Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Spring 3-15-2021


Copeland, Kenessa. (2021). Relational Dialectics in College LDRs: Managing the Tensions of Long-Distance Dating in College. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Kenessa Copeland 2021.


A significant population of college students have been, or are currently, in a long distance relationship (LDR). This study examined tensions experienced by college students in LDRs using Relational Dialectics Theory (RDT) and Dark Side Theory. I used a thematic analysis to analyze responses from an open-ended survey distributed to and answered by 23 students in LDRs. I found that RDT was exemplified in the study by finding tensions of connection-autonomy and predictability-novelty, as well as tensions of balancing time and FOMO-living in the moment. The most common tension management strategies used were selection, separation, and reframing. Finally, I found that LDRs enhanced student’s well-being through a sense of support, communication competence, relational growth, and personal growth, while they detracted from well-being by impeding on other relationships, impeding on school, and impeding on health. The results showed a valuable application of RDT and Dark Side Theory, especially when used to complement each other. I also found that selection as a tension management strategy may have had worse implications for some relationships. Further, I found that LDRs can have negative implications for social support networks. Future research should be done to continue to advance RDT and Dark Side together, look at unique experiences among seemingly monolithic populations, the impacts of LDRs on student success, and the impacts of LDRs on social support.