Long distance romance. Plausible or just a pain?
I’ve been getting lots of requests for a few posts on long distance romance, so lets talk about it.
Some people claim they will go anywhere and do anything for love. Traveling every other weekend to see each other, moving states and jobs, living with a phone in their ear and keyboard under their fingers. Others scoff at the possibility of making it last claiming things like “out of sight, out of mind,” “how can you really get to know someone when you aren’t living close enough to each other to ‘do life’ together,” or even that they might find love at a distance but settle for the person thats closer at hand since life is complicated enough without adding in some improbable relationship into the mix.
So, did you happen to meet someone from another city and don’t know if you can make it work? Were you blissfully bumping along in the same town and then one or the other of you got transferred? Personally, I think anything is possible, but you have to know yourself well to know if long distance is a possibility for you. A long distance relationship (LDR) brings the same set of challenges a local relationship does plus the added element of needing to resolve the issues even if you can’t be face to face.
Are you one of the “will do anything for love” types? Does your heart tell you that anything is possible and you know that when you set your mind on something, it happens? Do you find a way to communicate even when it seems that everything conspires to keep you silent? Are you the kind of guy or girl who doesn’t really even notice other potential romances when you have your heart set on someone? Do you know yourself well and communicate honestly even when its uncomfortable? Can you combine a romantic spirit with the practical logistic planning needed to keep things rolling? If so, it may be entirely possible for you to make that long distance romance work. By combining communication with loyalty, perseverance and commitment, you might make it through the challenges to find love in the face of what others may find seemingly insurmountable obstacles. If someone questions your ability to get to know your love, you are one who replies with something along the lines of… “That’s what phone, Internet and planes are for.”
If you read the immediately preceding paragraph and cringed knowing that you find it hard to communicate when you are afraid of rejection or that your eyes do, in fact, wander a bit when you are left to your own devices or even that you tend to be a magical thinker when it comes to working out the kinks… you may be courting trouble in trying to make a long distance romance work. (Actually, you may be courting trouble dating at all until you get those things settled out… but that’s another post…) It’s hard enough when you are face to face with your desire to weave together the threads of a beautiful relationship, but if you add in the absence of non-verbal communication and the commitment it takes to create a relationship with physical miles spanning between, you may have a heart break on your hands.
The challenges of a long distance commitment are fairly universal and can only be ignored at the peril of your relationship. Take a look at the following issues and have an honest discussion with your long distance honey to see if you BOTH agree you can handle the challenges inherent in things like:
No games allowed. You’ve got to commit to honest and open dialogue even when it feels like you would rather wait until you are face to face to discuss. (If you are always putting off and waiting, you’ll develop a pattern of not addressing the issues and problems in the moment which can lead to the big, ugly elephant under the proverbial living room rug.) TIP: If there is a misunderstanding or the other person seems to really need to talk, consider making a special phone date to talk it through. Few things can make a person feel more lonely than when you know something is wrong with no way to address the issue. TIP: If you feel a fight in the making… switch over to webcam. By adding the facial cues to the vocal inflection, you may avoid some serious misunderstandings.
Respect each others time
A good rule of thumb to help keep the expectations in check is to create a routine where you talk at the same time of the day or week for a certain length of time. It can be challenging to get off the phone when you really want to keep whimpering sweet nothings at each other until the sun comes up, but by limiting your conversation to a certain period of time, you don’t have one partner or the other pressing the mute button as they try to salvage some portion of their evening due to a 1 hour phone conversation that turned into 5 hours. Also, remember to support each other having a life outside of the maintenance of your relationship. By investing in your day-to-day world, you’ll not only have more to talk about… you’ll be a more balanced and healthy person.
Set a schedule for seeing each other including everything from the when’s and where’s to expectations for the visit. For example, say you think that of course you’ll be staying in your LDR’s (Long Distance Relationship) place and you’ll do everything together for the extent of the time you are there, but your LDR thinks hotels, your own rental car and individual time to get things done would be much more manageable… well, you can see the conflict brewing on this one. Don’t make assumptions and be willing to find a common ground if you are at different ends of the expectation spectrum.
