You’ve found someone really right for you – the only negative is that you live a long way from each other. Can a long-distance relationship really work?
Beverley and Nick are among the 12% of couples who are in long-distance relationships. It’s often professional commitments that keeps couples apart, but the growth of online dating has also had an effect: on the Internet you’re more likely to meet someone who lives miles away. What would you do if you met someone on Parship who seems right in almost every way, but lives 200 miles away? Would you give it a go? Or would you just move on to the next one?
Heaven, Hell or limbo?
A long-distance relationship doesn’t have to be tough-going. For some people it’s ideal. According to Parship psychologist Sabine Wery von Limont “a long-distance relationship can become a long-term proposition for independent, decisive types who like travel and don’t mind a bit of an edge to their existence, but it has to be said that most people like to be constantly close to their partner.” To come home to someone and tell them about your day, to snuggle down in front of the television, just to spend time together - that’s not so easy in a long-distance relationship. “It is a great feeling when Nick picks me up from the train on a Friday evening,” says Beverley, “but I wouldn’t really choose a long-distance relationship out of preference.” It’s important to be honest with yourself about your needs. What kind of a person am I? What do I want out of a relationship? Many people will come to the conclusion that a long-distance relationship is not really for them, but many others would certainly consider it as a possibility.
Hangin’ on the telephone
The telephone, along with emails, becomes even more important in the context of a long-distance relationship. As Beverley explains: “Things didn’t quite work out the way I expected. I might earn more now that I’ve got a better job, but my mobile bill has shot up!” But, whichever way you look at it, a long-distance relationship is going to cost some money, and a strong relationship is built on daily contact - telling each other about what’s been going on, expressing affection for each other, planning the weekend’s activities. In a sense, long-distance lovers have an advantage over couples who see each other every day, since they really feel they need to talk to each other. The phone has its limits, of course. An argument over the phone is fraught with uncertainties and risks, since important factors like facial expression and body language are left out of the mix. “That can easily lead to misunderstandings and frustration,” says Sabine Wery von Limont, “and that moment of reconciliation can be harder to achieve”. For all that, plentiful communication is essential to a long-distance relationship and tricky issues will sometimes need to be handled over the phone.
When the cat’s away …?
What does he/she do when I’m not there? Do I want him/her to be out having fun, or do I want him/her to be sitting at home, waiting for me to arrive for the weekend? In almost every relationship there’s an element of jealousy, and it can become especially prominent in a long-distance relationship, which can give free rein to an overactive imagination. The whole question of trust comes very much to the fore, though it is central to any relationship - and, reassuringly, statistics indicate that individuals in long-distance relationships are not especially prone to infidelity.
On the road again
On Friday, it’s a matter of taking your weekend bag to the office and then, at the end of play, getting off to the station or airport, or onto the motorway. “I really have mixed feelings about the travel,” says Beverley. “Obviously, I look forward to seeing Nick, but I miss a sense of peace and stability, and it would be nice to go out for a fun evening on a Friday with new friends and colleagues.” Once again, it becomes important for both members of a couple to make their desires and needs clear. It happens that people in a long-distance relationship become especially good at that. For instance, Nick now regularly comes to Birmingham to spend the weekend with Beverley and they have developed a circle of friends both there and back home in Manchester.
Living for the weekend
The weekend is usually the focus of a long-distance relationship, cramming a week into two days. Sabine Wery von Limont points out that “it can be risky to avoid discussing any problems because you don’t want to spoil your limited time together, but equally you shouldn’t use your weekend to try and work through every problem you’re facing.” She recommends setting by some time for the serious stuff, while also making sure you can enjoy the rest of the weekend. Even going to the supermarket together can be fun, because you don’t do it all the time. Little rituals and good planning help a couple in a long-distance relationship to achieve continuity and maintain their connection.
Planning for the future
Beverly and Nick don’t intend to remain long-distance lovers for very much longer. She is looking for a job in Manchester and he is looking for a job in Birmingham. They will make their home together in whichever city produces the right job first. “You need to be clear about your future,” says Sabine Wery von Limont. “For a long-distance relationship to last, you need to have a joint goal: whether that’s to continue to get the best out of your weeks apart and your weekends together, or to settle down in domestic bliss. It’s up to you.”