadow that looks real until you look it in the eye. It is then you discover it really is only a shadow and shadows disappear when you shine the light of consciousness upon them.

Think positive.

It is a well-known fact that successful athletes benefit by practicing visualization and positive self-affirmations. We can benefit just as well. By building optimism, we create good emotions that lead to meaning and purpose, help us face the challenge of fear, and move us in the direction we want to go.

Manage stress.

Stress and fear work together. Fear of an imagined physical or emotional threat can lead to depression and anxiety.  However, both meditation and exercise enhance our ability to face our challenges courageously.

Practice courageous acts.

Courage is like a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to be strengthened. Aristotle wrote that we develop courage by performing courageous acts. He said, "You will never do anything in this world without courage."

What change have your been resisting due to fear?

Have you allowed yourself to be vulnerable, acknowledged your fear, and exposed yourself to what you fear?

Perhaps if you think positive, manage your stress with meditation and exercise, and practice courageous acts, you will find that you can do what it takes to move forward into your desired future, even if it is unknown.

Rather than remaining paralyzed in fear, why not join me by courageously stepping forward in at least one area of your life in 2014?