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.