Long Distance Relationships – What’s The Point?

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The Purpose Of a Relationship

What is the purpose of being in a relationship? Are you looking to fill a void? Don’t want to be alone? Want children? Sex? Someone to make you happy?

These are not great reasons to base a relationship on. Any of those can change in an instant. Children grow up and leave. Sex isn’t always a guarantee. What if you or your partner can’t have sex anymore for some reason? Is the relationship going to end? Happiness needs to come from within, not from another person. If you just don’t want to be alone, that can change too. You may be forced to be away from each other for long periods of time if they are being deployed, are going away for college or take a job that is over the road or involves continuous travelling. If you are in a relationship for the wrong reasons you will be left hanging by a thread or heartbroken if any number of things happen. If you are in a relationship to share your life, heart, soul and adventures with someone, that’s a place to start, but what if they are gone most of the time? If you want a relationship to share your completeness with another instead of hoping for someone to complete you, it is quite difficult to do so when they are absent. Let’s take an honest look at the long distance relationship.

Long Distance Relationships
People in long distance relationships have struggles and challenges that most people in “normal” relationships never have. The frustration can be overwhelming at times and if not managed, can and will destroy the relationship. This is not a feel good, fluff article on how great long distance relationships can be and everything you can possibly do to try to hold one together. It is solely from my perspective after being in a relationship with a truck driver for years and dealing with the strains of it. Personally, I enjoy having a little down time to myself but have also felt many of the struggles and emotions that go along with being in this type of relationship.

Approximately 14 million people in the United States say they are in long distance relationships. This includes marriages, people who are away at college, etc.globe

  • On average it takes only 4 1/2 months before a long distance relationship breaks down
  • 40 % of all long distance relationships end with a break-up
  • 70 % of all failed long distance relationships fail due to unplanned changes

In a perfect world, people can enjoy their partner’s company daily. After all, who dreams of true love and fairy tales with someone they can’t see, touch or hang out with often? Well, if you’re in a long distance relationship those are things you have to do without, which makes things confusing, frustrating and sometimes just questionable. If this type of relationship is temporary with an end in sight, meaning you will have a chance of a being together permanently some time soon, then there may be great hope. If not, think carefully about what it is you really want in a relationship, what you have to offer and don’t cheat yourself. Life is too short.

The Daily Connection
If you are in a long distance relationship you don’t have the same daily connection that others do. You don’t get a hug or kiss when you walk in the door. You don’t get to come home and have a face-to-face conversation about your day over dinner. You don’t get to cuddle up and watch a movie and have intimacy. You don’t go to sleep together and you wake up alone.

Staying “Connected”
Luckily there are many ways to try to stay connected with your absent partner. You can talk, text, Skype, Face Time and send emails. You can play online games together. If that is enough for you then that’s great. I don’t believe most people get into a relationship so they can have a pen pal and still be alone. But again, if there is an end in sight, you can deal with it for now.

Sharing Your Dayphone
In this day and age we have become accustomed to sharing everything we do instantly with everyone we know. We take pictures of what we are eating, activities we are doing, our new clothes, our children, our thoughts, feelings and opinions about whatever. Is that really enough to do with your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend? Can you really keep a relationship alive by sending them a pic of
all of those things because they aren’t here to see and do those things with you? No, not really. It’s quite exhausting to try to include someone who isn’t around in everything you do. They may just end up feeling left out anyway. Be careful not to try to overcompensate for being apart by calling each excessively with just filler conversation. This may make conversations become boring, meaningless and tiring. But, you need to share important things. Have honest communication about things that really matter. You need to communicate and support each other or it will definitely fall apart.

You are on your own. You will intermittently receive help around the house or with the kids but not on a regular basis like people have when their spouse is home every night. Because of this, you learn to do it all on your own and become quite good at it. This does present a challenge though when they show up. It is a strange shift to then have or even want help when they are there to offer it. They have literally taught you how to live without them, then are sometimes upset to see that you can.

Ha! There isn’t much. Relationship experts talk about the things that must be done daily in a relationship to keep it alive such as physical contact. One pastor says “Physical contact throughout the day is vital for a healthy marriage. Caress her cheek, squeeze his arm, show your love with touch.” Yeah right! Not possible.

I had found it difficult to turn my feelings off  and act like I don’t have any needs that aren’t being met while my boyfriend is gone, so I don’t sit around feeling lonely, sad, abandoned, neglected etc., and then flip the switch back on when he returns. It was such a struggle that created inner conflict that I just shut everything off completely and never look to him for much of anything when he does show up for the relationship. I’m sure this isn’t right or healthy but it is what has happened to protect myself. I’m pretty much living the single life with only a title of a status that says I’m not, along with being restricted from actually sharing my time and joy WITH someone. Not thrilling!

Sex has always been said to be a NEED of human beings. Obviously if your partner is gone, neither of your needs are being met. If and when your partner comes home for a brief period of time, you better jump on the opportunity to have sex right then before he leaves again which then becomes sex-on-demand. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or whatever the case may be, you have to have it right then or you lose out and have to wait until next time. After awhile of them being gone you might find that the connection has dwindled and you aren’t that interested anyway. On the other hand, the distance may have had your excitement building non-stop and you’ll have mind-blowing sex! If you or your partner’s need for sex is overwhelming and you can’t stay faithful, get out of the relationship ASAP. Everyone deserves a faithful partner no matter what type of relationship it is.

Priorities and Choices
If you choose a job where you know you will rarely be with the one you say you love, it is a choice. There are many options for careers in this world and if you choose to be gone, you are creating this difficult situation. If you choose to be “with” someone who is gone, you are making that choice as well. Don’t be surprised when all of the problems arise. Don’t be upset when your partner still chooses to live their life. The world does not end because you are apart. Everything we do is based on choices and there are natural consequences.

Living Your Life Anyway
If you are the one who is home, you can’t stay stuck in the house because your significant other isn’t around. Get out there! Don’t isolate yourself. You may become depressed and resentful if you do. Grab a girlfriend and go see a movie. Enjoy time with your family. Start a new hobby. Life goes on! There are plenty of things you can do without your partner. I say this from personal experience. I spent years declining every invitation from my friends because I didn’t know when my boyfriend was going to be home and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to spend time with him when he was home. Therefor, my friends stopped inviting me places and I pretty much lost them. I am much happier now that I have started to live my life for me and not just sitting at home on the phone during all of my free time trying to maintain a relationship. The question may come to mind though, “if I am in a relationship to share my life, joys and myself with someone, and I am substituting friends and family for everything, what is the point?”

Something To Look Forward To
beachEveryone needs something to look forward to. There is a well known quote that says “Happiness/Essentials of life are having: something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.” You can easily figure out things to do to keep you busy. If you are in a relationship, you have someone to love (from afar). The one I find highly important is to have something to look forward to. Make plans and goals with your partner. Plan a vacation or a special time for when you are going to see each other. Make it count down to the last detail. Plan for your fut
ure! Long distance relationships should be temporary with a future of living together permanently in the foreseeable future.

Will it work?
There is no statistic that can say whether your long distance relationship or any other relationship for that matter will work. Keeping a relationship happy and healthy takes a lot of effort, and a long distance one takes even more. It is up to you to decide how much you are willing to put into it and exactly what you want out of it.


*Statistics are courtesy of Dr. Guldner at The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships*