Can you reserve a relationship for later?
April 8, 2013 4:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm an Australian boy who has fallen for a Swedish boy who is leaving in less than a week. There is a glaringly obvious connection in the ease with which we interact, understand each other and make love. Is it possible you 'reserve' a relationship for later?

I know this chiefly is limerance, infatuation. Love takes time and testing, and of course, being in the same physical location. But there is an element present in this that has been absent from every other relationship I've had with any other human - family, friend, lover. It is like a secret relationship has been uncovered, the discovery of a unique set of old and brand new feelings that I have never felt in my 24 years.

Of course, the sliver of logical clarity left in me screams out that the situation is simply not suited to a healthy relationship and that this is a tsunami of serendipitously released chemicals.

Should I enter into a long distance 'relationship'? After a fucking month? We've talked about me visiting him in three months. Of him returning for a year in 2014. Of how this has the beginnings of something amazing, if only it were in another time and place. Askmeta is rather real(/pessim)istic about these setups.

It couldn't be a traditional long distance exclusive thing, could it? Could we stay in touch, and organise something in the future? Could we be long distance and open (after a fucking month)? Can you get to know someone via email after meeting them in person? Has this ever turned into a lifetime thing for anyone?
posted by ossian to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there any reason to not at least try to be in a long term relationship? I'd say try and see how it goes. Hope for the best. You have nothing to lose.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:58 AM on April 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

I met my wife twice briefly on holiday abroad aged 18 and felt very strongly for her and she for me. We didn't live near one another (although we did at least live in the same country) but we met up again 5 months later and decided to give the long distance relationship thing a go. We hadn't actually kissed at this point because we were both wary of kicking something off that we weren't sure the other wanted to commit to. It was all very Victorian and not like either of us, not least because neither of us had access to a phone for the first year of our relationship so had to write actual letters to one another.

For the first 3 years of our relationship we lived between 3 hours and 8 hours away from one another, including me living abroad for a year. We had a couple of bumps but are happily married nearly 20 years later.

There are no hard and fast rules on whether long distance relationships can work. It takes luck, commitment and patience and the honesty to acknowledge whether it is working for you or not. Go for it or, as we would have done, you'll spend a long time wondering what might have been.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:03 AM on April 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't think the relevant question is "could we?" I think the question you should ask is "Do we want to?" And it sounds like you do. The connection you're talking about is so rare, why spend the rest of your life wondering if you let the love of your life escape due to geography? What have you to lose by giving it a go? You can be in touch every day if you want to. I don't buy the idea that you need some kind of solid foundation first. You can build a foundation as you communicate long distance, and that way you'll know if its just chemistry, or chemistry plus something else. Go for it and I wish you both well!
posted by billiebee at 5:12 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't end a relationship over "what if it doesn't work?" because what the hell?

Oh maybe this cake which looks good and smells good and tastes good so far and gives every impression of being the perfect cake is instead made in every area that I haven't yet tasted of brussels sprouts?

What if it does work?

Regrets are terrible, my friend. Go for it. Give it a shot! See what happens! That's living.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:16 AM on April 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

I think you could (and personally I think you should!) give it a go. Email each other, set up Skype dates, arrange to see each other, see if you can both work to a point in time where you are in the same place.

My friend did this with a girl he met on working holiday. To be fair they both lived in Europe so it wasn't that tricky to organise regular trips to see each other but it was still long-distance for 5 years and required a lot of commitment and financial planning to make regular visits viable. They're getting married next year :)
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:18 AM on April 8, 2013

My girlfriend and I had been dating for about three months when I moved back home to Canada from Australia. We didn't plan to continue the relationship, but we were both compelled to keep in touch. Eventually we decided we were in a relationship, but that we would keep it open until back in the same place. I got a lucky job opportunity and was able to move back 8 months later. That was in 2009/10, and now we're living together in Canada.

It's certainly possible. If you are both the type who would be open to an open relationship under normal circumstances, long distance and open has worked for other people I know, too, in the case of an early relationship that goes long distance. I think LDRs are easier that way, because you lose some of the parts that are a drag. It's a risk, too, of course, but I would certainly consider that route. Other than that, masses of emails, Skype calls, texts... you will not have trouble keeping in touch if both of you continue to want to keep in touch! It will just happen.

Good luck!
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:23 AM on April 8, 2013

Oh maybe this cake which looks good and smells good and tastes good so far and gives every impression of being the perfect cake is instead made in every area that I haven't yet tasted of brussels sprouts?

