Podcast Episode

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Unpacking a Timeless Proverb

The familiar saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” suggests that time apart can fuel the fires of affection. But is this adage a universal truth, or does it gloss over the complexities of human connection? Let’s dive into the nuances of this proverb and when it does – and doesn’t – hold water.

The Potential Power of Absence

There are circumstances where absence can, indeed, strengthen a bond:

  • Renewed Appreciation: When we’re separated from someone we care about, we might focus on their good qualities, downplaying any minor annoyances. This can rekindle appreciation for what we may take for granted with daily proximity.
  • Intensified Longing: Absence can create a sense of longing that amplifies positive emotions, making the reunion all the sweeter.
  • Making the Most of Time Together: Couples in long-distance relationships often report making a conscious effort to have meaningful interactions when they are together, maximizing their limited time.

When Absence Backfires

However, the proverb isn’t foolproof and prolonged absence can strain even the strongest relationships:

  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind: For some, physical separation can lead to emotional distance. Without shared experiences and everyday touchpoints, it’s easy to drift apart.
  • Communication Breakdown: Misunderstandings can fester when communication is primarily virtual. It takes extra effort to maintain intimacy across distance.
  • Trust Issues: Unplanned or extended absence can sometimes breed insecurity, leading to jealousy or resentment.
  • Differing Needs: Some people thrive with a degree of space, while others need constant reassurance and physical closeness. Unmet needs due to distance can create a rift


  • Military Deployment: A soldier on deployment might experience a mix of longing and worry. The return home can be joyful, but also requires a period of readjustment.
  • Studying Abroad: A student embarking on a year abroad will miss their loved ones, potentially strengthening some relationships while also allowing new ones to form.
  • A Strained Relationship: Using absence as a tactic to “make someone miss you” in an already troubled relationship is unlikely to be a healthy solution.

The Takeaway

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” holds some truth, but it’s a simplification of a complex issue. Distance can be a catalyst for growth and appreciation, but it’s no substitute for open communication, shared experiences (even virtual ones), and a commitment to bridging the gap. Ultimately, healthy relationships – whether long-distance or geographically close – require consistent effort and nurturing from both sides.


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<a href="https://englishpluspodcast.com/author/dannyballanowner/" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan


Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

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