I received an email about a long distance relationship the other day. All I'll say about this email is that a nice young woman has a long distance friend who became a long distance boyfriend, although I don't think there was an in-person, on-the-spot interview involved in this change. She described their relationship as "dating" although they certainly aren't going out anywhere: they live quite a distance apart and haven't seen each other for some time. He never comes to see her, and the last time she organized a trip to see him, her plans fell through. He did not seem particularly upset.
I don't have a problem with long distance relationships. I now have long distance relationships with my family and many of my friends because I moved to the UK from Canada so as not to be in a long distance relationship with my husband. What I have a problem with is long distance relationships that pretend to be something that they are not, e.g. romantic, marriage-track relationships.
The essence of a romantic, marriage-track relationship is being there for one another. Separations are avoided, but, if inevitable, made as short as possible. Everyone is different, of course, but as soon as B.A. and I started talking marriage, we started planning his first trip to see me in Canada. And while he visited me in Canada, we started talking about when I could visit him again in the UK. And while I was visiting him in the UK, we came up with various unfruitful schemes about how to get married right away. And when back in Canada, I went slowly crazy counting down the days until I could see him again, and he stopped eating. Here comes the groom, skinny as a broom.
For about eight months, our relationship was mostly long distance. He called me every day, and we wrote almost daily emails. Then we got married, and I never wanted to be separated from him again, but I had to be because of being FOREIGN. I had to go back to Canada for weeks and sit around waiting for my Spousal Visa. B.A. called me every day, and we wrote almost daily emails, and I cried a lot. BUT--listen to this--BUT after I got my Spousal Visa and flew home that night, being apart for relatively short periods of time was, and is, no longer such a big deal.
It is no longer such a big deal because (A) we are past the initial and painfully insane stage of a marriage-track romantic relationship and (B) we have been living together for three years. Long-distance is not the norm; being in the same flat is the norm. Long-distance is almost a holiday. (Three weeks apart is my absolute max, though.)
And therefore I will go out on a limb and say that long-distance can work for people who are in time-tested, proven, committed relationships. Heaven knows, there are (or were) many, many women in the UK whose husbands were (or are) on oil rigs in the North Sea for weeks on end, and they make (or made) it work. They make it work because they have something to make work.
And that's the problem. If you never go on a date with the man you're dating, you're probably not dating him. I'm sorry to say this, but there is a danger that what you are is free phone therapy or free entertainment. Heaven knows I have warm memories of my last ex-boyfriend Volker, but the major reason we were in a romantic relationship at all, he later admitted, was that he enjoyed my emails so much. How sucky is that?
I was not really in a relationship with B.A. before we met in person, and fortunately I never thought we were. When he started reading my blog, he was at the end of a psychodrama and had no energy for a new romantic relationship. He had his own stuff to deal with. So he left funny messages on my blog, and I left funny messages on his blog, and every once in a blue moon, he wrote me an email. I love writing emails, so it was difficult not to bombard him with emails, but I managed. Friendly but unobtrusive, that was me. My friend Lily would call this emotional chastity.
There is long-distance, epistolary flirtation, which is fun but fundamentally unstable. And there is long-distance romance between engaged and married people doing their best to keep the home fires burning. And there is even long-distance romance between established boyfriends and girlfriends who were together for quite a time before their separation. But I simply do not believe that an entirely long-distance romantic relationship, one that was always long-distance, and that looks like it will be long-distance for a long time to come, can be an authentic romantic relationship.
A man in love wants to be with the woman he is in love with and, unless it means hurting people to whom he has more pressing commitments (e.g. wife and children), makes it happen. End of.