Well, even so, maybe OP will find out that he likes brussels sprouts.

I think you should give this a go, as others have mentioned, there is no reason not to. If you find that it doesn't work, or that you don't have enough of a foundation to keep you going then you don't have to.

It sounds like this would basically be a prime example of "the one that got away" if you both want to try and you don't.
posted by fromageball at 5:29 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

gingerbeer and I started out long distance; it will be 13 years come June.

But! We were only three time zones apart; she was in my city fairly often for work, and I visited her city as often as I could; we are both citizens of the country where we live; I moved to her city within six months.

So it can work. But it might not. You risk heartbreak; is he worth it? It sounds like it's at least worth giving it a shot.
posted by rtha at 5:56 AM on April 8, 2013

Having just been there and back with a relationship that's eerily similar to your situation, I think I can offer some solid advice on this (or at the very least, a data point). Here goes...

My guy and I met, hit it off with an ease and compatability like you describe. Then we both returned to our respective islands separated by a large ocean. We tried the long distance thing for several months, with a visit about every 2 months and skype or chat every day. Ultimately it didn't work, for reasons. And that's ok.

Because the thing is, I know and you know and he knows and your guys knows that you can't not give it a shot. But what you will find is that the odds are stacked. And they get more stacked as you go.

Even if the physical, sexual, romantic and communicative wants and needs are compatable when you're together, the day-to-day living is apart. You will find that both of your being apart wants and needs are different than your together ones. And that both of your comfort levels and communication styles and approaches to sharing and meeting those needs will be different as well. You basically end up working on and building a long-distance relationship, without really knowing if a together relationship is possible. Or what that's like.

Perhaps you should find out what that's all about. It may just work. I'd also recommend not stacking the deck any higher than it needs to be though. If you can slow your roll some, odds are better for saving a better start for later. Because the real bummer about a *new* relationship that is long distance is that you both miss out on...everything. Flutters and wild sex and events and birthdays and's not the spontaneity you can easily create over Skype, and you can't report it at the end of the day either. That's not to say there's not fun to be had, but it is a lot of work and emotional availability that is time and technology-dependent. Either way, you learn a lot and that's always a good thing, yeah?

So if you've got little to lose and either of you aren't under any major external pressures — e.g., hardships, obligations, time constraints, travel/visa restrictions, other emotional or financial investments — it's worth a go. And depending on how amenable you and your guy is to this, an open relationship might be a workable (and fun!) option too. Good luck!
posted by iamkimiam at 6:04 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

A relationship may have the odds against it, but if you're both willing to give it a try, why not? You might get your heart broken, but you can get your heart broken by a guy who lives down the street, too.
posted by xingcat at 6:29 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take every chance you get to be happy.
posted by Etrigan at 7:28 AM on April 8, 2013 [9 favorites]

I have to say that I met someone at your age, and time and circumstances conspired to keep us apart. However, eight years later, the two of us were able to get back together and it was great. So yeah, it happens, and if it's right, it very well can happen.

Write real letters and send small gifts sometimes. Ephemeral communications are great for the right now, but thoughtful letters last a very long time.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:10 AM on April 8, 2013

It's a long shot, but some people are worth taking that chance, if you're both willing to try.

Anecdote: a friend got married last year to an Australian she met during a brief vacation in Europe. I guess they had a strong enough connection to visit each other after that and he eventually moved here (Canada). So while that kind of distance will often not work out, occasionally some people luck out.

If I were you I would definitely visit in 3 months like you discussed, and see how both of you feel at that time, after 3 months of long distance.
posted by randomnity at 10:05 AM on April 8, 2013

My American friend met a South African girl while the two of them were in Australia for vacations. After their vacations, they each returned home, and a year later after a couple of visits, they got married. So, it seems to have worked for them. They were on the phone every day, and visited about every four months for a few weeks. So, while it probably won't work out (and definitely won't work out if either of you isn't willing to put in a lot of effort) it seems worth a try, if you work out in advance how you'll know it isn't worth it any more.
posted by jacalata at 2:24 PM on April 8, 2013

I met a guy in my college town, two weeks before I was due to move away. We had an intense two weeks, then I left. We stayed in touch for awhile, but I couldn't deal with the LDR aspect, so we eventually drifted apart. Three years later, we randomly met at a bar while I was visiting, started dating again, and now we're married and blissfully happy.

