I’ve been noticing a trend at the RPW subreddit: there are a very large number of young women in more or less permanent Long Distance Relationships while being almost complete strangers to their “SOs”. They either meet online or while one is traveling to a different city for vacation or work, and then they carry on their romance online with sporadic in-person meetings. There is no end date to these relationships, and many couples have been in these relationships for years and years.
I was trying to figure out why, when a person lives around thousands of other people, they would choose to be attached to someone they cannot be with. There are all sorts of problems involved in these relationships because of the distance and the mode of communication. One woman was worried that her LDR was getting to be too negative in their communications.
I am beginning to blame him for every day we aren’t together. Blame him for the fact that I’m not happy anymore in my own life without him. Every day that he does something else, or sees people other than me, I feel like he is choosing all of them over me. I have totally and completely lost my zen. The real problem is that he knows me so well, I can’t hide it from him. The RPW skill of biting your tongue and being pleasant just does not work with my SO. He pushes me until I’m honest about my feelings (no matter how cruel and completely whacko they are), because he hates that I try to contain them. We end up arguing every time, and it’s a horrible, painful argument for which there is no solution: I’m angry, he’s sad and guilty that we’re long distance, but we have to be long-distance for now.
The problem here is that they talk too much and spend too little time together in person. I don’t know about you, but when my husband and I spend evenings together, we don’t talk the entire time. We relate our day and maybe make future plans or discuss any problems that might creep up, but then we are mostly quiet. I’ll cook dinner, he’ll clean up, we’ll watch a show, etc. Online chats (Skype, etc.) are full of talk and few periods of just sitting together enjoying each other.
Even back in the day people wrote letters to each other and there were periods of time between communications. A letter is a finite communication, and it’s really difficult to get into a random fight with carefully written letters. There’s also the problem with not being in each other’s physical presence: no kisses hello or goodbye, no hugs, no Oxytocin sharing, no snuggling, no regular sex (Skype sex doesn’t count in my book), nothing.
So, back to my original question: Why do people choose LDRs over IRL relationships? One RPW seems to have it figured out:
I was in 2 LT LDRs with no end date in sight, before meeting my current SO (one cross continental for 2+years, another transatlantic!). I originally felt like a romantic victim and star crossed lover who was forever fated to love from afar until my current SO knocked some sense into me that I was choosing distance and creating it for myself. I think lot of the appeal was the fact that I had a lot of time to myself for college and working, I had someone to share the details of my day with, and when we did finally meet up it was explosive and passionate and romantic, then I get to go back to living a normal “single” lifestyle. Technology definitely makes this kind of relationship more accessible; we even had a wordpress blog that I just couldn’t wait to update! But women benefit the most in these situations from the emotional support, while men are forgoing the sexual support that is more important/necessary to them.
I don’t really think the men are necessarily forgoing sex during the periods between visits, but I could be wrong. All of the RPW seem to be completely committed, and not fooling around with other men, but then again they would be extremely unlikely to share that information with that particular community. Plenty of the women in LDRs are worried about their BFs seeing other women, but seriously, you see each other 2-3 times a year for a couple of days each; what’s to stop either from having 5 or 6 different LDRs concurrently?
To me, these relationships amount to a maintenance-free relationship where the man can be your chatty girlfriend during periods apart, and then every month or three you get a two day booty call. It also seems that an incredible amount of young people live online instead of out in public dealing with dating face to face, in person. Dating online is “safer” since you can always walk away from your computer or phone. Since familiarity breeds contempt, it is easier to date someone you never get to see, and then they always seem perfect and faultless. The dream is nicer than reality.
I think that subconsciously they like the idea of distance, and the freedom that distance provides. They chose that person because of the distance. Plus there’s a sense of mystery with a stranger from a different city, and that mystery remains no matter how often you chat online. It’s easy to hide certain things when you don’t live together. There’s a lot less maintenance with these relationships too; you only have to be “on” while talking to them or when visiting, and the rest of the time you can be a different type of person if you like.
We just get so many of these posts and they all seem to say the same things. I think that the chemicals and hormones you release and share from seeing each other in person can’t withstand the periods of separation well. I imagine there is more of a closeness felt immediately after visiting that sort of fades and becomes a fond memory until the next visit. It is more difficult because there are few shared life experiences over the years of LDR, so basically a fragile thread ties them together, and the bond is not cemented like people who spend a lot of time together in person daily or a few times a week.