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Problems In Long Distance Relationships

The dark side of communication is any aversive behavior that makes a person feel stressed, uncomfortable, or victimized (Kowalski, 1997). An aversive behavior can be situational and depends on the victim. When determining if a behavior is aversive, it is important to ask these four questions: Does the behavior interfere with needs? Does the behavior involve social confrontation? Is the behavior appropriate? Is the behavior ambiguous? (Class Notes, Perceptions of Aversiveness, 9/5/17). It is the victim’s responsibility to find if the specific behavior is considered to be the dark side of communication. In this article, there will be a focus on aversive behaviors in long distance romantic relationships. The order of the problems listed below will go from most problematic to least problematic.

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1. Reduced Effort

A lack of effort in any relationship has the potential to create distance between the people. Whether it is friendship, student-teacher, or romantic, reduced effort by either partner establishes discord between the them. This is especially true for long distance romantic relationships. When a significant other does not provide support or consistent and quality communication, the other person might take offense. They could view this fault as their significant other not caring for them or that the person was beginning to lose interest. In long distance romantic relationships, reduced effort could deteriorate a relationship. With technology being the only type of communication for people who are long distance, it is easy to lose the urge to constantly communicate.

In long distance relationships, it seems that the need to impress our significant others erodes faster, due to a lack of intimate contact (Class Notes, Reduced Effort, 9/12/17). A person is then more likely to show interest in their desired sex, because they are closer in proximity. The effort is drained away and communication can become stale or redundant. The effort needed in long distance relationships is more than the closer proximity relationships, because you lack the physical intimacy and convenience of the relationship. In my personal long distance relationship, it is easy to not put in effort to maintain the relationship. My significant other and I become busy with school, extra curricular, and friends, that we lose sight of one another. We forget to put each other as a priority. This is one of the most problematic aversive behaviors that couples face. Most likely, one partner is putting in most the effort on trying to communicate, while the other partner is barely putting the minimum effort in. This can become emotionally exhausting and discouraging to the individual who is committed in making the relationship work. In an article by Cari Romm (2017), she stated that couples in long distance relationships must acknowledge that it will take more effort than past experiences and it is critical in continuing the relationship. For many couples, they are not prepared or realize that putting in the correct amount of effort is not worth maintaining the relationship.

2. Lack of Intimacy

The lack of intimacy in a long distance relationship is a challenging obstacle that not many people can overcome. I consider this the dark side of communication, because it creates a feeling of stress for the couple when they are unable to be physically near each other. It is difficult to be in a relationship and keep the connection without being able to see each other on a regular basis. Depending on how far the couple is from another, the amount of times they could visit might be higher or lower. For example, my boyfriend and I are five hours apart. With the proximity of a five-hour drive from each other, we are committed to seeing each other once every month. This low interaction has caused strain in our relationship multiple times and makes us re-evaluate the worth in maintaining the relationship. However, my friend was in a long distance relationship with her significant other and one lived in Michigan, while the other lived in South Carolina. With this much of a distance, it was difficult for them to physically interact with one another. The proximity also increased the financial cost of having to buy a plane ticket to visit each other. Needless to say, my friend and her significant other broke up due to the stress and knowledge that rarely were able to see each other. This lack of physical communication created a negative environment for both partners.

In class it was stated that the more intimate a relationship was between partners, the more likely aversive behaviors would occur (Class Notes, Influences on Perceptions of Aversiveness, 9/16/17). While I see the accuracy in this statement, I find that a low level of physical intimacy creates the likelihood of aversive behaviors occurring as well. For example, George and Sarah have a busy schedule and are unable to verbally communicate over the phone. They have not seen each other for two months and due to their busy schedule, they have not had time to call each other. Sarah then feels that the relationship is losing the intimacy that it once had. When Sarah decides to call George, he says he is too busy to talk since he is working on his school project. This lack of physical intimacy has caused dark communication with Sarah feeling that George does not want to talk to her. Sarah argues with George that he does not care or put enough time into the relationship. Too high or too low of relational intimacy could cause aversive behaviors in relationships. This is why a lack of intimacy is a problem in long distance relationships.

