It's accepted wisdom that LDRs - Long Distance Relationships - are a nasty idea and one must stay away from them if one can. However I know /me counts surrpetitiusly about 5 or so couples who are/were in an LDR and most of them are doing very well, thank you. The biggest geographical gap amongst my acquaintance was the UK - Australia.

I think LDRs are possible if approached maturely and conducted carefully, and provided there is much true love to hold it all together. And I have some practical advice, too.

I am eminently qualified to give it, since I'm now married to someone I met through the 'net and with whom I spent the first 2 years on different contienents. We were even in different countries for 5 months after we got married!

The one essential, unshakable, absolutely necessary rule of LDRs is:

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Whether it is by phone, IRC, mail, email, fax or carrier pigeon, make sure that there is contact between you at least every other day, even if you're on different sides of the world.

Some of the reasons why this is paramount are:

  • That's the only way you'll get to know one another well enough for the relationship to transcend the LDR stage and endure.
  • It's incredibly easy to misunderstand a person who's far away and you can't see what they're doing - make sure you never leave anything hanging, as the insecurity the separation brings with it will make you blow it out of all proportion in two seconds flat.
  • It's good to know you're not alone. That the other party misses you too. Sounds corny, but it's a big help, because when you haven't seen the other person for very long, and none of your friends have ever even met them, you start thinking maybe you imagined the whole thing.

If you have any other friends that are in an LDR, stick with them - there's strength in numbers, and in knowing you're not the only one crazy enough to be doing this. We had our own mailing list with all our LDR friends on it, and an IRC server set up specifically to let two of them talk to each other, but we got to use that too.

Throughout our relationship, my reasoning was this: "if I've found someone for whom all this pain and longing are worth it, that means I love him very much indeed." Don't stay in an LDR becuase you think you'll never find anyone who'll love you on sight or up close or for real or full time or at all - when you're trying to find love is a bad time to be feeling sorry for yourself.

The long-distance relationship (LDR) has many advantages and disadvantages. Generally, unless this is The One it is best avoided. But at some point most of us will meet a person who is or seems to be so sexy/smart/nice/funny that the disadvantages will be temporarily obscured, and an LDR will ensue. Thus I offer the following suggestions.

1) Get a really good long-distance calling plan. A plan that offers unlimited calling for a low monthly rate is best. When the LDR is good, you will no doubt want to call your loved one everytime you have a good day (or a bad day) or learn something new; in fact, you will want to call everytime you breath. When it is bad, you will want to call to be reassured that it is not bad, or to fight. These phone calls will add up to lots of money, and a big phone bill arriving after you have broken-up will cause bitterness. (Damn, I could have called people I like!)

2) Get used to long periods of abstinence followed by a brief weekends of having tons of sex with a person you barely know anymore. Actually, this isn't unlike my normal state of being except that when you are in a LDR, you know that there is someone you could be having sex with regularly but for the cruel facts of geography. And if an opportunity to have sex with a stranger arises, you will have to say no, or suffer from guilt which will erode the LDR. And remember, even if your loved one is thousands of miles away, it is a small world. You will get caught!

3) If you can develop an enjoyment of suffering than you will love being in an LDR! Learn to brood, wear black clothing to signify your dispair and always remember to share your pain with friends. Because they care they will want to listen to long accountings of how great your long-distance love is, and how painful the seperation is to you. If they don't, then they aren't your real friends. If at the demise of the LDR you find yourself without friends, well this will suit your new, darker personality. After all, we all die alone in the end.

Final note: If possible, try to have an open relationship. This will allow you the freedom to sleep with other people without the above mentioned guilt. And since your loved one is far, far away, you probably won't have to actually meet any of the people s/he dated in your absence.
Okay, here are my first-hand tips to not fucking up an LDR the way I did:

because i really don't know what I'm talking about.

