Raise your hand if you’ve developed a friendship or a relationship online.
Betcha a doughnut that just about everyone reading this has had one.
This means a fair whack of you have had that weird beast in your life — the Long-Distance Relationship (LDR).
Communications and networking being what they are, we simply do see a lot of interaction conducted online over long distances. When romance gets thrown in, it can be a lot of fun or a big mess, depending on how you conduct it.
To ensure that it’s fun, keep a few of these things in mind:
Texual communication has its limits.
Sure, you can feel close to someone through online communication. You can exchange your thoughts, feelings, secrets, inner desires, and all that. It’s great. But the physical component does make a difference. Studies show that over half of our communication is non-verbal, so that missing component can be significant.
I recall some years ago finding the writing of someone a pain in the butt to deal with. All I could see was the text. I wound up meeting the person and dating him for a few years. When I could tie his writing to what I knew to be his vocal mannerisms and body language, I wound up interpreting texual communication very differently.
I’ve found this in myself as well. People who’ve met me in person are considerably more likely to see humor in my casual texual communication because they know the facial expressions that go along with certain modes of expression.
It’s a human trait. Keep that in mind when you meet someone on the Internet.
Meetings are “vacation time”. Do not mistake how fun they are with what living together would be like.
When you get together in meatspace with your LDR, it’s a “special event”. You’re up, you’re on, you’re more likely to be glittering (or at least making an effort). This person does not get the dailyness of you.
There’s nothing in the world wrong with enjoying that specialness. I find my visits with my FWB delightful because of the break in routine. We have a good time together — which, to me, is kinda the point. But, that vacation, that fun, that sense of adventure even when things are going All Wrong? Unless that is your natural state of being,1 it’s not going to stick in any relationship where you’re hanging out on a day to day basis. That sort of thing is more about who you are, not who you think you are in relation to someone else.
Don’t let the LDR keep you from living in the present.
“Now” is all you have. Yes, yes, yes, spend time communicating with your long-distance loves. Don’t drop the rest of your life in the face of it. The house still needs cleaning, you still need to make sure you’re paying attention to the kids. Oh, yeah, that partner you’re with… your local SO(s) needs attention, too. That life you had before the LDR? It’s still there. But it won’t be if you don’t live it.
If you are planning to move closer to each other, don’t put your life on hold until this becomes a reality. If you have goals and projects, for goodness’ sake keep working on them in the meantime! You could get hit by a truck. The world could explode. Do you want your life to have been lived “on hold” because you were waiting for something exciting?
Enjoy it for exactly what it is.
There’s a lot to be said for having a relationship where there are short bursts of intense fun. That’s a good, real and valid thing to do. Fun counts. It counts for a lot! So, don’t knock it or dismiss it as less “serious” or less “worthy”!
And remember everyone, the PolyWorks Fund Logo Contest is ending in a couple of weeks! Click on the link to find out more.
1And if it is, bless you for adding joy to the world!
15 thoughts on “The Long-Distance Relationship”
I identify so strongly with this article. One of my partners lives 3.5 hours travel time from me, another an hour’s journey time and my other two loves although relatively local, I still only get to see as and when our mutual schedules permit, so even they still feel “long-distance” in some respects.
It’s very difficult to shake the fog from your brain when you meet your LDR, as you get another little dose of NRE every time you meet up; as you’ve rightly pointed out, it’s little chunk of unreality you slip into every time you’re together again.
I had a conversation with one of my long-distance sweeties about our relationship and how different it would be if we lived in the same city, or even in the same house together. The short answer is “an awful lot” – we’re both grounded enough to know that the weekends we spend together (averaging about once every 3-4 weeks so far) are quite artificial. We know that living together – at some currently undefined point in the far-flung future – would bring our relationship back down to reality with a very big bump!
My six-year-LDR changed significantly in September when he moved in with me – but we knew it would, and we were prepared for that, and have weathered the changes remarkably well, including:
* Less sex. When it’s a weekend visit, the temptation to spend most of it in bed is strong, and why the heck not? But Neither of us can sustain that kind of activitie on an every-day-of-the-week basis – and if we could, when would the housework get done.
* Being together when we’re not at our best. LDR visits tend to artificially raise everyone’s emotional state; if you only have a couple of days together, you don’t want to spoil it with a bad mood. But who can live that way 24/7? We’ve had to learn to cope with each other’s grumpy sides, occasional illness (and how we each want to be treated when we’re sick), and moments when one or the other of us is just too damned tired to communicate, communicate, communicate.
* The mundane details of domestic life. When you’re visiting, you can overlook the fact that your partner’s housekeeping style and yours do not match. When that style moves into your own space, negotiation and compromise may be necessary in order for each of you to be comfortable.
We’ve done just fine, largely because we *knew* it was going to take some adjustment, and were both prepared for that. But I’d caution others not to expect that everything will stay at the same level of wonderful if an LDR changes to a live-in.
I tend to think of LDR as a reality of poly, not only because three of my four current sweeties are living half a continent away, but because our online poly community is so relatively small compared to the great wide mono dating world out there.
Your point about living in the “now” is a very valid one — something it took me about a year of long distance dating to learn. Another important factor in successful LDR is trust — it takes a certain attitude of being able to “let go” of the need to always have a partner in your radar, so to speak, and the only way to feel comfortable about this is if you trust someone. There is no substitute for taking the time to get to know someone, and this is just as true for LDR as it is for a close-up partner.
