Dec. 28, 2014

Behind Closed Doors: The long distance relationship paradox

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September 4, 2014

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I know long-distance relationships better than most. Until last month, there was an ocean between my boyfriend and me, and even now I still need a passport to go see him. Ask anyone who has done long distance, and they will almost certainly tell you it’s not always easy. Take it from me, though, if you and your long-distance flame decide that you want to try to keep things going, there are ways to make that work.

First, if you have any doubt as to whether you want to stay with your summer romance or high school boyfriend, you need to call it quits now. Making things work requires total commitment to your partner, and that includes total sexual commitment. Action on the side simply won’t work. If you’re in a long distance “open” relationship, that’s essentially the same thing as being single with a faraway friend.

The toughest part about long distance relationships is, undoubtedly, spending so much time physically apart. Physical intimacy is a huge part of any relationship, and is severely limited when geography gets in the way. The reality of the situation is that sex will be less frequent, and the ability to be spontaneous is greatly curtailed when you have to make plans well in advance to meet up. That being said, the anticipation that builds up between visits is not without benefits. Sure, you’re limited in terms of frequency, but that only serves to increase the intensity when you finally do get to be together.

So you’ve made the plans to see your significant other and the day has finally come. With all of the excitement, there are a few things to keep in mind. Things tend to get heavy quickly. The sex will probably be intense (and abundant) at first, and you want to get as much out of it as you can. Avoid bikini waxes for the few days leading up to your rendezvous. Maybe do some stretches. Neither of those suggestions is really a joke. Even more importantly, you need to come prepared. There is no worse situation than finding yourself without protection when you finally get to be together. In the heat of the moment, you don’t want to do anything you will regret later.

For the times when you do have to be apart, there are more ways than ever to keep in touch. Skype is a life-saver. Snapchat is a great way to let someone know you’re thinking of them. Phone calls and even old-fashioned love letters are tried and true ways to keep things going. As a couple, you can find something that works for you. For some couples, that includes getting intimate over long distance. Apparently it’s a widespread enough practice that ‘N Sync released a song about it in the early 2000’s called “Digital Getdown.” You can decide for yourself whether to look that one up. In this day and age, plenty of couples use Skype, phone calls and Snapchat to stay connected when they can’t be physical. Just keep in mind when you’re deciding what is best for you that once it’s on the internet, it’s out there forever.

Long distance relationships don’t work for everyone, and at times they can be difficult. If you decide that you want to give it a try, though, there are definitely success stories. A 2013 paper in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that distance does not affect relationship quality, as measured by factors such as intimacy, satisfaction and commitment. When predicting the quality of a relationship, what really matter are the characteristics of the people involved.

If you’re right for each other, you can make it work. In the time that you do get to spend together, you’ll be glad you tried.

Cate. M is a Behind Closed Doors columnist who very much wants to join the Mile High Club, which sounds like a bit more fun than the Miles Apart Club.

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