As a sex therapist and a couples’ counselor I have seen many individuals in long distance “relationships.” I put relationships in quotes because in most cases the two participants confuse fantasy with reality. They have severe problems communicating and maintaining what they believe to be a permanent intimate relationship. They text, email and call each other frequently, which limits other friendships and real relationships where each lives.
They argue and cajole each other for something that was said and often misinterpreted, or for not texting or calling several times daily with a full rundown of what they have been doing. They falsely believe they have a growing, mature bond headed toward marital bliss.
They often stop living their lives in the present, and they believe occasional visits reflect what it would be like to cohabit or marry. Their window of opportunity is usually small, which creates a vacation-like relationship of excitement when together, and yearning for more when apart.
Many of the couples I know truly believe their relationship will be the exception to the rule that most long distance arrangements do not prosper over time. The truth is most of these “relationships” are not very intimate, and they are more fantasy than reality. They masquerade as something they are not. They constantly confuse the two lovers.
Unless there are definite plans to live in the same area in a short time frame, most of these relationships fail. Even those who do move to be with their lover often find that living together or in the same city is not as exciting as occasional weekends together. They often struggle with the practicalities of everyday life together.
Some agree to see others when apart, but most do not. An open relationship can be enacted anytime, and this makes a long distance relationship more feasible. Exclusivity at long distance sets the stage for “cheating.” Some want distance so they do not have to deal with the reality of what it takes to be intimate. Often, one person wants to be together fulltime, and the other does not. These arrangements usually fail.
Some are hopeless romantics and believe their relationship will grow through frequent texting, email and phone calls. None of this is usually true at all. They are stuck by not living where they live. They believe they are in love and this is all that matters, and they assume there is one true love, and theirs lives in another city or state.
I am due back on Planet Earth. Enjoying your day and night with local talent (people where you live) makes a lot more sense than trying to maintain a relationship at long distance.
Young and middle aged people make the same mistakes with long distance relationships. They are muddled and hopeful, but far from realistic or commonsensical. They say to themselves: “We will be fine. It will take a few years to be together, but our love will survive no matter what the obstacles.” This is pie-in-the-sky idealism, and it severely limits the everyday enjoyment of physical touch, genuine communication and lovemaking.
A better idea is to live where you are, and if you have a friend or lover in another city, to not define that relationship as exclusive. Then there is less pressure to be with the long distance friend, and if they do relocate, it just might work out.
It is not my role to tell others what to do with their lives, but I caution clients not to put all their eggs in one basket that happens to be far away unless there is a definite plan to locate in the near future (months rather than years) together. If those who are about to try a long distance relationship were to read this blog, it might save them a lot of frustration and heartache.
The happiest people live in the present, rather than trying to plan for a different future, or relive the past. Unfortunately, most in long distance arrangements fail to see this until their constant frustration at being apart forces them to re-evaluate their total emphasis on someone in another location.
I vote for living and relating where you reside—not creating or maintaining a fantasy of a relationship at long distance.