An astounding percentage of folks I’ve spoken with on the topic of long distance relationships have declared that such relationships are ultimately destined to fail, and fail gloriously at that. Some months ago, I would have agreed with each and every one of them rather emphatically, but at present I believe the long distance relationship, while by no means simple and easy, doesn’t have to be a complete, fiery, zeppelin wreck. It can work, it really can, if looked at and treated the correct way.
Some years ago, I was in a very, very serious relationship. Bad luck came our way and we were faced with a year of spatial separation, our cities almost 14 hours apart by train or bus (the plane option was expensive). We vowed to make it work, but as you, gentle reader, know, it went south real fast. The less happy we were, the more we tried to make it work. She cheated; I turned into a dithering wreck, etc. All of it could have been avoided right from the start, but not necessarily by breaking it off completely (although in that situation, it would have been the best idea). There are procedures we could have followed to avoid most of the sitcom-worthy drama.
To me, the vital facet of the long distance relationship is terminology. This sort of relationship shouldn’t be treated the same way as one in which space is not an issue. No matter how strong the connection, special care should be taken to define the relationship by its spatial parameters. This is to say, a distance relationship should have some level of openness, or a touch of casualness, because face it, we’re all only human and part of our chemical makeup is carnal in nature. I’m not saying have a roster of sex partners on the side, but be willing to forgive each other in the case of a casual encounter on the side. If the emotional connection is strong, then you don’t have to be threatened by sex, unless your partner in question is deliberately harboring many other relationships and not being honest about them.
And that’s another thing. Always be willing to face the hard truths; you have to be honest with your mate, especially in a distance relationship. A lot of time may be spent worrying about the actions of the other person, and openness and honesty at least mean you know what’s going on. Not every event needs to be spoken of, but don’t hide tons and tons of information from the nervous imagination of a partner. Be emotionally open to the Skype face on your screen, and try to relax. If things seem to be tense, you have to talk about it, or that tension can build and build and explode.
The most important thing to remember is to be realistic. Without the presence of physical bodies, the distance relationship will always have limitations. And that’s okay, as long as you both admit that to one another. There is a point where too much spoken compensation for that can be stressful. Again, try to relax and enjoy your partner’s company, knowing that on the other side of that wifi connection is an independent person who is leading their own life. Trust in the emotional chemistry and be realistic about trying to control what’s going on outside the relationship. Again, don’t go on a mad sexing spree, that’s not what my idea of freedom actually means.
Currently, I am in a distance relationship of my own. Before this, I was ardently against getting myself into a situation like this ever again, but circumstances were out of my control this time. The girl I’m dating at present had separate plans to move before we encountered one another, and no matter how logically unintelligent, we decided to become romantically entangled. But as opposed to my catastrophe some years back, this distance relationship is a realistic endeavor. We speak a lot, and are affectionate, but know that until we are physically together, we have to be careful of how we define the relationship. And you’ll think I’m being over-romantic about this in particular, but her presence in my mind is extremely satisfying; I think when something is overbearing, it causes one or both parties to retreat in some way, and we both watch for those signs.
If you find yourself in a distance relationship, don’t let it get out of hand. Talk to your partner, let him or know that there are limitations and rules have to be set (not, like, impossible mandates, but a relaxed code of conduct that permits independence while also keeping an emotional connection alive and strong). Too much stress can be a killer, so never keep stuff bottled up on one end of the relationship, because there is no physical decompression in sight. It’s scary, but you have to be even more open conversationally than in a non-distance relationship.
Ultimately, like any relationship, it’s a give and take, an equal exchange, and something to be enjoyed. Even though it’s difficult, it’s damn well worth it.