I remember when I decided to go away to do some courses abroad in a small city outside of Amsterdam. I had been accepted to do graduate level seminars and, despite the fact that I was in a committed and loving relationship with a man I adored, I could not turn the opportunity down. Moving halfway across the world for a year will put a strain on any relationship. Long distance is never easy.
When I left for the Netherlands, my boyfriend took me to the airport in his beat up band van, we kissed and cried and acted like the most dramatic couple in the entire universe and then, I handed the guard my passport and was gone. The only thing that was going to make this relationship last, of course, was Skype, calling cards and a whole lot of trust. It turns out the last one is the hardest to manage when you are in your 20s.
So, I went to the Netherlands and got on with my life. My boyfriend got on with his life in our hometown. We talked as much as we could but the nine hour time difference and complete change of lifestyle made it hard to stay as solid as we had been. After a few months he came to visit me and even though it was great, I still felt that things had changed. Maybe I had changed? Maybe it was him? It did not really matter.
Later in the year I had an affair with my scholarly mentor. It was not that serious, but it was intense and I just got wrapped up in the moment. I heard rumors that my boyfriend had slept with other people too. The thing was that we denied this to one another. We did not want to face the fact that being physically apart had actually drove us emotionally apart. As defeating as it was, it actually was not at all surprising. It’s natural that time zones, continents and lifestyle changes drive a huge stake between a couple. When I finally got back home our relationship resumed as normal, but it did not last.
Looking back I realize that so much of our failure had to do with maturity. However, I know people who have been successful at long distance and there are a few things that need to be addressed. Being in a long-distance relationship is not a natural situation so it needs to be treated with a fresh, unique outlook on dating. It needs to be treated like the freak it is. Here are three things to try on for size when your love is halfway across the planet.
Saying “Whatever” To Monogamy
As I mentioned in the beginning of this, trust is the biggest thing in a long-distance relationship. And I do not mean trust as in “I trust this person will not cheat on me,” but I mean trust as in “I trust that when we are together we will be together.” In other words, I truly believe that when you and your partner have to spend long periods apart, turning a monogamous relationship into a “monogamish” relationship (this is a term invented by Dan Savage which basically means an open relationship) might be a step in the right direction.
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