Check out these quick tips that can save you a ton of heartbreak, time and money
More and more I am meeting with couples that first met through a dating app or in the traditional face to face everyday way, but work, life or school had them living apart…yet committed to making it work. They do their best, spending endless hour texting, Skype or Facetime. There’s the occasional big budget splurge to meet up for a long weekend or vacation together. Feeling confident that they really “know” each other and are ready for the big plunge of commitment, relocation, marriage. Alter all they have connected, shared, fought, made up and reconnected…all the while hundreds if not thousands of miles apart…. isn’t that a testament to just how right they are for each other?
I wish it were, in fact if you had asked me this question a few years ago, I might have thought they had handled the tough stuff and despite the distance had passed the test. But, I would have been so wrong…. Recently, a couple came to me for “Relationship Transition Coaching”. They had met aboard and have dated long distance for 2 years before taking the plunge of marriage, with Alan relocating to the US. It took less than 6 months and they were in front of a marriage counselor who advised them to divorce…they didn’t have a chance. Rejected and dejected, they tried the DIY approach again…and they crashed again with raging, screaming matches, marathon “conversations” lasting long through the night…front doors slamming and absent spouses for hours at a time…even days spent holed up at a friend’s house.
They came to me for a last ditch 2nd opinion. Could they make this marriage work? Were they meant for each other? What had they missed?
Here are my six tips I recommend for ensuring your distance relationship will last the reality of real life living together.
#1 Face to face time is a must! Online is just not the same.
Kay and Alan met while she was on a 3-week externship in London, he was there due to a temporary job assignment. They had several weeks of intense and exciting moments trying out new pubs after a long day at school/work or a romantic drive through the nearby towns on the weekend. They “clicked” and were interested in keeping the relationship going. Both got impatient with having so much of their other lives on hold – that they rushed into marriage – hoping to roll marriage, visa, citizenship and children all into one quick international jump.
Couples that start their relationship via distance, really need to be realistic – most definitely do continue to pursue each other – see how the relationship progresses but move slow keeping in mind that unless you can get some real time, real life “living around each other experience” …you’re likely setting the stage for a big mistake. Don’t throw caution to the wind, quit jobs or change Country or State or even City…until you have had time to get past the romantic side and into the reality of life together.
So, my red flag tip here is, “don’t rush” and make you have lots of face to face time.
#2 Be realistic – meeting up occasionally – is romantic…and it’s rushed and artificial.
Often, we confuse our emotions and thoughts as truths. In Kay and Alan’s situation, the anticipation of seeing each other, fueled romance, lust and convinced each that this was the real deal. Of course, when they met up- the sex was great- conversations captivating – even the spats…cute…AND the make up sex even better.
Once they began living under the same roof, Kay noticed that Alan was way too interested in “hanging” on her- always seeking her out. She felt he was too “clingy” – he felt she was too “aloof” and “boring” …not wanting to go out after work or even on the weekend.
Had they slowed the train down and spent more real-life time with each other, they probably would have found that they had very different needs for self-care, entertainment, feelings of being loved…recharging and destressing. They might have realized that it had been their hormones and fantasies – not necessarily a “perfect” match.
You can probably guess; my red flag tip here is to “not confuse hormones and romanticism with true compatible adult love”.
#3 Spending regular day to day time together is a must!
In Kay and Alan’s situation, they felt the time they had spent together in London and then the drop in long weekend/vacations was enough time to determine that they were compatible.
I tell all my distance clients, that they must “test” this out in a real-world setting…24/7 Skype or even short weekends together just can’t replace the day to day habits that can quickly wear on a relationship. Go to the market, clean the house, do laundry…cook meals together…pay bills together. Start getting a real feel for what life is like together.
Can you really live with the fact that your special guy – never – never puts the toilet seat down…. or leaves his clothes on the floor where he’s stepped out of them. Or guys…can you live, happily long term with a MILLION hair products in the shower and her long hair plastered on the shower tile after she’s done? Sure, her hair is sexy, and you love the way it looks, but, can you love where it stays once she’s left the bathroom…long term? Trust me, those cute “habits” really do stop being cute and can destroy a relationship long term.
