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What Does "Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" Mean?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 23, 2024
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"Absence makes the heart grow fonder" is one of a number of idiomatic expressions that is found in a variety of cultures. The underlying sentiment of this particular saying has to do with the way many people feel when a loved one is away for a period of time. During that period, it is possible to focus more on the good things that are connected with the missing loved one, rather than his or her faults. As a result, the sense of love for that person seems to increase over time, effectively leading to a stronger feeling for that individual than was present when he or she was in close proximity.

The phenomenon of absence making the heart grow fonder has been experienced by a number of people in many settings. When a loved one must be out of town for several months due to work or some type of military assignment, chances are strong that those left behind will begin to idealize the loved one. This is particularly true when the opportunities for communication are somewhat limited, perhaps to only short online chats or to the occasional exchange of letters through the post. Over time, yearnings for the return of the person may increase significantly, especially just before the scheduled return.

While "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is normally associated with love or family relationships, the expression is sometimes applied to friendships and even the relationships between pets and owners. For example, an extended separation from a friend may prompt the one left behind to ponder on what that friendship means and discover that the absent friend contributes more that previously realized. In like manner, a family away on vacation may find they miss the family pet more than they anticipated. In both scenarios, absence leads to a joyous event when all the parties involved are reunited.

While the phenomenon of absence making the heart grow fonder is very common, there are exceptions. Depending on the circumstances, the period apart may prompt one or both parties involved to reassess the value of the relationship, and find that being apart is preferable to being together. This can sometimes happen with romantic relationships, especially when one or both parties find new interests during that period of separation. For this reason, it is important to note that absence will not always lead to stronger emotional connections; under certain circumstances, it may actually lead to the end of the relationship.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including Language & Humanities, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By tigers88 — On Jan 22, 2012

I think this expression is so true. When you are missing someone you focus only on the good qualities. You don't think about what the other person does that annoys you, or parts of their body or behavior that you find ugly. You are not remembering any past slights or the faults in their personality. You only focus on the positives.

When you see a person after a long absence its like they have been refurbished in your mind. They are their best selves all over again.

By Ivan83 — On Jan 21, 2012

This is one of my favorite phrases probably because I has defined my love life for most of my adult years. I can't seem to find any girls that I like in the town that I live in. I always seem to end up dating women that live an hour, three hours, once even seven hours away. So I have been in many long distance relationships.

I can't say that it is ideal, that's for sure. Sometimes it seem like it is more grief than happiness. But its better than being alone. And when you see the other person after a long time apart it is so urgent and passionate. You have had all this time to think about what you're missing and suddenly she appears before you. The heartache is almost worth it to have those intense reunions.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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