I’ve done the long-distance dating thing twice, and I will say that both times were a success. Sure, the women I met aren’t in my life anymore but I learned and gained so much from those two long-term relationships.
After the first relationship ended in 2005, I was not ready for another relationship but I looked for one anyway. I figured the true path to happiness was to find someone else to fill the new void in my life (more on that dysfunction shortly).
The first month of searching for the next new woman for me was intriguing I’ll admit. To get new prospects in your inbox day after day is exciting. I’d never done any kind of online dating before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Overall, it was thrilling to imagine what my next relationship would be like.
However, those emails can be a lot to sort through especially when you’re looking for “the one”. After about a month, I connected with the person who would eventually become my future wife.
She lived in California, I lived in Florida. I don’t know what I was thinking, but our connection seemed inevitable – everything about “us” was there and I had to go for it.
So we flew back and forth a couple of times and eventually (6 months later), I moved to California. The relationship was rocky from the start but we managed to work through four years of living together and another four years of marriage.
Then one day, it was over.
The end of that relationship was hard, but it was also one of the most healing events I’d ever had (healing = painful with powerful personal growth lessons).
So a few months after my divorce, I decided to get into online dating again. Though, It didn’t take long for me to ask myself, “What the hell am I doing?“
I suddenly realized that I was in a pattern of “serial partnerships”. It was like I had a program running in the background that said: You must always be in a relationship.
As soon as I recognized that pattern, I decided I needed to break it. I closed my online dating profiles and chose to focus on me and what I needed to heal in myself before I took my dysfunctions into any future relationships.
My “dysfunction” was thinking that the only way I could be fully happy was to have someone else in my life.
I needed a relationship. I needed someone to love me.
I was very NEEDY. I felt… desperate. And that’s when I knew I was dysfunctional.
I was desperate to fill the void in my life with someone else. I hadn’t even considered what it was like to be alone because I always sought the next person after the last one left.
Seeking the next person before healing yourself is the cause of most relationship dysfunction.
I didn’t want to be desperately seeking someone else, I wanted to be completely happy being single. I didn’t even know what that was like!
A funny thing happened the day before I closed my online dating account. A girl reached out to me and said she liked my profile and was interested in just talking business (personal growth business like coaching and how I was making an income).
I thought, well, that’s innocent enough. But let’s see if she means what she says. So I was very blunt with her. I wrote back and said, “I just got divorced, I’m living with family, and I haven’t made a dime in a new business venture. And quite frankly, I’ve decided not to date anyone and stay single until I get my life back on track. If you still want to talk, I’m all ears. If not, I completely understand and wish you the best.”
She was shocked! But in a good way. She wrote back, “LOL! It’s so refreshing to find someone who is just honest and not trying to impress me. Yes, I’d love to talk shop with you.”
From there, we were really good friends. We were a thousand miles apart, but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t looking to “hook up” or get involved emotionally.
We stayed friends for months and were getting along wonderfully. But one day she mentioned how neat it would be if we were closer just to see if there were any sparks. I was like, “Whoa… wait. I thought we were just going to stay friends.”
Her comment made me realize how comfortable I was being single. I was actually enjoying being with myself.
And, I noticed that I had let go of the desperation and neediness that used to be normal for me when I wasn’t in a relationship. So for her to say what she said confused me.
I said, “I thought we were just going to stay friends?”
She said, “Of course, I still want that. But you know, if we were closer (geographically), we could see if there could be anything more. I’m just entertaining the thought, that’s all. I mean we talk all the time anyway.”
And for the first time, I considered getting into a relationship from a place of complete happiness in myself:
A complete satisfaction of being alone.
For the first time, I felt emotionally healthy to make such a decision for myself.
I felt empowered.
And that was the main difference. In the past, I felt needy and “wanting”, and hoped things worked out to result in a romantic relationship. But this time, I felt powerful knowing I could say Yes or No and that I’d be happy with either choice.
That’s never happened before. It was always, “Please say Yes because if you say No I’ll be unhappy” So to be in a situation where Yes or No were equal just felt liberating.
I was finally liberated from that dysfunction, at least in this aspect of my life.
So after several months of me thinking things like, “I’ll never, ever date this person.” I made a choice to pursue it further just to see if there were more compatibilities between us.
