You get a flirty message on a website one day, and you like the look of the person’s profile so you message back. The conversation goes well. You start to look forward to talking to them every morning and eventually to phone calls at night – but you’ve never been out to dinner or a movie. These days, technology has made it entirely possible to fall for someone you have never met in real life.
A study by communications researcher Andrew Ledbetter showed that having similar communications styles over email and text produces enjoyable interactions with potential partners, which is why electronic communications can end in real feelings of attachment. However, tangled in our perceptions of ideal love is the requirement of regular physical intimacy, so it’s hardly surprising that many advise to avoid entering into a long distance relationship.
But what if you have fallen in love with a person who lives multiple kilometres away from you? Can it work? Well, research says it can; however there are relationship stressors experienced in long distance relationships that are unique and can be difficult to conquer, such as the extra expense of trips to meet up and huge phone bills, not to mention the difficulties of how to trust someone you rarely see. No matter how you look at it, long distance relationships can be challenging.
Should You Accept the Challenge?
If you’ve met someone online and they live far away, you have no doubt thought to yourself “surely I can find someone closer?!” or maybe “can we ever really commit to each other when we’re so far apart?!” Both of these thoughts are valid and before you embark on a long distance relationship you need to think them through. Will you be able to deal with the inevitable feelings of jealousy that come from having separate social lives? What will you do if you meet someone else while feeling lonely? Is this distance unavoidable, or is keeping a distance between you a way to avoid real commitment? To know if this is worth pursuing, you need to find out if you are on the same page. Talk it through.
Take the Plunge
So you’ve decided that you are on the same page and ready to take the plunge and commit – now what? In a long distance relationship, this can be daunting because relationship growth can be slow when you are not consistently spending face to face time together. To commit to making a long distance relationship work, you need to build a strong foundation upon which it can grow – very early on you need to work out the hows of the maintenance your relationship; how often will you meet, how many rules will you have regarding seeing other people, how often will you keep in contact?
Keeping in Touch
There are myriad ways to keep in touch these days and they are utterly essential for long distance relationships. Prioritising contact with your partner will keep you feeling intimate – next time something funny or frustrating happens and you think about posting about it on social media, consider sharing it with your partner before you go public. If you see a lovely flower on your morning walk, a photo of it sent to your love’s phone can be as special as sending an expensive bouquet. Remember that without eye contact and body language miscommunication is common, so be willing to explain your thoughts in detail or to have an emergency video date. Keep in contact consistently and creatively and things will run much more smoothly.
Have Something to Look Forward To
Your budget will impact how often you can see each other and that’s something that you will have to negotiate, but it’s a good idea to plan the next time you will get to see each other before the current meeting ends. That way, it’s far less likely that you will be set adrift in a sea of doubt. Feelings of doubt can fester so plan the next weekend or holiday together before you are alone again; having something to look forward to can get you through the lonely nights.
What’s the End Plan?
Eventually, you might start discussing moving to the same city. As anyone who has been in a long distance relationship knows, planning for a future of nights spent on the couch and weekends doing the grocery shopping can be even more exciting than planning a fancy overseas trip. However, if you’re away from each other for work or study, abandoning it isn’t wise when you want to build a future together, so don’t get carried away too early. In the meantime, having good friends, trying not to sweat the small stuff and never forgetting that your love can be felt over a land mass will keep you sane in your separate locales.