A year ago, I sat here biting my nails and consulting these writeups. I live in Nashville, and the guy I love had just moved to Los Angeles. I was hoping that e2 could provide a magical crystal ball/heartache numbing ointment/miracle. I paid close attention to everything here, and following other noders' advice really helped us. We've stayed together and stayed strong for a little more than a year now. In that time, I've realized some things that aren't included here:

1. Matt and I had been apart for almost a year, and then we spent out three-month summer vacation together. After being apart for so long, living together again requires some adjusting. We'd lived apart for so long that we'd almost forgotten that face-to-face relationships require things like compromise, dealing with someone else's problems, and looking at someone else's messes. During this period, be understanding, be affectionate, talk things out, and maintain a sense of humor. Remember, this is the person you love, and you're not perfect either. After a week or two, you'll get your pre-long-distance vibe back. And it'll be even better than before.

2. Don't bother getting into a long-distance relationship unless you're so serious about the person that you're willing to relocate for them. Unless you want to be long-distance forever, someone's going to have to move. This goes for BOTH people, because if you're not equally serious about each other, it's not going to work.

3. Expect your social life to change. I didn't see this one coming at all, and it was probably the hardest thing for me to deal with. Hanging out with your single friends and going bar hopping just doesn't feel right when you're not looking for love. Hanging out with your paired-up friends is a little better, because they are usually more sympathetic when you start to talk about long-distance woes. But being around other couples can be depressing.
If your social life does change for the worse, don't take it out on your beloved. Remember, he or she is going through the same thing.

Warning: This is a slightly sappy writeup. If you don't like that, your time would perhaps be better spent elsewhere. This is intended to glorify the potentially powerful benefits of a long distance relationship.

There are some things you will learn if you ever end up in a good long distance relationship. You may learn, for example:

Thanks to Evilrooster for suggesting the second to last item.

"Don't date him. How are you supposed to keep an eye on him when he's in another state? How can you trust him if you can't keep your eye on him all the time?"

This was the advice given to me about long distance relationships in an attempt to save me from pain. If you feel like you have to keep an eye on your Other then long distance relationships are not for you. If you have been cheated on frequently, dumped a lot, and lied to routinely then long distance relationships may not be the best course of action for you. One of the basic "musts" for a long distance relationship, of any relationship, is trust. You have to trust that the person will be faithful, that they will be honest and that they won't intentionally hurt you. You also have to be absolutely sure that you will be able to remain faithful and honest, and that you would never intentionally hurt them.

When you enter into a long distance relationship you have to be prepared. It's hard. If you've been in one for several months and it's not hard then you should seriously ask yourself why. Because you should miss them so much that every day you're apart feels like a week. You should feel certain degrees of envy when you see other couples holding hands. When I started reaching for a hand that wasn't there, a hand that was two states away and was probably clutching a book at that very moment, I knew I was in trouble. Realizing that you're holding your own hand because you long for him to hold it is a bizarre moment. On some level I knew that I was getting attached to this person, that my happiness began to depend on him. This is where a survival guide becomes handy, as it's when you realize you are attached to someone and that you need them that problems generally start.

Let it out.
Communicating with your loved one at a distance generally tends to distort the message. You can't read their body language and the intent behind their seemingly cruel comment is lost. Maybe they were teasing you, starting some playful banter that people who care about each other often exchange. My point is don't react right away. Ask yourself if the comment is out of character. Don't call them up and start yelling at them and don't bottle it up and try to be the bigger person and let it go. Unfortunately "letting it go" doesn't seem to work that often. All it does is make you unsure of them, of yourself, of the relationship. Eventually these things start eating away at you and then they explode. Something like mentioning an old girlfriend shouldn't be enough to destroy your relationship. If it is, then it probably wasn't meant to be. So if something makes you feel bad, hurt, confused, etc. just ask them about it.

Making time is important.
When you can't see the person you care about all that often, it's important that you make some time to talk to them on the phone, on the internet, however you can. You don't have to carry a cell phone or beeper around so that they can contact you at every given moment during the day, but you might want to consider scheduling a nightly date. A time when the two of you can spend an hour just talking about your respective days. When you keep in touch regularly the distance doesn't seem so much, because even though they aren't there with you it feels like they are. They still get to share in your frustrations and you still get to share in their exciting moments.

