Tuesday, 22 October 2013

More Thoughts on Long Distance Relationships

This morning I had to rush out to catch the 9:18 AM bus to get me to my 9:35 AM emergency dental appontment. Boli mi ząb, as they say in Poland. My stupid semi-erupted wisdom tooth is infected again. I tell it to stop running around outside without a jacket, but does it listen to me? No. So it's back to the penicillin and no alcohol.

Scottish doctors, dentists and pharmacists are very funny about alcohol. When they don't want you to drink it, they look you in the eye like parents going away for the weekend and speak very slowly and firmly: NO ALCOHOL. It's as if Scotland were a nation of heavy drinkers. Oh, come to think of it...

Scots die of being too fat and/or too drunk. Or so I assume from the fact that although so intensely politically correct they offer "tairminations" to happily pregnant mums and tie themselves into pretzels while suggesting that foreigners might let themselves permit the thought of not smoking cross their mysterious minds, medicos have no problem telling Scots and the Scottish-looking that we are too fat and/or drink too much.

At any rate, I have a week's holiday from lying on the couch with my compulsory glass of wine while watching the Food Network, which is one of my married lady jobs. Husbands are terrible drunkifiers of wives, as Mrs Brendan Behan found out, poor lamb. To celebrate I went around the "charity shops", which are the cozy, cheerful thrift shops in which I buy almost all my clothes, not only because I am a writer, but because once you pay £15 for a brand new, never worn, black brocade Laura Ashley frock coat, you never go back. And after purchasing some t-shirts and a brand new, never worn, peacock blue winter coat (£8.50), I went to the beauty shop and had my eyelashes tinted and my eyebrows done. It was quite a spree, actually. And it was great fun because it is unseasonably warm yet rainy, which made for a great conversation starter with the wifies in the charity shops and the lassies in the beauty shop.

They say we always turn into our mothers, but I suspect I am turning into my grandmother. Or my great-great-grandmother now lying in an Edinburgh cemetery. I'm going to visit her grave on November 1, and as she has been dead for some decades, she won't turn in it and mutter "But we aren't Polish." By the way, I wrote an article in the Catholic Register (the Canadian one) this week on how culturally superior the Poles are to Canadians in regards to Halloween. Because I do not utterly condemn Halloween while nevertheless pointing out that the Poles do better, it will annoy everyone except, naturally, the Poles.

This amusing local morning, plus proximity to Polish culture, comes courtesy of having had a long distance relationship. Or rather my reluctance and B.A.'s reluctance to have a long distance relationship. We agreed that we couldn't do long distance--so we got married as soon as the Church let us, after spending must of our money rushing back and forth across the ocean and running up terrible phone bills. That's what "long distance" looks like to me--two people frantically trying to make a long distance short. Of course, we were headstrong and foolish and over 35.

We had not had much of a relationship at all--just a bit of internet flirtation--until I mentioned I'd love to visit Scotland and B.A. said I could stay with him. And I thought that was very nice of funny bearded guy, whose friend Aelianus was already my friend, and gave him good references. I did not show up with romance in mind, although I did want to make a good impression. It did not occur to me that I would want to move across the sea from my family and friends and job prospects. But then I fell in love, and B.A. fell in love, so I did.

And I am thinking about this because I am thinking about Catholic dating websites and of American Catholics meeting other American Catholics two thousand or more miles away and becoming attached to them without much hope of actually meeting them in person. it strikes me as so emotionally risky, and so sad, really. If I were ever to try Catholic online dating again (God forbid and grant B.A. good health and long life), I would communicate only those men whom I could easily meet. I would just so hate to hear some guy say "I don't do long distance" when I know darned well men will "do long distance" for the right girl and darned well cross that distance as often as they can.

