Long distance to short distance?
March 9, 2010 3:25 PM   Subscribe

What are some best practices for taking a relationship from long distance to not?

I'm sure many MeFites have been in this situation... my long distance relationship (yes, we met online) is about to become short distance. Person A is moving across the country to join Person B. We'd like some tips.

A few things we have covered: we have known each other for several years and plan to get married soon; this isn't a whim. We decided to create a "buffer zone" by not moving in together right away. We've discussed financial management and decided to retain individual accounts for now and open a joint account when we do move in together (while retaining the individual accounts).

But neither of us has ever done this before, and I'm sure there are people who have, both successfully and unsuccessfully, and there have got to be best practices.

Anon because Person A has yet to give notice at work.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man. Have you ever been short distance with each other for a significant length of time, or will this be the first time?

If it will be the first time, as far as best practices, I think it is a seriously bad idea to get married, or even seriously engaged within any timeframe that could be described as "soon."

No matter how long you have known each other, no matter how many hours you have spent talking to them, no matter how much you feel you could not possibly know this person any better-- you're going to know them on a whole new level once you're around them in person for enough time.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:36 PM on March 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

Put more succinctly- I think it is wise to be open to the idea that you might find you are not as compatible in person as it seemed. There will be a lot of pressure to shoehorn it into working because of all the time you've invested in it and the cross country move.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:39 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

My husband and I met through a mutual friend, but lived across the country from each other. We got to know each other through email and long phone calls. I moved to join him and we decided to just move in together. The way I saw it -if you are going to take the plunge, take the plunge. We were engaged, which happened during one of our trips to visit each other, and married ten months after I moved. It is six years later and we are still married and happy. At first, we had a joint account for expenses and individual accounts for ourselves, but that has changed with time and now everything is joint. Anyway, I wish you the best.
posted by melangell at 4:00 PM on March 9, 2010

We decided to create a "buffer zone" by not moving in together right away.

That'll be a waste of rent payments. Have you considered that it will be hard if not impossible for your significant other to find a lease shorter than a year? You might find each other spending pretty much every night together in the house that is closer to work or just plain cozier (probably yours, since you have had time to make a home). Speaking from experience.

Your SO will need to find a new job, new friends, and establish a routine of activities, etc. all over again. Don't aspire to meet all of your SO's social and emotional needs: although tempting, that'd be unfair to both of you. Take it easy on him while he finds himself in a new place (I'm assuming he's a guy for the sake of pronouns; I'm not a fan of these gender-concealed questions).

Also, don't expect Person A to like and enjoy the presence of all of Person B's friends. That's why it might be a good idea to cultivate separate social lives in addition to shared obligations.
posted by halogen at 5:23 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

My biggest advice would be to be patient, both with yourself and your SO. My husband and I had been local previously before going long distance, but when he moved in with me we still both sort-of spazzed out about not having as much space or time to ourselves as we were used to. It took about a solid four months or so for things to cool off, and that was even with spending a decent amount of time apart and with our individuals friends, etc. I'm now watching a close friend go through the same thing--though she and her boyfriend have never been local before--and, essentially, the same stuff's happening. Granted, a lot of this is due to cohabitation factors, but I think the partner who doesn't move, especially, has a lot to adjust to after being used to having total freedom on their home turf. No that the other partner isn't making adjustments, too, but that sort of feeling of encroachment might not be there in what, for them, is a new environment.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:32 PM on March 9, 2010

We decided to create a "buffer zone" by not moving in together right away.

In my opinion, this is very wise, and what I came here to suggest. I tried it the other way once and it was disastrous. I expect this varies from couple to couple, and in some cases it would be a waste of rent payments. However, I think for many couples it really is best to ease into it. Moving to a new city is a huge and stressful transition, as is cohabitation; you're more likely to succeed if you tackle them one at a time.

Also, as part of establishing a fulfilling life in a new city, I would recommend person A really work to build new friendships (but inside and outside of person B's circle). Person A is going to be uprooted from his or her local social network. Phone and email contact with friends and family is great, but it's not a perfect substitute for having someone there with you. Lacking this outlet can lead to a host of unpleasant things; beware of an over-reliance on person B, as this can lead to codependence, loneliness, and resentment. Of course you'll be spending a lot of time together, but, especially if person A is introverted by nature, it's way too easy to do nothing else.
posted by kprincehouse at 6:08 PM on March 9, 2010

Either way you try it, you need to go slowly. Just by being in close proximity at all times, you're going to run into things that weren't totally apparent over long-distance. Little habits that you think are harmless might be things that your SO might find bizarre or even repulsive. Moving in together right away could bring all these things to the forefront, but that might not be a good idea, since that pressure could bring a premature end to things. Living apart is not a bad idea, but at the same time, when you do decide to live together, you're going to have to go through that initial living-together shock.

