Loving Your
Long Distance Relationship

 
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Loving Your Long Distance Relationship for Women

"I loved reading your book. It really helped me understand the feelings
I am having. Thank you for your insight. "

- Tracy, Nevada, U.S.A

 

    Contents

  1. Foreward
  2. Introduction
  3. Can This Relationship Survive?
  4. Building a Solid Foundation
  5. Communication is Critical
  6. Coping Strategies to Save Your Sanity
  7. Having a Life When He's Away
  8. Preparing For Your Time Together
  9. Separating and Coming Together
  10. Long-Distance Sex (Oh, yes, Virginia... there is such a thing!)
  11. The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Introduction

Once upon a time there was an ordinary woman who worked at an ordinary software company. One day in the hall she met a prince disguised as an ordinary man, and she knew almost immediately that he was The One.

He looked at her and decided that she must certainly be a princess, for only a princess could steal a man's heart with a single smile. In truth, she'd never been a princess before and never thought to become one, but in loving her, he crowned her the princess of his heart, and even in her grandest dreams she'd never imagined anything so perfectly wonderful as that.

They were thrilled to have found each other... but soon the prince was forced to leave his princess and travel to another land, where he lived without her for more than a year. It was the longest year of their lives. They were rarely together, and then only briefly. Their hearts broke and they went mad with loneliness for each other. Each of them, knowing the true beauty of the other, was sure that the other was doubtless besieged with irresistible offers of love and passion, every single day. Neither thought themselves worthy to hold the other's heart... especially from such a distance. They suffered mightily and cried copiously... until a miracle began to happen. As time passed, they each saw that the other continued to wait and continued to suffer, with love. The princess began to trust that he really loved and wanted only her, and would settle for no other. The prince came to believe that she loved him so much that she would wait... no matter how long he was away.

And so they did wait, for one another. Time passed slowly, but their hearts rested more easily in the sure and certain knowledge that one day they would be together, forever.

When that day finally came, there was feasting and dancing in all the kingdom. The family and friends who'd comforted the two when they were suffering alone came to rejoice with them and celebrate their joy at being together again, at last. The prince and his princess joined their hands and vowed before all to love each other forever and ever.

And they loved happily ever after.

When I met Gary and fell in love with him, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. At that time he was a software engineer, and in the computer industry two years is about the normal life span of a job for good technical people. There's so much demand for their talents that they change jobs with some frequency to jump up their salaries, and they usually travel... a lot.

Within a few months of our meeting, he was living in Denver and I was still home in Austin, missing him and feeling profoundly sorry for myself. For one-and -a-half long, lonely years, we saw each other twice a month, in Austin or Denver... and we lived for those weekends.

There were no books on surviving this sort of thing at that time, and no one either of us knew had ever made it work. But we loved each other too much not to try. We had some of the best times of our lives on those weekends together... and some of the worst times between them. He buried himself in hard work to stifle the pain of our separation, but no amount of work could relieve the suffering. Three times I reached my breaking point and ended the relationship. Three times within days, I was back on the phone with him, crying my heart out. It was hell.

After the longest eighteen months in the history of the world, he came home to Austin, we got engaged, and everything was as wonderful as we always knew it could be. We were busy planning our wedding and being a normal couple. We were both happier than we'd ever been. He was offered an opportunity to work in Switzerland and we were thrilled about it. We arrived in Switzerland and moved into our new house a month after the wedding. I thought our separations were behind us and I was ready for happily ever after.

I was sadly mistaken.

For the next two years, Gary traveled all week, every week. Although he was home on weekends, I spent five days a week in a small village in a foreign country where I had exactly one friend and could barely speak the language. I have never felt so alone.

And that's how I came to know a thing or two about long-distance relationships. Since then, I have met countless people who are living with them: people who travel for business, people in the military or in love with someone who is, people who are away at school, and so many people who have fallen in love over the Internet and are living for the day they can join their mates in one country or the other. This book is for them. I am touched by their stories because I know what it's like to wait and wish and want so much that nothing else matters.

