Note to the reader – you are in a long distance committed relationship if the two of you have no tangible chance to share a life together for undetermined time frames, allegedly (or as not to hurt the other’s feelings) abstain from seeing other people, and your individual lives/careers/lifestyles fail or face difficulty coexisting in the same time or geography. If any of these doesn’t match your story, trust me, you’re with the lucky league and I’m happy for you.
Long distance love is popular today, with so many people moving around through the world, working freelance remote jobs or simply having the misfortune to meet a potential life altering partner at the worst time possible: in transit. The romantic ideal of successful long distance love is perpetually sustained by letters our forefathers wrote to each other to keep up the flame, the fidelity of wives who waited for their soldier husbands, the ideal that the impossible can be conquered, or the perks of ever present internet communication. It is also progressively demolished by more pragmatic rationales like people trying to live in the present tense, the timely and financial cost of submitting to cross-continental limbo, and our ever growing ADHD.
I found myself spiralling into a long distance relationship while I was changing my work and life coordinates and moving to a different country. This occurred in spite of my resilience to avoid such commitments after a previously failed similar affair, and saying it didn’t make me experience the whole range of emotions one can experience when being in such a connection would be lying. I got it all, from butterflies and natural high’s, to passionate and affectionate longing, to mind blowing phone sex and urges to book plane tickets in minutes, to lonesomeness, extreme sadness, despair and a deep disagreement with my own needs. It ended up teaching me I had an actual ego, and that, despite my desire to love and live with this person, my need for freedom and the impossibility to sustain a life build on virtual promises are premises for disaster if you choose to minimize them.
You will go on and say – but if you have love, everything is possible. Not technically. You may be able to love a person from distance, but that doesn’t mean you will be able to make amends with them.
I won’t beat around the bush here. I can’t say I lived all the experiences I wanted to live by this age. I have a check list, and it’s only human to have check lists or make impossible wishes before breakfast, like Lewis Carroll did.
I like my life unconstrained. I like sex as much as I love passionate love making, travelling year round, cooking for my friends or eating pizza. I want to sleep with an American, a Brazilian, a Spanish, maybe a Russian. Maybe all nations in the world. I want to have a threesome with two men. I want to make love to women. I want to be able to share a coffee and a kiss with a stranger in any corner of the world, and be content with that memory solely. I want to be free to flirt without feeling bad about my true nature, and I want to be free to express my desires regardless of how they are perceived. I want to travel far and experience life. I want to write books and get my musing from anywhere life takes me. Nonetheless, I want my career to benefit from all my dedication and focus. That doesn’t make me superficial, easy going or what people like to call a whore. It doesn’t make me either incapable to sustain an honest, committed relationship with solely one person, if that person is not million miles away from my reach. That just makes me in touch with my human nature, my needs, goals and dreams. And with my sexuality.
But the key word is freedom.
I have all sort of people in my life who managed to handle long distance committed relationships with an endurance and a flair that leave me sometimes wondering what magic spell they used to cope. Because you have to cope with things like:
NO ACTUAL SEX LIFE. Yes, I hate to break this to you, but you have to be prepared to resume your visions of intercourse to touching yourself, or investing in a bundle of vibrators – if you’re a woman, because most times, sweet talk on the phone won’t naturally suffice to take away the sexual tension. You have to be prepared to invest precious time into internet banging, because while having actual sex with a person can be the quickest thing, say even less than 5 minutes, when all you have is their voice on the line, their sexts in your phone or, if fortunate, their face on Skype, you can fool yourself it feels like the real deal – but, fact is, it doesn’t. If you’re not prepared to love yourself all the way solo, don’t do it. You’ll end up as frustrated as Samantha Jones in that episode of Sex And The City when she couldn’t have an orgasm anymore.
ALIENATION. Being in a long distance relationship takes a lot of your person. Sure, you may think this is the 21st century and we all work good with distributive attention, but the truth is, we barely have the attention span of a gold fish. If you ache for the other person’s presence, virtual substitutes won’t do. If you’re the kind of person who likes to be fully involved in a love affair, you may get a hard time splitting your life between your actual, day to day life, and the life you lead through wireless with your lover. Since you can’t share most things together, like going to the movies, eating together or attending the same plain daily events or social situations together, you will always need extra time to catch up. Of course you can leave Skype on for the weekend and watch the same film simultaneously, eat dinner in front of your computer screens, work your stuff around the house, or even sleep with the device in your bed. But it will drive you nuts with time. Which leads us to:
THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT. You will find yourself stuck in bed or in your chair with your beloved via Skype and you will spend countless minutes or hours trying to feel better about the fact that this is all you two get. In the meanwhile, you will feel like missing out on that gallery show you wanted to attend where all your friends went, the work you had to top up until next day, or doing the laundry. You might even postpone eating, sleeping, washing your hair or waking up early in the morning, which ultimately results into a tired, cranky, potentially very skinny you. Even if you do take the time to split your life in two and do all those, you will still feel a void whenever you go to bed at night and supposedly have to wake up to an empty bed the next day.
