I never planned to have a long distance relationship. Most of my favourite couple activities require in-person contact. However, luckily, my now boyfriend, was searching for women outside of Yellowknife. He found my online dating profile and contacted me. It quickly became clear that he was a man worth considering a long-distance relationship with, and a possible move for.
However, once we were well into the constant communication stage, and after my first visit I started reflecting on how things would probably have gone had we met quickly in-person. And my conclusion was that there are significant benefits to getting to know someone over the phone/internet before actually meeting them in person. (Especially when that first meeting will not be particularly convenient, economical, or short-lived.)
The first reason that meeting long distance is better is that (ideally) you are forced to move very quickly to potential-deal-breaker conversation topics. When it is clear immediately that meeting each other is not as simple or cheap as a quick coffee-date, and will more likely involve several hundreds of dollars and several days, you want to make sure a real-life date is worth it. You then make sure to discuss topics such as children, religion, political slant, money management, living locations, housing tastes, sex preferences, and concerns from past relationships. The typical “date-talk” about work, hobbies, minor likes/dislikes can be discussed at any point in the future. There’s no need to dwell on the little details; it’s the big stuff that is important when deciding whether or not to buy that plane ticket.
The second benefit, related to the conversations that may come out of the above, is that disclosing pertinent life details and specific vulnerabilities, leads to a quicker feeling of intimacy and trust, than a couple may have otherwise. Long distance relationships can really only work well when both people are committed to detailed, honest, and ample communication. With M and I, the amount of important information we exchanged over less than a week, surpassed what I had previously done within a multiple-year marriage. By sharing increasingly personal information we were able to gauge the other’s response to potentially uncomfortable topics, or to those topics that often result in judgement statements when told to the wrong person. We were able to build a significant level of comfort with each other, due to knowing that nothing the other said would ever be subject to criticism or judgement.
In contrast, I picture us meeting in “real life” or after a briefer online contact. Honestly, I can see our relationship moving quickly to “adult activities”, other fun activities, and long conversations about the many topics we like to discuss with each other that most other people don’t want to talk to us about. This would certainly be fun, but we would likely have put off some of the deeper issues for a little longer. By dating in this manner, you get attached to a person, without actually knowing if you will be compatible in the long-term. Of course, this is not necessarily wrong; it depends what you are looking for in a relationship. But if your end goal is a long-term partnership and/or legal marriage, it makes sense to expose potential non-negotiable problems early on. It’s all too easy to just make assumptions and then find them proven wrong (as I learned over and over again during my first marriage) to the detriment of both parties.
So while I do not enjoy the long distance aspect of our relationship (27 days left!) I can acknowledge the benefits to this method of meeting. Would we be as (mostly) comfortable making this big change this quickly if we had been able to date in a “normal” manner? I don’t think it likely. I would certainly enjoy dating M in any capacity, but I truly cherish the way we have quickly bonded over our mutual attraction, kinship, and dealing with the challenge of our geographical distance. It’s unusual to start a relationship with the not insignificant task of a cross-country move and cohabitation, but the very fact that we are choosing to take on this change together, as allies in the uncertain, I believe bodes well for our continued relationship success.