Does Absence Make The Heart Grow Fonder Or Does It Make You Forget?
We all love finding peace in old, familiar adages. Although sayings like "the early bird catches the worm," "two wrongs don't make a right," and "don't count your chickens before they hatch" might sound too cliché for comfort, they calm you down during those moments in which you might feel confused about something in your life. But what happens when two common adages completely contradict each other? "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" and "out of sight, out of mind" are two common sayings people associate with romance that has been forced apart by distance. But does absence really make the heart grow fonder? I asked a few experts what you should really know.
Maybe you're about to embark on a long-distance relationship with your significant other, or your military spouse is about to get deployed. Maybe you and your ex broke up because one of you was moving far away. Whatever the case, get ready to feel some changes very soon.
“Humans are designed to continually be seeking, striving, and in the process of acquisition,” says Susan Winter, a New York City based relationship expert and bestselling author. She tells Elite Daily the way it translates into your romantic life is via a heightened sense of “longing and appreciation” when your partner is absent.
“As humans, when something is not new or novel or different, it commands less of our attention. It’s everything from partners to food,” Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, agrees. He compares being around a partner all the time to eating your favorite food over and over — no matter how much you love it, after a while, you may start getting a little tired of it. Separation can be a nice palate cleanser to remind yourself why you like your partner in the first place.
“When we’re separated from somebody, then all of the qualities that we’ve become habituated to —” qualities like how someone looks, smells, or talks — “we are reminded of how much we enjoy that,” Klapow says. “So separation is basically a reminder to us that we get reinforcement or reward out of our partners. And you can’t know that until you’re separated.”
Long-distance relationships aren’t uncommon either. According to U.S. Census Data from 2017, nearly 4 million Americans were married but not living with their spouse. A little more than 500,000 of those were between the ages of 20 and 29. If your concerns are a little more about matriculation and a little less about matrimony, well, long-distance relationships are pretty regular there, too. A 2005 study of students at Central Michigan University found that around 75% of college students have a long distance relationship at some point in college.
Distance can also bring challenges. “A month or more,” Klapow says, “can — not always! — cause couples to drift apart.” He notes that for short breaks, there’s no need to be in touch with your partner every day. But longer breaks can require more effort. “Anything from a month on, you need some sort of regular connection and communication,” he says. Without that, it’s easy to fall into new patterns that don’t involve your partner.
Winter agrees that in the case of a long break, you need to really consider how you’re going to maintain a connection with your partner. She says that in the case of breaks that go months to years, “our 'new normal' is to NOT have this partner in our life.” Things like military deployments or long-distance work or schooling are examples of things that can keep couples apart. “When our lover has been gone too long, we adapt and move forward. We begin to seek new connections to fill the void.”
There are things you can do to keep your bond with your partner strong. Klapow recommends actively scheduling communication and time for each other, even if you can’t be there in person — and then sticking to that schedule. Winter suggests much the same thing. “Keep the connection by text, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, and in person,” she advises. “And have an end-goal to reunite. Without an end-goal to finally be together, the relationship will dissolve.”
U.S. Census Bureau (2017). Table H2. Households, By Type, Age Of Members, Region Of Residence, And Age Of Householder https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2017/demo/families/cps-2017.html?mod=article_inline
Lee, J. & Pistole, M. (2012). Predictors of Satisfaction in Geographically Close and Long-Distance Relationships. Journal of Counseling Psychology.
Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. Clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show
Susan Winter, relationship expert and bestselling author
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