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Mars vs. Venus: Can Long-Distance Relationships Work?

A few months ago, my friend and fellow blogger Jamey helped me out with the male perspective on “The Art of Flirtation,”  in my first attempt at a Mars vs. Venus entry. If you haven’t read either of these entries, I highly recommend checking them out. Tonight’s post is another such entry, where I will share my opinion about long-distance relationships and at the end, will link over to his blog so you can read what he has to say on the matter. 

In the movies, it seems like no distance or amount of time can keep the hero and heroine away from each other, and love always prevails. One of my favorite movies is Sleepless in Seattle, where a romance is able to form without either party actually meeting or being together for most of the film. In real life I’m pretty sure that would never work out the way it does in the movie.

Having recently re-entered the world of dating, I’m constantly reminded of just how hard dating and relationships can be at times. In years past, I’ve had a couple of relationships that were especially challenging, as great distances separated us for months at a time. Since I’m currently single, obviously those relationships didn’t work out, but I did learn some valuable things along the way, which I’ve listed below:

The Good Parts:

1. The reunion when you haven’t seen each other for a long time is often very sweet.  Whenever I was able to make the time to see my long-distance boyfriends, I would go to just about any lengths to make it happen. That moment you see in movies where they run to each other doesn’t always happen (I’m fairly certain this is mostly because of all of the restrictions set by airport security), but that first long hug or kiss after being away from each other is something to cherish. My favorite airport reunion was a little awkward, as his mom was also present and it was my second time meeting his family, but I was welcomed with open arms all around, and it made the moment special. 

2. Care packages each person sends as a “just because I was thinking of you gift” are awesome. Despite the fact that every long distance relationship I’ve had resulted in an eventual break-up, I still have momentos that were sent in care packages. One standard item seems to be the mixed tape (or in my case CD), and even though I never listen to them anymore, I can’t seem to get rid of them. To this day certain songs that were on those CDs will make me a little nostalgic when hearing them unexpectedly on the radio or in a store. Homemade gifts are usually the best for care packages, but randomly receiving flowers is also a nice gesture.

3. Taking away the physical aspect means you can get to know the person better without sex getting in the way. When you spend more time talking than making out or in the bedroom, you can really learn more about your partner’s personality. Without the constant pressure to get busy, this can lead to sharing more personal history than you would if you constantly were face to face with your partner. For me, this is beneficial, as I’m much better articulating my thoughts through my writing than I am at saying things in person, and even talking on the phone causes me to say things I might not be able to get out when actually in the same room as a boyfriend.

The Bad Parts:

1. Distance usually means seeing each other will require some expenses. For me, this mainly meant the cost of plane tickets, as one of my ex’s was around 1000 miles away– too far to drive when I was in college. During the three years we dated, we made several trips to see each other, and most of the time I was the one flying his way. I learned the ins and outs of navigating airports and airport security, and am now an excellent flyer, but at the same time spent a lot of money I could have saved (or used for other things) if we had called it quits much earlier.

2. Time zones can be a killer on coordinating schedules to talk and check-in with each other. A one or two-hour time difference isn’t too bad most of the time, but when your partner is halfway across the world this is a huge inconvenience. When one of my ex’s accepted a temporary position in South Korea for six months, it was a constant struggle for us to find time to talk to each other. It got to the point where I’d bring my laptop everywhere, just on the off-chance that he would be free and able to talk via Skype. Each of us had several late nights waiting for the other to have a chance to talk, and unreliable internet connections on both sides made it even more stressful to carry out a conversation.

3. Being separated means no physical contact, and often can lead to the chemistry fizzling away. While I’m not saying sex or physical contact is the most important aspect of a relationship, it definitely is an important factor. Even though I’m more comfortable being alone most of the time (I don’t have to worry about what I say or if I’m making a funny face), I really enjoy the company of others, and really enjoy being able to cuddle up with the person I’m dating.

4. Feeling like going out with friends would somehow be cheating, or unfair to your partner. One of my ex-boyfriends would constantly guilt-trip me whenever I’d mention that my weekend plans included going out with my girlfriends or to a sorority function. I would always feel bad that while I was out trying to have a good time, he was miles away and sitting at home with nothing to do. Most of the time I ended up bailing on my friends, or if I’d go, would be miserable the entire time.

