I tried desperately to lower my voice, the strain more evident with every syllable. This wasn’t the time nor the place. But it hardly ever was for these types of conversations.
“I think, maybe we shouldn’t talk for a little while, take a break from each other, get our heads together,” I’d said. “We can take some time to think and then decide how we want to proceed from there.”
His silence spoke for him. He didn’t agree. And I didn’t blame him. Hell, I hardly agreed. I just wanted to stop the incessant arguments that’d become a staple in our phone conversations. I liked to get my point across probably a wee bit more than the next woman but even I tired of bickering.
Statistically speaking, my life sucked. And so did my bound-to-fail relationship. I’d joined the ranks of some 25 to 40% of college relationships that were long-distance. Out of those 25 to 40%, only about 1 in 10 of those far-far-away relationships resulted in a ring, which in my case, is the end goal. If you include the laundry list of things that have rendered me completely dating challenged in the past, the odds fell in favor of a long life with cats. But we couldn’t call it quits. My last post taught me a little about relationship gumption and I’d developed a fair-sized pair of cojones since then. I’d be lying though, if I said I wasn’t feeling a little hopeless. So if breaking up wasn’t an option, what could we do?
We could always start with actually identifying the problems. What exactly makes long-distance relationships suck? Why are they even more prone to failure than most relationships? And most important, what can we do about it? Well let’s break it down.
(1) The distance
What I Read: Long-distance relationships actually defy science. Proximity, or how close you physically live and breathe to another person, is the most reliable factor for determining the development of close relationships. Did you ever wonder why all your college friends lived on the same floor as you? Or why you became best friends with the woman who works in the cubicle across from yours? The closeness effect applies to family relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships. In a nutshell, you are closer to those who are, well–closer.
What You’ve Got To Do: Trick your brain into feeling a little less distant. How? This is where communication and modern technology team up to overcome the miles between two people.
What I’ve Tried:
Playing games together works. Me and Mr. Right-For-Now are avid “Wordfeud” players, an Android phone version of the popular word game Scrabble. Although nothing beats actually sitting down and playing a board game, playing together on our phones comes pretty close.
Sending pics randomly makes you both feel better. Not that my sweetie would ever forget what I look like but a reminder doesn’t hurt every once in a while.
Video chatting aka Skyping or Ovooing serves as a good alternative to talking on the phone mostly because you can see the other person’s face. Although for this one, I might suggest actually having something specific to talk about. Staring at each other can get awkward after a while.
What I Read: When your relationship is largely based around this medium, you’ve got to be good at it. And if you’re not good at it, you better get good at it. You’ve also got to do it more than the average couple. Couples that see each other often get the luxury of not speaking to each other because they can spend time in the same place without communicating. But because you have to talk so often, sometimes you run out of things to talk about.
What You’ve Got to Do: The key here is balance. Understand that both too much communication and too little communication can be detrimental.
What I’ve Tried:
Varying the communication mediums keeps you guessing just as much as changing up the places the two of you like to frequent. Me and Mr. Right-For-Now have indulged in poetry writing, text messages, and phone calls, Twitter, Oovoo, and Facebook chat. The point is don’t get in a communication rut. If you don’t switch it up, one method may get a bit overbearing.
Debating gives conversing new meaning. Stay abreast with the latest issues, whether it be news or pop culture, and talk about the hot topics. Bring up an issue that the two of you can take opposite stands on and have it out. In addition to eradicating the dead space over the hotline, debating helps you learn more about your Mr. or Mrs. Significant Other.
Forget your pride. If you want to call, text, Oovoo, etc. then you don’t always have to wait for the other person to start it. Most likely, the person on the receiving end can’t wait to hear from you also.
Don’t be afraid to take days off. If you crave alone time and you don’t feel like talking, don’t be afraid of that either. And in those times, respect each other’s independence! This can actually be one of the benefits of being in a long-distance relationship. You usually have plenty of time for friends and independent activities while still having someone.
(3) Romance and Intimacy
What I Read: For some, this is the most vital component missing in their relationships. No kisses, no hugs, no cuddling, no sex, no dates. At least not always when you want it. And oftentimes, the lack of physical intimacy and romance makes the mind a target for temptation. In a far-far away relationship, thoughts still count but nothing beats action.
What You’ve Got to Do: Get creative. Find ways to supplement each other’s physical needs without being together.
What I’ve tried:
Surprises hardly ever fail. The internet makes it that much easier to send “Thinking of You” gifts and have it delivered directly to the other person’s front door.
Discuss the future and indulge in a little fantasy. I am famous for posing hypothetical situations that might come up during marriage or while living together. This opens the door for partners to think about what the future could hold. It gets your hopes up so that the two of you actually bank (and subconsciously plan) on being together. And it can be surprisingly romantic. One time Mr. Right-For-Now and I even went as far as finding a dream home on the HGTV website that we both loved.
Make the moments together count and last. If you get through a lot of the fighting and hard conversations on the phone, times together stay light and carefree. And doing extremely enjoyable and memorable activities together can oftentimes tide you over until the next encounter.
What I’ve Read: The #10 reason for cheating on AskMen.com’s Top 10 Reasons Women Cheat and Top 10 Reasons Men Cheat both had to do with lack of sex. And when you’re both not getting as much intimacy as you’d like, the other men or women in your significant other’s life pose a much more viable threat. In other words, people who may not have jealousy issues typically might see them sprout up in a long-distance love affair.
What You’ve Got to Do: Establish some ground rules to insure each other’s sanity and comfort.
What I’ve Tried:
Reaffirming the relationship gives your partner less reason to worry. Try not to hold back “I love you’s” “I miss you’s” and “If only you were here’s” because they mean something to the other person. Even a more serious conversation about the reasons why you love someone gives the other person a solid foundation.
Honesty’s the best policy. Leave room in the relationship to talk about other men and women. Many of you are confused by this one. So I’ll explain. I often ask my beau who he finds attractive, if they’re were cute girls at the place he ventured with his friends, who he has a crush on at work, etc. Because the reality is, I’m not the only woman in the world and I don’ t expect him to find only me attractive. If he feels he can freely express those types of things and vice versa, a higher level of trust develops. And the more you guys get used to talking like this, the less hearing about other people will bother either of you.
Maintain mutual respect for each other’s wishes and that will ease the tense moments. If he wants you to delete that stalkerish guy from your Facebook, discuss why. It’s then up to you to weigh how he feels versus the thing he’s asking you to do. And if you decide his feelings outweigh the stalker’s potential ego-blow, concede to his wish. Of course this works both ways. On bigger issues, neither party has to completely give in but always be willing to compromise for the sake of the other person’s feelings.
After agreeing angrily to not speak, I went home and spent some time alone in mediation and reflection. And it didn’t take me long to realize refusing to speak for a week would solve little. We needed to talk now more than ever. We needed to go back to the basics, back to simply enjoying the sound of one another’s voice. He woke up that morning to a long voicemail message from me apologizing and asking to try another method. Later that night, when he got home from work, we delighted ourselves in a friendly debate.
Our friendly interaction that night permitted us both to relax. And relaxing helped us tackle the much more difficult issues next. With the issues promptly assessed, the two of us could move forward with hope and a positive attitude. As one of my sisters always tells me, “change your attitude, change your life.” In that same respect, change your outlook on your relationship and watch your relationship change right in front of you.