That Distance Between You and Me

Ah the dreaded LDR – Long Distance Relationship. The dreaded possibility of things not working out because you are far from each other; the dreaded discouragement from friends and family; the dreaded paranoia over  your significant other’s whereabouts; the dreaded possibility of meeting another along the way; the dreaded slow death of a good partnership as loneliness and apathy seep in. Dread, dread, dread.

LDR can actually be a good candidate for egging that heart attack around the bend but (now I have a BUT and it is a big one), I will share some ideas on how it can actually work out. It will not be easy. It will require hard work, a truck load of patience, a lot of talking (through all available channels), and you will need to evaluate yourself by asking some questions. Before I enumerate these questions, you have to promise me that you will not lie to yourself when you start evaluating. It will defeat the whole point of this article if you do.

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1. What are you making?

Like everything else in our lives, we need to know our reasons. The first question simply points to your goals. If you decide to give LDR a chance, you need to lay out your objectives in getting involved in this kind of relationship. Are you in this for the long haul? Are you in this for fun (or for other ridiculous reasons)? Are you in this for temporary or permanent gain? You need to know your purpose. I know some people who are in it because one needed to work overseas and the other one had to stay home. I know some who are in it because they want someone safe to flirt around with or to exchange mushy notes whenever loneliness comes knocking (but with the convenience of distance to protect them from fully committing). I know some who are in it because it was the only option they have for the time being to keep something good going and are willing to hang on until another option presents itself. Whatever the reasons, they need to be laid out so you will know if both of you are designing the kind of life that will complement the other. As to what direction, it does not matter where, as long as both of you want to course through the same path and want to end up in the same place.

2. Who are involved with what you are making?

Let us not waste time in arguing that there are only two people involved here. Whether you admit it to yourself or not, you will unknowingly include other people, like your closest friends and relatives, by the simple act of sharing information about the relationship. Their reactions, both physical and verbal, will mold how you will “make” the relationship and will contribute to its success or failure. A supportive friend can fuel the fight for making it work, while a silent or unsupportive relative will discourage you in pursuing it. The reactions of the people you share your stories with are reflections of various perspectives of a relationship which may serve to clarify or distort, and it will be up to your good judgment to decide which ones will be considered and which ones will be discarded.

3. What are your rules?

Before you go waving your arms, it is important that you set some ground rules to manage expectations. Both of you need to be clear on these rules so that you will know what to and what not to expect, so please do not beat around the bush with asking this question – “Are you two exclusive?” Let me proceed in saying that there is nothing wrong with this question. Nothing at all despite what other people say as to the query being too up-front, too blunt, too straightforward, or whatever ‘too’ people can think of these days. If you know what you want (go back to #1) then this question should not be too difficult to raise. For instance, if your goal is to eventually get involved in a serious and life-time relationship with your partner, ask yourself – will you be willing to share him or her with another? Your answer to the question will help you and your partner come up with the much needed “borders” in your relationship. Note to ponder: Go easy with those rules in such a way that it will not be too constricting (you and your partner will end up gasping for air now and then), nor will it be too liberating that people will wonder why you bothered calling them borders in the first place.

4. How do you define the rules?

After setting the ground rules, you need to dive deeper by defining the rules and asking yourself if they are truly acceptable for you. For example, “How do we define exclusivity?” Remember the theory of relativism? (Note: Do not confuse it with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity) The theory of relativism tackles our perception on things and how there is no absolute truth until we decide to set the borders. What does being exclusive mean? Does it mean that you are committed to one another  and will not be considering dating other people? What is the level of commitment that you will both require from each other?  Other than clarifying these, it is also crucial that you are both on the same page. One’s exclusivity should not be an opposite to the other’s definition of the term. For instance, my version of exclusivity means “I will not date other people. PERIOD” and if my partner disapproves then that is one cause to take a step back and re-evaluate the situation.

If (pay attention) your definitions do not go hand-in-hand, are you willing to compromise? And if you are going to compromise, make sure that you are doing so for the right reasons and not sacrificing a portion of your principles.

