4 Problems With Long-Distance Relationships

Travel at your own risk

Posted Jun 14, 2015

We now have planes, trains, and automobiles. So what’s the big deal if you have to travel a few hours to date someone? What’s the issue if you live in Maryland and want to see someone in New York, Florida, or even Canada for that matter? After all, you’ve been looking for “your one and only” for a couple of years now without much success. You’ve exhausted most of the local prospects, so why not expand your horizons or in this case, your geographical radius.

Luckily, you live in the age of the Internet and, with it, a plethora of dating sites that can aid you in your travels. That’s right; now you can fasten your seat belt, push a few buttons, and connect with potential suitors from all over the country. It sounds nice doesn’t it? You meet people with accents—that can be exotic. You see interesting places—like Wickatunk, New Jersey? And if you live in the suburbs but want to date a city-slicker, that can be arranged. Courtesy of Dr. Seuss: Oh, the places you’ll go! But there’s a down side: Unless you carefully consider the following four issues, your long-range search for relationship nirvana may evolve into a nightmare. So before you board the train, give these a gander:

1.Time and Money – People will tell you how they hate commuting long-distances to work. “Do you realize how much time I spend in my car? Do you know how bad commuting is for my back? Do you realize how much I spend on gas and bridge tolls? I do realize that seeing your honey might justify your shlep, but chances are pretty good that it will eventually wear on you, especially if you’re a little up there in years. And if you’re traveling to a big city, consider how much the actual date will cost once you get there. A hamburger in New York City might be two to three times that of one in Springsteen’s “swamps of Jersey.” Trains might save you on parking, but they’re not that cheap, and some move slower than a Russian novel.

2. Familiarity – It’s vital to get to know someone at the deepest level possible before making a serious commitment. Seeing someone on weekends or once a month just won’t cut it. I’ve always said that you can’t really know someone until you’ve traveled with them or lived with them. Well, you better make that both. Certain religions forbid or frown upon living together before marriage, and I respect that. Some cultures have structures in place to support couples with little to no pre-marital familiarity such as those that advocate arranged marriages. But oftentimes seeing someone infrequently can create a longing that can blur reality. It may also prove valuable to see your partner in all contexts, under stress, and how they interact with family and friends.

3. Intimacy – Many people actually prefer long-distance relationships. A client exclaimed: “Perfect, I see him on Saturday nights and that’s enough. I’m too busy to be bothered during the week and Sundays I have chores to do.” Okay, that seems to make sense. But some of these individuals have intimacy issues that may “never” abide. Many of them wish to connect at a distance; push the connection any closer and you'll see real problems..

4. Risk – A long-distance relationship leaves a gap between people. The larger the gap and the longer it exists, the greater the risk that the relationship will eventually fail. Why do so many soldiers serving overseas receive dreaded "Dear John" letters from their wives? Distance breeds loneliness, infrequent sex, and a lack of emotional and physical support. You don’t need a PhD to figure out that the affair rates are higher when couples reside too far apart and for extended periods of time.  Especially in times of stress, people reach out to others to whom they can commiserate with, and before you know it…

I’m not suggesting that long-distance relationships can’t work. Some people are tenacious, persevering, self-sufficient, and exceedingly loyal. These individuals have a better chance of achieving success. And if you can hack traveling for the first few dates perhaps lightening will strike. Who knows? But relationships are difficult as is—adding undue inconvenience might only exacerbate problems. At the very least, people should delve into the real reasons for their desire to date long-distance. Have they really run out of geographically desirable suitors, or are they setting themselves up to break free once their intimacy quota has been reached?

A former client of mine who had joined a popular dating site told me that a woman admonished him for refusing to date her; he lived in New Jersey and she in Texas. She told him that she felt sorry for him because he was small-minded, having created a little world for himself. In a condescending tone she said: “We do have something called an airplane you know.” I say, people are on these sites for a variety of reasons: some good and some bad. Perhaps my client did miss the boat, or in his case the airplane, but in doing so he may have dodged a bullet.