Turns out there were many. So we started talking about possibilities. Eventually, she flew up, we met, and we really dug each other. We became exclusive from that point on.
For this new relationship, I went in with a clean slate and decided if this is to be, it’s up to me. In other words, I need to pay attention to me and my needs, and whatever bothers me I need to address in myself and not try to change her.
I spent all of my time in other relationships trying to change the person I was with instead of becoming a better, stronger, healed person myself. So I chose to change my focus for this relationship. I decided I would do what I needed to continue working on myself no matter what.
Focusing on yourself is a great way to turn off your judgments about other people.
And that’s what I’ve been doing since this relationship began. I am still with this person today, and it only gets better and better.
So, the point of this article is to say that long-distance relationships can work. The questions you need to ask yourself are this:
- How long are you willing to wait before you’re together?
My limit is about 6 months. But that’s okay because you learn so much about each other before you’re actually together. The more you share about yourself, the better it will be when you’re finally together.
Also, you get to learn exactly what to expect when you are finally together. When I finally moved to Georgia to be with my girlfriend, we already knew more about each other than most people who met in person for the same period of time.
Can you wait 6 months? Can you wait 5 years? This is a personal choice. If your heart doesn’t wrench while waiting, then you probably have no issue doing so. But what could come your way in that time?
Do you commit to something so far off that may not actually happen? That is the true question.
- How attached are you to NEED versus WANT?
After my divorce, I needed someone to make me happy. After my healing, I wanted it.
There’s a huge difference because one will have you making choices that aren’t necessarily healthy and the other will empower you with the decision to walk away if it’s not everything you absolutely want in a relationship.
That’s so powerful. Having the choice to walk away is when you can love and connect from a deeper place of enjoyment and satisfaction. If there’s a need or a longing in you where you must find someone to “complete you” in a way, your dependency will disintegrate the relationship.
- Are you willing to put your life on hold during the waiting period?
I realize life doesn’t stop while you’re not together, but dating typically does. Also, you think differently while you’re in a relationship, even when you’re apart. The influence of that other person is always in mind in every decision you make.
Can you go months or years thinking this way even though they aren’t technically in your life yet?
This is huge. But, if you’re happy whether you come together or not, it’s not a big deal. Life goes on and you don’t worry about too much at all. If you are committed to each other, it can work out. But committing to a person who is far away is more like committing to an idea of what it might be like.
If you can be happy while apart, then that idea can blossom or not and you’ll be fine either way. If it feels like your life is on hold until you get together, then I recommend not going through with it (unless it’s only a few weeks or months). Being on “hold” is stagnation… waiting for something to happen that may or may happen.
Sometimes you have to make a decision based on what you know today – not what might be.
Yes, you can both work on the relationship and share a lot of honest communication with each other so it can work. But when it doesn’t, sometimes more honest communication is needed so that the healing can begin sooner rather than later.
In conclusion, long-distance relationships have the possibility of being the best types of relationship you could have, merely because you do so much talking while apart. While you’re together, that usually doesn’t happen as often.
The most important aspect of getting into any relationship is what version of you you bring into it. If you bring in that needy, desperate, longing-for-a-lover you, you end up putting a lot of pressure on the other person to fulfill your needs.
On the other hand, if you bring in that stable, comfortable, happy-being-single-or-not you, you enter a richly rewarding and highly functional partnership that only gets better and better as time goes on.
Yes, it takes two – your partner must also work towards the common goal. But if you are mentally strong and well, you are only going to choose mentally strong and well partners. If one of you is the giver and the other is a taker, then failure becomes imminent.
In romantic relationships, we almost always choose those who are at the same level of dysfunction we are. It just works out that way because we are attracted to the characteristics in them that are most likely going to trigger us emotionally.
We will always be the perfect impetus for our partner’s dysfunction to be expressed.
Isn’t that great? I know… not fun. But realizing this will empower you because you are presented with the opportunity to heal and grow or stuff it back down.
I’ll give you one guess which choice leads to an empowering life and the healthiest outcomes.
What bothers you about your partner is sometimes a reflection on what you need to heal in yourself.
It’s hard to face sometimes, but it’s all part of the process of personal growth and development.
Bring the best you into every relationship and you’ll have the best relationship. And if the relationship doesn’t work out, then maybe there’s more healing you need to do so that you don’t attract that type of person in your life again.
Every great relationship starts with and in you.