Love, Kate: Is Long Distance a Dealbreaker?

Our wicked-smart sex and relationship columnist, Kate Carraway, to the rescue!

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I met my boyfriend in university, and we’ve been dating for almost one year. We recently graduated and are living with our families in different provinces. We can only afford to see each other about once a month and it t’s already hard. I’m not sure what to do.

You know that thing about how “half your age plus seven” is the age of the youngest person you can date? (Let’s pause briefly while everyone considers their younger-boyfriend options.) I’ve always felt like there should be a similar arithmetic for long-distance relationships, some equation of the length of time you’ve been together, the distance in kilometres you’ll be apart, how old you are, how much money you have to spend, how dopily in love you are.

Until then, yours is kind of an unanswerable question. The issue of “long distance” is the rare (only?) relationship quandary that is almost totally practical and logistical, and also totally significant; there’s no moral aspect to it, and unless one or both of you is catastrophically disorganized in such a way that the distance is something you let happen to you, rather than something that just has to happen, there’s no individual fault to consider, either.

Whether or not it will work—and whether or not you should even try—really depends on what kind of couple you are. Consider: if you need a relationship-atmosphere of loose, unscheduled us-time, where your partner is also your ride, your play-date, your all-day hang (I call these kinds of relationships, betwixt friend-os or lovers or whoever, “Turtles,” in honour of Entourage’s greatest bromance), fitting everything into an iCal-ed once-a-month thing probably won’t sustain itself. But, if you and your dude are independent and have enough life-grit to narrow in on your work and friendships most of the time, and to maintain—actually, not just maintain, but cultivate—a relationship on the occasional IRL and via FaceTime and IM otherwise, you’ll be fine. (You’ll be even better off if you make some actual LDR rules: you’ll split all of the travel costs evenly; you won’t pressure each other to move to where you are; you’ll be open and real about your expectations, irritations, whatever.)

Also: in a few ways I think a defined, not-forever LDR as part of a LTR (that’s long-term relationship, of course of course) can be kind of amazing and romantic? It’s so crucial that people, especially in their twenties, stay strapped in to their career roller-coasters or whatever else they’re psyched about, and keep up with their friendships, families and self-hoods. Being apart for a while (though not indefinitely, that sucks too hard) is a positive challenge, and removed from sweatpantsy over-exposure can be hugely fun and exciting and sexy. (Also: don’t visit each other at your parents’ houses, ugggggh. Meet up at a hostel in Buenos Aires, or go camping or something, right?)

I mean, there’s a lot of acute pressure to perform (literally and figuratively, I guess) during the together-times in a LDR, and that can go dark, fast, like, when one of you shows up on a Friday night with a migraine and sleeps riiiight up until your train leaves on Sunday, or when the other one wants to go to that brunch-slash-mimosa festival on Saturday with their work pals (why would you care so much about brunch, I don’t know, but this is a hypothetical). But if you’re already in a good, communicative, empathetic relationship—a pre-condition of the LDR, anyway—you’ll give each other passes, and surprises, and effort, and whatever you can until you can be in the same place for real again.

You’re in transition right now, regardless, so let your LDR be a quirk of that, one to explore and live through and learn from (barf; truth) like any other post-university, pre-whatever-real-life-is experience. (I’m actually pretty sure everything from 21 to 30 is kind of a hot, sick joke anyway.) The best thing you can do is drive really fast toward what it is that you want, until what you want changes, and you throw everything into gear and change direction—toward him, or not.

More great advice from Kate:
When Do I Need to Disclose My Dismal $$$ Sitch?
How Can I Curb My Tinder-Rejection Sads?
When Should My Guy & I Talk “Numbers”?
Can We Be FWB When He Wants More?
Is It Ever OK to Date a Friend’s Ex?
How Do I Get Over a Guy?
Why Aren’t I More Obsessed With My BF?

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