Close Proximity and Relationships

Think about most the people you have dated in the past. They probably lived near you, went to your school or there was some activity that brought you together. It is common for relationships to begin due to physical proximity, which refers to being near or accessible to each other (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Maybe they sat next to you during class or were on the same team. Being in close proximity to someone allows individuals to get to know one another. They may start to realize that they have a lot in common and then a crush develops, next thing you know they are dating.

Looking back at my friendships, physical proximity definitely had an impact on who I was friends with or who I had a crush on. I became friends with people who I lived near or sat next to in class. As I became involved in swimming, I became friends with the people on the team who I saw for several hours a day. What do all these relationships have in common? That is right, physical proximity.

Some might begin to wonder why it is common for close proximity to stem relationships. The proximity effect refers to the idea that physical and psychological nearness to others tends to increase interpersonal liking (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). It is common for people to interact with people that they are close mostly because it is convenient. When people are near one another regularly, they tend to start interacting with each other. When these interactions are positive and fun relationships are likely to form.

Take my husband and I for example. I didn’t really like my husband when I only knew who he was. It wasn’t until we were on the high school swim team with each other that I started liking him. I saw and interacted with him every day at practice for several hours. My friends hung out with his friends, so we started interacting with each other outside of swimming as well. There more time I spend with him, the more I liked him. We eventually started dating, and now we are happily married. If it wasn’t for being in close proximity, there is a good chance we would have never started dating.

After reading this, one might start to think about their own relationships and how they started. There is a good chance it was because of physical proximity. Sure, you may not be in close proximity now, but it might be safe to assume it all started because at one point in time you were.



Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


  1. Close proximity is definitely a factor in creating opportunities for relationships, the proximity effect feels like a small piece of a much larger puzzle in the complex maze that is human relationships. The author provides an interesting point, proximity creates an ease of access, which generally helps facilitate potential relationships and enable easier upkeep. Could the proximity effect also be used to help diversify classrooms in an effort to prevent future stereotyping and racism? Can the proximity effect also be applied to social issues? For example, by being in close proximity to special needs children could we create a desire to understand this population of people better and provides more opportunities to build relationships with them? Or would this exacerbate social stigma’s and preconceived notion that society already has in place and backfire? Living in an extremely polluted city will likely create an interest in clean energy use and climate change, could we utilize the proximity effect with people to create an interest in a more diverse population of people?

  2. My husband and I met at work. So, physical proximity is definitely true for us. In fact, that’s how most relationships begin. It begins by being in close proximity. Even Princess Kate and Prince William met while they attending the same school. Couples are often pushed together by physical proximity and pulled together by their similarity (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Frequent contact will also increase perceived similarity and as a result some type of relationship is formed (Moreland & Zajonc, 1982 as cited in Schneider et al., 2012). As I’m thinking about my past relationships and friendships, as you urged us to do, it’s not surprising that they started with physical proximity. My childhood best friends sat next to me in class for the entire grade. My first boyfriend and I went to same school, and as mentioned above my husband and I met at work. Schneider et al. (2012) suggest that with proximity comes interaction and the potentiality of relationship. Furthermore, Schneider et al. (2012) stress that proximity enhances preexisting feelings towards the person, so if you have a good first impression of someone and interact with the same person frequently, you are highly likely start to develop a certain relationship with the person. It is interesting to read that you started off not really liking your now husband as that contradicts Schneider et al.’s (2012) explanation. Schneider et al. (2012) claim that environment spoiling will occur when we interact with someone we dislike frequently. In other words, the more you interact with someone you dislike, the more you will dislike that person (Schneider et al., 2012). Perhaps, you didn’t dislike your husband that much and perhaps with the time between interactions your dislike feelings reverted to neutral and when you met again you had a blank slate to start with?

    Schneider, F.W., Gruman J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Second Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

  3. Physical proximity has a lot to do with the people you surround yourself with and make relationships with. When you are forced to be around someone and/or people for long periods of time you tend to interact with them because of them being close to you being a convenience for you. Whether it be a friendship or a romance, physical proximity normally makes it easier for relationships to start and continue do to being able to be around each other.
    After reading this I started to relate my relationship to physical proximity and all of my friends I have and ever did have are due to physical proximity. Like you my relationship with my husband was also due to physical proximity. In school I had two different types of friends. One set of friendships I developed from those whole lived around me when I first moved to my new school. These were people that I would normally not hang out with but due to the convenience of them living so close I started to hang out with them just to have people to hang out with when I could not go to my other friends houses. At first I did not think we would ever be that close but now I realize that these girls are the girls from high school that I still have a strong friendship with. The second group of friends I had came from my sports I played. Most of the girls played multiple sports, I played all sports in my school, and all the good players from each team all were friends. I was forced to be with these girls for at least two hours after school due to practice and longer than that when we had games. We all started to form bonds with each other and would hang out in school and out of school. This also led us to being friends with all the guys that were in sports because the girls and guys that played sports would talk to each other in school and in between crossing each others paths while ending and starting practices. At first the conversations would be about the sport we were in but that led to us all getting to know each other and then we would all hang out after school too. Even though I had more in common with the people in sports I really did not keep a close bond with them now that I am out of school because we all choose to do different things with our lives.
    My husband however, came from a different school the was the district and town right beside my town I grew up in. I never even knew he existed until he came to my friends graduation party and at that time I did not talk to him but I was also not attracted to him at the time. About a year later my two friends took me to a party that was at his house and we briefly talked there. I was still not attracted to him but he started messaging me on facebook to hang out the next day. After a few days of talking with him I agreed to hang out and we have been basically living together ever since. Where my friendship with my friends from sports shows change is these two girls were my best friends and we were always together. They even introduced me to my husband. Now that I am married and have a full time job we really do no talk because they are still into the party scene and going out to meet guys. Like in your example with your husband and mine with my husband and one group of friends, without physical proximity starting a relationship there would probably never be a relationship.

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