February 17, 2010

Disclaimer: I almost self-censored this post for a couple reasons: 1) It feels more angst-y than I’d like. 2) It’s more personal than where I usually aim. 3) I don’t much like discussing the lives of friends because it’s not my place to put it out there. And yet, here I am posting for reasons I can’t even write down.

I’m having doubts about long distance relationships. Not mine specifically, but in a general sense. See, when I graduated college and went to work two time zones away from my boyfriend, I also knew a couple other people doing the same thing. I wasn’t in a boat all by myself. Therefore, all the warnings about how a long distance relationship will never work fell on somewhat deaf ears. Why should I listen to them? Most of them had never done the distance thing, so who are they to give advice?

After 2.5 years, I’ve figured out that long distance requires an effort that non-distant relationships don’t need. Both people need to be fully committed. It’s just too easy to seem uninterested or hang up when you’re mad. And to keep some sort of spark, well, it’s a whole bunch harder on the phone than in person. Plus, when you factor in any psychological proximity effects… there’s a good chance you’re going to start connecting with someone physically closer to you. All of which, I’ve got under control.

But I got a call from a friend the other week. His long distance relationship has hit a point where the distance has created a problem that may or may not be solved by decreasing their distance. Another friend just ended a relationship – with the distance being a strong contributing factor. And suddenly I’m the only person I know still in a fully functional long distance relationship. And maybe the odds are against me and the boyfriend. That’s a bad feeling.

For the first time ever, I heard exactly what I’ve been feeling voiced back to me. Every concern, every frustration, every reason. It sounded like what I told myself three months ago. It sounded like everything I’ve been avoiding thinking about since then. What made it worse – the advice I wanted so badly to give was the advice I know I would never take if I heard it. All at once, it became very obvious that it wasn’t me. It wasn’t some unique obstacle in my relationship I just needed work through. This is why people find it hard to make long distance work. The decisions and the compromise and the effort and the need for a plan and the not knowing if it’s going to work.

But at the same time, if I make it through this, I make it. I beat the odds.



  1. Sorry to hear that things are going a little rough for you. Personally I blame the winter. Everyone’s walking around with sad eyes. Things always tend to get a little better in the spring.

    It’s interesting though that you never used the word “we” once in this post. I’m hoping this isn’t because you think this is something you should be working through by yourself…

    • You know, I didn’t even realize that. I guess I never think of it in terms of “we” since I don’t really talk about it with the boyfriend (completely my fault in that respect). And on some level (this sounds terrible and it’s hard to explain) it ends up being very individual-focused rather than couple-focused. That probably makes no sense.

  2. Distance sucks. I always reminded myself that it was worth it because I wanted Brett, not just a boyfriend. Brett far away still had more to offer me than guys in close proximity. Also, if you love the other person, whether you’re dating or not, they’ll still be far away, and it will still suck, but at least if you’re dating it’s less awkward calling all the time and visiting.

  3. I’ve never seen one last in my experience. I’ve heard of people lasting, but I don’t know any of those people personally.

    Now, I know of married people who last – namely military folks. (And my father in his current work situation) But I think at that point you’ve crossed a threshold that makes it harder to give up simply because of distance.

    IMNSHO, you have to be true to yourself. I knew for a fact that I did not want a long distance relationship, so I did not have a girlfriend in my senior year in HS because I knew I’d probably be going away for college. I dated, but I knew I wouldn’t stay with any of them. So when I got to Cornell, I found my (now) wife freshman year and we ended up together. If I hadn’t had someone by senior year, I probably would have waited until I figured out where I’d be living thanks to work.

    • Honestly, if you had asked me 3 years ago, I would never have thought I’d be in a long distance relationship. The fact that the current boyfriend graduated a year before me was one of the first issues I brought up (at the time though he was thinking of staying for an MEng. Lies). It’s tricky to weigh how unhappy a long distance relationship would make me versus how unhappy I’d be knowing that if I was just somewhere else it could’ve worked out.
      I don’t know too much about you and the wife. But assuming you didn’t get married while in college (that could be wrong), if you and her had gotten job offers in different states, would you two tried the long distance thing? I know it’s hard with such a hypothetical question; I was just curious.

      • We got married right after college and we wouldn’t have gotten two different state jobs. We knew we were getting married so we both aimed for the same state.

  4. Looking back on my long-distance experience, the distance can be a boon.
    You miss each other and feel like seeing each other is an exciting privilege. Living together, you have to work to make that feeling happen.
    Distance automatically gives you a freedom and independence that, again, you have to work for when you live together.
    The slower pace of distance communication, especially text-based, facilitates understanding; since you lack the extra bandwidth of in-person speech, you work harder and spend more time trying to be clear, and trying to understand.
    And of course, when you live together, you CAN’T hang up when you’re mad.

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