Relational Savoring in Long Distant Relationships

Originally published March 3, 2015 on 

Anyone that’s been in a long distance relationship knows how hard it can be to be geographically separated from somebody they care about. SAGE has released a new edition of the Relationship Matters podcast (hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College) in which Dr. Jessica Borelli (Pomona College) was interviewed regarding her research on strategies for successfully manage long distance relationships (the research team also included Hanna Rasmussen also of Pomona College, Margaret Burkhart of Claremont Graduate University, and David Sbarra of the University of Arizona).

The researchers randomly assigned 533 people in long-distance relationships (i.e., separated by at least 100 miles) to either a relational savoring condition or one of two control conditions. All participants, regardless of condition, first engaged in a laboratory task that is capable of putting stress on long distance relationships. In the relational savoring condition, participants were asked to recall and concentrate on a specific past moment during which they felt very positive about the relationship or particularly safe and loved.

In comparison to the control conditions, savoring a specific past positive moment led to greater positive emotion in participants after the relational stressor.

But, there’s an important catch. The savoring task appears to work mostly for those who are happy in their long distance relationship; the results mostly disappear when people are generally unhappy with their relationships. Listen to the podcast to find out why!


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