Most people find relationships taking place in the same area code hard enough. Add some distance to the mix and there are many grounds for concern. It’s a type of relationship that’s fraught with peril and the odds are stacked against you, but it can work.
The good news for those embroiled in a long distance relationship, or LDR, is that studies run by the U.S.-based Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships say there is no greater risk of an LDR breaking up than a regular relationship. OK, so all these LDR people are staying together, but they’re probably completely miserable, right?
Well, Dr. Gregory Guldner, Director of the Center and author of Long Distance Relationships, says that when comparing what he calls “relationship satisfaction,” between long distance and regular relationships, the two groups were completely identical.
That doesn’t change the fact that LDRs somehow seem to tussle with our emotions more than regular relationships. Sylvia lives in Toronto, Canada and for the past four years has been dating Anders, who plies his trade as a carpenter in Malmo, Sweden. “It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says Sylvia.
The couple usually sees each other in person twice every year for about a month at a time. “I can’t really appreciate being with him until the visit is almost over… that’s sad.”
One of the main drawbacks to the LDR is lack of sex. While sex is often best with someone who is, in fact, in the same room as you, don’t knock the idea of getting hot and bothered on the phone or online. In fact, setting up some fantasies to come true at your next meeting can really get the juices flowing. The trick with long distance intimacy is to try to plan ahead and set some time aside for your rendezvous. It’ll be something you look forward long in advance.
Speaking of Sex
Sometimes you just want to feel the warm touch of another person. What if the person you love isn’t around and won’t be around for a long, long time? Even worse, what if the person you love is feeling the same way as you right now? What if they give in to their primal urges?
This is one of the major worries of couples in a LDR. However, as Dr. Guldner says, studies actually show that “couples in long distance relationships had no greater risk of having an affair than geographically close couples.” That comes as surprisingly good news to most, but then Guldner tells us that despite the stats, those in LDRs “worry much more about affairs than those in geographically close relationships.”
Guldner describes it this way: “Because they cannot visually monitor their partner in the same way as a geographically close couple can, they sometimes create a fantasy world in which their partner is cheating. This fantasy often would be dispelled in a geographically close relationship… In an LDR this monitoring is far more difficult and these fantasies can get out of hand.”
Bridging the Distance
So what do you do to somehow feel closer? Well, ongoing communication is key. We’re not just talking about chatting on the phone once every day or two. These days, we’re blessed with the technology of e-mail, webcams, and text messaging to keep communication constant.
As Sylvia says, “If I hear a song that I think Anders will like, it’s easy to just send it to him in an e-mail and tell him that it reminds me of him. That way he knows that I’m thinking of him all the time.”
Dr. Guldner specifies that it’s not just talking about the ‘big’ issues and emotions that you should focus on. Making sure your partner knows about that squeaky floorboard, the cat you saw at your front door, or your day-to-day life in general can be just as important.
He says, “The problem is when you get a couple that is very good at sharing the deep emotional things but doesn’t know anything about each other’s lives.”
When You Meet
It would seem that finally seeing your partner should be a walk in the park after so much time spent apart. But many couples seem to find these shared moments harder than you might imagine. Awkward silences, nervousness, and even arguments can spoil what you planned to be a magical time. Remember, you’ve been used to a certain type of communication for a long period of time. Suddenly changing it can be a shock to how you relate to each other.
And with every visit, sadly, comes the time that you’ll have to say goodbye again.
As Sylvia puts it, “The first week apart is OK. By the end of the second week, I start to fall apart and he joins me there within a day or two. By the third and fourth week, we’re both very depressed. Within a week or two, we usually have a fight over the phone, which makes us more depressed.
We slowly climb out of it, and by the sixth week, we can start looking forward to seeing each other again.
“I figure we’ve got two more goodbyes left before one of us will have to move.”