5. Breaking up is hard to do when you rarely see the person you’re dating. The hardest part of my longest long-distance romance was actually ending things. Whenever I tried to broach the subject that I just wasn’t feeling the connection during our nightly phone calls, he would quickly change the subject or say he was too tired and had to go to bed. A few times I told him I wanted to break up, but he refused to accept that decision, and would keep calling or sending me letters until I’d cave and agree to be a “couple” again. I was much younger and a lot more naive back then, and think the final breakup happened when I was at the airport after a recent visit and told him face-to-face that it was over. It may have been very cold-blooded (not quite as callous as an e-mail break-up), but it got the point across when he could see on my face that I meant it that time.

Because of my personal experiences with long-distance relationships, I highly recommend not entering into one if you can avoid it. Sure, it seems very romantic in the movies, and at first they usually feel like they are going to work, but in reality they probably won’t last.

Feel free to leave me comments about your own experiences with long-distance romances; I’d love to hear about any that actually worked out!

And, of course, go check out what Jamey has to say on this subject.

Responses (16)

  1. This is a great entry–thanks for collaborating! I particularly like the positives that you added. Care packages are the best, and seeing someone for the first time in a while can feel great–that first kiss, the first hug. Those are amazing.

    • Katie, I like your post! Thank you for sharing. I was involved in 3 separate LDR’s and I wouldn’t do it again…I happily met my husband online and I only had to cross a state line (NY vs. NJ) to see him. I will say that I agree the moment you see the other person after a long goodbye is pretty awesome. So are the care packages, letters, and cards. I think LDR’s feel more romantic which might make it feel more intense but in an everyday relationship the pace is much more natural and relaxed, which is more sustainable in the long run. I think LDR’s end up crashing and burning since they start out so strong. I’ve definitely felt the guilt thing, on both ends. Sometimes plans to talk were broken so the other person could go out and party with his buddies. Being on the same page and having the same goal may be the only way to survive a LDR intact.

      • Katy says:

        Thanks for sharing your history of LDRs, and I’m glad to hear that your were able to find love and marriage via the online route. That’s very encouraging, as that’s the route I’ve gone for dating at this point in my life.

        After reading some of the stories of successful LDRs, I’m starting to question if they could really work and if maybe the men I was involved with just were the real problem I had with those types of relationships.

        • Yes, I eventually did, luckily. I had to kiss a lot of frogs to get there before that though. I was on eHarmony a total of 3 separate times before it worked for me on the 3rd try and I was matched with my husband (he was one of my first matches and vice versa). I think it’s timing and luck honestly, you need to have both. Meeting the right person and also being at the right place in your life. I’m confident it will happen to you soon enough! 🙂

  2. chellykay says:

    I was in a LDR for 2 and a half years and we ended up getting married. We were definitely the exception to the rule, I know. And we were very much in the “distance makes the heart grow fonder” category and people in the “out of sight, out of mind” category have to worry more about infidelity ruining their relationship. What’s ironic is how our relationship managed to survive the distance while we were dating, but the fact that we spent so little time together in the formative years of our relationship is what killed our marriage. We didn’t know each other well enough. And I would never get married again without living with that person first. I think that a LDR can be successful but it requires more work.

  3. Kelly says:

    I was wondering how you dealt with not being able to have the physical contact with one another (number 3 in your cons). The relationship that ive been in has been so strong, but he had to move home which is an hour and a half away. I know we both rely very much on physical contact, being able to cuddle and just lay together. He’s 23 and I’m 20 and in college, so I know we’re both young, but I just can’t give up on something that I truly feel there is not over because there is still so much connecting us. I just don’t know if I have a false hope of this working out, but I don’t believe I do. I know there are other things that you and jamey mentioned that contribute to how we’re feeling about each other, but I know the physical contact is a big thing.
    Please let me know what you think… if you want to know anymore about us let me know, i just didn’t want to throw is all out there right away bc its such a long story.
    Thanks!

    • Katy says:

      In my experience, we seemed to substitute physical contact with more time spent on the phone. Most of those calls were not ideal, as it seemed like we were trying to quantify the time spent “together,” and the quality of conversations went downhill. (Quantity over quality is never a good thing in a relationship). In each of my LDRs, once the ability to physically be together and share experiences disappeared, we seemed to lose common interests, or be able to find things to talk about that hadn’t already been discussed–several times.
      With your situation, and hour and a half is a long way away (especially when you are trying to balance out going to college and probably time spent with friends), but there is still the possibility that you could see each other on the weekends, or not have to be apart for months at a time. 20 and 23 seem pretty young to me to be committing to a LDR, and without knowing more details about your specific situation, I’d recommend trying if at all possible to not put yourself in that situation, but that sounds pretty unavoidable as the separation has already occurred. Best of luck to you, whatever you decide to do.

