When I was fresh out of university, the rest of my life an optimistic expanse of dreams coming true, my plan was to go to Europe with my then girlfriend. She had no such plans, but because we believed we were going to be together forever, she decided to give traveling abroad a shot. Unfortunately, the programs we applied for sent us to different corners of the Iberian Peninsula. Thinking we could weather anything, we decided on a distance relationship.
In that year alone, I made every mistake conceivable in regards to romantic entanglements from afar.
If you’ve never been in a distance relationship, there’s a possibility that you might at one point in the future. Many will say it’s doomed to fail, and that’ll push you to not engage in such a coupling–or tripling, whatever you’re into–but as a dude who’s paved a path of failure, I still vouch for distance relationships. All romance is doomed eventually, so why not try, fail gloriously, rise to fame on YouTube with a video of said failure, then do it all again?
Before attempting our year of distance, my former lady and I made a heartfelt but ridiculous vow, to get through it at any cost and come out together on the other side of the time chasm. Making that concrete promise meant two things: one, that if either of us were not faithful, then certain doom! And two; that we kinda had to live life as dependents. Remember how a Jedi becomes a Sith? Our brazen promise led to fear (of the relationship failing), which led to anger (at one another), which led to hatred (of everything), which led to suffering (“I thought we were forever!”). I wore a sadness cloak for months after our breakup.
Does this mean we should have been like, “Let’s totally bang everything and sometimes each other and not care!” Could be. She definitely enjoyed an affair or several, while the only reason I didn’t derived from enough guilt to slay an adult yeti. The least we could have done, and the least any other bloke or madam could do in that situation, was open the relationship to the possibility. Leaving it explicitly closed or open is still a ruling of some kind; we could have said, “look dude, there are pretty people everywhere. Maybe we’ll kiss some of them? Just saying.” Deciding on exclusivity or open should come after a little research. Sure is smarter than knee-jerk blurting, “I’ll never let you go! You’ll be mine… forever!”
And that was another big mistake. To me, most affairs evolve from the stifling fear of being with the same person until your body gives up. I was very adamant about only wanting to be with her, you know, forever, and I didn’t realize how repeating it was affecting her. The more doubtful I was about us, the more I heaped on the epic declarations of love and devotion. I can only imagine how attractive that must have been. It’s no wonder she found a pretty Italian gentleman who made Tinder itself look uptight.
So what did I learn?
1. Go into a distance relationship a bit more open than if the spatial distance isn’t a problem. You never know what you’ll encounter, especially in seedy nightclubs at four in the morning.
2. Talk it out before a problem grows exponentially. Remember, a monogamous word battle cannot be dealt with by utilizing copious amounts of booty. Ever have sex then say, “Why were we fighting?” Careful, friends, that’s off the table unless an open arrangement is involved, and that’s its own bureaucratic endeavor.
3. Be upfront if you’re going to be open or poly. Really, communication is key; so don’t hide heaps of stuff, cause that can get dicey emotionally. Whether you’re buying a new pair of shoes or inviting a stranger into your bed, let your partner(s) in on it (depending on what you’ve specified as important information, of course). I tell my current lady every time I purchase shoes, but that’s mostly because it’s funny (for me).
4. If you have a secret, it’ll be painted all over your face forever. I learned this, and I’m not even a good detective.
5. Know when to admit defeat. Or, alternatively, if it’s a mutual decision, make a ballsy future plan so you’re both (or all) working toward a relationship goal. C’mon guys, you can go without carnal pleasures, like hugging, for just a bit longer. If the plan is one-sided, then epic failure is sure to follow.
This is just survival. Success means mastering emotional maturity, being goal oriented while finding a full life apart from the relationship in your life until reuniting happens, and maybe even creating a mutually beneficial situation where sexual appetites are attended to without jealousy or madness erupting. The nightmare of restrained libido is scary; good thing my current distance lady taught me the way of the sex camel. It’s like Zen mastery over that dumb part of your brain that ruins everything.