Romantic Attachment Styles and Coping Behaviors in Long-Distance Romantic Relationships

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The purpose of the current study was to examine romantic attachment styles and approaches to coping among individuals presently involved in long-distance romantic relationships (LDRs). Those in proximal relationships (PRs) were also recruited for comparison purposes. Results revealed that those in LDRs were significantly younger, lived further apart from their partners, used less confrontation coping, and had lower levels of avoidance of intimacy than their PR counterparts. There were no differences in the proportions of the four romantic attachment styles represented in the LDR and PR sub-samples.

For those in LDRs, secure individuals were more satisfied than participants in any other attachment category. Among those in LDRs who were insecurely attached, preoccupied individuals reported greater relationship satisfaction than fearful participants. For those in PRs, secure individuals were more satisfied than those in any other attachment category. Secure and preoccupied individuals in LDRs relied on their partners and others for social support to a greater degree than did fearful participants. Among PR participants, secure individuals reported the highest use of both types of social support.

For the most part, fearful (and to a lesser extent preoccupied) individuals in LDRs tended to cope poorly. Different relationships were found among attachment styles and coping for those in PRs.

The single best positive predictor of satisfaction for either type of relationship was level of partner-specific social support. This was followed by avoidance of intimacy (a negative predictor) for both LDRs and PRs, and confrontational and distancing coping for LDRs only. Distancing coping was actually associated with higher rates of satisfaction for those in LDRs, whereas confrontational coping tended to predict lower satisfaction.

Finally, cluster analysis revealed six distinct clusters in both the LDR and PR sub-samples. Three of the LDR clusters had analogous PR counterparts. These included one cluster of individuals who rely almost entirely on their partners for support, one cluster of insecure and deeply unsatisfied individuals, and one cluster of anxious, confrontational but content participants. The other three sets of clusters were quite different for those in LDRs and PRs. Limitations and implications for future research are discussed.