The Scientific Reason Why Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Is science responsible for absence making the heart grow fonder ?

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Relationships (whether platonic or romantic) take a lot of effort to make it last longer and to be strong. Long-distance relationships, however, take a lot more effort to maintain, as time differences and busy work schedules can get in the way.  With all of this and more piling up on the relationship, does absence make the heart grow fonder?

It does, and there are scientific studies that can prove it. 


Science proves absence makes the heart grow fonder.

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Long-distance partners invest more in their relationship.

Research completed in 2016 used data mining, the process of discovering patterns in large data sets, to determine whether or not absence makes the heart grow fonder. Researchers hypothesized that the strength of relationships is reflected in the number and duration of calls between individuals. 


The test focused on how often couples who were geographically separated contacted each other and the time in between the calls and results showed an increase in the duration of calls between people when the time between the last call was greater than normal. 

"Many social species compensate for weakened relationships by investing more heavily in them," the study explains, meaning that as a relationship starts deteriorating due to distance, you're more likely to invest more into that relationship, therefore making it grow fonder.

Long-distance partners are more likely to idolize their partners.

Another study carried out in 2013 by Crystal Jiang of the City University of Hong Kong and Jeffrey T. Hancock of Cornell University came to the conclusion that those in long-distant relationships are more likely to idolize their partners.

In this experiment, they focused on 63 couples who were in their early twenties and who were geographically separated (most of them were separated for 17 months). Each couple filled out one week’s worth of daily online surveys that focused on the quality and the quantity of communication between each other. The results showed most of the communication was through text, and the rest was through video chats and phone calls.


Jiang explained that "Besides communication frequency, they also adapt their messages, for example, by focusing on more limited but relationally intense topics. The intimacy developed here is a psychological closeness — it doesn't include physical or sexual intimacy.”

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Where did the saying 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' originate?

The Roman poet Sextus Propertius is said to be the one who came up with this saying in Elegies when he wrote, “Always toward absent lovers love’s tide stronger flows.”

In 1832, a contemporary version appears in The Pocket Magazine of Classic and Polite Literature, where a piece by Miss Stickland says “'Tis absense, however, that makes the heart grow fonder.”


What does this mean for my relationship? 

It’s normal to feel like you miss your partner more than when they are with you. Especially at the beginning of the relationship or when things in your life are making you feel like you’re alone. 

You need that reassurance that they are there for you and they need that in return. And making a relationship stronger means having strong communication, even if it means it’s through video chat. 

It also might help your relationship to last longer. Not saying that couples who live together are always grumpy, but it eliminates all of life’s worries when couples who are away from each other take the time to reach out. They are able to create a place that is just for them and no one else without any worries about the world. 

Susan Whitbourne, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, says “When you're not there with the person every day, you're not seeing their highs and lows, and you're not exposing them to your feelings. You can create an ideal image of your significant other which builds intimacy.”


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Isabell Tenorio is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture, love and relationship topics.