Applied Table Theory – Proximity: Long Distance Relationships

Let me start by saying there is no such thing as a long distance relationship.

Sorry. If you’ve never actually met the girl IN person and never spent a significant amount of time interacting with her outside of World of Warcraft, you have no relationship.

If you’re reading this article because that’s what you thought I’d be talking about, get off your computer, become attractive, and go meet some women in real life.

That’s not the focus of this column.

What I’m going to focus on here is a strong relationship that must, for unavoidable reasons, endure periods of distance.

See, what happens to most people, is they get into a relationship, then something happens, and then they end up separated without having broken off the relationship, or defined how it would work given the distance.

The “something” that separates you and your woman could be anything. Could be a new job in a new city that you or she can’t refuse. Could be something like a death in the family, and you’ve gotta fly back home for an indeterminate amount of time to settle the affairs. Could be that the Sith Lords have finally returned to wage war against the Jedi Order, and you’re needed on the outer rim.

Regardless of what causes it, sustained distance causes an undeniable strain on any relationship, and given enough time, will break ANY relationship.

Yeah. Try not to create too many “not-getting-laid-zones.”

Proximity, proximity, proximity.

There’s hope, though. Distance doesn’t always break relationships – it only does that if you handle it poorly.

Handling distance well, though, isn’t going to be all sunshine and roses. It takes work from both sides.

Here are a few things you need to be aware of if you’re gonna go long distance with your girl:

0) Decide whether you’re even exclusively dating each other, or whether it’s open season on each of your junks.

I know, you might be assuming that. But that’s the thing – when logistics aren’t an issue, you’re probably not even thinking about the fact that a major reason you both stay attracted to each other is because you are able to see each other the right amount. So, don’t make the decision to stick out long distance based on what your interactions are like when you’re together – base that decision on what you expect the DISTANCE to be like. If you can deal with the distance, go for it.

On the flip side, if your relationship is in a gray area where you’re not sure if you’re allowed to go on dates when she’s not around, or if she’s not sure of the same, you will likely both be in for a really awkward reunion.

Like I said – you have to decide whether you want to even try sticking through the distance before you consider the logistics of it. I’ve been in the situation where I thought a girl would stop seeing other people while she was away. She didn’t think that, and we never talked about it. Guess who was butt-hurt about it when she got back? Yep. This guy.

And plus – if you’re in an open relationship, distance isn’t really an issue, cause you’ve got other people, and she’s got other people.

1) You must have been together in the relationship long enough for you to BOTH want it to continue in spite of the distance.

If you’ve been dating a girl for a month, and you find out she has to leave for a PhD program halfway across the country – sorry, bud. It’s not going to work. See “Step 0” up there? You would both have to decide on whether you want to stick it out from the beginning – doing that on only one month of going out is hugely risky.

Why? Because the ratio of your time together versus your time apart will have been too great for you to have really invested in each other. You haven’t had time to build something you both would want to maintain for that period of time.

Just because I like to throw out numbers, your ratio of time spent dating a girl versus time her time away from you should not be lower than 2:1, and you have to have been together at least 3 months (seeing each other at least once or twice a week) before you separate. Meaning you’ve been dating for three months, you have a good shot at surviving a 1.5 month separation – more than that and the relationship starts becoming more of a burden than a pleasure.

Obviously, there’s some wiggle room in the 2:1 ratio. Depending on both of your levels of patience and investment in the relationship, it can be lower or higher.

2) You MUST both have a solid idea/plan of when you/she will return.

The most common situation I hear about is one member of a couple having to move away for a few months relating to work. They’ve been together for a year, and she’s going away for a 3 month gig with her company in Asia. This can work, because 0) they’re already exclusive, 1) they’ve been together long enough to know that they both want it to work out in spite of the distance, and 2) she knows exactly when she’s coming back.

That’s the good scenario, though. It’s not exactly typical.

What I see more often is that one person needs to go away for… “let me get back to you on that” number of months.

If you find yourself in a situation where you or she needs to move away and you don’t know when you’re coming back or if the other person can follow, you need to be really careful. If you want to try it, go ahead – but you best both nail down a solid plan ASAP. Cause again, once that “time together versus time away” ratio starts to approach 2:1, you’re in the danger zone.

3) While you’re apart, make sure your frequency of communication is balanced, and that you’re doing your best to keep it uplifting.

Remember – sometimes there’s such a thing as too much proximity. Being long distance isn’t your cue to become a needy guy who has to email his girl four times a day to remind her that he exists.

She already misses you. Stop ruining it by becoming annoying and reminding her how much better it’d be if you were both on the same continent every chance you get. Negative energy will get associated with the relationship.

Instead, continue about your life. She’ll be doing her things, you’ll be doing yours. That way, when you communicate, you have things that you can actually share with each other, that will make you excited to see each other again, versus sad about being apart.

Also, the methods you’re using to get in touch are important, too. Communication works on a lot of non-verbal levels. This is why talking face to face is so important – you get each other’s FULL communication.

That said, when you’re both not in the same room, you have to put in as much effort as you can to communicate clearly. For example, phone is better than email to have a back and forth conversation because you can detect her tone of voice, and make sure that your own is appropriate. Skype is better than phone, because you can see each other’s facial expressions.

In terms of frequency, I find that a weekly Skype call (no longer than 20 minutes, or however long it takes for you to share some good news, catch up, and then get back to life) works best. If I want to send a quick email during the week to say hello and quickly tell her about something exciting that happened that day, I do that too.

Again, communication becomes a problem when there’s too much (kills excitement) or too little (raises doubt about the relationship).

4) If your only reason for wanting to hang onto a relationship that must endure distance is that you’re afraid of ending up alone, you need to reassess your life.

Sadly this is what I see MOST often.

In my years giving dating advice, people, for the most part, simply stick in their long distance relationships because of insecurity. But, see, the problem here isn’t really the distance. It’s not even that the persons involved are minimally invested into being together.

It’s that neither of them is capable of being emotionally secure and fulfilled while alone.

If you are one of these people – and it’s REALLY hard to tell without asking someone who knows you really well – then distance, or really any kind of relationship, will not work out for you.

Be mutually independent BEFORE you attempt to overcome distance.

Conclusion…

Distance is hard. Period. And it can and will break your relationship if you let it get out of hand.

So, if you’ve found a great girl, and you’re in a solid, exclusive relationship, then you have to make it YOUR job to make sure logistics don’t become an issue for longer than necessary.

Distance is something that relationships can survive – it’s not something that helps a relationship grow. Every time two people successfully come out of a long distance situation, I guarantee you that every single day they were so far away that they couldn’t see each other, they were thinking about how much the situation sucked and how they couldn’t wait for it to be over.

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