Based in Toronto, Ontario, Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor who covers sustainable agriculture, food, sake, arts and culture.

Romancing the Phone

Loving across long distances can be difficult, as geographically challenged suitors (and military spouses) well know. But these days email, unlimited minutes, and picture phones confer intimacy across the miles, and Internet dating unites people who are worlds apart. Erin M. Sahlstein, PhD, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Richmond, says it’s time to recognize the benefits that can be gained from relating at a distance. Her research shows that couples have more time to focus on career advancement and reflect objectively on their relationships. And absent hearts growing fonder may even produce a better sex life. But success isn’t easy. Sahlstein’s research reveals a clear “relational dialectic,” she says. Put another way: There are pluses and minuses to such romances. Some tips:

Connect for couple time

Establish rituals, such as talking on the phone for 10 minutes at a specified time each night. Couples who did so seemed to fare better than couples that randomly connected, Sahlstein says.

Maintain your own network

Each of you needs to cultivate relationships with friends and family, whose proximity helps to support you and your partner as a couple when you can’t be together, Sahlstein says. That support can come from simply talking about your absent partner or providing advice when problems arise.

“What I hear you saying is….”

Even during separations, you need to work on problems as they arise, so that all of your time together isn’t spent hashing out your issues.

Don’t cocoon

When you do find time to get together, Sahlstein advises, couples should still attend to individual needs and interests. Bracketing off your relationship from other areas of your life makes the transition into and out of your time together that much harder.

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