Dating

Long Distance Relationship: Yay or Nay?

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I’m getting questions from guys left and right! This is great. I love having universal appeal. I also love this reader, so we will call him Reader I Love. You will see how cute he is. He writes:

Hi Dr. Psych Mom,

Background

I just graduated from college. My girlfriend and I have talked about it and both want to try long distance (I will be in San Francisco, she’ll be in Chicago; this will be the case for at least the next year, most likely two years). We have over the past three months developed a deeply open/trustful/communicative relationship (the deepest I’ve ever been in), and so I think that will be a strength going into the long distance relationship. We are also in the same line of work and have similar career goals, so there will be common ground and the opportunity to share quite a bit on a day to day basis.

Question

We are planning on seeing each other once every two or three weeks, on the weekends. Recently I was thinking about the power of human touch, a power not found in words and moving images on a computer screen. I think of chemical reactions (oxytocin, dopamine, etc.), as well as the un-scientific reaction of feeling happy, even if just sitting next to someone you trust, holding hands with someone you love. How can we better deal with this fundamental problem of long distance relationships? (the problem of being unable to touch, cuddle, have sex, etc.)

First of all, how cute is this reader? He is right out of college, which means that he is young enough to be my son if I had gotten pregnant at 11, and also, he divides up his question into “background” and “question.” Moreover, he knows about oxytocin. And he is a male that values deep communication and shared career goals. And did I mention that he complimented my blog. Girls, snap him up. Oh wait, the whole point is he’s in a committed relationship. Moving on.

Well, RIL, you have come to the right person to answer your question, because two out of the first four years I dated/was married to my husband, we were in a long distance relationship, first between DC and NY (we were both in grad school), and then between Baltimore and South Carolina (during my internship). We saw each other every weekend though, not every 2-3 as you’re planning. It worked out pretty well, but there were challenges. Here are the main challenges and ways to make them work:

Scientists found that women in long distance relationships have higher levels of testosterone than women in same-city relationships. And you know that testosterone leads to higher sex drive, right?

Challenge #1

The physical touch factor. As you point out, you can’t touch, cuddle, have sex, etc. There is no substitute for this, but phone time is somewhat helpful. My husband watched the Bachelorette on the phone with me for two hours on Monday nights, which made me very happy. You can have phone sex or Skype sex if you want, but somehow from reading your post I think you and your girlfriend are too classy for that. (JUST KIDDING! NOBODY SEND ME HATE MAIL ABOUT HOW CLASSY SKYPE SEX IS AND HOW STUPID I AM.) On the positive side, sex and touching of any sort is even better when it never gets stale and boring, since women’s sex drive decreases greatly in monogamy. But, when she never sees you, you can’t get as boring. And there is even some research you’ll like about this topic. Scientists found that women in long distance relationships have higher levels of testosterone than women in same-city relationships. And you know that testosterone leads to higher sex drive, right? So, less frequent sex during the weeks, but you may make up for it on the weekends.

You must also make sure not to isolate, and to develop strong friendships in each of your cities. Then, you will also have happiness in your life from these friends and social activities.

Challenge #2

You won’t be able to have that general daily feeling of happiness when you see them, because you won’t see them. But, you can have a zing of happiness when you see their texts, or emails, or when they call on the phone. You must also make sure not to isolate, and to develop strong friendships in each of your cities. Then, you will also have happiness in your life from these friends and social activities. And when your partner visits, you’ll have plenty of people to hang out with together, which helps you feel more like a “real” couple.

Challenge #3

Loneliness. You will look around you and see other couples holding hands, kissing, and so forth, and you will feel like crap. But you can get through this by covertly taking pictures of these annoying couples and texting them to your partner with comments like, “get a room, assholes.”

Really, in the grand scheme of things, 1-2 years is not a very long time if you’re meant to be together. You sound like an intelligent and sweet guy, and I also love you, so I think you should at least try it out, because your girlfriend probably also loves you, even more than I do, since I’ve never actually met you. Let me know how it works out!

Till next time, I remain, The Blogapist Who Loves Millenial Love.

Dr. Samantha Rodman is a clinical psychologist in private practice. Visit her on her blog, Dr. Psych Mom, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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