    • Kelly–I agree with Katy here. It’s going to be very hard, and it’s going to put a lot of strain on your college friendships as well as your romantic relationship. I’d recommend two things:

      1. Break up. It will completely suck, of course. But you can do it. If the connection between you and him is that strong, then it’s still going to be there when you have the chance to live in the same city again. That’s a really important distinction–I’m not saying that you two won’t end up together in the end. I’m just saying that pushing through a long-distance relationship isn’t going to be healthy in the short or long run.

      2. If you don’t break up, a few thoughts: As for your concern about the loss of physicality…well, again, this is a big reason why LDRs don’t work. It’s important to have a really strong intellectually and emotional connection, but you need that third piece of the puzzle too–the physicality. BUT if you can move past that and you absolutely need to stay together, I want to say this: Don’t neglect your college experience because of a boy. Boys will come and go. The friends you meet in college might be lifelong friends, and you’ll want to look back on your time with them remembering crazy nights and hilarity and traditions and inside jokes. I’m sure you want to spend time on the phone and on messenger and on text with your boyfriend, but I guarantee you that you’ll look back in 5 years and think, “That was the one time in my life when my friends were all within a 2-minute walk, and yet I spent all my time on the phone with a boy?” If the boy truly cares about you, he’ll encourage you to continue to nurture those relationships. If he actually cares about himself instead, you’ll see him pulling you away from your friends more and more.

      Feel free to e-mail us if you want to go deeper on this subject. We’re happy to help.

  4. Tina Andreas says:

    This is a crazy situation. I’ve been in two LDRs. The second was more intense, so I’ll tell you about that one. We met at our H.S. Reunion (20th). It was love at first sight, very intense, etc. That first six to eight months, we talked all the time, sent gifts, and saw each other every month. As the relationship wore on, the visits became further apart. And Mars is right, the unnaturalness of those 3 day weekends together started to become awful. It was way too intense and not real. It finally ended. Interestingly, I just went to my 40th reunion and saw him there. He had found me on Facebook a few months before and said he’d be at the reunion. We talked at the reunion Labor Day Weekend (2012), but for me, it was strictly as friends. I felt absolutely nothing else, and couldn’t believe I’d spent close to two years and a lot of money 18 years ago with him. But here is why I am writing. My significant other of 12 years broke up with me 9 months ago for an LDR with a woman he’d dated over 30 years ago. She is 1300 miles away. In 2011, he had reconnected with her (through a friend) innocently while visiting her state in the winter. I later found out they saw each other several times that year. Early in 2012 he broke up with me saying it was “serious” with her. Rememember that they had dated over 30 years before, but broke up and he married someone else (for 19 years). Then I came on the scene when he got divorced. Don’t freak out but our ages are me (57); him (65); her (60). Well, after months of no contact, we became friends again in the summer. When he is with me, he can’t keep his hands off of me.
    We talk on the phone and go places occasionally. No intimate sex since the breakup, but a lot of touching and kissing. I found out that he has not seen her since January, it is now 9 months ago, and he plans to see her in December. I think they talk on the phone a lot and send care packages. He told my girlfriend that he has no plans to move from up here, and she has no plans to move from where she lives. Yet they are “together”, and he refers to her as his “sweetheart”. Meanwhile, when I’m around, he touches me constantly. What is going on here, and will this last? My goodness, I don’t think people in their 50s and 60s should waste precious time? Tina

    • Katy says:

      Tina-
      Thank you for sharing your experience of LDRs, and the more complicated situation you currently find yourself in. It sounds like the ex you are spending time with is trying to have the best of both worlds, where he has a physical connection with you and an emotional relationship with the other woman who is some distance away. In a prior relationship, I had a similar experience, where my committed (so I thought) boyfriend was using me to fill his intellectual and emotional needs, and seeking his physical needs elsewhere. When the truth finally came out, I was hurt pretty badly, and learned a valuable lesson from that experience. In my case, neither of the women he was spending time with knew of the other, and neither relationship was ever going to go anywhere.
      Instead of telling you what I think you should do in this situation, I’d advise asking yourself what you expect to get out of this relationship, and act accordingly. If you are okay with only being used for someone’s physical needs, then by all means, do what makes you happy. But, if you want a committed relationship with someone who is in it for both the emotional and physical aspects, then it might be wise to end things and move on. Also, instead of just making your decisions based on things you’ve heard secondhand from others, it is probably a good idea to actually talk to this man. Your relationship of 12 years would hopefully mean that you and he are able to effectively communicate instead of just playing games with each other.
      Feel free to e-mail me (or Jamey) if you want to discuss this further, or share more about the situation. I’m happy to help, if I can. 🙂

  5. […] vs. Venus entry was posted, and if you haven’t read them, you can check out the previous ones here and here.  If you are unfamiliar with this type of entry, I will share my female perspective on […]

  6. Lydia says:

    The biggest issue is that you don’t really get to know the person as they are – you get to know them as they want to be, and this can be extended for a far longer period of time than with people you’re able to see day to day.

