Dating At A Distance

Category: Points Of View

Author: Jo Goforth

In my circles, I’m known as that bitch who is always getting into long-distance relationships. It’s a running joke that I seem to be in competition with myself to see how far away the next person can be. I keep stumbling into these relationships that bloom out of friendship, largely due to the online spaces that form more and more of our modes of connection these days. Out of these experiences, I’ve been giving some thought to the reasons I love long-distance and what I’ve learned that makes managing that separation easier.

The Long and the Short of It

My favorite part of long-distance dating is the level of independence it provides. I’m a socially active person and my work often involves talking to hundreds of people a day. So when I’m home, I need time to relax. Long-distance allows me relaxation time with a partner while also having physical space to myself. Virtual dates, phone calls, scheduling visits, and being emotionally open to each other are all key parts of long-distance relationships. But there is something particularly magical about people who have dedicated love to each other despite distance. Both have to agree that space is as much a part of their relationship as physical togetherness is, whether that space is temporary or long term.

“I appreciate the built-in space created by a long-distance relationship. There’s a level of intentionality required in any time that you spend together, which heightens the quality of the time you do have, and it’s comforting to know that you aren’t in the relationship out of convenience. LDRs are more like relationships of inconvenience, but that’s part of what can make them rewarding!” – Ellery, a friend

There is also so much travel I have undertaken because of far-flung lovers. I have visited three countries and multiple states I would not have if it were not for these relationships. To me, there’s no better way to decide on a destination than traveling to be with people you love. You get to see and experience cities in a compltely unique way. My partners get the chance to show me their favorite parts of where they live – and I get to do the same for them. As a New Yorker, it’s easy to get caught up in the difficult things about living in an expensive city, but getting to show the best of it to people I love makes me take time to appreciate it more. For one partner, I can bring them to Katz’s, to the Musuem at Eldridge Street, and to the Renaissance Faire. For another, I can take them to radical bookstore Bluestockings and a concert. And then another, maybe to a play party, to the Metropolitan, and to the Eagle. These are all things I do on my own, but these fought-for moments bring a sense of heightened importantce and presence.

“Long distance allowed us to really cherish and savour the time we spent together as every single moment was precious. Not that our time together online wasn’t precious too, but it made even the mundane things like ‘cooking dinner’ and ‘getting the bus together’ really special.” -Zac, a friend and an ex

The reasons long-distance work for me aren’t all whimsical. My own personal blend of depression and truama makes it a helpful relationship type. The distance provides a safe way to explore someone new. Through texting and phone calls, I can learn about a person while maintaining a sense of security in a way I don’t necessarily find in person. Online, there’s no need for pretence. This way I essentially trick myself into opening up. Lukily, this ‘trick’ has given me many friends and lovers that have made my life much fuller.

For Zac, long-distance also provided relief. While long-distance helped me mentally, it helped with his physical health as well. He has physical disabilities that make it difficult to frequently go out for dates. Not only did this cause physical barriers to dating but it also put a lot of emotional stress on him. He was often worried about being able to go out enough for people in his city. Our relationship naturally eased that worry. We couldn’t go out on weekly dates, even if we wanted to. Instead, we were able to have virtual dates from our respective homes, fufilling both of our desires for love within a context that worked for us.

Staying Close From Afar

Like all relationships, openness is key. Particularly with long-distance, you have to be willing to have clear communication around conflict, around desires and around scheduling. Since you lose a lot of physical communication, talking becomes paramount. If you have a little annoyance, talk it through. If you need a particular kind of sexting, phone sex, video sex, and/or want an open sexual relationship, all of those discussions can’t be avoided. And in the long term, certain things will ease your mind. Always know when your next visit is. Set up virtual and in-person dates to keep romancing each other. Sometimes it will be hard to keep up the intimacy at a distance, but taking time to consciously be there for your partner, no matter the distance, is both necessary and rewarding.

Despite the logistical difficulties of long-distance relationships, I’m of the mind that if you love someone, it’s worth the time and effort. Each new relationship brings you something new; it teaches you about yourself and others. With each new long-distance relationship, I’ve gotten better at it and learned new levels of conscientiousness to bring to these dynamics. It has taught me not to take unfair advantage of the love in my life, to see the special in the mundane, and has literally expanded my horizons in a way I wouldn’t have experienced in any other way.

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