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Long Distance Relationships

Long Distance Relationships

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Long Distance Relationships

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  1. Long Distance Relationships Unlocking the Secrets to a Happy & Healthy Relationship When Couples Have to Be Apart Gregory Guldner, MD, MS

  2. Goals • Enable therapists, counselors, educators, and other advisors to understand, assess, and support couples in long distance romantic relationships. • Expose an expert audience of professionals to the current state-of-the-art research-based understanding of long distance relationships.

  3. Objectives • Understand LDRs: • Defining LDRs • Prevalence of LDRs • Do LDRs work? • Difficulties with LDRs • Advantages of LDRs

  4. Objectives • Assess • Demographics • Personality • Support System • Relationship • Separation Inventory

  5. Support Stages of Separation Staying emotionally healthy Staying intimate Sexuality while separated Support Communicating Conflict at a distance Sexual Affairs Hellos/Goodbyes Gender differences Ending the separation Objectives

  6. Background • Clinical Psychology • Research Focus • Propinquity & Dating Relationships, Purdue University, Dept of Psychology, 1992 • Time Spent Together and Relationship Quality, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships; 12, 1995 • Long Distance Romantic Relationships, Journal of College Student Development; 37, 1996 • Long Distance Relationships and Emergency Medicine Residency, Annals of Emergency Medicine; 37, 2001 • Long Distance Relationships: The Complete Guide. 2003:JFMilne • Personal Experience

  7. Long Distance Relationships • Understand LDRs • Assess LDRs • Support LDRs

  8. Understanding LDRs • Understand • Defining LDRs • Prevalence of LDRs • Do LDRs work? • Difficulties with LDRs • Advantages of LDRs

  9. Defining an LDR • Specific distance cut-off • Specific location cut-off • Self-defining • My partner lives far enough away from me that it would be very difficult or impossible for us to see one another every day.

  10. Understanding LDRs • Understand • Defining LDRs • Prevalence of LDRs • Do LDRs work? • Difficulties with LDRs • Advantages of LDRs

  11. Prevalence of LDRs • Marital LDRs • Pre-Marital • College Student

  12. Married and Living Apart (%)

  13. Married and Living ApartNational Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 • 3.31% of 7191 married respondents were living in a different location than spouse • Of military marriages 27% of White and 63% of African-American couples were living apart. • 10% of all job relocations result in long distance marriages (1998) and 52% of employers expect transfers to increase.

  14. College Students Internet Dating Military Certain Industries Oil Fishing Logging College Students 25-40% (1993) 50% of First Years (1992) 33% (1987) 25% at any given time and 78% at any point (1996) Pre-Marital LDRs

  15. Understanding LDRs • Understand • Defining LDRs • Prevalence of LDRs • Do LDRs work? • Difficulties with LDRs • Advantages of LDRs

  16. Do LDRs Work? • Marriage or Pre-Marital? • Military / combat or Civilian? • What does it mean “to work”? • Continuity (break-up rate over time) • Quality (satisfaction, intimacy, etc)

  17. Do LDRs Break-up More Frequently than PRs? • Pre-marital studies have found no greater rate of dissolution in LDRs than PRs • Guldner. J. College Student Dev, 1996;37;289-295 • Van Horn, et al. Personal Relationships, 1997;4;25-34 • Stafford & Reske. Family Relations, 1990;39;274-279 • Stephen. Journal of Divorce, 1984;8;1-17 • No adequate data on marital LDRs • Rindfuss & Stephen. J. Marriage and the Family, 1990;52;259-270.

  18. Do LDRs Have Poorer Quality Relationships Than Do PRs? • The majority of studies show no differences between LDRs and PRs on measures of • Satisfaction • Intimacy • Trust • Commitment • Guldner & Swensen, J. Social Personal Rel. 1995;12;313-320 • Govaerts & Dixon. Int. J. Adv. Counseling. 1988l;11;265-281 • Stafford & Reske. Family Relations, 1990;39;274-279 • Woelfel & Savell. Military Families. 1978;17-31 • Gerstel & Gross. Commuter Marriage. 1984. • Stephen. Human Com Res. 1986; 13;191-210 • Delmann-Jenkins, et al. College Stud J. 1994;28;212-219 • Timmerman. Doctoral Thesis. U. of Texas. 2001.

  19. Understanding LDRs • Understand • Defining LDRs • Prevalence of LDRs • Do LDRs work? • Difficulties with LDRs • Advantages of LDRs

  20. Difficulties Associated with LDRs • The Individual • Depression • Military Separations • Clinical Depression • Civilian • Guldner, GT. Long Distance Romantic Relationships: Prevalence and Separation-related Symptoms. J College Student Development, 1996; 37; 289-295. • Clinical Depression no more likely in LDR than in PR • Minor Depressive symptoms common • Feeling blue, lack of interest, difficulty making decisions, difficulty concentrating

  21. Difficulties Associated with LDRs • The Individual • Anxiety • Uncertainty • Jealousy / Sexual Affairs • Dis-inhibition (loss of support) • Guilt • Violating norms • Choice of career “over” relationship • Emotional “rollercoaster”

  22. Difficulties Associated with LDRs • The Relationship • Myths (Dissolution, Quality, Finances) • Relationship momentum slowed • Progress toward marriage more slowly • Break-up more slowly • Idealization and Disillusionment • Difficulties in Communication • Sexuality at a Distance • Re-integration • Assessment of the Status of the Relationship

  23. Understanding LDRs • Understand • Defining LDRs • Prevalence of LDRs • Do LDRs work? • Difficulties with LDRs • Advantages of LDRs

  24. Advantages of an LDR • Individual Productivity • Novelty • Avoids the “taken-for-granted” aspect of PRs • Plan exciting activities • Compartmentalization • Intimacy / autonomy fulfillment • Idealization