5. How do you perceive Long Distance Relationships?

Mindset is the foundation of everything. If you see it as an obstacle then it is (and will always be) an obstacle; hence everything dark-hairy-stinky-awful will be spread thickly on that sandwich and it will not be an appealing experience to chew on. However, if you see it as an opportunity then you will surely learn from your experience being apart. You will learn things about your partner and about yourself while you are both in opposite sides of the globe. You will be amazed at how expansive real commitment is, that you will start to wonder why you ever took it for granted. The secret? Do not believe the pessimists. Do not believe the statistics (they are just numbers). Believe beyond what you or others have experienced in the past. Believe that God has reserved a space for the two of you in this world and that a relationship with Him as the center will outlast all others.

6. How often do you talk?

Yes people, it is like working in an office where there is a need to clock in and clock out. Good morning and good night. Hello and Later. You also have the option of being creative on how to go about it, but remember that your creativity does not involve giving your partner the idea of being neglected or under-appreciated just for the fun of it (or even just to rattle a boring routine). And like any job, it helps to give updates now and then so that you will both be aware of your whereabouts. Try not to overdo it though because there are some things that you may want to keep to yourself which you know that your partner will be disinterested in like taking a dump, picking your nose, or brushing your teeth. I guess the point is, we all know what updates we need to put in that report and keeping your partner informed will not only keep paranoia at bay but will also somehow make him or her part of what you are doing.

7. What are your security measures?

Alright, so I am thinking like a humanitarian right now. Likened to regular conflicts, disasters, or outbreaks, there is also a need to come up with a list of possible “dangerous” situations which we need to apply precautionary tactics to. For instance, if you know that your partner dislikes the idea of you having a beer with a friend that you may slightly be attracted to, then avoid the situation by saying no or if you do not have the balls to do so, by inviting other friends (who will not egg you on with that attraction) to join you so that you will not brew a tempting concoction. Another possible dangerous situation is communicating with an X. Okay, maybe now it is purely friendship but it still does not erase the fact that you and that X shared an intimate history. You cannot blame your partner for being even slightly jealous when you are still investing time with a person you previously adored (or may still possibly adore); besides you are not really giving you and your partner the chance to grow when you are still pre-occupied with the standards you have set with that X. Let us admit it, there is a reason why Xs are marked off and as long as the X is still there, Y cannot move in.

Avoiding similar dangerous situations will go a long way.

8. How do you respond to situations?

Since we are on the topic of situations, let us discuss the approach or method you will need to utilize in resolving conflicts in long distance relationships. You will not have the same choices like in a regular relationship; in fact your choices might actually be limited. You have to be careful in how you handle LDRs because the advantage of physical presence to help in correcting wrongs is not on your side. You will not have the advantage of seeing your partner’s face, of holding his or her hand, of gauging one another’s body language. Advice: tread carefully, pause and do not make impulsive notes, and talk, allow your partner to think about the situation and to offer an explanation instead of immediately jumping into a conclusion, most importantly, listen.

9. When will the contract end?

When I say end of contract, I do not entirely mean the whole relationship dies. I actually meant the voiding of the LDR contract as it will then be replaced by a regular relationship contract. Come on people, we all need deadlines and we also know that we do not want our relationship to stay as LDRs forever. At some point, we want to actually be physically close to our partner – we want to be woken up in the morning by their loud snoring or by one heavy arm draping over our body, to go on movie or dinner dates with them, to hold hands while walking, to kiss whenever we felt like it, and all those lovie-dovie things couples ordinarily do. The big question is “When?” which is intertwined with the question how the gap will be bridged. If the “How?” is one migrating to where the other is currently residing then the “When?” should be decided by the one who is migrating. When is when? It can be after anything but, as promising as it may sound, “after this and that” statements are still vague. Be specific. For example: When? After my friend’s wedding. When? Maybe last quarter of the year. When? Flight date: November 18, 2015.

Knowing the “when” makes a big difference. It helps both of you feel assured and excited because you have something definite to look forward to, as opposed to vague implications.

Disclaimer: I am not declaring that by going through all these, there will be a 100% success rate  guaranteed. In a perfect world, that will be true but our world is different and there is still that possibility of a let-down. However, considering the points raised might just give couples on a long distance relationship a fighting chance which is worth trying.

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