Are long Distance Relationships doomed from the start?

Dear Toni--

I met a nice lady online through an exclusive service that is used by singles who have a pretty good idea of what they are looking for in a potential mate. The one major issue I have encountered with online meeting is how difficult it can be to find someone you click with, and who is truly compatible in the ways that count. At times it feels like searching for that needle in a haystack. Likes, dislikes, traumas, maturity, and lots of the things you have written about come into play and need to be present in order for a relationship to truly work. So for me it is a rare thing to find a lady whom I click with.

I have met such a lady and we've been communicating through emails, and talking on the phone. The problem is that she lives at a distance. Therefore, meeting in person is harder and obviously not as frequent. We have plans to meet in a couple of months and I don't have an issue with that. I actually think that this may be a good thing because it forces us to move slowly.

Is there a bad side to long distance relationships? Is there something that I need to be thinking about or reading on this subject? Is there a method for handling long-distance dating? Are there recognized ways to deal with the distance factor or to utilize the time/distance to my benefit? Are such relationships doomed right from the start? --Distance Challenged

Dear Distance Challenged--

Phew! This is a question that contains many smaller questions, all good ones by the way.

The "bad side" to long distance relationships is geography. It can be very difficult to begin and grow a relationship when spending time together is a very small part of your interaction. In fact, many couples find themselves in a months long phone/email relationship that fizzles when they finally meet and discover the physical chemistry just isn't there. In order for it to work, it needs to be approached with openness, flexibility, good planning and willingness to compromise. Both parties must also be willing to put up with the hassles and sacrifices that a distance relationship comes with. Therefore, the first hurdle is to find someone who is really OK with these conditions and who will make the effort to meet within several weeks to a month's time.

Secondly, the best method for dealing with a long-distance relationship depends on the individuals themselves. Some things you will need to consider together and work out are:

* How will you communicate- emails, phone

* How often will you "speak"- daily, several times a week, etc.

* When your first meeting will occur and where. You will need to work out travel and/or other arrangements. Some people meet in a halfway location, others may work the first meeting into a business trip or other planned travel.

* Whatever the arrangements, both people need to be comfortable with them and in agreement about who pays for what, etc.

* What you will do as a couple if/when the relationship progresses to another level and you desire to live near one another- or together.
It's best if a couple begins to discuss this early on in the relationship because SOMEONE will need to move, change jobs, leave family and friends, etc.

Depending on the distance, some couples find a new location for both people that is somewhere in-between where they are now but requires a longer commute to work, friends and other networks.

Relationships don't thrive or fail based on geography alone. The key to successful relationship building (and sustaining) is that the individuals have the same desire for the relationship and level of commitment to make it work. With a long distance relationship- one's emotional maturity and ability to delay gratification will play major roles in the eventual failure or success of the relationship.

(from February 2005)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

"Is it Religious Incompatibility or Something Else?"
List of more
"Compatibility Issues"

"Handling red Flags in Dating"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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