Give them a little room.
I know what you're thinking, they're hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles away they have all the room they need. You spend all your time thinking about them, wondering what they're doing, wondering when you'll see them again..they should do the same right? They should send you emails, text messages, letters, leave voice mails for you several times a day. Every day. Wrong. They might have important things going on, sick relatives, exams, hellish deadlines to meet. You can't expect them to be actively thinking about talking to you every second of the day. That doesn't mean that they aren't carrying thoughts of you around with them, it just means that they have responsibilities that they have to take care of. You need to understand when they tell you that it might be a day before you talk to them again. You need to understand if they have to cancel your scheduled date one night because they are behind on work or have a paper to write. You have to be willing to bend.

Get a life.
If all you do is go to work and come home..or have no job so you sit around bored all're bound to make your situation worse. People with hours of nothing to do think a lot If your loved one is hundreds of miles away and you haven't heard from them all morning your mind will begin to spin tales. Suddenly the absence of your daily "Good Morning" is because they don't really care about you. And if you talk to them online and you have nothing better to do but hang around all day just waiting for them to make an appearance..then POUNCE...well that's no good either. Greeting your loved one is always a joy, but if you then begin IMing them constantly it has the potential to grow annoying. So go outside, enjoy the day, visit with friends, shop, job hunt, watch a movie. Keep yourself occupied or you'll drive yourself and your Other crazy. This doesn't mean that you can't send them a text message when you're thinking about them. Just don't overdo it.

Be true to yourself.
Shakespeare didn't fluff up his plays with extra words the way some of us pack poetic nonsense into our fiction. It is important that throughout any relationship of any kind that you remain true to yourself. Every relationship has bumps in the road and if you feel in your heart that this person means something more to you than just a friend, then you should fight for the relationship. You should work through the problems. You shouldn't give up. But if you are unhappy, if you know that staying in the relationship will only make you both unhappy in the end then you have to be honest. Some things you can't see until it gets to be too late.

Also in this category, don't pretend you're someone you're not. If you have to make yourself into something you're not to please your Other (bedroom fantasy scenarios not included..unless you're doing something you think is icky but they really want to do) then the relationship isn't going to last. You're fooling them and you're making yourself unhappy. It takes a lot of work to keep up the pretense and eventually you'll slip up. Or get so tense with hiding the truth of who you are that it falls apart in an argument that ends the relationship anyway. Just be yourself. If they can't deal, then they're not for you. (note: things like learning to pick up after yourself are not applicable)

I am not a relationship counselor. I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist or therapist of any kind. My advice comes from my own experience and the shared experiences of my friends. It's basic. Common sense, really. You just have to recognize when your rational side is on vacation because your heart is involved. Somehow even the smartest people fall victim to the paranoia brought about when you put yourself, and your heart, on the line.

cbustapeck says Also, you can sing "I will survive" =)

I was in a long-distance relationship for three years and one of those years was spent with my boyfriend on another continent. We were long distance from the start, since we met online, but we made it through and are engaged and living in the same city now. Looking back, it sometimes seems like it wasn't that bad, but make no mistake, a long-distance relationship is incredibly difficult and requires a high level of dedication and maturity on both parts.

It will not be fun

You may love the person, but this isn't going to be a lot of romance and dates. You have to get used to the fact that your level of commitment to the other person has to be much higher than might be normally expected in a dating relationship. You have to trust them, be able to talk to them honestly, and be willing to make time for them (which is even harder when the other person lives in a vastly different time zone). You will have to let things go. You can't let fights fester, because the other person isn't going to be there to remind you how much you love them with a hug or a sorrowful look. You both have to slog through the problems and work shit out. There will be lots of angst.

Get a computer

I spent a lot of money on phone calls until we started using voice chat programs to talk via computer. It revolutionized things. We could talk as long as we wanted and it was invaluable in avoiding international phone fees. We'd always talked via ICQ and AIM before, but having free phone calls helped us stay in touch much better than by just chatting online.

