Why long distance relationships are a case of travel at your own risk
We now have planes, trains, and automobiles. So is it really a big deal if you have to travel several hours to date someone? What’s the issue if you live in Maryland and want to see someone in Rhode Island or Florida, or even Canada for that matter? After all, you’ve been looking for “your one and only” for a couple of years now without much success. You’ve exhausted most of the local prospects, so why not expand your horizons or in this case, your geographical radius. I’m talking about people who make the love-jaunt many miles, oftentimes across state lines. While a two-hour drive might not be optimal, I know people who do that routinely and seem to make it work.
Luckily, you live in the age of the Internet and with it a plethora of dating sites that can aid you in your travels. That’s right, now you can fasten your seat belt, push a few buttons, and connect with potential suitors from all over the world. It sounds nice doesn’t it? You meet people with accents—that can be exotic. You see interesting places like Wickatunk, New Jersey, or Český Krumlov. And if you live in the suburbs but want to date a city-slicker, that can be arranged. Courtesy of Dr. Zeus: Oh, The Places You’ll Go! But there’s a down side. Unless you carefully consider the following five issues, your long-range search for relationship nirvana may fall flat. So, before you board the plane, take the train, or travel many miles in the rain, give these a gander:
1. Time and Money – People will tell you how they hate commuting long-distances to work. “Do you realize how much time I spend in my car? Do you know how bad commuting is for my back? Do you realize how much I spend on gas and bridge tolls?” I realize that seeing your honey might justify your schlep, but it may eventually wear on you, especially if you’re a little up there in years. While trains might save you on parking, they’re not that cheap, and some move slower than a Russian novel.
If you’re traveling to a big city, also consider how much the actual date will cost once you get there. A hamburger in New York might be two to three times that of one in Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania. This point also applies to many women who often pay for a night on the town.
2. Mobility – Be honest, are you really willing to relocate if need be? If you’re not retired do you have the kind of job or career that can prosper where your lover resides? I’ve known couples that have moved closer to one another and their incomes have greatly suffered causing even greater stress on their relationships.
3. Familiarity – It’s vital to get to know someone at the deepest level possible before making a serious commitment. Seeing someone on weekends or once a month just won’t cut it. I’ve always said that you can’t really know someone until you’ve traveled or lived with them. Well you better make that both. Certain religions forbid or frown upon living together before marriage, and I respect that. Some cultures have structures in place to support couples with little to no pre-marital familiarity such as those that advocate arranged marriages. But oftentimes seeing someone infrequently can create a longing that may blur reality. It can prove valuable to see your partner interact in all contexts, including with his/her family, and under stress.
4. Intimacy – Many people actually prefer long-distance relationships. A female client said: “Perfect, I see him on Saturday nights and that’s enough. I’m too busy to be bothered during the week, and Sundays I have chores to do.” That makes sense. But some who say this may have intimacy issues that will “never” abide. These individuals wish to connect at a distance; push the connection any closer and lookout.
5. Risk – A long-distance relationship leaves a gap between people. The greater the gap and the longer it exists, the greater the risk that the relationship will eventually fail. Why do so many soldiers serving overseas receive the dreaded “Dear John” letter from their wives? Distance breeds loneliness, infrequent sex, and a lack of emotional and physical support. You don’t need a Ph.D. to figure out that the affair rates are higher when couples reside too far apart and for extended periods of time. Especially in times of stress people reach out to others with whom they can commiserate with, and before you know it…
I’m not suggesting that long-distance relationships can’t work. Some people are tenacious, persevering, self-sufficient, exceedingly loyal, and flat out “in love.” These couples have a better chance of surviving. And if you can tolerate the travel for the first few dates, perhaps lightening will strike. Who knows? But relationships are difficult as is—adding undue inconvenience might only exacerbate problems. At the very least, people should delve into the real reasons for their desire to date long-distance. Have they really run out of geographically desirable suitors, or are they setting themselves up to break free once their intimacy quota has been reached?
I’m empathic to those with specific needs that may have to look far and away for mates who better fit their lifestyle. Obviously people who live in less populated areas are at a distinct disadvantage. But, distance has proven to be a factor in all relationships and should never be underestimated.
A former client of mine who had joined a popular dating site told me that a woman had admonished him for refusing to date her—he lived in New Jersey and she in Texas. She told him that she felt sorry for him because he was small-minded—having created a little world for himself. In a condescending tone she said: “We do have something called an airplane you know.” I say, people are on dating sites for a variety of reasons: some healthy and some dysfunctional. Perhaps my client did miss the boat, or in his case the airplane, but in doing so he may have also dodged a bullet.