Does Absence Make the Heart Grow Fonder?

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We’ve all heard the adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” And we kind of just blindly believe it, right? I know I do! It’s been drilled into me since I was a little girl that time spent apart makes your heart grow a few sizes like we’re the Grinch. 

But have we ever stopped to think if it’s actually true? What if it’s a load of bull, and it’s just some random saying with zero truth behind it? Where did it come from, who started saying it, and is there any evidence that it’s a scientific fact? We were curious, so we did a lil’ digging to uncover the truth behind the words!


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The Proverb

The first thing we found out is that this saying has roots going back a millennium—that’s 1,000 years ago. The earliest known use of this expression is attributed to the Roman poet Sextus Propertius, who wrote, “Semper in absentes felicior aestus amantes,” according to Book Browse.

“The first reference in USA literature is in a paper by Benjamin Franklin in 1755,” and there are variations of the phrase: Ulysses author James Joyce penned 

“’Absence makes the heart grow younger’” and  “’Absence makes the heart grow fonder—distance makes affections wander.’” Tres deep!

But just because they wrote it down, does that make it true?

Let’s take a look at the research related to this proverb, the right amount of “absence” in a romantic relationship, and some tips for those in long-distance relationships who might be worried about being far apart.


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Does Absence Make the Heart Grow Fonder?

Looks like old Sextus, the 1000-year-old poet, hit it right on the nose—this old saying is pretty much true! 

Research published in the Journal of Communication indicates that long-distance couples experience more meaningful interactions compared to those who get to see each other every day, resulting in greater intimacy. 

Due to limited physical meetings, long-distance couples go the extra mile to maintain romance through frequent and better communication, discussing heavy topics like love, trust, and future plans.

These relationships develop a psychological intimacy that excludes physical or sexual elements. They also make use of various communication methods beyond mere texting, like video and phone calls. FaceTime was made for this!

Does this mean that long-distance relationships are better, though? Not necessarily. Another study found that humans invest more time and energy in relationships that are in danger of growing apart—the goal is to keep the flames firing, regardless of the distance.


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How Much Space is Beneficial in Romantic Relationships?

Apart from long-distance dynamics, what constitutes a healthy amount of space in a romantic relationship? First, let’s define “space.” In romantic contexts, it refers to “me” time for self-care and attending to one’s own emotional and personal needs. This approach guarantees a healthier state of mind for nurturing the relationship without the risks of turning into codependent nightmares.

So, what’s the “right” amount of space? It’s all about a happy middle ground, where there is personal growth but not so much that you grow in different directions. Setting healthy boundaries and avoiding over-dependence on each other is super important in this area!

For instance, if one partner loves to read and the other wants to watch the movie version of the book, a balanced approach could be spending time separately doing what each of you wants and enjoys. This doesn’t have to be a big deal—reading in another room or while your significant other watches a movie downstairs is totally normal (and healthy). This time apart, when balanced, can strengthen your bond and make you appreciate each other even more than you already do!


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Healthy Space vs. Growing Apart

While distance can intensify affection, excessive distance might lead to romantic partners drifting apart. Here are some signs of a relationship growing apart:

  • Sharing important news with others before your partner
  • Not spending free time together
  • Reduced physical intimacy
  • Less excitement about a shared future
  • Avoiding difficult conversations
  • Feeling lonely in each other’s presence
  • Looking for reasons to argue
  • Limited communication

Listen, drifting apart doesn’t spell doom for the relationship. Sometimes, guidance from a therapist can help rekindle intimacy, trust, and emotional connection. However, both partners must be committed to resuscitating the relationship—it won’t work unless you are both on board.


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Challenges in Long-Distance Relationships

In long-distance relationships, while absence may make the heart grow fonder, challenges are inevitable. Some potential issues include:

  • Running out of conversation topics
  • Upset or anger over delayed responses
  • Difficulties due to time zone differences
  • Feelings of insecurity or jealousy
  • Neglecting your personal life 
  • Excessive communication

We know that long-distance relationships are tough—it sucks having your loved one so far away. But if there is a commitment from both sides to make it work, you can get past these hardships.


Tips for Maintaining Closeness in Long-Distance Relationships

Though it can be hard and frustrating, there are ways to maintain a successful long-distance relationship:

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Leverage Technology

Three entities are crucial in a long-distance relationship: you, your partner, and technology. The digital era offers so many communication methods. Video calls via Facetime or Skype can help with a sense of closeness. Share photos, texts, emails, and videos to stay connected.

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Share Everyday Details

Make your partner feel like they are present by sharing little details about your day, like something that happened at work, that dinner you had with friends, or how your workout went. Painting them a picture of how you spend your days builds intimacy.

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Plan a Future Together

Discuss and agree on a timeline to end the distance. It’s vital to be on the same page about your relationship’s future, requiring full commitment from both.

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Do Things Together

Even though you aren’t in the same place, it is possible to do things together! You can watch a movie together, binge a Netflix or Amazon Prime series, play games online, etc. Technology is literally a game-changer for long-distance couples who want to spend quality time with each other despite being physically apart. You can do some naughty stuff too, but that’s your business, not ours.

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Establish Boundaries

Discuss relationship “rules” and expectations. While constant check-ins aren’t necessary, be mindful of each other’s comfort levels, especially regarding your time spent on social media, which can get messy if one or both of you spend a lot of time on certain platforms.


Takeaways

We have gotten to the bottom of the question surrounding absence making the heart grow fonder—it does! 

But there is a caveat, and it’s a big one. 

You and your better half need to be able to tell the difference between healthy space and growing apart. So keep communicating about your needs, trusting each other, and taking time for both yourselves and your relationship!

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