Dear Dr~Protocol, I have enjoyed reading your column for a long time now, but it has not addressed my own
personal problem. I just met a wonderful man on a recent trip abroad. I’m a top executive where I work and he is always doing well in the country he lives. I have gone to see him twice and he has come to see me once, but the distance is making both of us uncomfortable. What do you think we can do to maintain this relationship so it can last? – Sandra.
Dear Tope, I can tell you that it is difficult when you love somebody and you can’t see him immediately you want to. It’s even difficult on cold nights and days when you wish you could go to the cinemas together. It’s always a lot expensive making all those trips to see each other. Thankfully in your own case, you seem to be comfortable enough to afford frequent trips. As they say, dating is hard and doing it across state lines is harder! Follow these rules to keep it together even when you’re apart.
Agree on your commitment level
Couples in long-distance relationships know they’re taking a risk, not to mention making a few sacrifices. But if you see a real future for the two of you, the sacrifices won’t seem to matter. Still, before you get involved in a long-distance relationship, there are a few things you have to establish. Are you exclusive or are you seeing other people? Don’t assume that it’s one or the other if you’ve never discussed it, especially if you’re looking to keep things one-on-one. “With long-distance relationships, you need to have a detailed, intimate conversation, including whether the connection is monogamous or open,” says Tonya Reiman, author of The Body Language of Dating: Read His Signals, Send Your Own, and Get the Guy. “Confirming the level of commitment will help to avoid unnecessary jealousy issues and fights.” If you think this is the one, get ready for some hard, but hopefully rewarding, work. “The amount of time couples are able to maintain a long-distance relationship really depends upon how they nurture it,” says Reiman.
Don’t keep secrets
Honesty is paramount to any relationship, but especially one that’s maintained from different cities, states, even countries. It’s crucial to be forthcoming — especially about your own insecurities. As a matter of fact, revealing what makes you anxious can lead to improvements in the relationship, as well as a greater level of sensitivity from your partner. “Call when you get home from a night out, and tell your significant other, ‘I really wish you were here,’” adds Caroline Tiger, author of The Long-Distance Relationship Guide. Avoid constantly talking about one person your faraway mate may see as a romantic threat. “And don’t kid yourself,” says Tiger. “Spending all of your time with one person can easily lead to temptation, so make sure you hang out with lots of people.”
Surprise each other
Routine is actually a good thing when it comes to long-distance relationships. You can look forward to your next conversation or visit because you know exactly when it’s going to happen. But every now and then, step up the romance a bit. That means calling unexpectedly and “upping the physical anticipation with [phone] sex and saucy email banter,” says Tiger. But don’t invest your money in flowers: “Surprise visits are the best gifts you can give.”
Maintain your sex life
Just because you don’t sleep in the same bed every night, doesn’t mean your relationship between visits has to consist of dry spell after dry spell. On the contrary, says sex expert Ian Kerner, Ph.D., contributor to GoodinBed.com, “Our brains are our biggest sex organ.” So use the distance to your advantage by stimulating each other mentally and therefore sexually. “Learn how to talk (and text) dirty,” suggests Tiger. “It doesn’t have to be overt — just enough to make each other wonder if you’re fully clothed.”
Plan frequent visits
Reiman recommends that long-distance daters see each other in the flesh at least one weekend a month. You know the excitement of being asked out on a second date while you’re still on the first one? Do the same here. Never finish a visit without planning the next trip. But, says Reiman, “If you can’t physically see each other as much as you would like, virtual dates can work wonders.” Skype, anyone?
Send cards and gifts
Texts, Facebook, Tweets — all of the electronic communication options at our disposal have made long-distance dating much easier, that’s for certain. But how did couples do it in the pre-email days? Introducing… the pen and paper! (Remember them?) “The major thing missing during a long-distance relationship is physical proximity to your partner,” explains Tiger. “Snail mail, while no substitute, brings you that much closer to your sweetheart, because you’re touching the paper he touched and reading the lines he wrote by hand.” How’s that for a romantic thought? And she even takes it a step farther: “This is why spritzing the paper — very lightly! — with your perfume or cologne is a nice touch, even if it’s a little cheesy.”
Trust each other
“Commitment is a statement of intention. If you know your partner well, and a regular routine is kept, issues of trust will not rear their ugly heads,” explains Reiman. That said, trust also means giving one another the benefit of the doubt. If your guy says he’ll call you after work around 6 p.m., but the phone doesn’t ring until 7 p.m., assume he was pulled into a meeting with his boss, not having drinks with that hot girl in accounting. Just because your imagination can have the tendency to run wild, doesn’t mean you should let it.
Set an end goal
How long is too long to be in a long-distance relationship? Well, that depends on you, your guy and your respective situations, but at some point you’ll need to live in the same city. (You may even expect to have a ring on your finger!) “There needs to be a light at the end of the tunnel, a time when you’ll be in the same place, or at least the understanding that one of you will have to move at some point,” says Tiger. “If you’re in a new relationship, this might be too intense a topic to broach for a while, but you can still talk about the fact that you’ll need to talk about it [eventually].” She suggests setting a deadline. For example, agree that after three months you’ll have a “state of the union” conversation. After all, if you’re both in it for the long haul, these are decisions you’ll want to make sooner rather than later. That way you’ll know the relationship is — or isn’t — right for you.