The world has become a very small one indeed in this age of internet dating, cell phones, social media and Skype. When it has become so easy to bridge time zones and even oceans, do we really want to limit ourselves only to the people we meet in our home towns? I have talked to friends who tell me that long distance relationships never work, and they have shut down their online dating profiles because they say that most of the people they meet online turn out to be married or in other relationships.
I have had my own eye-opening experience with this recently. After emailing, texting, and having periodic two to five hour phone conversations with someone on the east coast over a course of nineteen months, we finally met last fall when I happened to be back there for a family visit. To be honest, the only reason I entertained the possibility is because I travel there to see my family a couple times a year, and I have the flexibility to travel on short notice and work from anywhere. Besides, we definitely had enough in common and enough of an attraction evidenced by spending hours at a time on the phone. However, the truth is that no matter how much you have in common with someone, or how much you have to talk about, you don’t really know if you have ‘chemistry’ until you meet face to face. Well, once the chemistry was no longer in question, and after another nine months of being flown to the northeast for long holiday weekends, which included Thanksgiving dinner with his family and a New Year’s Eve party at the home of his closest friends, I discovered that it is very easy to hide things at a distance. On my last trip I found out that he’d had a girlfriend for the past four and a half years. And without going into the sordid details, which have the makings of a reality show, it was not because he suddenly decided to be forthcoming with this information. Oddly enough, I found out that she knew about me, and had been following me on Facebook for the past seven months. Needless to say, it didn’t end so well.
The ‘girlfriend’ and I eventually ended up talking on the phone for more than two hours and comparing notes, because as an empowered woman and a sexuality and relationship coach, that’s just the way I handle things. I’m still not convinced she was totally honest with me though, because someone who would suffer the indignity of this type of behavior from their supposed ‘significant other’ is not necessarily the most well-adjusted or confident person in the world. As a result, there’s no telling what they will say or do to manipulate the situation further. But in retrospect, the only authentic thing I could do to sort out the situation was to make an attempt at complete honesty since I felt like a pawn in this game of manipulation.
In spite of the disappointment and the drama that ensued, I have to tell you that I still have not resigned myself to believing that long distance relationships cannot work. I do, however, think there are a number of elements necessary for them to be successful. In a nutshell, here’s what I think you should be aware of if you decide to embark on the LDR journey, and what I think it takes to make it work.
- Honesty: A liar is a liar, and a cheat is a cheat. If someone wants you badly enough, and they are devious and manipulative, they can lie to you and misrepresent themselves whether they live three or three thousand miles away. It is just a bit easier to pull the wool over someone’s eyes if they do not shop at the same supermarket as you or frequent the same restaurants. I would have certainly figured out what was going on in the aforementioned situation in about three weekends if I had been living in the same town as he and his girlfriend. Be honest with the individual you are seeing. If you are not someone who can live without companionship or sex for more than a week or two, don’t commit to a monogamous arrangement. This doesn’t mean you have to tell them about everyone else you see and everything (everyone) you do, but have an agreement as to how to handle this. Of course, that doesn’t mean they will be honest about their behavior, as was the case in my situation. For more tips on this see my last article on ‘players’.
- Communication: I know most of my articles come back to this word, but I can’t stress it enough. Frequent and clear communication is a hundred times more crucial when you’re dealing with distance. In our technology age, there is really no excuse for not keeping the lines of communication open.
Email, texts, voice mail are all free and easily accessible pretty much 24/7. Even if it’s just a short note that says
“I’m thinking of you” or a picture you send, staying in touch will bridge the distance. If they send you something like a poem, or a link to your special song on Youtube, or maybe photos you can’t view at work, at least have the courtesy to acknowledge it in a brief reply or a text and let them know you appreciate it. When there is distance, there are more things that people make assumptions about, and if you don’t acknowledge it, you’ll leave them feeling unappreciated and embarrassingly vulnerable. This is not a good way to maintain the ‘special connection’ that you thought you had.
- A voice on the phone is worth a thousand texts: Reading something and hearing someone say it are two different things. Texts and emails can easily be misconstrued, especially if writing is not your strong suit. Even if you are a prolific writer, the words may take on a different meaning to the person reading them. Hearing the tone and emotion in one’s voice can make all the difference in the world.
- A picture is worth a thousand words: Skype is free and most laptops these days come with built in cameras and microphones. If you want to keep the passion alive, and it may be a couple of months until you see them in the flesh, seeing someone’s face while you’re talking can make a huge difference. If you’ve never tried Skype sex, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s the next best thing to being there. Besides, men are visual creatures, and sometimes out-of-sight really is out-of-mind.
- Long distance relationships are not for people who puke on airplanes:If you seriously enjoy being with this person, be ready to travel. You need to have the budget, and have some amount of flexibility, but flying in for a long weekend or short weekend is a requirement. It depends what you’re looking to gain from this relationship, but the in between time can build passion and titillating expectation. If you enjoy adventure, this could be better than having someone live three blocks away and seeing them every weekend.
The bottom line is that long distance relationships are not for everyone. It depends what your ultimate goal is. However, if you are open-minded, flexible, spontaneous, and adventuresome, it could be worth it. Be warned: it takes a mature, self-assured, and confident person to make it work, but there are six billion people on this planet, and we are more connected to all of them than we’ve ever been in history. So if you think you have what it takes, broaden your dating pool. Anything is possible.