If you're in a long-distance relationship, welcome to the fold. It is my most heartfelt wish that what you find between the covers of this book gives you comfort, makes you laugh, helps you solve a problem or two, and most of all, gives you the sure and certain knowledge that You Are Not Alone.


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Can This Relationship Survive?

That's the big question, the one that haunts you late at night in your too big, too cold, and, certainly, too lonely bed. You've seen your friends' relationships crash and burn some, even when they seemed perfectly suited to each other and you can't help wondering what chance your relationship has to survive, especially given the distance between the two of you.

And then there's The Way Men Are. You know what I mean. No one, except maybe you, really believes that he can be that far away from you for that long and resist all temptation. Some of your friends, and maybe your mother, are kind enough not to say it, but you can still feel them wondering why you trust him so much... and puzzling over when it was that you became so na´ve. The sheer weight of their combined opinions is enough to make you doubt yourself and your faith in him. So you lie awake at night and think that maybe it's really stupid to trust him. If you think about it long enough, you'll start wondering if you really do trust him, or if you just want to so badly that you've resorted to lying to yourself and denying the obvious. This is generally the point at which you decide to break it off with him and this time, you mean it! Or maybe you'll just cry yourself to sleep, again.

If this sounds painfully familiar, it's probably because you're a perfectly normal woman in love with a man who's living somewhere else, and not really the crazy person you feel like you've become. Despite all the long distance relationships that don't make it, you'll be happy to know that some do. It is possible to get from where you are now to happily ever after. This book is intended to help you navigate that path as painlessly as possible.

Only Good Relationships Tolerate Pressure. First, the ground rules: I will tell you the truth, even when it's ugly. I'm not writing a whole book of, "Now, now, there, there... everything's going to be all right." Telling you those things is the shared job of your best friend, your mom, and your teddy bear. I'm going to show you ways to evaluate your relationship realistically, figure out what you need to work on to strengthen it, and once you've done that help you avoid the pitfalls and make the best of the time you have to spend away from the man you love.

Brace yourself because we're going to start with The Cold, Hard Truth. If you take away the distance factor what you're left with is a normal relationship. Some normal relationships make it and some don't. There are various factors that can put pressure on a relationship. A good, solid relationship can take a lot of pressure before it cracks. Distance is one type of pressure. Therefore, a good solid relationship is likely to survive the pressure, and a weak one is likely to crack. Build a strong relationship and not only will it be able to take the pressure, but it will endure more gracefully, which means less stress for you and your love. Sounds good so far, right?

The absolute requirements of a good relationship are respect, commitment, and communication. If your relationship has those three qualities going for it, you'll survive anything. If it doesn't, well then, at least you know what you need to work on.

Equality Equals Respect. Balance keeps the world on track and never more so than in relationships. Even with your girlfriends, you know that the friendship never works out long term if it isn't equal. If one of you likes the other a lot more, or one wants to spend a great deal more time together than does the other, that person feels neglected, the other feels annoyed, and the friendship falters. That's even more true in a romantic relationship. You must be partners, sharing equally in the joys, sorrows, and struggles of your life together, both wanting what you're building.

In friendship, you might sometimes be in a 'mentor' position, maybe with a younger friend, kind of helping her along and offering her advice when she gets into a situation with which you have some experience. Or maybe you've had a friend you really looked up to, who has helped you. In romantic relationships that can work, as long as it works both ways. If he's teaching you to appreciate the finer points of football as a spectator sport, that's great. But it won't work if he always has to be the one in control, unless, of course, you're the sort of person who enjoys being controlled. If he's also interested in having you teach him to roller blade, then you have balance. His willingness to put himself in the position of student to you demonstrates his respect for you. If he thinks he can learn nothing from you, he doesn't respect you. You will not be able to tolerate that forever.

Most importantly, you must be the person you really are deep inside, when you're with him. If you've tried to become the woman you think he wants you to be in order to 'get' him, your relationship will fall apart as soon as you can't stand being that fake version of yourself any longer. Save yourself the pain and grief of that situation by being the person you really are, all the time. Then if a guy doesn't like who you are, he'll go away long before you care for him. That's a good thing. It's a mechanism for weeding out the kind of men that will eventually make you miserable anyway, so don't disable it by faking a different personality for his benefit. When you meet your soul mate, he'll love you for you and won't want to change a thing. Nothing feels better than that. It's what people mean when they use the phrase 'unconditional love'. It means he loves you warts, faults, character flaws, and all with all his heart.