Yeah, I have to say- living in the now was a tough lesson.
I had the fortune and disaster of over a decade of NRE leading me into my first poly r’ship, and I decided I hated the ‘now’.
I hated the boringness of my daily life. I didn’t want to change ME.
The tough part of waking up to what an ass you’ve been ?
Facing the ones you hurt, with honesty.
> Textual communication has its limits….
> You can exchange your thoughts, feelings,
> secrets, inner desires, and all that. It’s great.
> But the physical component does make a
I learned to write well, which is how I’ve earned a living for most of my life, from an LDR when I was 16. This was pre-internet, when LDRs were done the way the Victorians did them, soulfully on paper. I was really, really motivated to develop the ability to express myself clearly, accurately, and in depth.
We knew that the letter-writing relationship was different from the in-person relationship we’d had for four weeks the previous summer. But was either less “real”? I had been shocked to learn how different a book author was in person than he was when expressing himself in print. But both existed.
So to nitpick David’s comment,
> it’s little chunk of unreality you slip
> into every time you’re together
It’s not unreality; both are real. Just remember how each works within its own sphere.
Me now, I know *I’m* always the same person no matter *how* I express myself, so what you see is what you get. (BIG GRIN)
Hee, I’m talking to one member of my LDR on instant-message as I’m reading this ^_^
I definitely agree that time spent visiting is “time out of time,” as I put it . . . there is always the sense that it’s a special occasion, and the mundanities of real life get put on hold while you’re together.
I know that I’m actually BETTER at LDRs than at living with someone 24/7, and I recognize that truth and act accordingly (i.e., I do my best not to let my relationship with my husband become nothing but domesticity, and I kidnap him whenever I can to spend a weekend away reacquainting ourselves with why we fell in love in the first place!)
But, yeah. I know that the faraway people I love would drive me batshit if we ever moved in together, and I’m okay with that. I don’t love them any less for it, and they bring a great deal of happiness to my life (as I do to theirs.)
I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂
SL initiated and mediated LDR… one couple on one side of the continent and the other on the other – this quad is only just beginning…. hoping it will survive first my SO’s visit to them next month and then their visit, for family reasons, to our city in a few month’s time (we get them to ourselves for a whole week!!!)…. we dream of cohabiting sometime in the future… but our family commitments come first…
thanks for the heads up and check list – we are aware of most of it already, but a reminder never goes astray….
ok hand up!
I had the Ldr for months years bck and then it turned into a live in for 2 years and by the end we couldnt stand eachother. on the other hand my uncle and aunt got together after 2 years of icq and now its been almost 10 years of happy marriage. it really can go either way but I found a lot depends on preconceived notions and compremise. but honestly since the death of anyone actually using icq how do you guys find these people? any man i find long distance is only one of those thrill cheaters not looking for anything properly serious…
Well, ICQ is hardly the only chat program out there!
AOL’s instant messenger is a popular one. I use it. As is the Yahoo Instant messenger.
There are a lot of thrill seekers out there, true enough. I find for myself that my friendships and otherwise that have formed online have been through online discussion groups and social networking sites like Livejournal.
Niobe–I found people through Usenet, but that’s not a busy location these days either. I met both of my long-distance partners, not directly through Usenet, but through someone who I, and they, had met on Usenet. I’ve made friends on LiveJournal.
For interest sake, this thread has been posted on the Zapoly site in South Africa. Also wanted to comment on the ldr phenomenon. My partner and I have such a thing with someone who lives on the other end of the country who does not use the net at all. When we all moved to different provinces we maintained contact via SMS, MMS, snail mail and of course the phone. What surprised me is how close one can remain even by such simple means. The physical was once there and the buzz just seemed to have remained with us. Its the intimacy on a personal and spiritual level that has proven to be the strongest binding factor. Of course some skanky pics and comments get thrown in for good measure along the way..
Both my partners I met through the internet – and both with a HUGELY long distance between us. Full international ocean long distance.
Perhaps unusually for ldr, in both cases our first meetups were scheduled to be a couple of weeks, not a couple of days. Long enough to get to know each other and to not see only stars and roses…
Well said. Even my marriage is an LDR in some respects, at least part of the year, as my husband is a traveling musician. I have to say that dealing with an LDR is SO much easier now than it was 30 years ago, between cell phones, texting and IM. Two of my partners (a dyad) is a 3 hour drive away – but we IM nearly daily and stay very much in touch, so we do get a fair bit of the grumpies and daily life – but not all, by a long shot. Another is local, but is married with a small child, so our private time is limited, although we do see each other in social/family settings more often now that he is out of school.
Anyway, it suits my personality. I need the space and the solitude and I find that choosing to focus on what we have, when we have it, rather than what we don’t have, makes all the difference.
Thanks. This is very informative and will help me a lot. I just started up a LDR relationship with a young woman in Beijing. I live in America so it is a XXLDR, ha.
Since we both live so far away and she has no interest in marriage our primary relationship is online and our occasional visits to each other in random parts of the world.
The hard part is focusing on your real life. Sometimes being talking to your lover from your LDR consumes you because it is always fun with them, but do not forget the other lovers and responsibilities that you have in your life.