You know yourself best. Can you handle a long-distance relationship? If it doesn't work out, can you be honest enough with yourself, and with him, to break it off?
posted by third word on a random page at 3:22 PM on April 8, 2013

Every long-distance relationship I've been in has ended so far. But I've found that the factors that caused the ends of long-distance relationships that I've been in would have caused the end of those relationships regardless of distance, just possibly not as quickly in some cases. I'd say give it a try.

Some more detailed/technical advice may perhaps be useful however:

* Know yourselves. What do you need from the other person in a relationship, and what are you willing to provide? What manner, frequency, and content of contact will help you feel like you are a part of the other person's daily life, and like they are a part of your daily life? Same question for the other person. What sort of emotional support do you need from them and them from you, and how will you obtain it when you two are apart? How will you maintain sexual passion at a distance in a manner that is satisfactory for both parties?

* Communicate about your relationship. A lot. And clearly.

For example, some people like to have a big longer phone conversation with their partner once a day or so. Or letters and care packages and other tangibles on a regular basis. In the successful LDRs I've seen, the partners tend to communicate briefly but more frequently throughout the day though; and for myself I find that that helps me feel like the other person is thinking about me as they go about doing other stuff, which makes me feel like I'm a part of their daily life and like they, and the relationship, are a part of my daily life. That's really important for me in maintaining a relationship. I like to hear little inconsequential details: the silly thing that someone said to my partner, a random thought they had while commuting to work - the sort of stuff that makes me feel as if I'm almost there. This also helps me get to know the other people in my partner's life who they associate with regularly. And it makes keeping in touch easy and fun and not a big chore when I'm maybe tired at the end of the day or stressed out with having too much work that an hour or two hour phone/skype call is going to keep me from doing, or whatever. Other people in non-LDR relationships that I know of find that sort of level of detail and frequency of contact clingy though, and even in a non-LDR would want to just see their partner once a day or a couple times a week. It really depends on your own preferences, and those of your partner. Being so many time zones apart that your nights and days are offset will make the little frequent contacts more challenging, but maybe you can send little texts/notes as you think of things to give a similar feeling of contact, even though the other person will see them all in a bunch when they get up for their morning.

If you communicate through text rather than voice, or through voice rather than video, be aware of how you those different media require different styles of communication - not being able to rely on body language if there is no video, or voice intonation if there is no audio. Be very careful to communicate clearly.

And, important for every relationship of course, but will be noticeable more quickly in a distance relationship: you need to be able to talk to each other openly and honestly about the relationship, resolve disputes respectfully, etc.

Having a plan for an end date for the distance part is often helpful too. Perhaps, as you're just starting out, it might be reasonable merely to have a plan for when to evaluate the relationship to decide if it is going well enough to make a plan for an end date for the distance part. This is part of being able to communicate openly and honestly about the relationship - the part where you can talk to each other about your desires and hopes/goals for the relationship.

And, uh, definitely talk lots and lots about expectations and desires for what your visits will encompass when you do get to see each other in person. Don't make the mistake of building up some daydream that you don't talk to your partner about at all, and then end up disappointed because the visit that you built up so much in your imagination didn't turn out exactly how you had imagined. Not only is that easily avoided, but the talking and planning for visits part can be, let's say, a very positive and bonding experience.
posted by eviemath at 5:24 PM on April 8, 2013

My now-husband and I first met in person (we'd been vaguely aware of each other's presence online before that) on a Thursday night at a tattoo convention in Seattle, where he lived. Sunday afternoon I flew home to Oakland to break up with the guy I'd been living with for a year and embark on a LDR with this guy I'd just met who lived a thousand miles away.

That was seventeen and a half years ago.

LDRs suck. Seriously. They are difficult, and expensive, and tiring. The fact that yours is international makes it even more challenging.

And there's no way of knowing ahead of time whether it's worth it. Any long-term relationship, long-distance or not, takes work. Choose someone for whom you feel the work is worth it. And then (hi, I'm a big sappy romantic moosh) go for it and do the work, so that seventeen years into it you and your partner are able to look at each other and say, with complete sincerity, "We earned this. We earned it being this good between us. I love you."
posted by Lexica at 8:34 PM on April 8, 2013

Response by poster: I asked the green and the green answered. Thanks to everyone for the advice. Looks like I would be a fool to not give it a good, proper, honest, painful go.
posted by ossian at 9:54 PM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

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