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Long Distance Relationships March 11, 2009

Posted by Onely in As If!, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought, Great Onely Activities, Heteronormativity, single and happy.
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My ex-boyfriend broke up with me because he was “tired of coming home alone”.  At the time, he lived in Florida and I lived in beautiful Northern Virginia. He said he wanted to date someone (anyone!) in his own city for a change, so that he wouldn’t have to come home alone most nights. Of course our breakup also involved other incompatiblities (for example, I wasn’t an asshole, and he was), but the coming-home-alone thing shocked me more than anything else. One of the things I had loved about our long-distance relationship (LDR) was that I had so much private space, which included coming home alone most nights. 

I think that people with a Onely mindset tend to not mind LDRs as much as other people do. In fact, I think that we even specifically seek out LDRs. Some people (generally heteronormaholes) might see this as unhealthy, because they view LDRs as inherently inferior to, whaddyacallem, short distance relationships (SDRs). But as we can see from paragraph one, LDRs are only a problem if the people involved  have different ways of regarding distance.  

Looking back, I think I would have been happy to carry on with my LDR for years. I liked making trips to other state(s) to see my boyfriend, having mini special vacations, and then returning to my regular, independent life with my own house and friends and schedule. I was functionally single, but because I was officially coupled, I remained immune to social singlism (Heteronormahole: “You’re so great, why don’t you have a date?”   Me: “Oh, my boyfriend’s in North Dakota right now”   Heteronormahole: “Oh, that’s ok then”). 

My esteemed Onely co-blogger Lisa–far be it from me to speak for her, but I’m going to anyway–had an LDR for three years.  Her boyfriend, more mobile than she was, didn’t make an effort to relocate to her area, and although well-meaning friends told Lisa to give him an ultimatum, she never did. In retrospect, I think she was actually enjoying her time as a functional single and simply had no great motivation to change it. She was pre-Onely, if you will. 

I too was a bit of a serial long distance relationshipper. My post-college relationship was between Germany and the US and then Thailand and the US, and subsequently in NoVA I tended to prefer dating guys who lived over an hour away in rush hour, and to be attracted to men who I knew were returning to their home states that next weekend. Wierd, or Onely? 

When we advocate the idea that singles can be happy and productive members of society, we also have to open our minds to the validity and benefits of long-distance-dating for some people. Conceptually, long distance couples don’t differ that much from couples who decide to postpone living together, who date happily while living in separate houses across town, or who work very different shifts and only see each other at home one day a week. 

We wonder how many of our Copious Readers had had–or would prefer–an LDR over an SDR?





1. Singlutionary - March 11, 2009

I think that sex is an issue for lots of folks when it comes to LDRs. But I can see how taking a mini-vacation to visit your partner might be more satisfying than trying to fit all that fantastic sex into a hectic life at home. In my last relationship (SDR– he lived about 7 blocks away), I was constantly overwhelmed and frustrated by the expectation that the relationship take precedence over my other life duties. I was constantly trying to squeeze my SDR in around the corners of an already full life and I was not succeeding. When it was all over, I realized that the man I was with was incredibly needy and I had let myself get sucked into his way of thinking about and being in a relationship.

Since then, I’ve been more interested in potential partners who work a lot, have other passionate commitments to projects or people, travel for work, etc. While it sounds nice and romantic to “go home to someone” every night, the reality is that when I get home, I need to unwind and I don’t always want someone in my space. Plus, I have so many projects outside of my official job which are vital to my spiritual and mental health. Casting these activities aside for a relationship makes me very grumpy.

I don’t have the schedule or income to take mini-vacations these days so a LDR doesn’t make sense for me. But a SDR where our time together is concise and intentional, that sounds perfect. And then the rest of my time I can go around being a “functional single”. I wouldn’t mind being a functional single for the rest of my life!

onely - March 11, 2009

So interesting that Singlutionary and Lori both mention “unwinding”. I guess some people feel that having someone there when they come home *helps* them unwind. Fine for them! But I need a good hour at home alone to stretch and put things in piles and comb my hair, before I go up to the attic to unchain my boyfriend. -CC

Singlutionary - March 11, 2009

I LOVE this conversation. Hmmm. I see your point CC. I think it all depends on the person. If I could come home and have someone there who doesn’t NEED immediate attention, that would be OK and perhaps even a little enjoyable on occasion. Like my dogs or my roommates. They are fine. But I’ll become a major bitch if I come home and someone has to unwind themselves by barfing up their whole day on me or by attacking me with a too tight surprise hug or any other annoying needy-person tactic.

This makes me think of that Dinosaur show from the 80s or 90s where the dad dinosaur came home everyday with his lunchbox and said “Honey, I’m Home!” Uhhhh. I couldn’t be him or his wife, waiting for him all day to hug and kiss him while he comes in the door. Maybe that works for Dinosaurs, but not for me!

2. Lauri - March 11, 2009

I wanted to have an LDR when I moved away from my boyfriend, but he said he “couldn’t handle it.” I agree it’s the best of both worlds. You basically get a boyfriend when you want one. Though I disagree that it’s free of social stigma. I know some married people who live apart for career reasons and they get a lot of hell for it. I think it’s cool with people if it’s just your “boyfriend” but horrifying if it’s your “husband.”