Commitment. Frankly, it doesn't matter if your entire life revolves around making this relationship work if he's only semi interested. An attitude of, "Let's give it a try," or, "Let's see how it goes," doesn't bode well for your chances. There will be problems, and if you're not committed to each other a problem becomes the signal to say goodbye.

If the two of you truly love each other and you know you want to be together no matter what, your chances are good. Talk about it, openly discuss the fact that there will be problems and times when you get hurt or angry or begin to wonder if the relationship is even worth it. Decide together, that no matter what happens, you will always talk about it and work it out, because being together is the most important thing to you. That kind of commitment is an excellent foundation for a stable relationship.

Make some ground rules. Maybe you'll agree never to go to bed angry, which will force you to stay on the phone until you get it worked out. The important thing is to decide beforehand how the two of you will handle it when problems occur, because they will crop up even in the very best of relationships.

The most difficult thing about not being there is, well, not being there. You can't run into his arms and make him listen to you. You can't hold him close and wait for the storm to pass. If he hangs up the phone angrily, you will be left sitting there, crying, wondering if it's over and if he's on his way to someone else for comfort. Don't put yourself in that position. Deciding beforehand that whenever you have a problem you'll talk it out, or that you'll each go for a walk and cool down then call back in a hour, will give you the security you need in order to keep that dreaded, long distance panic at bay.

Communication. In romantic novels and movies, there is always some sort of 'misunderstanding' between the main characters that causes them to doubt each other, or break up, or turn to someone else. If they ever just sat down and had a nice, honest talk about their feelings and the situation they're in, the problems would instantly resolve themselves... and the movie would be over. That, of course, is why they don't do it. But then again, they're guaranteed a happy ending in two hours, no matter how badly they mess up. You aren't. Talk about the things that bother you while they're still small. Discuss molehills so that you don't have mountains to argue about later on. Remember that if the two of you can really talk to each other, and listen to each other, there is no problem you can't solve.

One day not too long ago, I walked into the house and Gary and I, out of the blue, had an exchange in which we each snapped at the other, rather pointlessly. I thought he was unfair to have lashed out at me for no reason, and he felt the same way. So there we were, each feeling wounded and resentful, all swelled up with righteous indignation over how we'd been treated.

About five minutes passed in total silence before one of us, and I honestly don't remember which of us it was since we tend to handle these things the same way, said, "I'm sorry I snapped at you. I think I'm annoyed about something else and just took it out on you." The other immediately apologized as well, and we sat down and talked for about an hour.

It turned out that we were both stressed about different things, he about work and me about a friend who had hurt my feelings, and we were edgy with each other as a result. Had we not discussed it right then and there, we would have gone away harboring hurt feelings and resentment that would be fed and compounded the next time something like that happened. Someday the cumulative total of all that hurt and resentment would have blown up into a huge battle that our relationship might not have survived. But because we discussed it and realized that what was really wrong had nothing to do with our relationship, it became a bonding experience that brought us closer. After we settled that disagreement, we went on to discuss the reasons we were stressed out. He was able to shed some light on my situation with my friend, and his insight helped me resolve the problem. I was able to bring a fresh perspective to his work dilemma and help him find the best way to handle it. So in one conversation, not only did we diffuse a potential area of trouble in our relationship, but we shared a deeply bonding experience and each helped the other solve a personal problem. That was an hour well spent, in so many ways, and serves as a prime example of what I mean when I say, handle the molehills and there won't ever be any mountains.

Assessing Your Relationship. If you've weighed your current relationship against these three criteria, you should have a pretty good idea what your chances are at this point. If you can clearly see that your relationship needs work, get busy. There is a lot of help to be found in bookstores and on the Internet. Couples counselors are available to work with you if you feel that you need it.

Once you have these important aspects of a good relationship in place, the two of you are ready to talk about how you're going to handle your separation and you're ready to set your boundaries.


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