Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Closer Look at Long-Distance Dating: Why Do We Do This to Ourselves?

Meandering through the vast literary world of, I happened upon this cute little book: The Long-Distance Relationship Survival Guide: Secrets And Strategies from Successful Couples Who Have Gone the Distance.


Apparently this self-depriving movement is epidemic...enough so that authors are finding it profitable to publish books on the topic. It opens with a list of cleverly titled chapters, the first being, "A Closer Look at Long-Distance Dating: Why Do We Do This to Ourselves?"

::cringe, again::

Even the first words of the book forecast an ominous trial. Oh, the things we will do for love...

So why would one embark upon a challenge so steeped in obstacles? Can they work? Are they worth it?

Apparently someone in the 80's thought it appropriate to "walk five-hun-dred miles", while The Plain White T's are currently crooning hipster lyrics about love and distance - not to mention the military sweethearts that are definitely feeling the stretch. If there are songs and books, and an entire branch of the US government that is valiantly surviving the dreaded plague of separation, I guess it can't be all that impossible.

I'm no stranger to the reality of being miles and miles from someone I care about. I've dated someone in Tampa from Memphis (a considerable 845 miles apart), and Poquoson, VA for a period of several months while I was still in Nashville (685 miles), and now there is the possibility of trying a Nashville/VA Beach venture (a happy medium of 725 miles of separation).* Being divided by space is hard, and I'm certain that no one sets out seeking a long-distance relationship. You just meet people - atop mountains in Colorado, those in a life transition taking them elsewhere, or when you, yourself relocate and cross paths with others (in coffee shops, for example) - and sometimes the people you meet in travel and transition are really amazing and it just makes more sense to give it a chance. Apparently for me it's all the time, BUT I have never claimed to stick with conventional methods.

I think it also takes a certain personality to be able to weather the distance, and a plan - there has to be a plan, or at least an idea of a plan that eventually concludes the suffering. I won't hesitate to deem myself quite the idealist, or the hopeless romantic, and maybe even on some days an eternal optimist. I think it takes these qualities, the ability to communicate effectively (I've been told I can converse with walls, so I think I'm good here), perseverance, and trust.

I've seen the end of the spectrum - a friend of mine who is less than 2 years into marriage to a guy who just deployed to Iraq. She's really strong, but there definitely moments of anguish when we talk. Not only is he FAR, but she's got the added challenge of worry. Situations like that help to keep it all in perspective - the "it could always be worse" scenario. While 725 miles would be a significant distance, it's relatively peaceful in Virginia Beach, and if worse came to worse, in an 11 hour drive either one of us could be in the other's city.

So the author poses the question of "why we do this to ourselves?" I suppose it just depends on what we want from life. I don't mind living intensely, taking on a challenge if the end result might be extreme happiness, and if there is someone out there who is a kindred soul it seems silly not to give it a try. The worst possible outcome is finding out that it doesn't work, and I'm ok making the sacrifice (apparently over and over again) to find that moment of certainty.

I figure you only live once, and having a colorful archive of stories to tell about the life you've led builds character and keeps you grounded.


*...why don't I date locals, and what's with the beach!?

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