Having a long-distance lover can be one of the most exciting things ever, or it can be one of the most heart-rending experiences of your life… and sometimes both at the same time.
The weird, sad truth is that until you spend copious amounts of time together (by which I mean, for example, 9 consecutive days, rather than 6 months of seeing each other for two days at a time), you’ll never really know how well the two of you mesh. I know this might sound a bit cynical, but ANYONE can turn on the charm for two days. It’s the long stretches of time which really tell you what the other person is like. Are they unbearably cranky on Monday mornings? Do they start drinking as soon as they get home on a Wednesday? Until you spend a week in their company, you won’t know.
This is not me trying to dissuade you from engaging in a long-distance love affair; far from it. They can be fabulous (especially if you’re a busy person and don’t feel the need for a ‘full-time’ lover!) — but all I’m saying is, if you decide to move in together, or one of you moves city for the other, please spend at least a week together in a one- or two-bedroom apartment! It will really tell you a lot about how you work together. I think it should be compulsory — a law! But it’s not, so all I can do is advise you to proceed with caution!
Here are the good things about long-distance relationships:
Love letters, pining, anticipation, travel, the total bliss of spending time with someone you’ve been dying to see, having lots to catch up on, long adorable phone-calls, lots of time to do your own thing and be independent, visiting another city and discovering new things, showing your lover around your city and planning cool things to do together.
Here are the bad things:
Long stretches of time alone, never really knowing what the other person is up to (not good if you’re jealous/insecure), the expense of travelling, the time involved in travelling, having to count out pairs of underwear to take with you when you go, packing, the actual travelling, sleeping alone, the feeling of pressure that you have to make the most of the time you have together, wondering what kind of future you could possibly have and knowing that something will have to change in order for that to happen.
Long-distance love affairs can be fraught with friction. I have had the experience!, so here’s what I can tell you about this strange pathway to romance!
Define your relationship as quickly as possible
I learnt this one the hard way (ouch). If you think you’re a monogamous couple, or you would LIKE to be monogamous with this person, discuss it. I know it might seem a bit scary, and you don’t want to pressure the other person or get on their ‘bad side’ if you bring it up, but your heart is worth more than that! If the person you thought was your girlfriend sleeps with someone else because of some miscommunication, it is going to hurt. Work it out ahead of time. If the other person isn’t receptive to your idea, know that staying with them is probably going to be a rather painful exercise. Only you can determine how much pain you want to feel in your life, so act accordingly!
Stay in contact
Communicate often but try not to obsess… if you can help it! I have had long-distance relationships which ended up taking over my life because my girlfriend and I were so consumed with constantly texting, emailing and calling one another. Remember: you have a life, a career/schooling, your own friends! Try not to neglect these things because you’re glued to your phone. Usually in a relationship, the two of you will have different expectations of communication. Do you want to talk on the phone for hours every night, or is that just not practical? Do your best to compromise — maybe have two long phone conversations a week and send email the rest of the time. You can also send packages, letters, plane tickets or flowers.
Remember that your view of them is limited
New relationships are very exciting and often they turn into an insane case of limerence. I often find that long-distance love affairs are even more intense than normal ones, simply because of all the initial stumbling blocks. You never see them for very long, so you never have time to get sick of them. When you do finally see them, you’re both so pumped up that the adrenaline gets you totally high, and then they disappear so the initial thrill is instantly replaced with a feeling of longing. It’s a liiiittle bit unrealistic — not to say that amazing love doesn’t exist, but in real life, everyone has crazy families and irritating workmates and days when they can’t dress themselves. Do your best to keep it in perspective!
Be mindful of the cash you’re spending
Long-distance relationships can be really expensive. Plane tickets and phone-calls start to add up quickly. If one of you is doing all the travelling or making all the phonecalls, it will feel a bit unbalanced and can cause resentment.
Make friends with their friends
Do your best to find things you have in common with their friends. The reason for this is twofold, one of which is slightly sneaky. Reason one: if you’re thinking about moving to be with your new favourite person, you’re going to live a very lonely life if they’re the only person you know. Reason two: if you have any doubts as to their fidelity, being on good terms with their friends means you’re more likely to be privy to any guarded information.
Have your own reasons
If you end up moving city to be closer to them, having your own reasons for moving (other than proximity to them), it will make your transition much smoother. You don’t want “but I moved here for you!” to become a bargaining chip. (I’m reminded of an episode of Sex and The City, where Charlotte, who converts to Judaism, says to her boyfriend, “I gave up Christ for you, and you can’t even give up the Mets?!”. Her boyfriend retorts, “It’s going to be a long life if you keep that up! ‘I gave up Christ for you, take out the trash!’”. You see my point.) If you have a good job and friends in the new city, you will be much happier.
Long-distance romance can be very tough, but if you are both committed to making it work, there’s no reason why it can’t.
Best of luck to you!
(All images sources available by clicking on the picture themselves)