Frank Bruni’s Op-Ed from two weeks ago on couples that live separately is worth briefly rewinding for. Amidst the anecdotes, the substance:
The LAT life is healthy, according to all the studies. O.K., one study, admittedly puny in scope, but it just came out. Published in the current issue of the Journal of Communication, it closely followed 63 couples, about half of whom lived together and half of whom couldn’t, separated by circumstance rather than choice. The couples in commuter relationships said that their conversations were less frequent but deeper. They confessed more, listened harder and experienced a greater sense of intimacy. Absence worked its aphoristic magic on the heart.
And this is certainly intuitive, right? I certainly wouldn’t want to belittle the strain that distance and infrequent contact can put on relationships (I experienced it, three summers on the trot for around three months at a time). But on the other hand, it seems obviously true that making time for people, say, weekly or fortnightly rather than daily ensures that when you do finally meet to talk, you make it infinitely more worthwhile and cut out the mundaneness of normal chitchat. I’ve learnt that lesson with friends rather than partners, but it still seems noteworthy. It might also explain why I’ve found myself surprisingly capable of building and sustaining long-distance friendships: what enriches relationships is the content of conversation when you do finally make time for one another. And infrequent contact improves that.