Scott De Buitléir ponders the perils of long distance relationships.
I was never good at long-distance relationships, so maybe I was the right guy to talk to when a friend told me it wasn’t working out between him and the guy he was dating, who happened to be a hundred miles away. A hundred miles between people isn’t the worst – I recently met a couple who have successfully worked out a relationship between Toronto and New York – but neither is it an advantage when it comes to affairs of the heart. So, what makes it so difficult?
“It’s hard to keep an interest in someone when you can only see them every two weeks,” my friend lamented. “He’s a lovely guy, but I can’t really see it going anywhere.” I tried a relationship with that same distance between us, and it just seemed ill-fated, despite the regular buses and trains between two cities.
There’s always a romantic idea to dating someone out of town; it feels almost like a holiday romance you can continue. But eventually, you have to go home. Unless you’re prepared to eventually move to the other’s town, it’s not going to work. That’s always been my experience of long distance love, but I’ll readily admit that making relationships work in your twenties is no easy feat anyway. Hormones rage in your early years, balance out in your middle years and leave you missing them in your late ones – or so I’m told.
Of course, if it does work out, there are three factors that will be at play. You both can afford the travel cost (more difficult in your twenties than your thirties); you’re both emotionally comfortable/stable with not being constantly available and you concede to the fact that Skype will be your best friend for a while. There’s no way you can randomly text them on a Tuesday evening and say “want to go to the cinema later?” Instead, it has to be all planned, which takes some of the spontaneity out of it. It also bears the risk of those who subscribe to the attitude of ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ which might be a bit worrying if you’re more wired to a monogamous style of dating.
Working it out is harder than it may seem at first. A train or bus journey isn’t the worst; but what about planning flights and booking time off work? Again, life stages come into play here; a guy in his twenties is less likely to have the money to regularly afford travel while possibly having more free time. In a sad twist, a person in their thirties (and older) is more likely to have money but less free time. Only the wealthy and lucky will be able to be truly carefree about the monetary stress on overcoming distance, but what about when the travelling tires you out? That was one of the lethal aspects of maintaining long-distance love; if you work Monday-to-Friday (which many of us do) travelling on a Friday evening after a week in the office is going to exhaust you. You’ll be great to cuddle into on Friday night, but only because you’re fast asleep from fatigue. Cute, yes, but it doesn’t help keeping the fire burning.
The concluding advice that I could ever have is this: see how it goes, but unless you genuinely think you’ve met the love of your life, don’t count on long distance too much. If you’ve been with the guy for a while before one of you has to move somewhere to work, that has a much better chance of survival success than starting a relationship with distance between you. Also, if there’s distance – at any stage – expect a move. That either means that you’ll move for him, or he’ll be happy enough to come to you. Unless both of you are true nomads.
Long-distance love turns a couple into Mohammad and the Mountain. The question is: which one are you?
‘Scottie’ Illustrations by Stephen Charlick