Jealousy and Trust
If you tend to assume that when your significant other isn’t with you, they are with someone else or if you are dealing with some left over baggage from a cheater, you are going to have to take a long hard look at what you hope to gain from this relationship. The simple fact of the matter is that your LDR is not ALWAYS going to be available when you try to contact them and yes, they will be spending time with people from time to time who you don’t know. You need to decide if you trust each other and can let the jealousy issue go, or if you need to limit yourself to relationships in your own town so you can avoid the green-eyed monster.
The “We’re on vacation” mentality
This one is a real problem for most LDRs. It’s all too easy to push-off having any unpleasant discussions or dealing with the intrusion of reality when you know your time together is limited to a certain set of days every few weeks. It’s important for the health of your heart and relationship to make sure you stay current with how you are in the moment and stop putting off day-to-day life when you are together.
There’s no doubt about it, LDRs add an element of financial strain to most budgets. Everything from needing a more comprehensive long distance and texting phone plan to the actual expense of getting from place to place or even paying for places to stay when you decide to meet in the middle. Its gets pricey. The good news, you’ll be much more aware of how this person handles finances and if they expect you to be taken care of, spilt costs or pay for everything. The bad news, finance and money is one of the main causes of divorce and relationship strain and a LDR brings it right up to the front and center ASAP.
Finding the Common Ground
When you are in a local relationship, you get to know each other through everything from discussing the day over coffee to meeting up for a daily run or watching a show together every week. There is more emotional glue in your relationship than just talking. But in a LDR, the communication (emails, calls, visits) are going to be your primary connection. TIP: Perhaps try something along the lines of watching that same show every week or reading a book together or taking lessons in the same hobby so that you can share your progress not only via phone but also have something new to do when you are together. By creating more common ground with something more fun than talking about how much you miss each other, your relationship begins to feel more real and vested.
Kids, friends and pets
Talk with each other about the expectations around being included in the other person’s world. If your LDR includes children, it’s going to be even more crucial to discuss how and when you plan to share with your kids why a certain someone keeps coming around every few weeks to take up a lot of mom or dad’s time. The great thing about a LDR is that you have more time to invest in your kids, friends and interests than you likely would by dating someone in town… so take advantage of it!
Talk about the future
You may not be used to talking about where things are going and expectations in this area, but if you are investing this kind of time and energy in cultivating a relationship with someone at a distance, you’re going to need to talk about your intentions. Does one of you intend to relocate in the near future? Are you considering marriage or long-term commitment? Do you expect to move in together if one or the other of you relocate?
Talk with each other about all aspects of this one. Are you going to try phone sex? Is your relationship open or closed? (some people are of the opinion that what the other person doesn’t know won’t hurt them…) Masturbation? Porn usage? Abstinence? When you are together… is it going to be like a honeymoon the first day or two or for the entire visit? If you are used to an active sex life, this area could present one of the larger stumbling blocks available. By talking about it non-judgmentally and honestly, you can find a place to share understanding instead of a dividing line.
Learn to be the source of your own happiness if you haven’t already. Instead of focusing on the miserable loneliness or the distance or that they are going out with a new group of friends you don’t know, learn to create happiness apart from the presence of your partner. You may think its counter intuitive and that this new independent happiness will pull you away from your partner, but actually the opposite is true. How fun is it to talk to a Morose Mel every day on the phone? By actually being upbeat, happy and positive, your partner will look forward to talking to you more and you’ll be happier with life in general. It’s a win/win for everyone.
Whether you started off long distance or became that way during your relationship, it’s completely possible to make it work. You just need to be clear-sighted about the risk/reward ratio and have both partners AGREE that its something you are willing to invest in. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can convince her to make it work or that if he just gets how charming/sweet/smart/beautiful/sexy you are, he’ll decide he can’t live without you. Some people simply don’t think long distance is workable and you have to respect their opinion. If you are married and it comes up make sure you are both on for the challenge BEFORE you accept that job offer.