Long distance relationships (LDRs) are not for the faint hearted or weak willed. Or for anyone with half a brain, for that matter.
So take this advice from whence it comes, because apparently I am a certifiable half-wit for attempting this craziness a second time.
The first time was with The Golden Boy and the second, now, with The Beard. The former was managed relatively well, the latter is a work in progress. I have learnt some lessons. Gather closer…
Be sure about what you are
This is a biggie. The Golden Boy and I were 100% on the same page about being a couple.
We were in this together and nothing could break our spirits. Long, airport, glass-partition teary goodbyes? Tick.
Declarations of undying togetherness foreverness? Tick.
We might have gone overboard on the romcom drama, but knowing that we were in it together made the rules of engagement much simpler.
If you’re married, the answer is obvious. When you’re not, you both need to be 100% clear that this a mission you’re tackling together.
LDRs are for crazy people. You want to make sure your crazy is aligned.
Keeping in touch
So, because The Beard and I didn’t have that discussion when he left, the first few weeks of his departure from SA were a stop-start affair of awkward conversations.
Relationships are part communication and part physical intimacy. Without the latter, keeping in touch becomes super important.
That means Skype video dates, GChats and leaving calling cards and video messages (especially when the time difference is big).
The Golden Boy and I swapped amazing care packages, letters (yes, handwritten) and even photo journals.
You gotta get a little obviously romantic, because all the usual bonding behaviours like handholding and surprise kisses aren’t available to you.
If you want the relationship to survive the new circumstances you got to start playing by the LDR rules. And actually, this can require a little more effort.
Like any relationship making quality time for someone translates into: I give a shit and you are a priority.
This doesn’t change in a LDR. You know that saying: ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’? They should add the suffix phrase: ‘As long as you’re regularly reminded of why you’re fond in the first place.’
Not catchy, I know, but them’s the fighting words.
The LDR rules do not include monogamy.
LDRs that span months or years are better served by removing unrealistic expectations. And sexual monogamy in a LDR is a definite unrealistic expectation.
It was a major flaw in my relationship with The Golden Boy.
See, you’re off living separate lives, meeting people, doing stuff and having a whole range of experiences – you’re bound to run into some sexy tight spots occasionally. Why make a big deal out of it?
Claiming ownership or entitlement to your partner’s sexual self (and vice versa), while neither of you can actually accommodate each other’s needs, is unfair to both of you.
There's simply no reason to place extra strain on your relationship by making pristine monogamy an ultimate requirement.
Follow what Dan Savage calls this a ‘monogamish relationship’ – a relationship that is mostly monogamous but makes occasional exceptions for sexual play.
You know where your priorities lie and where your heart is and you’re not lying to anyone. It’s the approach I’m taking with The Beard.
Virtual sexy time
Look, I’ve made my views on virtual sex clear. But it’s something I’m willing to try out.
I’m all for sexting, erotic mails and sending sexy pics, but I still need to migrate to actual video sex.
But it works a charm for many people. Miss America had wild Skype video sex with her man for the year that they were apart – video replete with lighting, vibes and preferred angle.
Point is, staying as sexually connected as you can is a plus. It’s nothing I ever considered with The Golden Boy, but then I was young and naïve – also he never fucked the way The Beard does so I’m more prone to serious orgasm withdrawal, which makes me far more open to suggestion.
Maybe if you go this route you might reconsider the monogamish situation.
There has to be an end goal.
There has to be a point at which you know you’ll be physically available to each other again.
If you don’t have that LDR cut-off date, the whole relationship becomes an exercise in futility. And even if there is a cut-off, sometimes LDRs just don’t work, and break what was a good relationship. That’s ok. It’s nobody’s fault.
Another thing, don’t be like me and freak out about every little missed meeting or misunderstanding.
Tech fails, life happens.
LDRs are like texting without any sarcasm font; they’re like building a sandcastle blindfolded – you have to be prepared to speak more honestly and directly about how you’re feeling and make it up as you go. Like I said, it’s for crazy people.
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