Long Distance Relationships – Can They Work?

LDR. Yes, folks. That’s the acronym for long distance relationships. So if a friend says, you’re in one of those LDRs, huh? You’ll know what it means. It’s a heartbreaking situation, no doubt. A dozen emails a day and several phone calls a week are just not the same as having the beloved around, physically close to you. When the distance involves a plane ride, or a crossing over of the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, that’s even more heartbreaking. Besides, how often can you cross over without breaking the bank?

Yet some people will accept the separation. If the other person is worth it and is someone truly special, then a long distance relationship should not be a major barrier. We admit it’s a huge inconvenience and does generate an emotional emptiness, but it really doesn’t mean that the love between two people can’t flourish just because thousands of miles separate them.

It’s also a question of attitude. If you’ve got a healthy and positive attitude about long distance relationships, then half the battle is won. The key issues here are endurance and fidelity.

This much we do know: if a loved one is far away – either because the two of you met in one place but live at the opposite ends of the continent or one of you is assigned to another country – then there’s a need to sit down and talk about the impending separation. That’s one.

Two – and this is especially for the ladies – if he does not ask you to come with him or does not send for you later – then you should accept the fact that he’s not too much into you as you are into him. A bitter pill to swallow, but men are fortunate in the sense that they see things in a more rationale manner, minus the emotions. They can make a decision without agonising too much over it, unlike women who take an eternity to get over a bad situation.

So ladies, if he does not extend an invitation, don’t chase after him. That’s plain. That’s simple. You’re not going to jeopardise your own job or risk being separated from your family and social systems to be with him when there are no guarantees that you’re going to end up like Cinderella. If a man really loves you, he’ll move mountains to have you by his side; if he’s only half-hearted about the relationship, then it’s going to be awhile before he lifts a finger. There’s a strong possibility that he won’t even lift a finger because in his mind, there are “other damsels in distress.”

It could happen, however, that at the time of departure, he’ll accept the separation as inevitable and he’ll just have to pick up the pieces and get on with his life. Then a couple of months later, he realizes he can’t live without you. So he’ll phone. He’ll charm you, seduce you with emails and phone calls, and if necessary come and pick you up. This is what we all secretly hope for. If this happens, then chances are you were meant to be for each other. If not, you’ve still got your life, your sanity, your dignity. You move on.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Of others, that is. Only time will tell if the LDR translates into something more meaningful. Only time will tell if love does exist between the two of you. Only time will tell if you’re ready for a new flame. The truth is, the LDR could be a blessing in disguise or a test of durability and Olympic endurance.

Fein and Schneider (The Rules, 1997) made it quite clear. If you happen to meet a man in a wedding in Montreal and he lives in Toronto while you live in Vancouver, and then you spend five hours with him dancing, having dessert, and walking the wedding grounds and then end up having dinner with him, he’ll know he hooked you without much effort. He loses interest because you’re no longer a challenge. Remember that primitive man was first and foremost a hunter. Once he captures his prey, he looks for the next one.

So if you’re at a wedding and you meet someone from out of town, don’t spend five hours with him no matter how strong the chemistry is. Spend time with your other friends!

Stay Tuned

By staying tuned, we don’t mean being on the keyboard 24/7 composing those gooey notes of love or running up your phone bill even if you managed to negotiate the weekend or midnight rates. This ritual could scare the daylights out of him. If he likes you, he’ll initiate communications.

Here’s another scenario: you’re already in a great relationship with someone, but then he gets called away on a mission or has to be out of the country for say 12 months. One relationship expert says that nothing beats effective communication. If two people are in love, the lines of communication must consistently stay open and honest. The texture of the relationship, she says, is likely to be enhanced if two people share their feelings.

Next to communication is another virtue that also begins with a “C”. It’s called commitment. There must be an explicit demonstration of this commitment by both parties. Not that you should be booking plane tickets every weekend. If it isn’t financially feasible, the frequency of communications will clue you into this commitment. Are you making plans for the future at this stage? Are you thinking of resettling in a new country? Is he requesting his company to consider bringing you over? Most enlightened companies know that their employees are more productive when they’re emotionally stable.

We mentioned fidelity earlier. It is important that if you really feel strongly about the relationship and about each other, the trust is inherent and must not cause any mental anguish. LDRs are risky endeavors, so both parties need a lot of assurance.

The same relationship expert also says that the LDR must be an opportunity to develop our independence. She says each person must learn to develop an independent self combined with a healthy dose of dependence upon the other person. An effort must be made to find the right balance between these two.

All other qualities being in check, mutual respect is a natural outcome. It’s heaven to be in love with another person, but when you also respect that other person, love takes on a more sublime meaning. Everyone loves a lover, but when you become the best of friends after you’ve recovered from the passion of love, that’s like a bonus sent from above.

Going back to the Rules experts – Fein and Schneider – they tackle the “what if he gets serious” angle. Both of them are fairly strict with the rules because they know the weaknesses of some women. Here’s what they suggest:

“If things get serious, he might bring up the future and ask if you would ever consider relocating. Reply, ‘I haven’t really thought about it.’ Until he actually proposes and gives you a ring, be vague. There’s no reason to look into selling or renting your apartment or asking for a job transfer to his city or finding a job in his city if he hasn’t formally proposed.” (The Rules II, by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, Warner Books, 1997)

How to Cope

You’re here, he’s there, but your thoughts are everywhere. Contain those thoughts and think of yourself first by putting meaning into your own life. Pick up from where you left off. Much as we dislike this corny phrase because our company always used it in their slogans, we’ll say it anyway: be proactive. Be proactive for yourself, not for him.

And men, we don’t mean to exclude you, because we’re aware you’re just as affected by LDRs. If you’ve got a lady friend who you want to keep forever but she’s a high-rolling corporate something executive who’s jet setting to all corners of the globe or gets re-assigned to Lisbon or London, be proactive yourself. Go fishing, if that’s an activity that heals and calms you.

Here are some suggestions for coping when the significant other is so far away:

  • Get involved in your community. People will always need other people. Get lucky and help others! Volunteer your services. If your community center wishes to give a computer course to seniors who don’t think of a mouse except as a household pest, share your expertise.
  • Always wanted to learn woodworking? Get with it.
  • Double-up on your fitness routine. Physical fitness induces mental and psychological fitness. Surely you’ve heard this gem of wisdom many times in the past.
  • Call your favorite buddies: play poker, do a few rounds of golf, practice some hockey or archery. And for the women, take those long, therapeutic nature walks either alone or with a close friend.

And to the question – do long distance relationships work? The honest answer is: sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. It depends on the extent to which two people want to commit and make it not only an enduring relationship, but also a happy and healthy one.



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