Eric and I are going on five years this July. Many people's response when they learn this is to say that I'm two years away from the seven-year itch.
With a long-distance relationship, that itch comes every four months and there was a scratch after two years. In the age of the Internet, I've noticed more friends and acquaintances have commented on their LDRs with questions like, "Oh is this right? Why isn't he communicating with me? Am I asking too much?" I have talked to Eric about a few of these concerns that pop up. Long distance relationships are not for everyone. It is like any other form of relationship or identity ... if it fits you then it fits you. If it doesn't ... then really you won't be happy in the long run.
Here are some techniques for surviving an LDR:
This technique comes from actually having non-sexual intimate relationships for a while. When I say self-love, I mean self-love physically. Physical dependence in relationships, although somewhat natural, is not always healthy in my opinion. If you get anxiety that the relationship is ending, that you cannot live without this person, if you are going to be lost in space, it's time to take a serious look at the relationship. Are you putting all of your eggs in one basket or are you taking care of yourself? The Buddhists believe that it's important to love yourself first and not expect one person to do everything for you and be your everything.
In terms of the intimate moments invest in what I call BOBs (i.e. Battery Operation Boyfriends) and self-loving tools. Think quality over quantity. They even make BOBs with USB cords that are controllable by your partners miles apart.
Communication is important in any relationship. Communication is vital for LDR. For medical emergencies it's always good to have phone numbers of people close to you. This may not include your partner primarily ... this is why it's always good to give the partner's phone number to a friend or family member. Although you do want to tell him ... if your appendix is about to burst, it's not a good time to call him, it's a good time to call a friend who lives in your town.
At the same time, knowing that your partner is reachable if you truly need to talk is also important.
I do not talk to Eric on the phone every day. He and I talk on the phone maybe once every two months if I am feeling down or if something serious is going on that I need his emotional support. Yahoo and Skype have very good features for communication. Skype calls are free as long as you don't want to register a phone number that will show up on caller-ID and Yahoo offers free webcaming.
Letters are still possible. The USPS is still there and even if it seems the only people using the system now are bill collectors, sending letters and postcards is a fun way to surprise your partner.
Laying Ground Rules
A term that has gained popularity over the past few years is monogamy non-monogamy. Monogamy non-monogamy is different than polyamory (having more than one partner who is at least intimate, if not sexual, in committed relationships). Monogamy non-monogamy consists of a monogamous marriage with the possibility of having other individuals in the relationship that share certain activities with a partner without having more than one relationship. In this structure, you have full communication and openness about sharing certain aspects of your life with another while respecting the boundaries of your marriage. There are four levels of monogamy non-monogamy:
- Strict Monogamy: There is no interest in adding any other person into the relationship
- Sexual Monogamy: You are monogamous sexually, but other emotional and physical sides are up for discussion.
- Emotional Monogamy: Your emotions and your partner's emotions belong in the relationship and no one else is privileged to them. Physical intimacy may be discussed depending on what type of emotion will be included. For example, if hugging or kissing a cheek has more meaning than just being a friend, this should be discussed beforehand. Context and how to deal with jealousy also needs to be discussed.
- Physical Monogamy: Physical monogamy, which can be viewed as an opposite of emotional monogamy, also need to be discussed. A partner may state "It's alright to do A, B, and C with them, but if I find out you kissed someone or called them a specific pet name I am going to be upset." Reactions start with perceptions.
On the other end, if you do have questions on polyamory feel free to check out my past posts. There is some good information in my past blogs about polyamory relationships and communication.
These are just a few techniques to begin conversing and negotiating a LDR. Have you been in an LDR and have some suggestions? Or are you interested in starting one and have some questions? Please feel free to share your comments.