twitter facebook stumble upon rss

Surviving the LDR (Long-Distance Relationship)

sign up for the momlogic newsletter Tweet This

Most of us have been through one -- a long-distance relationship. The question is: Can it ever really work?

man and woman on phones

Dr. Wendy Walsh: Far from being a new convention, the LDR has exploded in numbers thanks to Internet dating and our capitalistic pressure to chase money and jobs around the country, and indeed the globe. But can it ever really work? Can long-distance love eventually become a cozy same-city nest? Can a stay-at-home relationship survive a stint abroad? And how does parental separation affect kids?

The answer is a bit complicated. In general, the very dynamics that create and sustain a long-distance relationship are different from those of a consistent stay-at-home relationship. LDRs are marked by plenty of autonomous alone time and peppered with a series of "honeymoons" in various hook-up cities. Stay-at-home love is more often about the daily work of love and life. And the players tend to be different. If you've read some of my past articles about the psychological theory called "Attachment Theory," you've probably guessed already that emotionally avoidant individuals might really dig an LDR, while more anxious or preoccupied folks like to have a shorter tether.

So, the big question I get asked a lot is: What do you do if one morphs into the other? And how can you make an LDR come home to roost? My advice: Be prepared for plenty of conflict. All change is painful. Emotional change has its own particular brand of sting. But emotional change, when it brings self-awareness and/or a new level of compassion, is ultimately good.

First, consider this: We all make silent contracts in every relationship. For instance, all my girlfriends know without me having to say it that they'll be rescheduled on my calendar if a work obligation comes up. And, most of them also have signed on with their blessings that a great guy comes first. Girlfriends are a supportive bunch and, above all, we want happiness for each other. We've never discussed this, but I know it's true. It has played out in the past.

And what might be in the silent contract of romantic love? Usually it's about the amount of contact, the kind of contact (e-mail, voice, face-to-face), and the content of the contact. Some partners can handle, and even crave, a lot of honest, authentic talk about feelings, and many, many others would prefer to have a root canal.

In the long-distance love contract, the clauses about contact are very easy to adhere to. If one partner prefers less contact, he or she becomes literally unavailable, on a different time zone, with phones turned off. Period. You can't argue with that kind of communication boundary. In stay-at-home love, it's a little harder to duck and cover. There he is, walking in the door, ready for love and the F-word (feelings). If a long-distance relationship is filled with strict communication boundaries, the shift to a day-to-day relationship may be extremely challenging.

And what about a stay-at-home relationship that is about to undergo a transition that involves distance? Let's start with the effect on children. I happen to have been raised in a Navy family, and my beloved daddy was gone for nearly six months every year. I won't begin to tell you about all the money I have spent in therapy and the adult tears I have shed over this childhood loss. Kids don't care what reason takes parents away, be it a job, divorce, or even death. The emotional impact is the same.

On the romantic front, separation changes environmental stimuli. And environment affects our perception of ourselves and our partner. For instance, let's say you live in a small town, and your guy is one of the best looking, smartest dudes on Main Street. Then your job takes you to New York. While you may have firm plans for your boyfriend or husband to follow you out within a year, something happens that you were unprepared for. Suddenly your guy looks like chump change beside the crowds of hunky capitalists on Wall Street. Or, he takes a semester in London and finds that a Kate Moss clone with a comely accent is more attractive than his high school sweetheart. Take a deep breath, people. I'm not saying that all relationships are so superficial. But many are.

And that's my point. How do you avoid becoming superficial? By getting below the surface. Yes, I'm back on Dr. Walsh's soapbox. The real glue of every relationship, both LDRs and the stay-at-home kind, is the degree of emotional attachment. When we have compassion for our partners, when we trust that they have our back no matter what, when we really feel seen and loved, and when we can love our partners even with their vulnerabilities, we have the glue of real love. Real attachment. That will be the thing that weathers the storms of temptation, distance, and challenging communication. Trust. To trust and be trustworthy. Work on yourself and the world will line up in accordance with your ethics.

next: Invisible Me
36 comments so far | Post a comment now
Rex Blanscet December 17, 2010, 6:10 AM

trulypertinentpoint of view.

Jani Hnat December 20, 2010, 2:03 AM

You really make it seem so easy with your point of view but I find thistopic to be really something which I guess I’d never understand.

Loren Numkena December 20, 2010, 2:19 AM

Regrettably, I can’t agree with almost all of disturbing stuff here.

Romona Bagnoli December 20, 2010, 3:24 AM

If every author wrote like you, the earthwould be agreater place! This was an outstanding read, expecting more!

Josef Jestis December 20, 2010, 4:29 AM

I always feel sure to remark articles. I suppose I discovered something useful here. Probably I will come backsoon to review your website.

Eusebio Trevithick December 20, 2010, 6:13 AM

Where can I find more knowledge about this topict???

Keitha Sabat December 20, 2010, 10:26 AM

I just wanted to drop in and say that I’m thankful for taking the time out of your active day to write this. I willbe back to find more in the not too distant future

Kimbra Fulling December 20, 2010, 10:48 AM

Greeting!!! Thank you so much For it. I have always wanted to write in my blog something like that.

Wilbert Weisinger December 21, 2010, 12:55 AM

Thanks You have really given me a lot to think about.

Asuncion Spagnola December 21, 2010, 1:20 AM

I was very very glad indeed that discoveredthis thoughts.I would love to thank you for this great read!! I definitely dig every little bit of it.

Deshawn Ursprung December 21, 2010, 10:52 AM

It’s simple I don’t know why people haven’t figured this out yet.

Rossie Bleggi December 22, 2010, 6:19 AM

Where you came upon idea for this article? I am usually in want of new ideasfor articles I write. Some tipswould be wellcome.

Dennise Vielma December 22, 2010, 9:05 AM

I think it is really cool for all.

Cynthia Cofran January 10, 2011, 8:45 AM

The topiclike this one you talked over here is very elementary to me!

Norene Helgason January 11, 2011, 9:01 AM

I read about it yearsago in another article and the main points that you disclose here are very similar.

Rick Pluhar January 11, 2011, 12:03 PM

Dropped by to lear from this one more time…… and add it to my favorites!

Everette Rossotto January 12, 2011, 5:02 AM

I just wanted to take half a minute of my time to leave you a comment by saying: please carry on with your articles, I very enjoypreferedthem.

Galen Wheeley January 14, 2011, 12:09 AM

still I think about some parts and I can’t decide what kind of mark I should express about this.

fizywelko January 20, 2011, 5:04 AM

Really intriguing article. Assemblage has been typed in real squeamish behavior. I savor metropolis this soft of bunk. Thanks for intercourse best knowledge.

Janice Schader January 31, 2011, 8:15 AM

You are doing a gorgeous job here, writing notes like this one. Thanks, seems like you make my day brighter.

Back to top >>