Know when it will end

It's not important that the end of the relationship be marriage, but you should both have a clear idea when the separation will be over and what both of your levels of commitment are. My boyfriend and I knew that we had four years to get through while I finished college. We managed to cut a year off of that, but having an idea of when the end was, even though it was far away, always helped. If you don't know when you will be back together again (for good, not just for a visit) then it will be much harder to keep going.

Sex will be weird

If you're in a sexual relationship, that's obviously another factor that gets distorted by distance. The longest we were apart at one time was seven months and when I saw him again I hardly recognized him. It was hard because he would want a lot of sex and I wouldn't, having basically ignored my sex drive for months on end. But whatever the situation, having sex again with someone you haven't seen for a while can be strange.

Reuniting will be hard

It was probably harder than it needed to be for me, since when my boyfriend and I reunited we were also going through reverse culture shock from both having lived for the past year or so in another country. But even though being in the same place again seems like it will solve all your problems, it won't. You both will have changed and won't be used to having the other in your daily life. You won't be used to interacting with each other and physical affection will take some time to work out. After three years apart, it took my boyfriend and I four or five months to get comfortable with being together again and work out how being together changed our lives.

Having a long-distance relationship required an extraordinary amount of commitment, trust, and slogging through bucketfuls of angst. I got engaged part way through and actually it didn't really come as a surprise. Both of us had put such a level of stubborn determination into making it work that it felt like the commitment to getting married couldn't possibly be harder. In a way, we'd both decided on a marriage-like attitude towards each other from maybe halfway through, simply because that's what it took for us to keep it together.

The best thing to remember though is that it can be done! It's hard and will force you both to go through a lot of pain, but you can get though and it and your relationship will be the stronger for it.

One thing overlooked in the above write-ups, it seems to me: Don't mind people who won't believe you're in a relationship.

You see, especially if it's been long-distance from the first, if your friends and family don't regularly see you physically with someone, it can be hard for them to accept that you are spiritually and emotionally with someone. They conclude that it must not be a "real" relationship.

This goes beyond the objections along the lines of "how do you know e's not cheating?" I haven't yet gotten a sarcastic "of course you're in a relationship, Big See," but at first I definitely got vibes that people have a certain level of dubiousness about the whole thing.

This means, of course, that once you're together, you can't break up for at least a year, lest there be tsking.

Some of what I'm going to say here will be more or less a restating (or, perhaps less kindly, "rehash") of what was said before, but being that I've gone through both an unsuccessful long distance relationship {from here on referred to as an "LDR") and a successful (so far, knock wood) one, I like to consider myself somewhat of an authority on the subject. That being said, here are a number of helpful do's and don'ts on how to get through an LDR without getting your heart broken.

I should point out that some of these tips apply to LDRs that begin by meeting over the internet, when some semblance of a romantic bond begins without benefit of meeting in the flesh first.

DO understand that frequent and regular communication is essential. Several months may pass before you see your significant other (from here on referred to as your "SO") in person, learn to rely on the telephone, e-mail, and instant messenger programs such as ICQ or Yahoo! to keep in touch. During the ten months when 2,500 miles separated me from my current SO, we made contact with each other in some form every day, even if it was just a text message.

DON'T make any sort of declarations of love, or even where your relationship formally stands, until you've met in person. Personality may be more important than appearance, but chemistry, that physical spark is still necessary to maintain a healthy relationship. It's where the line is drawn between being "just friends" and being "something more." It's not uncommon for that spark to fail to carry over into "the real world." This can be extremely painful, for both and you and the other party, if you've already convinced yourself and him or her that you're in love and a couple. It's not superficial to be unable to fake physical attraction to someone you genuinely care about, it's human nature.

DO be on the same page with your SO about the status of the relationship. If you think it's gotten to the point where you're no longer interested in dating other people, don't just assume your SO feels the same way. One issue that frequently comes up in LDRs is the belief that the parties involved should only be considered in a relationship when they're actually together. Your SO may not be comfortable with declaring you a formal couple until you're around each other all the time. You need to know this. It goes back to the most important element of a successful LDR: communication. You may have to ask some painful questions, and you may not always like the answers you'll get, but it'll save you a lot of heartbreak later.

