Valentine’s Day often conjures up images of long-stemmed roses and heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolate. Yet relationships are not all hearts and flowers. Even in the best of relationships, couples sometimes encounter problems that lead them to feel negative emotions, such as jealousy, anger, and frustration, and to communicate in destructive ways. Managing these types of situations effectively by using constructive forms of communication is one key to maintaining a healthy and happy relationship.
Over the past two decades, my research has explored various ways that couples use communication to cope with negative events in their relationships. My early work in this area focused on how people communicate jealousy. More recently I have examined how couples cope with hurtful events such as infidelity and deception. This line of research offers some practical suggestions for how couples can be successful in dealing with problematic events in their relationships.
Although Valentine’s Day is typically considered a day devoted to romance, I like to think of it as a time to celebrate all kinds of love: a weekend getaway with your honey; a bottle of wine and conversation with your best friend; flowers from dad; lunch with mom; or a homemade card for that cute guy/gal who sits next to you in class. But for many people, celebrating their relationships is not as simple as delivering flowers or making a dinner reservation. These individuals are geographically separated from their loved ones, and therefore face certain challenges that we often don’t consider when we’re involved in geographically-close relationships.
Numerous statistics demonstrate that a high proportion of Americans are involved in a variety of long-distance relationships (LDR), whether those relationships are romantic, platonic, or familial. For example, some surveys estimate as many as 90 percent of Americans have at least one long-distance friendship. Long-distance dating relationships are also fairly common, particularly among college students, constituting anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of dating relationships on residential campuses. Commuter marriages have also become increasingly common in the past three decades with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting about 3.6 million Americans living apart from their spouses. Due to work, school, and military deployment, many of us are also separated from our extended families. So I’m willing to wager that you currently have at least one relationship that can be considered “long-distance.”