Study Reveals the One Thing Couples in Long-Distance Relationships Can Teach Us All


Being a long-distance couple takes serious work, which means the estimated 3 million Americans in long-distance relationships often go to extra lengths to strengthen their relationships that the rest of us could learn from. 

A new study is here to highlight one of those tactics: savoring every happy memory together.

The study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships this month, examined how couples in LDRs benefitted from what researchers call "relational savoring." Lead researcher Jessica Borelli explained the concept to Mic: "Relational savoring refers to the practice of purposefully focusing one's attention on a positive relationship memory, a time in which one felt especially adored or safe with one's romantic partner." 

Basically, that means sharing and reliving positive memories together, from recounting an amazing vacation or replaying your first date to revealing your first impressions of one another. In short, Borelli says, it's conversations that start, "Remember when we...?"

This active joint remembering can be good for all couples. But what makes it so crucial for long-distance partners is that, without face-to-face contact, they need to find more non-physical ways of connecting emotionally. As it turns out, relational savoring accomplishes just that.

The study tested 533 adults in long-distance relationships, each dating for at least six months and separated by more than 100 miles. Among the various tests conducted, researchers had participants answer questions recalling emotional experiences they had on their own, then ones they had with their partners. Relational savoring yielded greater positive emotion among participants, especially those who started with a high level of relationship satisfaction. 


Savoring memories with your partner sounds like a relationship no-brainer. But psychology has shown that humans are actually inclined to do just the opposite. Because of what experts call "hedonic adaptation," people are inclined to be fleetingly affected by happy (or sad) events, only to eventually return back to their previous baseline level of happiness. That applies to romantic relationships. Major milestones like getting married boost our life satisfaction, but eventually the excitement fades and we return to our old satisfaction levels.

Savoring can be an antidote to this emotional "adaptation," especially for long-distance couples who might need more active reminders of how happy their relationship can be. 

"Life moves extremely quickly and we often miss the opportunity to relish special moments involving those we are closest to," Borelli said. "Taking the time out to place yourself back in a happy memory for just a moment has the potential to build upon your happiness in the present." 

Long-distance couples may know that better than anyone.