Distance relationship 101 needed.
August 23, 2007 2:04 AM   Subscribe

Distance relationship 101 needed.

comment on blog lead to mail, one thing lead to another. We saw each other in the flesh a few days ago for a few minutes, want to see each other longer the next tume and... voila ! distance dating.

Here are the vital stats :

- We're not an ocean apart. 300 kilometers with good rail and road connections make seeing each other possible but not every night. e-mail (sometimes delayed as mauch as 24 agonizing hours), phone, IM lines of communications are open. Skype or VOIP is not in the mix yet but remains possible.
- Both in our thirties.
- She has a three year old that spends some time with divorced dad.

What are the do's and dont's in such a relationship ? Any agony aunt online ressource specialized in distance relationship I could read (or write to )?

Please feel free to throw buckets of reality-based rationality enhanced cold water at me. Be careful : it might generate lots of mist.

Realistic, rational and practical advices is what I'm begging for, hive. Because I'm in full, 100% passionate romantic mode and I need a Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder pointing the (potential) icebergs out there before we run into one of them.

Help us find the tools of distance happinness. I'm sure it will be good in a karmic way for everybody involved !
posted by Baud to Human Relations (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I did this for 2.5 years, although the distances were greater and we were in different countries. We finally threw in the towel because the chances of actually living together were at zero. We talked every day, by phone or by skype, sometimes for hours. We texted each other several times every day, on waking, on going to sleep, on anything. This kept the relationship at intensity; it may not suit you/ymmv. You have to be relaxed about the other party going out with friends, partying, whatever. The way we did it was hard work, but addictive. Add in phone sex if you like, but you'll feel your way with that. As I say, what undid us in the end was not declining passion but the inability to create a shared future. You'll cross that bridge when you come to it. Good luck to you.
posted by londongeezer at 2:18 AM on August 23, 2007

Cool, good for you both. :)

Assuming you're working, base it around weekends. The kid is the main logistical barrier, and also the main test of your ability to fit in with her life. Does the kid's father normally take the kid on weekends? Is grandma willing to babysit? Do you have facilities at your place to accommodate the kid if your girlfriend visits you?

If she doesn't work, how do you feel about her coming up (with or without the kid) during the week?

See how it works out for a few months, if you're still keen on each other, and the kid accepts you, then's the time to consider plans for one or both of you to move.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:26 AM on August 23, 2007

Just did this for two and a half years too, though it was transatlantic. I won't kid you, it's tough (especially at that kind of distance), but it's really worth it. Since you're able to see each other more often, it won't be quite so urgent, but in our case the thing that made our relationship tenable was having a definite target for when we would be together. The other thing was that our relationship started and matured through a shared interest (photography), and we were able to get regular glimpses into each other's lives through our Flickr accounts. Skype was a life-saver. Time differences suck royally, but it seems that won't be so much of a consideration for you.

Number one in my book is to remember that it's very easy for a relationship to founder when the initial buzz fades a little, and nightly phone calls that go on for four hours become impractical (if you want to stay awake at work) and not that much fun. It's easy to lose the perspective you'd have if you were around each other all the time, and to feel rejected (if the other person doesn't want to talk or doesn't have much to say) or put-upon (if you just don't feel like chatting that night, or want to go out). Anytime you're starting to feel that fundamental insecurity that comes with being at a distance from the one you love, take a step back and ask yourself if you'd act the same way if they were in the same house, or even town, as you. Even distance relationships (ironically) need a little space in them.

Go for it, and good luck. It worked for us.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:39 AM on August 23, 2007

Are you saying that you've only ever been around each other in person for a few minutes on one occasion?

I think long-distance relationships are very difficult for people with long-standing relationships with a strong foundation... building one from the ground up based on such foundation is going to be a challenge, and of questionable value. Is it worth it to date someone without even ever getting the experience of dating them? If you don't know that you'll ever live near each other? What does it mean to "date" someone without getting to date them?

I think you should continue to correspond without commitments, get a better grip on where it could go, and beware building a life that exists only online.

I'm hoping not to sound harsh, and I know what it's like to be excited about someone, but I hope your expectations and outlook are realistic.
posted by loiseau at 3:57 AM on August 23, 2007

Loiseau - my (new) wife and I didn't meet until 6 months in to our relationship. I don't necessarily think it's an issue. Especially since they're close enough to actually go on a date at least a couple of times a month.

It's all very well 'taking things slowly' etc etc, but what's the big risk? It might now work out? Well, it definitely won't work out if they don't take a chance on it. The OP is looking for ways to make this work, not advice about whether he should invest his time in it.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:03 AM on August 23, 2007

you're close enough to hang out on weekends, so hang out on weekends. alternate who has to travel, but make arrangements for the kid if she has to bring him/her along.

there's no trick to long-distance relationships as long as you are flexible, willing to compromise, trusting, and patient.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:25 AM on August 23, 2007

300 km is not far, especially if you have good public transportation.
As thinkingwoman and others have said, make plans for the weekends. If possible, leave straight fron work on Friday and hop on the train, spend Friday night and Saturday together, leave Sunday night. Take turns travelling, but be understanding if she would rather that you do more of the travelling, since travelling with a 3-year-old is no easy feat. Also, take full advantage of the three-day-weekends. Seriously--300 km is not very far. Many dating couples only see either other on the weekend.