DON'T wait too long to meet your SO in person, and after that, if at all possible, try not to let too much time lapse between visits. The former is so you can move on to deciding where the relationship is going to go (if anywhere), and it's far better off to find out sooner than later, as stated above. The latter is to keep what will sometimes be unbearable loneliness at bay. Even a long weekend every other month or so can help, and unless your SO is working in a research camp in Australia and you're in Nova Scotia, no distance is so great that you can't manage at least a twice-yearly visit, even if it's at a halfway point. There are good airfare and other travel deals to be found, and with planning and compromise it can be done. Even prisoners can have visitors.

DON'T maintain an LDR with a prisoner. They usually only want money.

DO understand that there will be an ending to an LDR, and it will come quickly. Either one or both of you will end up moving to be closer, and you will then just maintain a "normal" relationship (though everybody's idea of "normal" is different), won't, and the relationship will eventually dwindle down to nothing. Also understand that, once again, you and your SO have to both be aware and agree upon where the relationship is going to go. If you're searching the classifieds in his local newspaper while he's adding new and sexier pictures to his ad on OKCupid, there is a grave communication lapse somewhere, and it must be dealt with immediately. Other than in situations where you or your SO is in the military or in prison (and again, I can't emphasize enough that dating someone in prison, or while you're in prison yourself, is really not a good idea), an LDR really shouldn't extend past a year or so without some conceivable end in sight, whether that end involves planning your lives together or saying a painful but necessary goodbye. I recently found and browsed through a book recounting personal experiences with LDRs, including a couple who's maintained one for several years, with no intent on either's behalf of moving. I just don't see how this is possible. You know, unless you're some kind of emotional masochist.

DON'T attempt to maintain an LDR if you're under the age of 18. This is the big leagues, kids, and some level of emotional maturity is required to get through it. Many adults lack this maturity, as do even more teenagers. Really, at that age you shouldn't be committing yourself to someone romantically anyway, let alone someone who lives at least several hundred miles away from you.

DO be considerate of your SO's time, especially if you're in different time zones. It may feel like time stops whenever you're talking with your true love, but it doesn't, and while you may be ready and raring to go for another two or three hours of conversation at 9 p.m., it's getting well past bedtime for him or her. Alternatively, you should not feel like you have to stay up extra late every night waiting for the opportunity to touch base with your sweetheart. Oh sure, you'll want to, I'm just saying you're not required to, and your SO shouldn't make you feel as if you are. If you're the type of person who has trouble sleeping at night and is comforted by a voice on the phone, find a local friend, don't rouse your SO from slumber when he or she has to be up for work in three hours. LDRs are not for the selfish, and showing a consistent lack of consideration for your SO's time and needs, and vice versa, may give one pause to think that a successful long-term relationship is not in the cards.

