Q. Dear Rachel,
I never thought I’d be in a long-distance relationship, but here I am. I’m stuck in L.A., finishing my senior year of college, while my boyfriend’s in New York City, starting a new job. He graduated this year, but I won’t be able to move to New York until I graduate in June. We’ve been together for three years and we want to spend the rest of our lives together. I’ve never doubted our commitment, but the distance has already taken a toll on our relationship. It’s only been one month, but it feels like 10. How can we keep from growing apart?
A. Dear Boyfriend-Withdrawals,
My heart goes out to you because I know that long-distance relationships can feel unbearable for two people in love. There’s no doubt that distance can put a strain on a relationship, but you and your boyfriend can make it through this difficult time with a combination of commitment and communication tools to stay emotionally connected while you’re apart.
Remember the big picture. You and your boyfriend plan to be together for the rest of your lives so this period of separation is just a small glitch in your lifetime of togetherness. Don’t let jealousies or insecurities run wild or play tricks on your mind. This is good advice in any relationship, but especially in long-distance relationships, where trust issues can be put to the test.
This brings me to my next point: involve your partner in your day-to-day routine as much as possible. Even if you and your boyfriend were independent and casual with communication when living in the same city, distance now requires you to up your communication skills in order to maintain a comparable level of closeness as when the two of you were in close proximity. Small gestures, such as a phone call to say hi or a text to say “taking kickboxing at the gym,” go a long way toward making your partner feel secure and included in your daily life while miles apart. In addition, you’ll be reassuring one another that you’re not forgotten just because you’re out of sight or because you meet new friends. So, if you’re not on the same phone plan, switch now to get free, mobile-to-mobile access.
In addition, you may want to sign up for some type of frequent flyer program, since face-to-face time is crucial to maintaining your emotional bond. Make it a priority to see each other in person as frequently as feasible, just short of getting into debt. In the meantime, take advantage of creative, communication techniques to keep your connection alive. Incorporate contact via phone, Web cam, e-mail, tweets or text into your day, like a Web cam chat every morning and a phone call every evening before bed. Even if you weren’t a highly structured couple when you were both local, structure is your ally now that the miles are between you. In addition to special occasions, like anniversaries and birthdays, celebrate the countdown to your move to New York, like six months to go, five months to go and so on to remind yourselves that your goal is within reach.
The effort you make now will all seem worth it once you and your boyfriend are reunited for good in June. Until then, remind each other often of the reasons you fell in love in the first place and let him know that you’re looking forward to your future together.
Q. Dear Rachel,
I’m a trusting person by nature, but I’m becoming wary of the guy I’m dating because he’s never invited me to his apartment. He lives an hour away, so at first I thought he was being a gentleman by picking me up at my place. Now, however, I’m getting suspicious. When I mention seeing his place, he acts uncomfortable. I’ve asked him outright if he’s dating anyone besides me and he says no. Do I have reason to be concerned?
a. Dear Concerned,
If you’re usually a trusting person and your guy’s behavior is setting off a red flag for you, I would trust your intuition. I agree that it’s worrisome that you haven’t seen his place in three months and I think you should speak with him and give him an opportunity to offer a logical explanation or take you on a spontaneous visit to his apartment. If he’s not able to easily appease your suspicions with an explanation, there may be a bigger issue at stake. Most importantly, you want to make sure that he’s not hiding a girlfriend or wife from you. Although I don’t believe in jumping to conclusions, there are all kinds of people in this world and it’s not unfathomable for someone to be unfaithful and dishonest. If something is raising your suspicions, you need to get to the bottom of the situation before you get further involved. If this man has nothing to hide, it should be easy for him to clear up your doubts. If he continues to behave in a mysterious manner, this may also be a red flag that he’s not the right partner for you. Listening to your intuition from a place of self-assurance, as opposed to insecurity, is the cornerstone to identifying your best match.
Rachel Iverson is a freelance writer, dating coach and author, who lives with her husband in Venice. Her book, “Don’t Help A Man Be A Man: How To Avoid 12 Dating Time Bombs,” has been endorsed by Dr. John Gray, author of “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” For more information on Rachel or her book, visit: www.rebelgirlpublishing.com. For dating advice, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.