There was an article in Slate recently about how LDRs are bad for the environment though. Which I suppose is true.

onely - March 11, 2009

Lauri–Yes excellent point–LDRs so get social stigma, especially if it’s a married couple living apart. And there’s the question, “Is he ever going to move to (insert name of your town here)” which can be rude if asked by the wrong person.

Regarding the Slate article, I think it’s a decent point they make (um, I haven’t read the article though!!) *but* are they giving equivalent space to the fact that having kids is also destructive to the environment? This isn’t brought up as much, because having kids is a byproduct of coupling, which is automatically a good thing, as we know, right? = ) But maybe it’s more PC to take unmarrieds to task for the way *they* choose to express their carbon footprint.

Lauri - March 12, 2009

Excellent point. It wasn’t brought up in that article, but I do think I have seen mention of the kids issue in Slate at one point or another. I work in the “environment field” and went to “environment school” for grad school, and honestly the kids thing is the one issue that is almost never addressed by environmentalists, which is extremely frustrating to me. You just don’t go there. It’s weird some of the most hardcore environmentalists, politically liberal on everything, are still the ones that are likely to have a ton of kids because it’s “natural.”

Have you read Leslie Talbot’s book “Singular Existence”? I believe she says in the book she was inspired to write it because she read an article about how SINGLE PEOPLE are bad for the environment! Yeah! Single people! This article apparently suggested that we all live in communes! Talbot goes on to point out how all the single people she knows live in the city and ride bikes and take public transportation and recycle everything, while all the married people she knows drive around the suburbs in SUVs and fill up land fills with juice boxes and diapers. It’s excellent!

onely - March 12, 2009

I *have* read Singular Existence! There were *definitely* a lot of places Talbot wasn’t afraid to go, one of which was the kids issue. Here’s her site, with links to some of her articles.

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3. lori - March 11, 2009

I’ve always joked that should I ever get married, I would really be interested in separate households.
Having lived alone for so many years, to give up that unwind time at the end of the day, each and every day, would be traumatic to my system. I am comfortable with the balance in my life and so many hours a day are dedicated to personal interests that make me more interesting, and happy. My job in family law is draining and I have to to be able to recharge in a certain “happy place” to be any good to anyone else, even the cat.
A boyfriend who doesn’t want to share SOME of that space so much as dominate the unfilled hours needs some boundary practice. I understand that people can have different expectations/needs but some so-called needy people are just controlling and smothering and I react on an organic level in rejection of this, ie: pretty bitchy. My last SDL was someone who didn’t like to be alone either and this trait was part of how he/relationship brought out the very grumpy me. There is something to be said for time and distance: I never missed the guy because he was always there. eeeuw.

onely - March 11, 2009

Lori, I wonder if your SDR who didn’t like to be alone was actually *attracted* to you in the first place *because* you had the opposite quality, and maybe on some level he wanted some of that to rub off on him. Just wondering. –CC

lori - March 12, 2009

Perhaps, but I don’t think he was that deep- which begs the question why I was with him- The guy was the nicest, most generous I’ve met but never said “no” to any invitation or favor request from anyone: was always hosting big dinner parties, and likewise didn’t ever ask me if I would like to get together, just assumed if I had no plans that it meant that was an “in” and would announce his intention to come over to see me. I’m simply not built for extreme social activity. I was chronically tired and oddly lonelier in that relationship.

4. bobby - March 11, 2009

Your description of a LDR can work for me as I’ve always said that couples with their own time away from the relationship, probably have a better chance of success. Now, what may be the difference between the LDR mate and a f*ck buddy, if you will?

onely - March 11, 2009

Bobby, I guess the diff would be that the LDR would be exclusive and involve emotional attachment (and also *less* sex, seeing as you’re in different locations! = ) ) –CC

5. bobby - March 11, 2009

Good point CC and one I hadn’t thought of. But, let’s say that the two people agree that it’s an exclusive relationship, and difference now? And if not, maybe it can become a “Onely” relationship know throughout all of cyberland 😉

6. Singletude - March 15, 2009

Okay, I’m going to be the dissenting voice, haha! I’ve been in LDRs, but I don’t particularly like them. My reasoning is that if I’m going to go to the trouble of building and maintaining a relationship (and it does seem like a lot of trouble a lot of the time, especially the older I get), I want to enjoy the perks. For me, the perks are regular in-person companionship, regular sex, and a handyman around the house when I need him :). When I’m not getting my required dose of those things, phone calls (which I don’t particularly like anyway) and emails aren’t a sufficient substitute, and I say to myself, “Hey, it feels like I’m still single, so I might as well just make it official.” At which point I ditch the LDR. 🙂

However, as an introvert, I do understand the value of alone time, which I prize, so I get how an LDR would be attractive to a lot of people. In fact, my roommate and her husband live separately and visit each other three or four days a week, and it works pretty well for them. Seems like it was either live apart or divorce, and that extra bit of independence was just what they needed to keep the fires burning. 🙂

onely - March 15, 2009

Oh, good point–I know a lot of people who aren’t “phone people”, and the phone would be a key ingredient in an LDR. Though perhaps people who aren’t “phone people” could become skype-with-video people? = )

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