DO learn to recognize "red flags". If something seems fishy to you about your SO or the situation itself, go with your instinct. This especially holds true if you and your SO have yet to meet in person, which is why I also suggest not waiting more than two months or so, if at all possible, before doing so. If your SO is hedging on meeting you "outside the box," so to speak, it could just be nervousness, self-consciousness about his/her appearance, or, hey, he/she could be getting red flags from you. This is all understandable, and again, with that vital communication, it can be worked through. On the other hand, he/she could already be involved in a relationship closer to home. He/she could only be interested in you for the ego boost he/she gets from knowing how you feel about him/her. He/she could be maintaining a number of LDRs, with no intent of any of them going anywhere. In the worst cases, he/she could be completely deceitful of who he/she is or even what he/she looks like. One of the sad aspects of the internet is many users' failure to acknowledge that, despite not really "knowing" them, they are still interacting with real people whose trust and emotions should not be toyed with cavalierly.
Some "red flags" that either I've personally experienced or have been noted by friends include...
--Giving only a cell phone number as a contact. Yeah, I know, this is pushing it in the day and age where some people don't bother with landlines anymore, but I gotta tell you, I have a friend with a knack for choosing less than suitable mates, and every one of them who only gave her a cell phone number did so because they were already living with someone, and of course didn't want to be called at home.
--Not giving any indication that he/she has told anyone about your existence. This is fairly self-explanatory. I'm not saying you or your SO should be making huge, gloppy public declarations of your love for each other (actually, that's a little tacky anyway), but if you've met someone, and you make each other happy, LDR or not you'll want to mention it to at least a few people who care about you and will enjoy your good news. If it becomes apparent that your SO is keeping your relationship a secret, find out why. Just chalking it up to being a "private person" isn't a valid enough reason. I'm a private person, my current SO is a very private person, but we quietly began discussing each other with our respective families and friends once we became a formal couple. Is someone not supposed to know about it? Find out who and why, and if this individual (or individuals) will remain an issue in your relationship in the long run. Is he/she embarrassed about being in an LDR? Sorry, kids, don't count on either scenario leading to a successful outcome.
--After a certain period of time, he/she still dodges any major discussions on where the relationship is going. This, sadly, happens sometimes once the initial first meeting takes place. The fact that in many people's eyes that makes the relationship officially "real" may cause some to panic and start wanting to back off without hurting his/her SO's feelings (this, of course, is impossible). Or, alternatively, he/she may be willing to discuss the next step, but shows no willingness to assist in taking that step. You may want to be the one to move anyway, but it doesn't hurt to ask your SO how willing he/she would be to move where you are instead. If he/she is absolutely adamant about not moving, or even changing his/her lifestyle to accommodate you, it may be an indicator of trouble ahead. Never be made to feel as if the responsibility for keeping the relationship on track is entirely on your shoulders, and never make your SO feel that way. You both chose to get into an LDR, it takes equal effort to maintain it and take it to the next level, if there is to be a next level. As in any relationship, it's about compromise, not control.
--Anything else that just seems fishy or off-kilter to you. A lot of it can and will be paranoia on your part, but a lot of it might not be either. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and all that...

DON'T be embarrassed. LDRs are becoming more and more commonplace, thanks to the internet. Granted, successful LDRs are less common, but they exist as well. If the relationship ends, don't minimize it for the sake of others, your pain will be real, and it will deserve to be acknowledged. If it's happily resolved with the two of you living in domestic bliss, its chances of long-term success are certainly no less than a relationship that began in a bar or a bookstore. If anything, the chances are better, because by now you should have learned to communicate more clearly and constructively than the average couple, and you've already weathered an extended separation. Not that you'll want to go through it again any time soon, but you get the idea.

That being said...

DON'T expect everyone to understand or take it seriously. This seems to be a generational issue, as in, people your parents' age and older are more apt to minimize, if not discount entirely, the validity of your LDR. This especially holds true if said LDR began by meeting through the internet. There is a not as large as it used to be but still very vocal faction of people who believe either a.) finding romance on the internet is for the desperately hopeless individual who is incapable of making conversation with people in "real" life or b.) the internet is populated almost entirely by sexual deviants and serial killers. While this may be true in some cases, most of the time the internet is just a useful tool for people who are too busy with work, school, being a single parent or otherwise to be out on the scene. And yes, a lot of them are just shy too, but that doesn't make them a loser, or socially maladjusted, or whatever. The chances of running into a wannabe Jame Gumb are probably just as good on the subway as on a Lord of the Rings bulletin board. And really, where you and your SO met is incidental, if you're in a happy, fulfilling relationship, what difference does it make?

DO understand that an LDR is not for everyone. You have to be strong of both heart and will to make it survive. There may be nights when you will cry yourself to sleep. You will learn to both love and loathe the sight of your local airport. You will need to be certain that your SO is worth the time and effort necessary to maintain an LDR, and more importantly, if you're making it worth his/her effort as well. This is something a lot of us don't stop to think. In a successful LDR, the benefits far outweigh the hazards. After my first disastrous attempt at one, I swore I'd never get involved in such a thing ever again. Taking another chance turned out to be one of the best things I've ever done. As of this past July 13th, my own long distance relationship evolved into just a normal relationship, where we get to see each other every day, and it's been terrific so far. Be willing, be open, be smart, and just understand what you're getting into. Love has a way of making a difficult situation not so hard to bear.

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