The Digital Age: Long-Distance Relationships

Using virtual communication to connect with a partner long-distance confers unexpected benefits

Share this post:

Modern communications technology gives couples who are separated by distance the opportunity to share their lives with each other. In long-distance relationships, couples can now connect by video, which provides access to their partner’s eyes, face, and body language.

The upside of long-distance relationships

An article in the Health section of “US News” called The Upside of Long-Distance Relationships tackles some issues directly related to this series and includes several important quotes from Certified Gottman Therapist Dr. Robert Navarra. While the research cited in the article focuses on long-distance relationships, the results carry implications for all couples who use virtual communication technologies.

The article opens with a description of a study run by researchers in Hong Kong and at Cornell University. The reported results follow:

Long-distance lovers felt as much or more trust and satisfaction in their unions as “geographically close” partners…[and] those in long-distance relationships disclosed more personal details to their partner and also idealized each other more.

To clarify, the researchers did not find that idealization of partners improves all relationships. They found a correlation between idealization and greater trust and satisfaction in long-distance relationships. In truth, this makes perfect sense by virtue of a simple fact: idealization of one’s partner is a natural result of distance.

This is not to call into question the importance of “magic” and “special idealization” described by Suzanne Phillips as a benefit of long-distance, but to clarify something important. As Dr. Gottman discusses, remembering all of the beautiful, amazing things you saw in your partner when you first met is key to maintaining lasting love, especially during times of stress and conflict. The purpose of this is to avoid creating a false, negative perspective of him or her as a result of your current state.

Fondness and admiration

Dr. Gottman writes about this in his books as a part of maintaining a culture of fondness and admiration.  Don’t idealize your mate as a “goddess” or a “genius.” Rather maintain a realistic image of your lover in circumstances that make it very easy to vilify or lose respect for them. The resulting positive perspective is about seeing each other’s real beauty. You love each other despite human imperfections, even when the going gets rough.

This study suggests that new communication technology, if used in healthy ways, can be wonderful for long-distance relationships. Its existence may actually give couples separated by distance some advantages over those who live close-by.

As the author points out, using virtual communication to connect with a partner long-distance confers unexpected benefits. In requiring extra effort to overcome certain challenges, couples learn to maintain intimacy, care, and healthy problem-solving. Also, daily conflicts over mundane minutiae are often less common in long-distance relationships. So, it is likely that the absence of daily stressors makes it easier to use technology to nurture a positive perspective, share fondness and admiration, and build a strong, satisfying relationship.

Technology as a tool

Couples should, as Dr. Navarra says, take advantage of newly available technology (texting, video chat, social media, etc.) to maintain a strong bond, and the best way to do so is to do so regularly.

“Part of intimacy involves knowing the details of the other person’s daily life, big and small, because you’re that important to each other.” In other words, keep it real. As the article says, “The more a couple knows and appreciates each other, the stronger and healthier they are.” If you are in a long-distance relationship, take our advice:

Share your worlds with each other in all of their interesting, mundane, and complicated glory. Be present. Know each other deeply, and always keep learning. Build love maps. Communicate fondness and admiration.

Read more on the Digital Age blog series.

Share this post:

Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

Recommended products

Original price was: $250.00.Current price is: $179.00.

Our Best prices of the year on the Gottman Relationship Adviser. 

Celebrate Dads this month.

Sale Ends Soon!

The Gottman Relationship Adviser is a complete approach to relationship wellness. Measure your relationship health with the research-based Gottman Assessment, analyze five key areas of your partnership to identify your strengths and weaknesses, then start a tailored, step-by-step digital program proven to heal and strengthen your connection—all on your schedule and from anywhere.

The Adviser uses the legendary scientific Gottman Method to help you understand what’s really going on in your relationship—and gives you exactly what you need to improve it.

Original price was: $119.00.Current price is: $79.00.

Research-based Foundations for a Lifetime of Love.  The Gottman Relationship Coach is an inspiring and educational multimedia experience designed to enhance the well-being of relationships. Participants will be guided through research-based tools and communication skills that can transform relationships—all based on the popular Gottman Method. The first program, “How to Make Your Relationship Work”, is now available and includes:

  • The Gottman Method and How to Make Your Relationship Work
  • How do we predict the future of a relationship?
  • How to build a Sound Relationship House
  • What to do when the destructive Four Horsemen enter your relationship

“Buy Now” will take you to GOTTMAN CONNECT to purchase and view this product.

Original price was: $599.00.Current price is: $480.00.

Created by “the Einstein of Love” (Psychology Today), this two-day workshop is grounded on what actually works in relationships that are happy and stable. See for yourself why millions of couples worldwide have benefited from the Gottman Method.

Quote from participant in most recent Live Virtual Workshop:

The Art and Science of Love workshop- where do I begin? It was an absolute stellar workshop. We were looking forward to this for weeks, and it exceeded our expectations! It was well-structured, and well-organized, and provided a wealth of information with real-time demonstrations of how to work through specific scenarios. The outstanding support that was provided throughout the exercises with therapists on standby- WOW! Priceless!

Includes the Art & Science of Love box set.  Please allow time for shipping.  Please Note: This is a live online event. To attend, you will need a reliable internet connection. Our staff will reach out to you with your personal registration and access information.


Improve your relationship in 30 days! Backed by over 50 years of research, the 30 Days to a Better Relationship challenge will help you reconnect with your partner and bring more positivity into your relationship. The tools and exercises, delivered once a day for 30 days by email, build on one another and take five minutes or less to complete.


Related posts

long distance relationship

Emotional Safety in Long-Distance Relationships

Jennifer Scott

Close the distance between you by using the tools you have to connect. ...

Read More

How to Navigate Social Media as a Couple

Kari Rusnak

Digital boundaries are the lines drawn around healthy and unhealthy use of social media. ...

Read More

Virtual Social Anxiety: How to Support Teens During the Unpredictable School Year

Hina Talib

Help your teen manage their fears about learning online. ...

Read More

Gottman Relationship Checkup background image

I Met The Woman of My Dreams, She Lives 2,400 Miles Away

Real Relationships

Thanks to a combination of sobriety, introspection, therapy, and Kate’s support, I’m feeling more comfortable showing up authentically both inside and ...

Read More

ScreenTime: From Tuning In to Turning Towards

The Gottman Institute

We were asked by ABC News to consult for their two-hour special report with Diane Sawyer. ...

Read More

Mindful Parenting: How to Raise Kind and Conscious Teens

Aziza Seykota

Mindfulness can help you connect with your teen. ...

Read More

Subscribe to Gottman Love Notes

Sign up and start your relationship transformation. Subscribe and get the latest on relationships, therapy, and much more from the experts. Includes a free download and access to special pricing on Gottman products every month