Update: I fixed my poll so that you can record your purchase of my beautiful novel Ceremony of Innocence up until Christmas Eve. And you can change your vote to "More than one copy" if you buy another copy for someone as a present. Hint hint. And if you think I'm a shameless promoter of my own work, you should see Simcha. She's offering steak knives and stuff! Steak knives! Well, I ask you!


Anonymous said...

Seraphic, what are your thoughts on relationships that start out short-distance (both people are on the same college campus) and then become long distance (one person graduates and moves back to his/her hometown, several hours away)?


Seraphic said...

I think there's hope because you have actually met each other and become friends. Of course, if one becomes bored of the other, then "I can't do long distance" becomes a handy excuse. Bottom line: decide about marriage within a year of college graduation and never let an uncommitted guy think you're his to accept or reject.

Anonymous said...

As a current online dater (in fact the only dating experience I have is from online dating!), this is a regular conundrum. So so many articles and bloggers (and not just the ones paid by the site) tell us to be open-minded about starting long-distance: long phone chats and an eventual weekend-long date.
Of course, no one talks about how prohibitively expensive it is to fly regularly or that in-person chemistry can be markedly different, or the pressure of having it go well, so you convince yourself of some fantasy truth rather than looking at the reality of the experience objectively.
I feared all that--not to mention my temperament is such that a LDR would not give me the information I'd want about a man I'd hope to be my husband (what's your real, day-to-day life like, how do you handle me when I'm owly and want to cancel because PMS started raging at the end of the workday, how do we both reveal our capacity to sacrifice for others)--that I never have tried it out, nor will I. I think 2 hours max each way driving is my limit. That way I can do day dates or even a couple of early dinners and not worry about accommodations on either end (I have no problem with couches or guest rooms, but still, dealing with the shrieks of "Scandal" from accountability partners is discouragement enough).

But I don't discount it for all women, as we are all different and know what God thinks we can handle and what choices we feel we have the graces to make and feel comfortable.

Seraphic said...

Yarg. I hate such advice. Weekend-long dates indeed. The fact that it worked out for me and BA is kind of a St. Elizabeth gets pregnant miracle. I mean, it happens, but...

Friends should introduce friends to friends as much as possible. I'm thinking parties, I'm thinking weddings, I'm thinking dances, I'm thinking of all those social events that have rules and everyone behaves properly and men aren't expected to take refuge in the TV room to watch football while the women stand in the kitchen. The host or hostess spends the event introducing everyone to everyone.

I may be a bit off-topic here. At any rate, I don't like the "be open-minded about going on virtually blind dates with strangers who live 2,000 miles away from you" advice. Travelling for some other reason and then being invited (by a friend) to a party where you meet a nice guy, and he seems determined to stay in touch--Well, that's different.

I just don't think Catholic dating websites can really do the job parish dances once did--at least, not as effectively, prudently and cheaply.

Magdalena said...

Just wanted to say, go on promoting your book! That's not shameless at all! Really! It's the best you can do!

Epistolary Flirter said...

What about correspondence/occasional skype chats with long-distance friends who maybe want to be more-than-friends? Is it worth keeping up if there is no chance of something happening in the foreseeable future?

Seraphic said...

Well, if it were ME, I would say things like, "You are such a handsome man. What a shame you live SO FAR AWAY! My, the girls of your town are lucky. My, my." Me, I would just flirt up a storm and get a bad reputation I would have to overcome with prayer and... Okay, stop reading anything else I say tonight.

Anonymous said...

Oh the parish dance. Someone from one the groups I was in tried to get one going, but it fizzled rather quickly. It's particularly awkward because while there are multiple Catholic young adult groups, they are all intertwined. I never really flirted (don't know how) nor let myself be too available, as then that would mean our relationship would be too much in view of all the groups. So online dating is just one strategy for introverted me, and one that I employ very thoughtfully with consistent discernment, thought, and ongoing formation.