So, yeah, go slowly. Get to know each other offline, non telephone. Spend time together. Spend time together with no plans, not really doing anything. Be yourself, because if you're trying to impress each other by being different than you usually are, at some point you'll relax, be yourself, and it could be an unpleasant surprise when suddenly you're different from before. That's not to imply dishonesty with each other exists. I'm talking about things you do without thinking. Basically, the fart. Everyone farts. Everyone burps. Have you done it around each other? Have you seen your SO pick their nose? Did it disturb you? Part of living with each other is that, since you're at home, you want to feel comfortable enough to be the real you, and you need to find out if that relaxed real you (who maybe farts, who maybe drinks straight from the carton) is compatible with the relaxed real them.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:18 PM on March 9, 2010

Don't be too hard on yourself or the other person. Don't try to fill all each other's needs; encourage the movee to go out, join clubs etc, essentially to make their own friends - even if they're quite content using all of yours.

If someone is unemployed by moving, it can be touch, be extra gentle. If you have been living by yourself for a while, don't forget to be flexible and open to others' standards, and accepting that they will have other standards.

Don't obsess over how the relationship "should" be progressing, or where you thought it would go. Relationship detours and by-ways can be delightful, rewarding places.

Do some activites together that put you both in the deep-end, with strangers, so you're on equal footing - a cooking class without any of your friends, for example. Remember the large sacrifice someone has made to move to be with you, even if they downplay or try to ignore it. Let that sacrifice be your guiding star for reactions in tense or conflicted situations; if they moved for you, maybe getting a new couch for them isn't such a big deal. At the same time, try not to "keep score", however tempting it may be.

I could go on, but basically: be gentle, be brave. You will have a wonderful time.
posted by smoke at 6:48 PM on March 9, 2010

Huh, I dunno. I had a LTR for several years. Then we got married. Then we had a baby. Seven days after that, she, and her son, and our baby daughter, moved into my place 600km away, in another country.

And it worked out really well. I guess in retrospect that might have seemed surprising, but at the time it all seemed very natural.

I'm not saying don't take precautions. I'm just saying it could all go really, really well. Don't be too suspicious of it if it just plain works out.
posted by musofire at 7:16 PM on March 9, 2010

The "buffer zone" is a great idea. I moved (very) long-distance for my S.O. and we immediately moved in together; happily, things worked out very well, but it can so easily go the other way. In retrospect, having a little bit more time to get used to each other's in-person quirks would have shed light on the way each of us describes ourself vs. the reality (for example, it turns out I'm more uptight about kitchen cleanliness than I thought and he's more lax about desk clutter than he thought).

Person A should definitely start their job search right away. It's important that neither person feels trapped. I think it's easier for the mover (as opposed to the, uh, movee? stayer?) to feel trapped... they're in a new place, they gave up their old job, the got rid of their old stuff, etc. The more independent A is, the better and more confident they will feel.

A should also spend time exploring the area alone. It's great to have a local guide to show you the best restaurants and parks and all of that, but there's also a lot of value to learning a place on your own. What are the major streets? Where are the shortcuts across town? How can you orient yourself if you're lost. I know from personal experience that it's incredibly easy to give up control to a local and just tag along without learning, and then it sucks when you need to get somewhere by yourself and you realize you've never had to learn the way.
posted by transporter accident amy at 2:08 AM on March 10, 2010

The buffer zone is definitely a good idea, and I say that as someone who is happy as a clam with how her own LDR transition went.

We had originally thought of having my partner sublet for a few months (a better option than signing a full lease), but that gradually eroded into "2-bedroom apartment" to "okay, a one-bedroom is fine, but one of us needs an office nook." We had been squished in my studio apartment every weekend when he came to visit, so when we were able to shack up, we knew that being in the same (larger) apartment wouldn't kill us. Don't discount a smaller place if it is well-designed; his office nook is actually a large closet, and the place is full of windows and has a huge balcony.

But the other thing about us (in addition to the fact that he already had distinct friends of his own when he came here) is that he works second shift, so when I come home I have the place to myself for several hours.

Person A needs to have a job RIGHT AWAY. Start that job search ahead of time and don't move until Person A is gainfully employed. Yeah, it's hard, but a well-placed week-long vacation during which several interviews can be scheduled is a good thing. Have Person A use Person B's home as a local address, if necessary, but be clear that it's a mailing address (don't lie and say, "Yeah, I live there" when it's clear that you can't just waltz in for an interview any old time).

I would strongly suggest that when you shack up together, you find a living space that is significantly different from the place where Person B has lived alone. You may not have the ability to get a different place (e.g. maybe it's a house that is perfectly suitable for two people), but make some very noticeable changes to show how Person A isn't just tolerated or welcomed as a guest but LIVES THERE. This is a big sacrifice for that person, and compromise (particularly the difficult kind) is an absolute necessity.

Good luck!
posted by Madamina at 7:52 AM on March 10, 2010

« Older Barking up the obsessive tree?   |   Songs that make your heart swell? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.