Oh wait--I was assuming that one of you would stay over night when visiting the other person? But I can understand if she (or you) don't necessarily want the other person to stay over. Many single parents don't want dates to stay over until it gets serious because they don't want to send the wrong message to an impressionable kid. So don't push it. If she says you can't stay over, be cool with it. Wait until the kid has an overnight with the dad to make overnight arrangements.
One more thing--don't be upset if on some weekends, you (or she) just needs the time to catch up on chores and other things that one usually does on the weekend. Putting pressure on each other to committ to seeing each other every weekend is too much, so just take it easy. Also, take the time to get to know the kid, if she wants you to. Go to the park, playground, kid stuff, just hang out. I think sometimes people make the mistake of trying to fit in too much into the weekend. So relax, hang out, and have fun.
Good luck.
posted by jujube at 6:02 AM on August 23, 2007

I was in a long-distance relationship for about a year and a half. It was never a short-distance relationship -- we "dated" long distance. We saw each other about one weekend a month. (Though we did move from 160 miles apart to 250 miles apart.)

In long-distance gigs, you're going it alone a lot of the time. Ideally, you are both the kind of people who are okay with this -- you're busy, have your own lives, have plenty to do during the week.

Jealousy and insecurity are killers. No lying awake at night wondering if the other person is seeing someone else. No reading a ton of subtext into a whole day without e-mail because the other person was busy. If either of you is this kind of person, the bloom is going to come off of the rose quickly.

Seconding the comment upthread about not committing to Every Single Weekend necessarily. That's a good way to get yourselves exhausted.

Back to the "going it alone" part -- you won't have the same kind of support from your friends that you would if this person was able to be around to hang out. You'll need to be able to deflect naysaying calmly. Some of your friends/acquaintances will probably eventually try to get under your skin and interrogate you as to why you're sure that you're not being cheated on RIGHT NOW. Others will just be protective of you and not be jerks about it. But if you break up, you're still going to get a 'tsk tsk I told you what did you expect?'

Good parts:

No reason to quibble over petty things. With just a weekend at a time to spend together, who has time to be anything other than generous? This rocks.

All that anticipation all the time is...incredibly...hot.

Communicating via phone and e-mail during the week means you'll be each other's new confidant. It's easy to build a lot of emotional intimacy very quickly this way. This is why you can do that calm deflection of naysaying thing. (And then on weekends you shag like bunnies.)
posted by desuetude at 6:27 AM on August 23, 2007

Don't do other stuff that takes up your attention (eg: read Metafilter) while you're on the phone with her. You'll end up having a poor conversation.

Send her cards and flowers.

If she doesn't mind surprises and you're a little further along in your relationship, show up unannounced to surprise her.

Don't feel like you absolutely have to make the most of your time while you're together. Don't worry about "wasting time". If you're too worried about it then you won't be able to relax and both of you will have a bad weekend.
posted by ODiV at 8:18 AM on August 23, 2007

Because of the limitations of email and IMs, and because there are gaps and delays in talking with each other, it's easy for misunderstandings to arise and for uncertainty to plague you. Try to give each other the benefit of the doubt -- your default should be believing that everything is okay. If she seemed quiet during your last phone conversation, it's easy for you to imagine lots of bad reasons why. You really have to decide not to give in to your insecurities. That can require a lot of willpower.

And try to stay in the present. You might be inclined to spend a lot of time daydreaming about what life would/will be like when you live nearer each other, but that's make-believe. Do your best to enjoy what you actually have now, instead of yearning for something that exists only in your imagination.
posted by wryly at 8:53 AM on August 23, 2007

Desuetude has it right. It's much easier to develop emotional intimacy in a long distance relationship than a traditional relationship. You can't just sit around watching tv... you actually have to communicate. If there are serious incompatibility issues in respect of values, future plans, etc, it will be right out in the open and not muddied up with the happy glow of good sex.

The downside... if it's going to last, someone will eventually have to move. And because of her child, it will probably be you. Of course nobody has to commit to that now, but if it's absolutely off the table for both parties, then it is foolish to get involved.

Any other pitfalls are similar to those in any relationship: you might get hurt, you might cause hurt. No way to avoid that risk. So go for it.
posted by happyturtle at 9:01 AM on August 23, 2007

meeting > phone > IM > email

Rely on the first two as much as possible. Email and IM can be very impersonal, words can be interpreted the wrong way, etc. If you can't be with them, talk to them on the phone every day.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:43 AM on August 23, 2007

Oh, seconding ODiV's point about not worrying about "wasting time" when you're together.
posted by desuetude at 10:01 AM on August 23, 2007

Google translates 300 km for me as a mere 186 miles. I've known many people with a daily roundtrip commuting distance of around 150 miles. I'm sure any of them would have gladly added an extra 36 miles a day for love.

I see you are in Belgium. Perhaps 300 km is considered a long journey there. Where I live, this is considered an appropriate distance for an overnight trip someplace, or even a daytrip. This is culturally determined, and you can change your views to see the distance between you as not being all that far.
posted by yohko at 10:56 AM on August 23, 2007

Aside from the five telephone questions, AskMe's greatest hits.
posted by nanojath at 11:57 AM on August 23, 2007

The things that have worked best for me (in the U.S.) and my SO (in the UK) have been - daily emails, often detailing the small things that we're missing out on by not being together in person ("driving home from work I saw two giant boxing gloves", "Today I shopped for healthy groceries because I'm determined to cook better food for myself", etc.), chatting and texting during the day, and "hanging out" together on Skype calls, even if it's during house cleaning, reading or watching films together. Or in other words, maintaining a high level of communication. Good luck!
posted by lhall at 5:31 PM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

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