Epistolary: Okay, I was in this EXACT situation. Long time friend from university, Ross and Rachel levels of will they won't they, and neither of us wanting an LDR. I only really spoke up about the fullness of my feelings (rather than, maybe if it were right, but "this is right, what i want") at a time when future was more immediate and he expressed interest, too. But it was up to him to make choices or see how we could work together to be together. Know what happened? He started dating someone 6 weeks after this conversation on a visit, broke up with her two months later, then made career choices that meant we had no immediate future except as friends-with-benefits. I am now happily dating a sweet NCB with the same goals for the future. And that guy is still my friend (hard to walk away entirely from 9 years of mostly happy friendship), but VASTLY different in tone and communication.

Bottom line:Set boundaries with your pen pal: subjects you can talk about, how long you talk, etc. Repeat after me: he is just my friend, nothing more. Live your life and be open to opportunities in your area. And how serious is this "maybe" anyway? Just something that seems like it would work if you were in the same city? Take it from me who should have known better: you can't hang your hat on a maybe.
But if there's a deep friendship and you have already encountered a variety of men and still find that you two are amazing together (my case), then you may think "it's meant to be and we just have to wait it out/be on hold until we can be together." Sometimes love is "meant to be" because you chose it to be. Meaning if he wants you and you want him and you both want to discern a future together that could lead to marriage, then you both need to agree on certain choices to make for the other and make a plan. Is there earnest commitment on either of your parts to give a relationship a solid try? Is he willing to transfer schools? Search for a new job? Are you? Would such actions be *just* for the possibility of relationship or is there something else that can sustain the person if you don't work out?

Auntie, if anything I just typed is way off, let us know. But it's definitely something I wished I would've heard more from friends or could have internalized myself.

Ally said...

As one who met my boyfriend online (and live three hours apart), and whom just had a friend who got married who met similarly (only they were 7 hours apart when they met!) I have to say I think it can work, but only if you are that willing to make it work (and have the money to spend on gas and hotel rooms for whomever is visiting, because you can't take advantage of friends letting your boyfriend or girlfriend stay at their place all the time.)

Otherwise I think you're spot on, and honestly 3 hours probably is the furthest I think is reasonable, I have no clue how it worked out so well for my friend.

Sunnysaffer said...

Horror story of a friend of a friend. She (in the UK) met someone (in the US) on a well-known American Catholic dating site where devout Catholics meet. They messaged, then Skyped for months and all was going swimmingly. She booked a ticket to visit him (I can hear you screaming NO!! as I type this). She arrived for their "long weekend date" and noticed his face fell as soon as he saw her. She realised that the problem was that he was used to seeing her not too shabby top half, but she is much heavier on the bottom half. An excrutiating weekend followed.

Seraphic said...

Oh, Sunny, horrible! I so did not want that to happen to me, so I sent B.A. rather mannish photos of my bespectacled self smoking cigars with my lookalike brother. And thus I actually looked BETTER when I showed up, all jet-lagged and exhausted.

Sheila said...

A male friend of my parents flew all the way to China to meet a woman he'd been carrying on a relationship with online. He came back dejected. They had got along so well online, he loved her personality, but it turned out she was overweight. He'd broken off their relationship because of it. I was furious and inwardly despised him for being so shallow, but there it is. Some men will do this. I imagine it would break your heart if it happened to you.

My engagement to my husband was carried on at long distance -- four hours, which means we saw each other every few weekends. It was AWFUL. I was considering calling off the wedding because of it. Neither of us is any good on the phone, whenever we saw each other we were both exhausted and grouchy, and I was getting the point where I couldn't remember what I'd ever seen in him in the first place! This is after knowing him in person for four years. Distance. Is. Awful.

Luckily we had some time before the wedding to get used to each other again (I was living at his mother's) and once we had a solid week together it was just like old times. Without that I might not have gone through with it at all. Some people don't mind distance; we can't stand it.

Ironically, he now travels for work. Blah. But I say, better to miss your husband than to be tired of him! We make it work.