LONG d i s t a n c e r e l a t i o n s h i p s

February 19, 2013

  • A friend asked a question about long distance relationships, and that has prompted me to write on this issue.
    I’ve only done the long distance thing once.  Well, twice, if you count a summer “love” from when I was 14.  We met at a dance in Stone Harbor, NJ.  We left the dance and walked on the beach.  We shared a very innocent kiss on the lips.  We became pen pals for several months until it dwindled.  I have no romantic regrets, but I wish I had kept in contact with him.  You can never have too many friends.
    The time I really had a long distance relationship was when I was 24 years old.  I had already dated my boyfriend at the time for two years, and I spent part of one summer studying abroad for grad school.  It was a short period of time, but he paid to have international service and called me a few mornings a week before my class, which was crazy late for him and crazy early for me.  The amount of time I had been away did not affect us too much.  If we had just entered into the relationship, I think it would have been more problematic.  So perhaps I’m not the best person to discuss this topic, but bear with me.
    People CAN and DO have healthy long distance relationships.  People in the military may have spouses at home for years on end. It doesn’t mean their relationship is any weaker. If someone moves out of state for whatever reason, there is always Skype, e-mail, texts, calls, snail mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can keep in touch regularly and make your in-person meetings that much more meaningful.  The positive aspects are clear.  Everyday aggravations are at a minimum.  When you talk, you have less time to nag each other about cooking and cleaning or the way one of you looked at that waiter or waitress last night and more time to talk about the important aspects of your day. Plus, your significant other might actually LISTEN to you when you say what that awful coworker or boss said to you; however, the negatives can be twofold. 1. The second you are both living in the same town again (presuming that at some point, maybe even a decade later, you will live nearby or together), the annoyances could be difficult to adjust to. When you see someone often, you know what bugs you about the other person and you are reminded that you can take those aspects with the good ones. Without seeing the person often, you forget the annoyances and might end up thinking the other person changed for the worse when you do finally see them constantly. (I never remember him biting his fingers!  I don’t recall her cursing during every sporting event on the TV!  Did s/he really put the toilet paper roll on facing THAT way?  Why does he need to fall asleep to TALK RADIO?)
    The other negative aspect is that any attention CAN BE  good attention. This means that it can be healthy to be annoyed at each other.  Perhaps that will help if you are able to be reunited on a regular basis.  It can sometimes be detrimental if you are not reunited though.  Being able to suffer through the perils of a relationship reminds us that we are human. When your friends are complaining about their partners’ snoring, you might not have anything to complain about.  It may remind you that you’re not with the one you love and you might start wanting someone who can fulfill a connection in person and in real time.  It might make you pay closer attention to the people around you who ARE giving you attention.  Be cautious.  It’s good to have friends, but don’t give yourself or your partner the opportunity to become closer with to someone else.  I know several long distance relationships that have broken up this way.
    Like any relationship, if you want it to work, make sure you really, truly work at it.  Nothing will ever work unless you let the other person into your life.  Don’t give up on each other by saying, s/he won’t understand because s/he’s not here.  One of my best friends lives far away from me, and I have always felt like I’ve known every person in her life from her next door neighbors to her mail carrier.  Good communication goes a long way.  Talk about the little, the big, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the utterly ridiculous.  Long distance relationships can work as well as any other relationship if you both love each other and try enough.
    Love is a conversation that continues even after you’ve said good night.


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Jeannette Ryder,
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