  25. Long Distance Relationships • Understand LDRs • Assess LDRs • Support LDRs

  26. Assessing an LDR • Personality • Demographics • Support System • Relationship Characteristics

  27. Assessing LDRs • Assess • Demographics • Personality • Support System • Relationship • Separation Inventory

  28. Assessing an LDR: Demographics • Least important of the four components • Frequency of face-to-face visits not correlated • Frequency of telephone calls negatively correlated with satisfaction • Frequency of letters predicts satisfaction

  29. Assessing an LDR: Demographics • Other demographics • Total duration of the relationship • Duration of Separation • Duration as a PR prior to LDR • Distance • Age

  30. Assessing LDRs • Assess • Demographics • Personality • Support System • Relationship • Separation Inventory

  31. Assessing an LDR: Personality • Learning Style Inventory • Visualizers • Verbalizers • Touchers • Attachment Styles • Secure • Avoidant • Ambivalent / Anxious

  32. Assessing an LDR: Personality • Self-Esteem • Low self-esteem predicts more difficulty with separation • Low self-esteem predicts poor relationship quality among LDRs but not PRs • Independence • Optimism • Trust • Telephone and Letter Habits

  33. Assessing LDRs • Assess • Demographics • Personality • Support System • Relationship • Separation Inventory

  34. Types of Support Emotional Appraisal Informational Instrumental Sources of Support Partner Family Friends Context Assessing an LDR: Support • Those in LDRs often isolate themselves from support • Distraction • Awkwardness • Depression • Ambiguous status

  35. Assessing LDRs • Assess • Demographics • Personality • Support System • Relationship • Separation Inventory

  36. Assessing an LDR: Relationship • Issues specific to LDRs • Communication issues • Expectations • Conflict Management • Telephone

  37. Long Distance Relationships • Understand LDRs • Assess LDRs • Support LDRs

  38. Supporting LDRs • Emotional Stages of Separation • Staying Emotionally Healthy • Maintaining Intimacy • Frequency of Contact • Hellos & Goodbyes • Conflict at a Distance • Long Distance Sex • Sexual Affairs • Dating Others • Gender Differences in Separation

  39. Supporting LDRs:Understanding Separation • Emotional Stages of Separation • Bowlby / Animal Studies / Evolutionary Psych • Protest (Anger, Bargaining) • Despair (Depression to various degrees) • Detachment (Productive or Destructive) • Kubler-Ross • Denial and Isolation • Anger • Bargaining • Depression • Acceptance

  40. Supporting LDRs • Emotional Stages of Separation • Staying Emotionally Healthy • Maintaining Intimacy • Frequency of Contact • Hellos & Goodbyes • Conflict at a Distance • Long Distance Sex • Sexual Affairs • Dating Others • Gender Differences in Separation

  41. Supporting LDRs: Staying Emotionally Healthy Ten Step Program • Maintain a satisfying relationship • Socialize • Emotional vs. Social Loneliness • Find a Confidant • Touching • Take Control

  42. Supporting LDRs: Staying Emotionally Healthy Ten Step Program • Positive Thinking / Reframing • View the Separation as Temporary • Acknowledge Contributions • Transitional Objects • Healthy Sexuality

  43. Supporting LDRs • Emotional Stages of Separation • Staying Emotionally Healthy • Maintaining Intimacy • Frequency of Contact • Hellos & Goodbyes • Conflict at a Distance • Long Distance Sex • Sexual Affairs • Dating Others • Gender Differences in Separation

  44. Supporting an LDR: Keys to Maintaining Intimacy • Intimacy Components • Emotional Sharing • Interrelatedness • Emotional Sharing • LDRs may do this more easily than PRs • Interrelatedness • Central Issue for LDR Intimacy • Focus on the mundane • Serial vs. Parallel Communication

  45. Supporting LDRs • Emotional Stages of Separation • Staying Emotionally Healthy • Maintaining Intimacy • Frequency of Contact • Hellos & Goodbyes • Conflict at a Distance • Long Distance Sex • Sexual Affairs • Dating Others • Gender Differences in Separation

  46. Supporting an LDR: Contact • Face-to-face visits • Conflicting research • Opinion suggests at least once a month • Early studies had design issues • Carpenter & Knox. College Student J.1986; 28:86-88 • Failed vs. successful; contact related for men only • Holt & Stone. J College Student Dev. 1988; 29:136-141 • Definition of LDR • Groves & Horm-Wingerd. Soc Social Res. 1991;75:212-216 • Outcome “happier” with relationship

  47. Supporting an LDR: Contact • Face-to-face visits • Larger studies & longitudinal studies • No correlation or impact of frequency of face-to-face visits for continuity or quality or relationship • Guldner & Swensen, J. Social Personal Rel. 1995;12;313-320 • Schwebel, et al. J. College Student Dev. 1992; 33:222-230 • Guldner. Purdue Univ, Dept. of Psych. 1992 • Strategies based on increasing visits likely will not work – any frequency okay

  48. Supporting an LDR: Contact • Telephone Calls • No evidence to suggest positive correlation or threshold effect • Frequency may be negatively correlated • More calls more conflict? • More conflict more calls?

  49. Supporting an LDR: Contact • Writing Letters. • Cross-sectional. • Strong correlation between frequency of letters and relationship quality. • Longitudinal. • Couples who stayed together wrote one another almost twice as often as those who broke-up. • Measures of relationship quality identical at time-one.

  50. Supporting an LDR: Contact • Writing Letters • Peculiarities of Letters • Transitional objects • Tangible • Re-readable • Scent • Generally conveys mostly positive messages • Pre-stamp and address envelopes to facilitate letter writing • Discuss the mundane if writing is only contact