Where Tim Mousseau failed at long distance, his brother and sister-in-law succeeded. The difference all came down to one simple trick.
The biggest problem I found throughout various long distance relationships can best be summed up by the ability to go on a new date. This ability to experience something novel with your significant other means something completely different when you are in an in-person relationship versus a long distance relationship. In truth, what you do on the date doesn’t matter so much as what it represents.
When you are dating in the same city, it is easy to call your significant other and propose a novel idea. This new date can really be anything the two of you have not yet experienced together. This interaction though provides a feeling of adventure.
In a long distance relationship this adventure is a little harder to find. Often times, distance relationships are stabilized by routines. You are defined by the times you know you can talk and plan trips months in advance. Regular, consistent communication is much more vital. Seeing your significant others becomes a part of this routine. You form habits that are easy to repeat. First you visit your partner. Then they visit you. These experiences repeat back and forth. While the things you do together on these trips may have elements of novelty, the act of visits themselves remain consistent.
Throughout this process, long distance relationships become a cycle. Visits are reciprocal. You see them, they see you. Lather, rinse, repeat. Since you lack the ability to go on smaller dates, your relationship must cater to these significant visits of committed time. Over the relationship though constantly traveling to your significant other brings repetition.
This is not to say that levels of adventure cannot be found in these times nor that it is not fun to have those intense periods with another. It is that sometimes, we allow ourselves to fall into relationship routines. Through these routines we become comfortable and through this comfort, we can begin to feel bored. Distance, with its many unique complexities, does make the heart grow fonder but also makes the times you are together that much more significant. By raising the stakes, it means the negative is often just as amplified as the positive.
These feelings and issues of feeling routine during visits can be combated. They do not need be the cause for the death of any relationship. It is just a matter of how we fight them. How to fight these woes of comfort and boredom is something I learned from my brother.
Where I failed at my own distance relationships, I managed to learn from my brother’s successful marriage that began in long distance. The reason for our differences in success comes down to how we treated time spent with our significant others. My brother and sister-in-law did something very different in their relationship.
While at times these two visited each other in their respective home cities, frequently they would rather wait, save up money, and go to a place that neither of them knew to explore this new area. In my relationships, my ex always came to me or I went to her. In these acts we were doomed. When we constantly visited one another at our homes, one of us had to serve in the role of host, catering to building an experience for the other. For my brother and sister-in-law, a visit was something that was a mutual vacation. For me, visits were less a vacation and more a habit. These different frameworks of viewing relationships are crucial when adding variety and excitement in distance.
What my brother and sister-in-law did was genius in that neither party was fully responsible for guiding the weekend. Instead, by going to an unfamiliar place where neither was from, it gave them the capabilities to go on an adventure together, not sit in a place where one was familiar and the other was an outsider. Having processed my own relationship failures and grown by watching their success, I firmly believe that the key to distance is this transformative way of looking at visits.
It is not that being comfortable or being in someone’s home is bad, it is just that after a certain amount of time, this can become an act of repetition instead of an act of adventure. Removing this repetition and rekindling the sense of mutual adventure can help ensure that time spent together doesn’t become a strain but instead becomes mutual exploration. Redefining how we experience a distance relationship does not mean we have to completely renegotiate what it means to love another, simply that we change how we experience this love with them.
Photo:Flickr/Kate Ter Haar