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Understanding the importance of both the long & short game

As we continue to roll towards the future, technology has evolved so much since 2000 that has impacted the way we communicate. How many of you remember the days of actual phone booths and pagers? As much as some of us may complain about all the emojis, hashtags, filters and more that are now available, we have to remember how limited we were back then. We also have to remember how closed off from the world we were, as the main people we could interact with were the ones in our own towns. But now, we are a global society where we can talk to anyone across the state or internationally. It’s not only useful in getting to know someone new or make friends, but even allow dating relationships to occur. By this, I mean long-distance relationships (LDR).

When I reference LDRs, there are two primary examples of this: you are dating someone physically close by and one of you ends up moving away, or you come across someone online and end up dating virtually. In the past, such an idea of dating someone far away seemed ridiculous. It’s impossible for it to be successful. However, the landscape has changed, and society became more accustom and accepting of things; including LDRs. That’s not to say everyone is suddenly doing it, or are not hesitant about it, but that there’s more curiosity to give it a chance. This goes back to technology bringing us closer, especially this year, and lines of communication improving. No longer do we rely on written letters or email to stay in touch, as we now can actually call one another without worry of terrible service connections or high price charges per call. We can even see each other through videocalls, and view the other person smile, laugh and show other emotions that texts and emojis can only wish to truly encapsulate. I’ll admit, though, there’s that special, personal touch that written letters provide that is nice to receive in the mailbox. But it’s a rare sight these days, as many have stepped away from writing pen to paper.

While the advancement in communication have been immensely helpful in staying in touch with others, and meeting people from all over, the question can still linger for those thinking of (or are already in) LDRs – can such a relationship last a long time? An important factor in determining the chance of success is exactly that: what is a long time to you? For some people, they can’t go days or weeks seeing someone. Others may be able to hold out for months to over a year; think of those with loved ones in the military, for example. It comes down to who you are as a person: your patience, willpower and experience in this matter.

Patience is definitely needed when entering a LDR, as the length of being apart will vary and can look different for each individual. Your relationship might include a few trips to see the other person every couple months or so, while another person may have to wait over a year before seeing their significant other. Expect the unexpected when it comes to this, because life loves to throw curveballs. Having strong willpower is important, too, because over time it can be straining on you in many ways. Maybe you’d love to hear their laugh in person, see them dancing, or feel their touch. That and more little things can start to take you on a roller-coaster of feelings. Sadness that they’re not around during those tough days, anger that they’re not understanding you through texts, happiness hearing about some good news, frustration of the lack of intimacy among other examples. Depending on that willpower of yours, it could lead to you drifting away from that other person; either just away or into another’s arms. Adding determination with patience might seem like a big ask of you for a LDR, but (at it’s core) it’s no different than other relationships that require effort to make it succeed; it’s just that annoying distance, and not being able to see them often, that is added on.

This is why it’s important to have that experience of long-distance somewhere in your life. Whether it be yourself, a friend/family member, coworker, etc. it can be beneficial to have someone to fall back on for guidance and wisdom about connecting with someone that lives far away. It doesn’t even have to be a romantic relationship, but maybe friends who live abroad or a pen pal that was met online. Those are other examples that require effort in maintaining strong bonds. For any of you who have seen friends move, like going to a far away university, you know the struggle of staying in touch and keeping the bonds strong as you both live your own lives. The situations and the experiences may be different, but they are similar in providing insight on what to expect. And if you have no experience, or don’t know anyone that has gone through something similar, then research books or online for help and continue reading this post. Now that we covered some things people should have for entering into LDRs, let’s examine the two keys that entail the success to this dynamic.

The Short Game

Remember when I asked “What is a long time to you”? The answer will vary, but there’s no doubt it will be a good while that your significant other will be far away. And so this is where communication is paramount in keeping LDRs alive and well. Sounds pretty obvious, right? It is until you truly consider the effort needed to communicate. We all have our lives, and they can sometimes get very busy. While you might get away with not talking with certain friends or family members for days, weeks, or even months, this is not one of those times you can do that. While you don’t need to talk every day to your romantic interest, it’s important to talk frequently. How frequent will depend on the both of you, as it could be every minute of every day, every other day, a few times a day, etc.. Even more important is establishing that frequency, and letting them know this. For some, talking every day is no big deal. They text their friends all day, they love to video chat with others, so this won’t be an issue. While others perhaps feel drained talking all day with people. Maybe they want several hours or a day to rest and have time to themselves. Perhaps they are swamped with work or personal projects that they need to focus on. Everyone is different, so be sure to establish your preferences and what to expect in terms of how often you’ll be communicating.

I also mentioned advancing technology, and so be sure to utilize it as best as you can! Gone are the days of simple texting, and using colons and brackets as emojis. We can now send audio messages, videos, and photos with added content to others. So be creative, and thoughtful, by making an effort to go beyond texting that other person. Some of you might be shy to send selfies, or maybe you hate the way your voice sounds in an audio recording. Trust me, I get it. But remember, we may not know how long it’ll be until you see that person in real life and you don’t want conversations to be mundane just texting. They may feel the same way, too, about sending selfies or videos of themselves but make an effort to brighten your day and enhance the conversation. This is someone that likes you and you like them; with the goal of having this relationship last a long time. Make the experience as personal as you can, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone with them. After all, you’re in (or thinking of going into) a LDR so this is stepping into the unknown already! It’ll go a long way, too, because those little things can help with the struggles of living far apart. Trusting in yourself and this dynamic, being thoughtful and getting out of your shell, and constantly communicating are one key to making this work. I’ve tossed around the word ‘long’ a lot in this post; long-term, long-distance, long time because the goal of all this is hopefully long-lasting. But for the long game, you must embrace the paradox of me saying that all of this will eventually no longer work and must come to an end.

The Long Game

The other key for such a relationship to succeed is to willingly acknowledge that it’s only temporary. I’m not talking about the ‘relationship’, rather the ‘long-distance’ aspect of it. Both parties have to understand that there is an expiration date where “the decision” must be made: will one of us move to be with the other or not? This may be a question that is openly brought up from the start. You got a job in another country, and you and your partner discuss about them eventually following you there. Or maybe it was something that lingered in the back of your minds for some time. You met someone online, and are connecting, eventually thinking ahead to what comes next. Whatever the scenario, the long game has to be recognized early on. I’m not saying within the first week or even first month, but certainly not a year into that connection with a far away individual. It will vary between folks, and how well they connect, but try and aim for that 3-5 month mark. Why early on you may ask? Imagine you’re in a LDR with someone, and about a year into it you realize that you assumed they’d move to you but they actually won’t. Perhaps you want to move to a different country from theirs, and they don’t want to go there for specific reasons. Whatever it is, as soon as you see that conflict of interest, it might feel like the very core of this relationship was shaken.

This is why communication is so important here. However, you don’t have to necessarily talk about the ‘expiration date’ here yet. Just acknowledging that “Hey, if we want this to work, we both have to be on the same page here about being comfortable moving”. As ideal as it would be for both parties to be open to moving, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. Perhaps certain job prospects aren’t high in that other location, or they have an established career at home that they would hate to leave. Other people are very close to their friends and family, and refuse to ever leave their side no matter what. Talk about this. You may even negotiate something like living in your home region, for a certain amount of time, before going to theirs or some other place. For some, the life of moving is natural to them so maybe home lies in the container of their luggage. Again, the more open both parties are to moving, the better, but as long as one is open to it then it can work. If it turns out no one is really comfortable moving, discuss this, because the last thing anyone wants is to waste their time. That’s not to say getting to know someone and staying in touch is a waste, but when romantic interests are involved then do the right thing and don’t let time go by knowing it isn’t going to work out.

