College Love: Uncertainty & Satisfaction in Long Distance Dating Relationships

By Guest Author Kasie Tanabe

Going on into my third year in a long distance dating relationship, I can attest to the important role of active of maintenance in keeping a fulfilling relationship. However, I was unaware of just how closely linked satisfaction is to communication strategies and their feelings on the relationship’s future.

Surveying 186 college students in long distance dating relationships (LDDRs), Maguire looked the following subjects:
• Certainty/uncertainty of reuniting in the same city – how this affected the overall relationship satisfaction
• Relationship-enhancing/distancing communicative coping strategies – which of the two are more helpful for people in LDDRs with an uncertain and certain future
• Convergent/divergent situations – how satisfaction differs for those in convergent (high probability of a favored outcome) and divergent (low probability of a favored outcome) situations, and what communicative coping strategies work best

Maguire’s results generally strengthened existing theories regarding certainty and its positive effects on maintenance and communicative coping strategies. However, people who were comfortable with their future prospects (whether it be certain or uncertain) showed greater overall relationship satisfaction. In addition, maintenance and relationship-enhancing coping strategies were more clearly associated with relationships of reduced uncertainty.

Therefore, it should not be assumed that uncertainty will always prove problematic for LDDRs. Uncertainty management theory (UMT) offers one perspective on this issue; it recognizes that not all uncertainty is negative. In some situations, certainty may be problematic, especially if the sure future involves an undesirable outcome. It is not true that if a couple is uncertain or moderately uncertain of reuniting, then they necessarily are unsatisfied and have more distress.

Miss You (from doug88888)Maintenance strategies say a lot about a relationship as well. A commitment to a future together brings about an increased amount of openness, cooperativeness, joint-problem solving, and assurances, as more importance is placed on maintaining the relationship in hopes of making it last. But no matter the case, as the study and I both suggest, keep withdrawal and verbal attacks to a minimum. No matter the certainty or satisfaction level, all participants felt these to be harmful and unhelpful coping strategies.

Finally, another important aspect of LDDRs is idealization. This occurs often, as idealized images may arise through restricted communication. One partner is allowed to see only what the other wants them to see; it is easier in LDDRs to leave out unfavorable information. This ultimately heightens satisfaction levels.

Maguire, K. (2007). “Will it ever end?”: A (re)examination of uncertainty in college student long-distance dating relationships. Communication Quarterly, 415-432.

About Rabby

Michael Rabby, PhD, serves as a consultant, author & professor specializing in social media, relationship building, and statistics-based research. Here, I muse about these things, along with the occasional comment about music, sports, and whatever else strikes my fancy. After all, it is still communication.
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