Alan knew Kay loved her 2 dogs and they were more like kids to her, but he was not prepared for the fact that her dogs slept snuggled under her arms every night -every night! They were not even required to sleep at the foot of the bed…and the mere suggestion that they be locked out of the bedroom while they had sex or slept was met with tears, anger and a cold shoulder…and no sex or even a cuddle. This was a non-negotiable that neither one even knew had existed until they settled into her home and routine.
Red flag tip here is “don’t ignore the little stuff”. Don’t excuse it or explain it away. Have real discussions about likes, dislikes, what annoys each of you…what your non-negotiables are.
#4 Be clear about needs, expectations and musts.
Kay and Alan thought they had covered all the bases – over Skype, text and long flowing emails they communicated. She liked quiet evenings…in fact required downtime after a busy work as a teacher. To her that meant, walking through the door straight to her closet and changing into yoga pants and a T-shirt…barely stopping to greet her dogs until this clothing swap had happened.Alan thought he got that AND that she knew he was a very physical person…the kind that loved to hold hands, cuddle on the couch and MOST defiantly have sex on a very regular basis.
However, once they were married, things got very real. She continued to work, while he spent his days getting a work visa, making friends and learning his way around the city. By the time Kay was coming through the door, Alan was bored and lonely- ready to connect, talk, hang out or go out…you guessed it…Kay was done with her day…ready for the old yoga pants and T-shirt…and zombie silent crash on the sofa for a while. Both felt very hurt and misunderstood. Alan even said, “had he known how little physical contact Kay liked or needed…he’d have ended the relationship after the London encounter”! Both expressed frustration and despair that so much of what they thought they had shared – had not been understood by the other.
This is where technology fails us guys- we have the illusion of talking, connecting…we see their faces and hear their voices over the internet…we have the loving and deep text or emails…but we as humans really do need the direct face to face – in the moment – connection to effectively share and understand.
Red flag tip here is “don’t rely on technology-based interactions to confirm their understanding.” Make sure to talk and test your expectations, assumptions and beliefs out in person, making mistakes and having misunderstandings, then see if you can work things out.
#5 Get transparent.
As in, share your credit reports, bank account balances, criminal records, medical histories with each other…neither of you need any extra surprises as you learn how to live together.
Many of you may be shocked that I recommend this level of honesty…many cringe and say … “Dr. Liz that’s my private business and they don’t need to know what I have in the bank”. I disagree. You are asking another person, someone you SAY you love dearly- YET you don’t want them to know how much money you have or owe? Or that you have a chronic illness…or a history of DWI/DUI’s?
I’d argue that stuff is VERY important to share before you get into any permanent relationship or make life altering/career changing decisions. If you don’t want to share this information…I’d ask you what was holding you back?
Or, if they said “No, just trust me” …I’d be very concerned. For me, this too is a red flag and it is wise to dig deeper and press further or not rush to get together until you have more information.
#6 Meet their friends.
Get out there and meet their friends…family is important, but we inherit our family and we CHOOSE our friends. Who their friends are will tell you a lot about your special person. Ask yourself, do you enjoy these friends? Are you comfortable hanging out or going places with them? Or do you feel out of place and wonder what your special guy or gal even sees in them?
If you can’t figure out what they have in common or find yourself trying to make an excuse to avoid a get together -this is a red flag that you need to not ignore. Study the disconnect between how you see your special person and their friends.
My red flag, don’t dismiss or ignore this…you know the old saying about” water seeks is own level…same can be said for friends”.
If you’d like to explore more about distance relationships success or relationship success in general, feel free schedule a call at: https://mom-mentum.com/discovery/
Dr. Liz Jenkins is a Life Transitions & Relationship Coach and Marriage & Family Therapist who is dedicated to helping women and men manage the stressors of love, life and family.