On the flip side of that coin, unexpected things can occur in one’s life. Maybe you got a job promotion, a family member is very ill, or someone else is starting to get your romantic attention close to home. As much as we wish the ride runs smoothly, we can’t predict life and sometimes it might lead to LDR couples to say “let’s take a pause on this” or “maybe this isn’t working out”. This is where an ‘expiration date’ needs to be set. Now, when I use that term, I am not saying it in a cold way nor is there an actual cutoff date where you magically part ways as if nothing before had happened. The meaning behind ‘expiration date’ is to allow an open conversation about a general time-frame for how this LDR will advance. Every couple is different and we must take different factors into consideration such as jobs, money, and time. For example, let’s use the couple who meets online and is waiting to meet for the first time in person. Not every couple will do an LDR with the immediate intention of moving there to be with them. There may be some hesitancy still about meeting a stranger you met online. It’s natural! Happens all the time locally, so of course it’ll feel amplified when it’s someone globally. So they may agree that one will fly over for a vacation to meet the other, as well as travel their region, and then decide if moving permanently will work in the coming months after.

That is one example of the time-frame I mentioned, but it might look differently for others. Some may move quickly within a few months with no hesitation, while others might take 3 years before ending the long-distance part of their relationship. Communication, in general, is the point I’m hammering home here. Because this is something that might be commonly forgotten until it’s getting close to being too late to discuss. Many people in LDRs might focus on just taking things day-by-day but, like normal relationships, it’s important to look ahead as well in terms of where things are going. Because this long-distance situation isn’t something that is built to last 10+ years. It is meant to be temporary. I don’t think anyone has the patience and willpower to be committed to someone for that long that they can’t hold and touch. Even if life brought them closer and they ended up together years later, like in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, they still went their own ways and lived their own lives in the meantime.

Eventually, both parties in a LDR will have to agree and say “Hey, if we can’t meet or one of us can’t move in X amount of time, then it’s okay that we move on. At least we tried”. You might read that and feel like it would be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be. By that point, you’re already well into the relationship and well-connected to be open about such things. It’s better than not talking about it, and then seeing them become distant or with someone else. It’s important to discuss this, because you may be on a different time-frame than the other person. As much as you may wish to be together, in person, by the end of the year, they might say it’ll be more realistic by the end of next year. Again, this ties into who you are as a person and your goals. We can’t expect the other person in a LDR to wait forever. It wouldn’t be fair to each other to do that, as we all have our lives to live and if it’s not with each other then allow them to find it with someone else. It’s hard to call an end to relationships, but by establishing a general time-frame for LDRs, it gives you extra motivation to try to resolve the ‘long-distance’ issue. And if it doesn’t get resolved, then you have time for your heart to prepare for this moment and no longer have to wonder if (or when) you’ll ever meet.

As I begin my conclusion, if you see the LDR might not work in the end, don’t feel like you suddenly stop talking with the other person. Like in any other romantic relationship, it’s up to you if you want to stay in touch with someone if it doesn’t work out. And like other relationships, if it ends on good terms, it doesn’t mean that the care for the other person vanishes either. You both can still care and love one another, as you want the best for each other the rest of their lives. At least you took a chance, that not many would have in the past, and you can still be amazing and supportive friends. Of course, you want it to succeed though, so do your best to not only follow the keys to success but the other factors I mentioned: patience, willpower, and experience. And you already know it – communicate, communicate, communicate!

You never know what the future has in store down the road, but just know you’re not the only ones going through this. Others, literally, around the world are experiencing this; especially this past year due to the pandemic. Many are now virtual dating, which allows them to get to know others who might live farther away from home. While intimacy is a big part of any dating/romantic relationship, of course it’s more difficult to be intimate virtually; not just during the pandemic, but in LDRs in general. However, keep in mind a positive thing about that is it allows you to simply talk and get to know the other person – their personality, goals, interests, etc.. Building that spiritual connection first, can make the physical connection even more enjoyable whenever you meet in person; pandemic-related or not. And if LDR works or has worked for you, please share this! Be sure to comment about your success story, as I’d love to hear about it and so others can be inspired too. Remember, there are many wonderful people around the world, and with technology bringing us closer don’t hesitate to talk and get to know someone. You never know what can happen. Just be sure to listen, communicate, and not be afraid to take a chance. . .

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