3. Lack of Trust

Without trust in a long distance relationship, the couple would experience many aversive behaviors. If one person were unable to trust another, than the endless feeling of doubt would be haunting the relationship. If there is no presence of trust in the relationship, behaviors such as jealousy, envy, paranoia, and possessiveness could take over. In a recent article, the importance of trust is described as one of the basics of long distance relationships (Ross, 2015). A person must have confidence in themselves and their partner to not be worried that they will hook up with another person. Aversive behavior could also cause a person to feel that there is a lack of trust in a relationship. For example, if a person finds their partner cheating on them, the trust in the long distance relationship would heavily go down.

Trust between couples takes a long time to rebuild once it is torn down. If there were not an already solid basis of trust between the couple, the likelihood that the long distance relationship would succeed is low. The couple would not feel relaxed in the relationship and would become agitated whenever their significant other is not focusing on the relationship. This could at times lead to an abusive relationship. For when there’s no trust, people feel that they need to possess the other person. One example of a lack of trust in a long distance relationship is in Parks & Recreation. Anne and Chris are starting a long distance relationship in the show. Anne becomes skeptical that Chris is not staying faithful to her, so she sends her best friend, Leslie, to scope out Chris’s house. Leslie tells Anne that there is a pink razor and make-up concealer in the bathroom. Anne then drives all the way down to Chris’s house to confront him on why he is cheating. She comes into his home and asks him about the feminine products, stating that she knows he’s cheating. Chris then tells Anne that those are his products, that he likes the razor because of the contour around the ankle and that not everyone is perfect and he gets blemishes on his face. Chris then continues to tell her that he broke up with her earlier, and Anne was not able to understand that he no longer wanted to be in the relationship. This lack of trust that Anne had for Chris, lead her to intense aversive behaviors. These include having a friend snoop through his house, barging in his house uninvited, and then accusing him of actions that he did not commit. Without trust in the relationship, people are more likely to act upon aversive behaviors.

4. Low or No Expectations

When starting a long distance relationship, it is important to establish expectations before you commit to one another. That way your significant other and you know what is expected when the relationship is developing. The problem with not setting up expectations is that people become unaware of what is wanted form their significant other. This can lead to unintentional aversive behavior. For example, Bob and Jessica just started a long distance relationship. They lived in the same hometown as a couple for a year, and decided to continue long distance when they both left for college. Jessica expects Bob to call her every other day of the week to connect, but Bob expects to call Jessica only once a week. Jessica perceives Bob’s behavior of not calling her enough as not wanting to stay connected or becoming more distant. While in reality, Bob did not know of Jessica’s expectation on calling. This causes conflict in the relationship that was unintentional.

In an article in Bustle, the author stated the importance of maintaining a strong source of communication so there would not be any confusion in discussing expectations (Emery, 2016). Relationship expectations are needed for couples so they can understand one another and are realistic with what they want out of the relationship.

5. Cheating

Many relationships have been ended, due to one or both partners cheating.

Cheating is an aversive behavior that many people find unforgivable. Whether the person who cheated was intentional or unintentional, the act most likely has an effect on his or her significant other. Cheating is accountable as an aversive behavior, because the behavior is inappropriate, it involves social confrontation, and it interferes with the needs to feel accepted and love (Class Notes, 9/5/17). Depending on the severity and frequency of the behavior, the victim could feel more stressed to undervalued in the relationship.

It is important that when couples are discussing expectations of the long distance relationship that they address relational intimacy boundaries with others (Duncan, 2012). If this is not discussed, the possibility of cheating becomes a threat. Cheating is problematic, because it can ruin a relationship and detrimentally hurt the victim. This is the least problematic out of the five problems because if the first four problems are addressed and taken care of, than the likelihood of a partner cheating would decrease.

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