Slowing Down a New Long Distance Relationship
November 19, 2008 12:54 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep a budding long-distance relationship from becoming too serious too quickly?

I'm a woman in my late 20s who has recently begun dating a man in his mid 30s who lives in a city about 3 hours away. We'd been acquaintances for a couple of years, and we recently got back in touch. It seems likely that if things go well, we'll be able to see quite a bit of one another; it's an easy trip, and we each travel to the other's city often for work. And I really like this guy.

But we've only been involved romantically for a couple of weeks. And we've already spent two full weekends together. There's not really a way for us to "date" without having these extended sleepovers. We've also been emailing and talking on the phone quite a bit. So it's been several weeks of intense conversations and languishing in bed. It feels as though he's already a significant part of my life, even though we've only been seeing each other for a short time.

Additionally, since when we do see each other, there's a bit of urgency to it, we've both been a little clingier than we might otherwise be. I think that our mutual friends have picked up on it, and so they're treating it as a serious relationship rather than as us dating and getting to know one another.

Again, I really like this guy. But I also don't want to rush into anything and end up moving too fast or getting either one of us hurt. Is there any way to slow down a relationship that necessarily begins with long romantic weekends rather than casual dates?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When you visit each others' cities, stay someplace else. Don't make your visits into 48-hour marathons; instead, give yourselves a chance to spend some time together, and some time apart in the same town.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:04 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why do you feel this is moving too fast? You've known each other for a couple of years. Maybe it is time to get serious.
posted by Carol Anne at 1:08 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

we've already spent two full weekends together. There's not really a way for us to "date" without having these extended sleepovers. We've also been emailing and talking on the phone quite a bit. So it's been several weeks of intense conversations and languishing in bed.

Tough life there.

The way to keep things under control is not to control the emotions, but your reaction to them. Thus, allow yourself to feel the attraction, but when you feel it say: "it is good I am having these feelings. But I can accept them as feelings and not a reflection of the reality of my relationship."
posted by Ironmouth at 1:19 PM on November 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

You don't say where you are, but is there an interesting middle ground where you two can meet up and spend time together and drive back to your respective homes? It's like an xkcd comic! Find the absolute most equidistant point and make a date out of it. Of course, if the equidistant point is BFE, USA, that's only one date and maybe it's at a 7/11. But surely there's stuff to do somewhere within that 3 hour drive that warrants a rendezvous where you both just drive home after.

Are you guys doing things when you visit each other, or are you retiring to someone's home where you watch a movie and make dinner and act like you've been dating for an eternity? A slew of fun activities, like art shows, concerts, and sports events can make it feel like you're convening to share an experience (typical beginner-stage date) rather than convening to spend time together (for more serious couples).

DO NOT languish in bed together, having serious conversations and imagining each other naked. Long, intense conversations are important and great, but they also lend the air an amount of monogamous gravitas. Keep it lively, keep it fun, because beginner dates are about feeling out chemistry, not discussing baby names and ontological crises. Play games at home, play Scrabble until 4am when you can't keep your eyes open, and then innocently spoon or have someone sleep on the couch.

Plenty of romances have kindled under stranger circumstances than this, and you don't have to kiss by the book to ensure a heartache-free relationship. As long as the atmosphere is light-hearted, it doesn't really matter how serious the circumstances seem on the outside.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:21 PM on November 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

So it's been several weeks of intense conversations and languishing in bed.

Do stuff. Go out with his friends. Go out with your friends. I was in a very similar situation (except it was 2 hours apart). Yes, we'd sleep over, but we went to movies, museums, events, etc. instead of languishing in bed (I assume you mean "having sex" as part of this).

Also, do stuff by yourselves during the week, so you actually have something to talk about in your intense conversations. Limit your phone time - set up "phone dates." Do something else on the phone other than talk, e.g. play chess online. This will make you less dependent and clingy.

We moved pretty fast, which worked out fine since we're now married, but there were some really rocky periods in the beginning when I was uber-clingy, and I wish I'd followed more of my own advice.
posted by desjardins at 1:31 PM on November 19, 2008

Desjardins nails it on the head. Me and my SO did crazy long distance dating for the first year: we were on opposite of the Atlantic and could only see each other every other month at best. It would have been easy to be swept up in feeling pressured by it all, but making sure we took time to do 'normal stuff' when we were together (and apart) made a difference. As well as date type stuff (and conversely sometimes just goofing off at home rather than feeling like everything had to count) we were also not afraid to spend time apart from each other when we were in the same place. Time together can feel like a bit of a pressure cooker, but it needn't be so. In fact making sure we didn't treat it like this, and giving our relationship time to develop, was one of the things that made our relationship successful in the long term (we are now in the same place and soon to be married).
posted by tallus at 2:23 PM on November 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

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