Long Distance Relationships

As I was writing the post on being able to cook during my 25 Things To Never Apologize For series, I mentioned I don't do long-distance relationships (LDRs). I went looking for the post where I explained this mindset more completely and I couldn't find it. That's because I never wrote it. Well here it is...

My relationship with J lasted 4 years and was off and on, with way more gray area than anything decisive. For the vast majority (so save about 2 - 3 months) of this 4 years we were not in the same city. The distance between us ranged from 120 miles to over 1100 miles. We made it work as best we could, but we were young and had no idea what we were doing. I learned a lot about what I can and can't tolerate where distance is concerned in a relationship. I've developed a list that I use whenever someone asks me about how to do an LDR.

1) I can do any distance, but not for any amount of time: There was no end in sight for J and I. When we talked about our lives post-graduation (for me, he was 2 years behind me) I had very sure plans about what city I wanted to live in. It wasn't the city he wanted to live in. He loved the city he was going to school in and while the city I wanted to move to was closer -- closer wasn't together. I realized, ultimately, that LDRs need an end-date. This was echoed in a recent article I read about a newlywed couple who met when the husband came back for an alumni event and the wife was a student. He lived in DC and when she graduated (and when they became official) she moved to NYC. Their recommendation: have an end date.

2) The end date should be reasonable: At one point, J started talking marriage (which scared the CRAP out of me). I told him, "We can't get married. We don't want to live in the same area." Then we talked about where I wanted to live and how fluid I felt the first few years post-graduate would be. He tossed out the idea of transferring to a school in the city I was in. I think we both knew that we couldn't keep up with the distance until he graduated. We needed it to be over soon. LDRs can be strength-builders, but if done for too long the distance begins to crack at the base of your relationship and that damage, if ignored, can be irreparable. My personal end date is 1 year, though I'd prefer 6 - 8 months.

3)I won't enter a LDR with someone at the very early stages of our relationship: J and I began our relationship before I had to move; I think our relationship was able to take so much heat and be beat up so badly before it broke because we had a foundation born out of spending a lot of time together in the beginning. Recently, I briefly dated another guy who had future plans that will take him out of the country for at least 3 years. If we had begun seeing each other exclusively, I would've known him for less than a year, most of which we weren't dating/spending time together. I would have been entering an LDR that exceeds my personal limit of one year based off having gotten to know him for about 6-7 months. That ratio just doesn't add up for me.

4)I will prioritize spending time with a significant other in an LDR over most other things and expect him to do the same: In the early stages of our LDR, J and I would often meet up in my home city, which was where we met. He ended up back in his hometown after I left but had friends in my hometown. It was convenient for me and offered him a chance to visit his old friends. The problem was he had a hard time prioritizing. He would often let his friends overtake his schedule and I wouldn't see him at all. He didn't understand why it would upset me. I did a lot of things, sometimes, to get home so I could see him in the time frame he would be there. On the flip side of that I had a bad habit of spending a lot of time on the phone when we were together. He'd often steal my phone. What I get now is that those were the times where we could "repair" issues that had come up during our time apart and anytime I spent doing something else was taking away from us. The only thing spending time with J did not take precedence over was time with family -- but I always managed to do some creative scheduling.

5)I will understand the importance of the telephone: This was perhaps the worst and most awkward part of the LDR. Phone time was all we had so when one of us missed it, it typically caused problems. What our young brains didn't understand was that we both prioritized the phone time, but only when it was convenient. We both probably spent time on the phone when we would have rather been elsewhere, but then when the other couldn't make it and we'd skipped a meal with friends, or ignored an invite out to a party, we were pissed.

This isn't one that would apply to me now, but back then, I wish I'd had someone to caution me about getting into a LDR as I was headed into college. I managed to make some great friends but there are many things I missed out on because of #5. We both told each other we wanted the other one to go out and meet new people, but that was just lip service and our actions showed it. We really should have been a part for my first year in college.

Overall, I would suggest that a person think long and hard before jumping into a LDR. There are serious consequences and they should all be weighed very very carefully.


Akirah said...

Great points! I agree with each one. I did long distance during my senior year of college. It was rough, but I was happy to know there would be an end to the madness after graduation. Also, you HAVE to be sure that the person you're entering a LDR with is worth it. There are many issues to navigate and ain't none of them worth navigating with a random person you don't feel strongly about.

A.Smith said...

"there are many issues to navigate and ain't none of them worth navigating with a random person you don't feel strongly about."

Amen and amen, sister. The last thing you should be worried about mid LDR is how you feel about somebody.

Mr. Smart Guy said...

I used to be a fan of LDR's until I realized that they were fraudulent in nature. Think about it. You can see people at your own leisure, put your best foot forward while they're there and arguments are lessened if you just exercise regular communication.

The problem lies is when you spend time together without an end date and a problem arises that you've never had to handle. You get to see your boo's true colors (usually green with envy or red with rage)....

A.Smith said...

I experienced that whole "oh my gosh, who is this guy?" moment in my LDR. We'd never had a problem like that and handling a major blowout via phone is not quite the same as handling it face to face. Amazing how much we depend on body language to give us subtle cues.

But you're right -- people can misuse the mess out of the distance aspect if they want to, but I think those LDRs fall flat on their faces pretty quickly.

Anonymous said...

Good post! I found it via your "top 10 of 2010" post, so I haven't read it before.

I've been with my bf for 1 year (as of 3 days ago), and we have also been long distance for a year (we met through blogging, but that's another story :-P). How we made it work:

1. We'd known each other for about 9 months prior to dating, but we didn't start "talking" until 7-8 months in. Dating only turned out to be convenient after we got to know each other better.

2. Before I met him I had plans to a) graduate a semester early and b) attend graduate school in Norcal (where he lives). So when the issue of us dating came up we talked about our future plans and had an end date in mind.

3. Neither of us are the type to look for greener grass. He's a non-traditional student (never lived in a dorm and all that), so the temptation to party wasn't there, and I had never seriously dated someone at school (it just never clicked), so he didn't have to worry about me being interested in someone else.

4. Our schedules (and the time zone difference) worked well together. I have free minutes after 7, so by the time I ate dinner he would be out of class and hanging at home. We would talk before I went to bed, then he would go do homework/eat dinner (he's a night owl).

Over the past year, we saw each other every month except February, April, and September, so it worked out pretty well. And I just moved here yesterday, so while I'm glad it's over (I wouldn't want to do another year LD), it wasn't horrible by any stretch.

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