JEALOUSY. You too have now exchange vows, maybe even took it all the way to marriage proposals and virtual engagements. That’s romantic, but wait, what happens when he or she texts you the day after you went out with some guy or girl to have platonic fun and you did not respond to any messages for, say, the whole weekend, because you were trying to catch up with sleep after experiencing a serious hangover? Trust is quintessential, but that green monster of jealousy creeps in, sometimes even just with one check in on social media with people your loved one doesn’t know, or with a Facebook profile picture that gathers flirty comments from virtual friends. You will say that can happen even when you live in the same house. Sure. But when you live in the same house you can kiss and make-up. When you live zillions of miles away, all you can do is hope the other got the message and did not lose their self confidence completely because you have a life of your own, outside the relationship.
GOING BANKRUPT. Long distance costs. Money. Time is money, and this is not the place to be if you’re not ready to invest seriously in the following: generous broadband internet (because thing is, Skype consumes about 100mb per hour), fabulous roaming options, plane tickets and housing facilities (unless you visit him or her at home, but hey, you still paid an extra hundred bucks on that flexible return flight).
PAIN OF UNCERTAINTY. This is probably the worst. You don’t know when you will meet again, or, even better, when the two of you will be able to share your life together like any other couple does. I was once in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend from New York. We had seven hours of distance between us, an ocean to cross and many milestones to catch up until we would have been able to share the same geography. Some bridges cannot be burnt, unless, say, you win the lottery and afford moving to another country, or are highly successful in what you do and what you do is a remote job that allows you to move anywhere on the globe. After we went through everything listed above (and beyond), we finally ended up together, but all the romanticized build up of our connection failed to match the real world, daily life liaison. We were nonetheless lucky to afford the luxury of making our relationship exist in real time and space, but the capacity for projection and idealization that follows long distance love is immense, and unfortunately, it’s not the stepping stone of an actual bond. Promises go into thin air, and not knowing the person you actually vowed to can cause a natural disaster when their real self comes to light. Which is why long distance has a deep touch of fantasy and often causes:
ILLUSORY DREAMS AND EXTREME HEARTBREAK. Living far from a loved one can be like living in a bubble. I’m not talking friends or parents here. I’m talking the one you think is destined for you. People change over time, sometimes even from one month to the other. It’s called evolution and it’s a natural sign of growth and self-expansion. It happens to regular relationships and it happens to long distance relationships. However, seeing a potentially changed lover each time you two meet again does not necessarily result into falling in love with them all over again (although Before Sunrise movie series may state the opposite). In a fast paced environment, carrying on with a far placed connection and also keeping up with oneself, as an individual, is hard. In the end, you may find solace with every other meeting. But you may also find yourself talking to a distant star, that you still love, admire, or want to touch, but that doesn’t orbit your galaxy any longer.
Now, if you can still handle all those above and be able to lead a fulfilled life, kudos to you. I don’t know if it takes bravery or self sacrifice, but it is definitely NOT for everybody.
I’m not preaching for being something you’re not. If you found the woman or the man of your dreams and that ticks your kicks, then go ahead with it, all the way. But if you can’t stand the simple thought of spending your life miles away from that person, then just.dont’.do.it.
I believe throughout our lives we meet more than one person who can be destined to be “the one”.
So if you find one of those people and decide to embark in a lifetime journey with them, in spite of shortcomings such as distance, the inability to be next to them any given day or a vibe killer like no love making more often that a couple times in a year, don’t feel sorry about it. But if you feel likes you are missing out on the chance to meet another one for you, out there, in the city you reside, don’t do it. If you can’t stay faithful to the illusion you two will meet again for good, don’t do it. If it tears you apart, just don’t ever feel sorry for loving yourself more than the relationship. If you can’t dissociate yourself into an open relationship with no expiration date, if you feel suffocated, keep losing your focus or can’t subscribe to going the distance in uncertainty, because you literally can’t go the distance, and your inner voice speaks louder than your love for them, then you have no reason to feel sorry about it. You deserve all the love you can offer, and if that doesn’t work out for you, you’re not any less than a loving person.
Don’t fool yourself waiting for a New Year’s Eve that might never come. Don’t waste your life fantasizing on a happy end that might never end happily ever after. Don’t mistake a lesson for a lifelong love. And mostly, don’t settle for anything that doesn’t fit the measures of your soul. If you think you can wait, don’t forget to make the wait worth it, at least.
I’m an indecisive realist and a romantic, and in spite of my driven by wanderlust nature, I am as touched by longing as everyone else. In a row of potential ones I could have shared a life with, I decided to chose none ultimately, because I’m aware that when my inner time (which I don’t mean as biological clock) will tell, I will be able to choose a companion for that road. Until then, it’s me and old bastard Jack Kerouac.
And I’m not sorry. Neither should you.
Ioana Cristina Casapu is the Managing Director of Art Parasites Magazine. She likes Brian Eno, airports and never says no to a good old Gin&Tonic.