The world is shrinking. I’m just a simpleton without an astrophysics degree, so maybe it’s also expanding. Let’s all agree on this instead: we live inside the internet-machine now. The internet-machine laughs in the face of city walls. We co-exist with an online and offline life. Offline, moving around is easier than ever before. You can fly from New York to London in six hours. The barriers which traditionally separated communities are being eroded. “Cool, I didn’t realise I’d clicked on an A-Level Sociology essay, isn’t this meant to be about sex, mate?”
Look, at some point, you will likely be in a romantic relationship with someone who doesn’t live on your street, city or even country. The shrinking world made this possible; the shrinking world can squeeze your relationship to a pulp if you let it.
Long-distance dating is tricky. It’s hard if it’s long-distance from the start; it’s hard if one of you has to move elsewhere further down the line. When we start dating someone, we are saying: “I would like to maximise the time I can spend with you. I would like to regularly kiss your face and make balloon animals with you every week”. Throw 60 miles between you and your freedom to co-create an inflatable giraffe on a Wednesday afternoon has been constrained. Throw two full-time jobs, family commitments, financial worries, health problems and conflicting social events into the mix. Then, you can find your relationship under strain. All the same issues exist when dating the boy next door, but these are magnified by distance.
Distance heightens intensity. The stakes are higher. You’ve invested time and incurred unreasonable travel expenses to see this person (renationalise the railways, baby). As a result, your relationship quickly feels committed and serious. You naturally move through the life cycle of a relationship more rapidly than you would do otherwise. Your time together is scarcer and with this scarcity comes intensity. You will be in frequent virtual contact in order to fill the gap that distance creates, which again bonds you more intensely. There are positives to having an intense connection with your romantic partner. But as a general rule, an overly intense love does not make for an enduring love. You can fight me in the comments.
Depending on how regularly you see one another, you also just miss your partner. Longing for someone is a painful emotion in and of itself, which can be enough to cause problems in your relationship. Dwelling in this heightened state of emotion can cause you to feel vulnerable, lonely or sad. These emotions will then influence your interactions with your partner, creating friction. Both parties need to demonstrate maturity, understanding and practise genuine collaboration in order to make a long-distance relationship work. Most of us agree that it’s not ideal: after a period of time, couples look to close the gap. Eventually, committed partners choose to cohabit and fill their shared home with an ever-growing number of balloon animals.
It is absolutely possible to have a healthy, loving relationship while you’re living in different places. But if, and only if, you listen to the wise words of this simpleton:
- Are you both down to ride? As well as riding each other’s fleshy bodies, you need to be down to ride trains and down to ride conceptually with what a long-distance relationship entails. This means you must be willing to compromise. If you are only able to see each other once a fortnight, then that may come into conflict with other social commitments. You will both need to compromise in order to keep your relationship strong. That is the nature of a healthy, mutual relationship. You shouldn’t be making unreasonable sacrifices which lead you to resent your partner. You shouldn’t be compromising on your values, self-worth or other fundamental relationships in your life. But there is give-and-take in mature, romantic relationships. Successfully striking that balance is tricky, but with trust and healthy communication, that balance will save you becoming another couple broken by the length of the M25.
- Who do you think you are? You need to ensure your values align. Different people have different needs in terms of personal space, how much time they want to spend together and the level of contact they want with their partner. You need to make sure you’re roughly on the same page as far as these preferences are concerned, or else face a lot of tedious, circular arguments. These values will truly be tested in a long-distance relationship, so you both need to truly understand and empathise with each other. You don’t have to be in perfect agreement, but you do need to have a strong respect for your partner in order to accommodate their needs. If that respect is missing, your relationship is on very shaky ground, kiddo.
- Take the pressure off your weekends. If you’re only seeing each other once a month, you can feel pressured to always “do” something with your time together. You must go to the zoo, go for bottomless brunch and have sex fifteen times. That’s a quick route to exhaustion, rows and a urinary tract infection. You are allowed to just “be” together. A loving relationship is one where nobody has to perform. You are allowed to be in whatever mood you have been feeling all week. You don’t have to present a super happy face or hide the stresses of your week from your partner. You are allowed to just go for a quiet walk together, buy two Rubicons and spend the rest of the day watching Love on Netflix.
- Break the cycle. If you’re in a long-distance relationship, you will need to be organised and work through logistics together. This creates a regular routine. For example, you will diarise how often you see each other, who gets the train to whom and how long you spend together during your visits. It’s really important to break the cycle every now and again to do something different. Your relationship shouldn’t feel monotonous or like a chore, so taking a short holiday together, or just switching who visits whom will do wonders for your relationship.
- Social media: the good, the bad and the ugly. They surely invented FaceTime for long-distance relationships. You can see each other’s genitals in real-time each night through an illuminated rectangle and slowly cut Pornhub’s profits in half. But social media is also a breeding ground for jealousy and insecurity, which can be intensified in a long-distance relationship. Most of us recognise that our online lives are told through a lens of selectivity, falseness and are devoid of real meaning. This is easy to remember when you see your partner in the flesh regularly and can hear their perspective and feel their affections. But if you haven’t seen each other in weeks, it is all too easy to become fixated on their online presence, wonder why they’ve liked someone’s Facebook post or what their tweet really means. Don’t let social media corrupt your pure, trusting nature and become the embittered ghoul we discussed in My Boyfriend Messages Other Girls and It’s Making Me Feel Weird. Discuss your anxieties openly with your partner and remember that true love stands up to criticism and difficult conversations, no matter how far apart you live.
Next week is once again in your tiny hands! Go over to Twitter dot com (@G4RL_blog) and vote for our next topic. This time it’s a choice of three Big Scary Words, so pick one of the Big Scary Words and I’ll make it cute and harmless for you next Monday. Deal? While you’re there, you should also follow my personal account @NikkiS4. Sometimes I do good jokes. But only sometimes; I’ve got balloon animals to make.
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