That modern communication technology has made the world smaller is a cliché that the heart has yet to understand. We can fool ourselves to believe that distance doesn’t matter when attending lectures or work meetings online. But try having an online date with your partner, and make sure you follow all the dating tips that exist for forging intimacy online, it is suddenly not as easy to mistake that glossy touchscreen and virtual hugs for the magic human touch. But in the world of healthy relationships, distance can be a necessary evil or a breath of fresh air. Whichever way one wants to describe it, it has an important role in shaping relationships.
For people in a new relationship, distance lends an opportunity for partners to get to know each other better and build on trust because it forces one to engage in conversation instead of taking the shortcut to physical intimacy. For persons in relatively longer relationships who’ve gotten into the habit of taking their partner’s presence for granted, distance enables partners to appreciate the value of each other’s presence. For persons toying with the idea of breaking up, your partner might be the most annoying person in your worldview, or the person who least understands you, or the person you least comprehend, but can you stand the emptiness or silence that comes with their absence? A pill of distance will answer that for you. Also, if a relationship can pass the distance test, it might as well be made of steel.
Individuality in a relationship is tricky because it needs to be balanced. Too little of it and your partner might start writing a bucket list like Morgan Freeman did of things he only dreamed to have done and saying he had forgotten what it’s like to walk down the street without holding his partner’s hand in the movie ‘The Bucket List’. Distance facilitates space and individuality in a relationship. But distance for too long in a relationship may foster too much individuality and risk your partner becoming a completely different person from the person you first fell in love with. Now, couples who’ve been in long relationships will tell you that they changed as persons over time. However, branches that are bound together do grow in the same direction. Branches that are not bound together often grow in different directions, and if you try to bring them together they rub against each other, cause disease, injury, and break. Then, there is a possibility that couples kept apart for too long will grow too far apart as individuals so that their values and goals cease to be compatible with each other, making it impossible for them to be together.
It’s been said that distance makes the heart grow fonder, but evidence through research in this area has been inconclusive. Education, work and other commitments may keep partners apart physically time and time again, but that does not necessarily render them emotionally apart. The reason that research evidence has been inconclusive, in my opinion, is that every relationship is unique. Generalized laws of relationship must bend to the specific context of each relationship. To each their own.