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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dear NwaVic, Is a Long Distance Relationship Worth It?

Dear NwaVic,
There is this girl that I like and she lives three houses away from my house. Therefore, we live in the same neighbourhood. So far I have summoned courage to go and talk to her and she gave me a good audience. She gave me her number and I call her from time to time. Though we are just getting to know each other,on the long run, there is a possibility that I might ask her out. But I'm a bit confused because we attend different Universities and I'm thinking of the success of distant relationship. Please help me out. Should I still nurse the hope of we having a future together?

Yours Sincerely,

Dear Confused,

Thank you for writing NwaVic at  Your letter couldn't have come at a better time. I've had this post on how to make a long distance relationship (LDR) work on the back-burner for a long time and your letter was the nudge I needed to get it done. 

The idea of an LDR is intimidating. Scary, even. I mean, how do you sustain or further a relationship with someone who lives 3000 miles from you? The thing about distance is that if care is not taken the physical separation of it becomes emotional. According to raw logic, no matter how much you love someone, if you're not around them consistently, you start to lead different lives, met different people, do different things and before you know it, interest wanes. 

But true love defies logic. It applies both ways- You could live right next door to your significant other and it still won't work. In the same lights, LDRs are difficult but not impossible. Their success depends on the people in it. If you really like this girl, you could still nurse the hope of making a future together because with good effort on both sides, it will be worth the shot. But before you go in, here are a few things you should keep in mind; 

1. Commitment & Investment: 

First and foremost, to make a long-distance relationship work, both people need to understand and accept that it will be challenging both physically and emotionally. Then, make a commitment to put in the required work. It's all about the mind-set. Even with the Internet age, the cold hard iPhone/iPad screen won't sit next to you on the couch, it won't cuddle you at night, it won't take you to happy hour or dinner, and it won't be your date to the wedding or event your significant other can't make because they are miles and miles away. 

The only LDRs I've seen work are the ones where both people are on the same page. AND I mean, extensive planning put into plane/bus tickets. Ofcourse, it'd get expensive in time and money but if both people are making a committed investment, it'll be worth it. 

One of my family friends dated his then-girlfriend who lived on the opposite side of the country for 3 years. They are now happily married with children and he claims the secret to making their relationship work was the "once a month" rule they set. They were open with each other about who'd visit whom and who was paying. He was working while she was a student, so he paid for most of the tickets but they took turns visiting each other every month, even if only for the weekend. For them, planning ahead didn't only make the plane tickets more affordable, it helped him rake up travel points he used to get their free honeymoon ticket. 

2. Long-term goals:
No relationship can work long-distance indefinitely. Something has to change in the future...the lonely nights, the dateless events and the many tearful airport goodbyes has to count towards a target because when you have a relationship you're committed for the future, the end goal is the inspiration to stay on the rocky road.
I heard someone say once that long-distance relationships are not real relationships but the promise of one. While this statement isn't entirely true because anyone who has been in a long-distance relationship knows just how much work it requires, the success of your LDR hinges majorly on the goal of bigger whether it is marriage or permanent relocation. So in order to make your long-distance relationship work, while you don't want to pressure each other, at some point, as the relationship gets serious, there has to be a conversation about what each person expects from the other person down the road. 
3. Downtime:
One of my friends was in a long-distance relationship for a couple of years but felt like when it ended, she didn't know who she had been dating. Upon reflection, she realized that she and her ex had spent every time they had together on "Up-time". Basically, they saw each other so sparsely, that when they were together, they spent all their time going out and attending events; this put both of them on their best behavior because the va-va-voom of "fun" took the focus away from "who" they were on a regular day. The theory behind her reasoning is that relationships are more grounded when couples get to see each other in their down time. She said if she could do it all over, she'd take more time to know her partner without all the glamour. To do this, when your partner visits, don't offset your entire weekend. Instead, incorporate them into your regular schedule. Somewhere before or after all the events planned, take time out to watch TV, make dinner together or just talk. The goal here is commonality and community; if your downtime involves casually hanging out with friends, don't opt out when your loved one is in town- take them with you. That way, they get to see you in your element. 
4. Communication:
As with a short-distance relationship, communication is incredibly important with any LDR; texts, phone calls, Skype dates and everything in between. No matter how far away your boyfriend or girlfriend is, you should be able to account for where they are at any given time. Just because you can't easily drive up to check up on them at work, doesn't mean you shouldn't know they are there. The key is to be in touch with your significant other any time you can, no matter how little. For example, on your way to lunch with coworkers, you could shoot them a text or make a quick phone call to say so and maybe a later text or picshare during the meal to share what you're eating. Here, it is not the detail of what you're eating that counts, it is the sharing. The frequent communication makes your partner feel closer to you, like they are part of your everyday life and closes up the distance. It is inevitable and understandable that you'd be hanging out with other people, but once your partner starts to feel neglected, ignored or out of the loop, the relationship has begun to meet its expiration date.
In this regard, LDRs operating on multiple time zones are extremely difficult. My best friend and I can barely get time to talk to each other whenever she's in Japan, I can't fathom the difficulty for siginificant others who deal with time zones on the regular basis. When you're more than two hours out of sync, a schedule becomes crucial. To make it work, you and your significant other need to find a common baseline between your schedules.  

5. Trust:

Long distance relationships won't work if there is no trust. Like I mentioned, because you don't live close to each other, you can't be everywhere you'd love to be with your partner. If you're the jealous type, knowing your partner is hanging with others can be hard to deal with.  While you should trust your partner, building and keeping trust in an LDR requires effort and sometimes, the reassurance of security on both sides. It goes back to what I said about not letting your partner feel  "left behind". For example, if you're out having fun, it could help to send sporadic texts to say "I wish you could be here", "I miss you", "Everyone says hi" or "Dinner is going well. I'll order your favorite dessert and eat on your behalf". Sometimes, sending pics help. Even though this may sound corny or overcompensating, it goes a long way in letting your loved one know if you could have them there, you would. The little comfort it'd give them counts a lot and helps them feel secure. If you're on the other end, it helps to find fun things to do with your time while your partner is out having fun. This way, you won't be stuck feeling lonely and you know what they say about idle minds and devil's workshops. 
6. Simulate The Little Things:
Just like in a short distance relationship, in an LDR, the little things go a big way. Like I mentioned earlier, overcompensation sometimes is necessary to make LDRs work. You want to do your best to simulate what would've been, if not for the distance.  For example, no matter what, you want to keep the romance alive. When my sister's husband was courting her, he'd send flowers and love notes randomly to her workplace. It added spontaneity to their relationship and compensated a bit for his inability to pop in and take her to lunch. 
You want to try to do things together like you would in a short distance relationship. For example, if there's a show you both like, you could watch it together and text live about it. If you both like to cook, you could be on Face Time or Skype together while you both cook. I know a LDR couple that falls asleep on Skype- While I'm not that mushy, I'm all about whatever helps you get closer. 
All in all, if you meet someone you like and has potential of being a permanent fixture in your life, if both of you are willing to make it work, it will work, regardless of the distance. Even though not everyone can get a 50 year marriage after an LDR, it is not impossible. It will get frustrating, but if its meant to be, with an end goal and perseverance, you'd be thanking me later. ;-) I hope these tips point you in the right direction. Best of Luck!
Stay Inspired...

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