She was 35, he was 45, and they lived 500 miles apart in separate states. She was a school administrator, he was a sales rep, and they saw each other as often as they could. They spent one weekend a month, long holidays, and four weeks in the summer visiting each other. She complained—a lot— about how they never got to have enough time together. After five years of this arrangement, he got transferred to her city. Two months after he arrived, they broke up.
As I watched this couple unravel, I began to notice that there are people with long distance relationships who like it that way—either consciously or unconsciously. They want a significant other in their life, but they don’t want them around every day. They may moan about the distance, but in reality, they prefer this arrangement.
Sometimes, however, people meet, fall in love, and for reasons beyond their control, find it impossible to live in the same city. Economics, school, career, family obligations, and military service are some of the factors influencing people’s logistics when they are dying to be together. They also might meet each other on vacation, on the Internet, or at a reunion, and they need time to see if the relationship is going anywhere before one of them moves. They struggle through the separation until the circumstances keeping them apart shift.
Some relationships survive a long distance and others don’t. Here are some of the challenges that exist when you have an out-of-town romance:
If you have just met, take care to spend enough time to truly know each other before you get in a committed relationship. There is no substitute for face-to-face communication. You need to meet each other’s friends, family, and co-workers. You need to experience good times and stressful ones. Once you do, decide what your expectations are for your relationship. Be open and honest. How much of a commitment are you willing to give? Being clear about what you want from each other is extremely important in order to minimize misunderstandings.
Once you can determine if you are both on the same level of investment in the relationship, trust and honesty become paramount to the success of your future. These elements are at the heart of all lasting unions, but distance challenges the security of your connection.
Be dedicated to the way you stay in touch. Phone calls, emails, and chatting online are important. Set up a regular time to visit with each other, building a routine. But add some surprises such as, homemade videos, collected poems put in a special book, or self-decorated greeting cards. Stretch your imagination further with a lock of your hair in a unique box; an absorbent piece of cloth with your after-shave scent; her favorite flower, pressed and framed. If the other person does not call often, make time for you, or send appropriate communications, do not hang on. Let go and get on with your life.
Tell your love what you are doing every day and talk about your friends. Describe them, tell their names, and share what you do with them. When your girlfriend comes to town, she will feel more a part of the group, and not like the outsider. Make sure your old friends understand how important she is to you. Do not force her to spend time with people who are not welcoming. Especially when your time is limited.
Plan your reunions.
Decide where to meet, how often, and how you want to spend the time when you see each other. Be very clear about what your expectations are for your time together. This is where relationships break down. Your idea of the perfect weekend could be sitting in front of the TV with her at your side, watching the ballgame. Hers could be attending a poetry forum, and later sharing secrets of the heart. You may expect her to cook your dinner; she may expect you to cook for her. We all have old scripts that play out in new relationships, and unless we talk about what we want from each other, this is a recipe for misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
Finally, decide how long you want to live apart, and set a date for the move. It is true that when one of you moves to the other one’s town, you are taking a risk. However, most people say that even when it doesn’t work out, at least they gave love a chance. They didn’t want to spend their life wanting to be somewhere else, continuing… a long distance relationship.
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