For my last entry on this topic, I thought I'd write about an important factor in being able to successfully navigate an LDR: YOU! To enter into a long distance relationship, you need to take a hard look at yourself. I don't mean the outside; I'm assuming the two of you are way past any concerns about body/attractiveness issues. I'm referring to some internal characteristics you need to consider because no matter how romantic it sounds, you need more than true love.
Availability: if you don't have time to talk, travel, and meet on a regular basis, the two of you are not going to be able to form much of an intimate relationship. You have to make engaging with your partner a high priority in your life and you have to do it regularly.
Patience: you may likely need a lot of patience to keep a LDR going, especially when you don't know for sure when the relationship will cease to be long distance. You are going to need patience when you don't hear from them when you expect. Likewise, if something comes up that prevents you from connecting with your partner, you need to make sure they promptly know about it.
Trust: if you have troubles dealing with jealousy, you are going to have problems when your mind starts to wonder why you haven't heard from your partner and what they may be doing. Trust in how your partner feels about you and the priority you have in their life, should be the basis of understanding that there is no reason for jealousy coming between the two of you.
Communication: when there is a miscommunication between the two of you, you need to talk it out. If you can't honestly express your feelings, you need to work on that. It might help to write them out ahead of time. Do NOT be tempted to rely on email or text messages to do this. The phone or Skype is much better. And remember, you always lose some of the message when the two of you are not talking face to face (Skype only partially counts).
Life-situation: you need to have a very clear understanding of the set of conditions required before you change your current life-situation and change from long-distance to in-person. Some people think they're ready for a real relationship and only figure out later that they prefer long-distance because they don't have room for a full-time relationship in their life. Others decide they can't move to be with their partner due to other factors (job, kids, etc.). If you haven't got this figured out, you need to be very up-front with your prospective partner. Don't wait until they've quit their job to move to be with you only to find out you're not ready.
I'm sure there are other considerations - what have you discovered?
So you've found someone you want to do this long distance relationship thing what's the next step? One of the challenges with this relationship is maintaining the connection and with it the trust required to sustain a relationship when the two participants don't get to see each other day in and day out. When two people are together for a sustained period of time, their activities normally fall into some sort of routine. This routine helps form the basis for connection and trust that is needed for deeper intimacy. So you and your partner need to establish a long distance routine as a starting point for maintaining a connection and building trust.
A potential obstacle to overcome with this is timezone differences. If the two of you are separated by more than 1 timezone, you may find this challenging. This is another time when distance is a factor in finding a significant other (see my previous entry). Timezone may not make a big difference if you're far enough away but that presents another set of problems.
So let's assume the two of you have reasonably similar work schedules that allow you both some overlapping free time on a fairly daily basis. You need to use that time to create shared experiences. This can be as simple as a phone call (better yet, Skype), playing a computer game online (it must support voice chat), watching a video or TV show together (while on Skype), reading to one to another... you get the idea. The important things to remember are #1 – you communicate while doing it and #2 – you stick to a schedule. Communicating keeps the connection you need to maintain and keeping to the schedule establishes the trust required.
If the two of you keep reasonably similar sleep schedules, I definitely encourage a regular routine of talking for a few minutes when you wake and when you go to bed. This is a great routine for creating connection and trust. Point of order: texting doesn't count as real communication, though it is good to use now and then through your day to let your partner know you're thinking about them. Use emails to communicate information that your partner may need to retain (such as travel itineraries, love poems, etc.). And remember, your partner should not find out about your interesting news via social media! That has a negative impact on sustaining intimacy and creating connection.
These practices can help you maintain a long distance for a long period of time but it should not be used without a long term plan in place to be together full time or with regular in-person visits.
To long distance or not to long distance, that is the question. In this entry, I thought I'd explore the practicalities of developing a relationship with someone who is not local.
Unless you restrict yourself to finding something within the immediate area (let's say an hour or two's drive), you're going to have to decide how to approach long distance relationships. Are you going to expect him/her to come to you or would you prefer to go visit your prospective lover? And if you prefer to visit them, who will pay the travel costs? Or maybe you'll both meet half-way. Will you stay with them or will you have separate lodging?
Much of this assumes it's relatively easier for one of you to get to the other. Remember, in Part 1 I pointed out that you really need to spend a lot of time together so hopefully you take the practicality of travel into consideration. If you live somewhere more remote, the reality of the situation is your potential pool of mates may be pretty limited. In any event, keep your feet firmly planted in reality and don't expect that a private jet will be coming by to pick you up.
Since you're on this site, it's likely you've entertained the idea of having a long distance relationship with someone you "meet" here. I say "meet" because until you've actually spent time face to face with someone you chat/exchange emails/text/talk on the phone with, you haven't really met them. Skype can come close and will at least eliminate the worst of the fakes online but with a long distance relationship, you're still faced with the biggest quandry: how well do you really know this person? Because even on Skype, you're viewing them at presumably their best. But what are they like when they wake up in the morning? What are they like in bad traffic? How do they deal with waiters? There's a lot you can't learn until you've spent a significant amount of time with this person in real life.
So my first rule of online dating is this: Never fall in love online. It's OK to get interested but don't get excited until you can both spend a lot of quality time face to face. I know of a woman who thought she was head over heels in love with a man who lived 10 hours away(by car) from her. After months they finally met face to face halfway and discovered they had absolutely no chemistry in person. They remained good friends and it was certainly worth meeting and knowing if there was something between them but was it worth investing her heart and soul into it just to have her heart broken? Some of you may say yes but after it happens to you a few times, it won't sound like such a romantic notion.