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Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it can be challenging to be separated from the people you love. Here’s how to ease the pain.

Finding new ways to stay in touch, such as texting and video chatting, can help people cope with long-distance relationships.

Long-distance relationships are common, especially among younger couples. Researchers have found that up to 40 percent of college students are involved in some kind of long-distance romance, and that plenty of older adults are likewise dating someone far away.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. There’s also evidence that it can improve certain aspects of a relationship. One study found that people in long-distance relationships scored higher in measures of love for their partner, “fun with partner,” and conversational quality, compared with couples who lived near each other. The long-distance couples also reported lower levels of “feeling trapped.”

While all that’s good stuff, there’s a major downside to long-distance relationships: missing the other person when you’re apart. This longing to be with someone isn’t confined to romantic relationships. Grandparents may long to be with their children and grandchildren, and parted friends may long for each other’s company.

What Is Longing?

“At its core, longing contains two opposite experiences at the same time,” says Steff Du Bois, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

“On one hand, longing is based on one’s deep desire for someone or something, which can be positive,” Dr. Du Bois says. Put another way, you need to care about someone before you can long for them, and feeling that affection for another human being is a good thing.

“On the other hand, we feel longing because the thing we want is also the thing that we don’t have,” Du Bois says. “This can bring discontent or emotional and physical pain.”

While longing can sometimes feel like a form of grieving, there’s a major difference between the two. (далее…)