Are long-distance relationships a treacherous road or a worthwhile journey? Crystal Espin investigates
‘We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place,’ says Kimmy about the five-year long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, Shaun. ‘He is in Joburg and I’m in Cape Town, because neither of us can find any work in each other’s cities. And, to be honest, I don’t really want to move to Joburg.’
Like many working people, Kimmy and Shaun are torn between focusing on their careers and their desire to be near the person they love. For a long time, their long-distance relation (LDR) solved their problem. Now, however, after seven years together, they have both started feeling as if they need to move forward with the relationship by moving in together, in the same city,
or calling it quits. ‘In the end, it comes down to compromise,’ says Shaun.
Love knows no distance
Maintaining a long-distance relationship comes with its fair share of difficulties. Partners often have to deal with high travel costs and increased cellphone bills, as well as unrealistic expectations of rare face-to-face time and a mixture of confusing emotions and uncertainties when it comes to the connection with their partner.
But some believe that all of those issues can be easily overcome if the couple focus their attention on always maintaining a one-on-one connection.
According to clinical psychologist Dr Rob Dobrenski, the biggest obstacle when it comes to maintaining a happy LDR is trying to have face-to-face communication. He thus encourages making use of video chatting, which allows you to take in your partner’s non-verbal cues and to connect with them on a deeper level.
The light at the end of the tunnel
There are some who conclude that long-distance relationships can be beneficial to both partners. According to relationship writer Cristen Conger, maintaining one comes down to your communication and being open and honest about how long you’re willing to do long-distance for. ‘Successful long-distance relationships all share the common theme of coming to that decision to go long-distance, but only for a specified amount of time.’
Cristen also points out that putting a deadline on the long-distance phase makes couples feel, if they are able to make it work, that they are even ‘more committed to each other than
they ever would have been before, because they had to get through that period.’
There are rules
Any relationship needs boundaries and open communication, but Cristen says that long-distance relationships need defined rules even more than face-to-face relationships. ‘I do think that there are a number of ground rules that go into an LDR that might be different from other relationships. You will have to be incredibly honest about what you want, as well as what you expect, in terms of monogamy and how you’ll move your relationship forward while you’re not living close to each other.’
Cristen believes that long-distance relationships are absolutely possible, but with the caveat that ‘there has to be a lot of trust there’.
The end is near
But, what happens when you’ve put in all the necessary effort and it’s still not happening? Dr D Ivan Young, author of Break Up, Don’t Break Down, says it is important to notice the signs that your LDR isn’t working. According to him, some of the biggest warning signs are an unwillingness to make time for each other; a change in routine, for example, missing regular ‘good night’ phone calls; and the feeling that your relationship is an obligation, rather than something that makes you happy.
According to Dr Young, the best thing to do in this case is end it. ‘It only makes it worse if you drag out the relationship. Just be truthful and explain to them exactly why the relationship isn’t working for you.’