I'm contemplating a long-distance relationship but don't know if I should. Should I? —N.C.
Um, not a lot of details for me to give a specific answer to your question, but I'll try. Admittedly, I'm not the biggest fan of long-distance relationships. When friends or clients ask me if they should pursue getting to know a guy who lives out of state — usually someone they met on vacation or at a work conference, occasionally online — I advise them to have fun but not to get too serious.
And I specifically say "a guy" because while guys ask me a lot of questions, I've only heard women ask about LDRs. Sure, guys date long distance, but most don't contemplate doing it with any seriousness or move toward a relationship unless there are extraordinary circumstances.
The common male refrain for dating distance is the "45-minute rule," meaning that the travel distance between you and him should be under 45 minutes if you want a reasonable expectation of an actual monogamous relationship. This applies if you're in the same state or even city. There are plenty of New Yorkers who find that seriously dating someone in Harlem is implausible if they, say, live in Brooklyn.
In the best of circumstances, you get to know each other and enter into a relationship while in the same state, and then a job or school takes you somewhere else. A quick note about that: If you're a dating adult and your partner moves out of state and doesn't ask you to come with him or her (unless, of course, that person is going into the military), then you're missing the red flag being waved at the bleeding bull — you. Your partner doesn't know how to tell you goodbye, and the move might be for many reasons — and one of them is to get farther away from you. See the writing on the new driver's license and bow out gracefully.
The second-best circumstance is that you luck up and find someone who has a plethora of frequent-flier miles or has an immediate relative who is a pilot or stewardess, so you can see each other often — and by often I mean at least twice a month. Even in this ideal LDR situation, expecting monogamy is akin to delusion. I know tons of people in committed LDRs, and while they are emotionally bonded to their out-of-town partner, their other parts are often bonding with someone else on the weekends (or weekdays) that their partners aren't around.
Maybe things would be different if both parties were in the same state, but they're not. If long distance is the way you want to go, get on board with the idea of an open relationship. Pretending to be monogamous just adds a layer of deceit and imagination to an already inconvenient situation.
Maybe I just know shiesty people. Admittedly, folks don't call me to say how well their relationships are going, and perhaps the negativity I hear so often taints my perception. I acknowledge that there are people who don't cheat and are loyal, and that some long-distance relationships work and even result in marriages.
There's hope for the optimists. Here's how to swing the odds further in your favor.
Have an End Date
This is built in when one partner moves for grad school or heads off to "be all she can be." But when it's a move for a job, the time you spend on Skype and phone calls — or traveling — for your relationship can extend (or drag on) forever.
In the beginning it's fun to have an adventure visiting a new city or returning to your old one. But that gets old quick, especially when you have things to do on the weekend — like errands or hanging with friends — and you're scheduled to be out of town. Living out of a suitcase becomes more bearable when you know it won't go on forever.
It's a catch-22. You have stuff to do on the weekends, and traveling loses its luster fast. But you also need as much actual face time with your partner as possible to make a long-distance relationship feasible for the long haul. There's a popular saying that goes, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." There's also another, equally repeated one: "Out of sight, out of mind."
Similar to the first tip, having a date to look forward to when you will see your significant other is imperative. If you haven't seen your partner in months and don't know when you will, it's easy to let his or her importance diminish, either as a protective mechanism or because you genuinely lose interest while you're doing something — or someone — else and pondering like Babyface: "When will I see you again?"
Rely on Technology
The only reason I'm not adamantly against LDRs is the existence of Skype, FaceTime, BBM (don't count out the BlackBerry just yet) and voice messaging. The video-calling services are the closest thing to having someone in the room with you, while messaging services are like texting but a million times better.
I once dated a guy from Philly, well beyond the 45-minute rule. Rushing home, or finding a quiet space to “see” him, never compared to actually seeing him, but it was better than a phone call, and it felt like he was "with me" just before or during important moments. He won me over when he sent me a prayer to play before my first major TV interview. I played it before each one after that, at least until we broke up. Nice touch.
Get Old-Fashioned, Too
Penmanship be damned, there's nothing like a letter arriving in the mailbox. Since we all tend to be expressive when we write, it's an opportunity to let the sweet nothings flow. And since scent is such a powerful sense, spritz the paper with the cologne or perfume you wore the last time you were together, whether that was literally or figuratively.
Travel Somewhere Other Than Where Each of You Lives
You'll soon tire of traveling, especially if you're seeing the same city over and over or constantly playing tour guide. Get out of a rut by planning a getaway with your partner somewhere neither of you has been before but you're both eager to explore.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.