    The second problem is that all that talking and sharing (and those intense, if infrequent, physical connections) creates a strong emotional bond. Just as it’s hard to practice any objective thinking once you’ve taken the relationship to the level of physical intimacy, it’s very hard to undo the emotional intimacy and the percieved investment in this other person as their real nature comes to light.

    My story is my own fault. There were red flags, but they were the kind of red flags that you could point to and say…this was a learning and growing experience, albeit the hard way. That was certainly how he portrayed them. A smarter person would have just walked away, but I stayed in it far longer than I should have because I was already emotionally invested in this person – who was charming, attentive, insightful, and seemingly balanced when we met. He also stated strong intentions early on, which I’ve learned is not a good thing – but it was quite flattering after years of dating non-commital men. Over time, as he revealed more and more of himself (and more and more of the truth, sometimes inadvertently) he became moody, controlling, oppositional and downright mean at times. As I was watching to see if the issues were circumstantial versus character-based, he was using the issues as an excuse for all the less than steller choices he made. There were always excuses, and somehow, according to him, I was always at fault. I knew it was a limited term thing once he started blaming me (or his “illness”) for all the things that were wrong between us instead of doing the work to get through them. He just wasn’t capable of it – and honestly, he just wasn’t that interested. I learned in the aftermath that he was saying one thing to me about us and another thing entirely to his friends and family. I also learned that he began grooming his next conquest before ending things with me. A lot of the behaviorial issues began to escalate about the point where they first had contact (she was a long-ago ex). Contact, btw, wherein he told her nothing about me and me nothing about her. She lives even further away from him than I did, and they see each other less frequently, and he’s making the same empty promises to her that he made to me. They’ve been together longer, but I suspect that has more to do with the ability to maintain the illusion from such a distance (and with a woman who views him as the one that got away).

    But if you asked him, he’d tell you he loved me, gave me everything, put his heart and soul into us and it just didn’t work. And it took me far longer than it should have to get over the whole thing, partly because of his one-two punch of sweet/loving versus raging/withholding/blaming dynamic – and mostly because I know I should have taken better care of myself.

    So, the problem isn’t just that it might not work. The bigger problem is that it might do some severe damage in the process. I am not someone that anyone who knows me would say was susceptible to being drawn into a relationship that eventually escalated to verbal and emotional abuse – but the distance made it much easier for me to be hooked in and invested and much easier for him to hide the extent of his…whatever it is…than would have been the case had we met in a bookstore and lived a couple towns apart.

    • Katy says:

      Lydia-
      Thank you for sharing your story. It seems like you went through quite a bit in your LDR, and are probably more knowledgeable on this subject than either myself or Jamey because of your experience.

      Your first point “you don’t really get to know the person as they are – you get to know them as they want to be,” is something I missed, but is very true about LDRs.

      Those few days you are spending time together don’t let you really get to know the person as well as if you are seeing them for shorter amounts of time, but more frequently. Habits or actions that could be red flags are easier to hide for a longer period of time when only spending a limited amount of time together, and emotional bonds do seem to be stronger (or feelings are amplified) because the time spent apart can make it feel like every date weekend is a new and exciting relationship.

      It does sound like you were able to learn from your negative experience, and will be able to use those lessons as a guide for future relationships. I’m curious to find out how you know what the ex is still up to in his current relationship– are you still on speaking terms with him, or is that something you learned from other sources? One thing I’ve learned from past relationships is that sometimes it can be better to cut off all ties, especially when the person has a history of being controlling, as him keeping in contact might just be another game or attempt at regaining your trust and sucking you back into the relationship.

      • Lydia says:

        Thank you for your concern. I cut all ties and made it clear that he was not to contact me. I learned the things I did from outside sources and confirmed them through a professional service. It helped me make sense of some of the behaviors, to let go of any second-guessing and lingering resentment, and to focus on my own accountability in the whole mess.

  7. […] vs. Venus entry was posted, and if you haven’t read them, you can check out the previous ones here and here. If you are unfamiliar with this type of entry, I will share my female perspective on this […]

  8. […] vs. Venus entry was posted, and if you haven’t read them, you can check out the previous ones here and here. If you are unfamiliar with this type of entry, I will share my female perspective on this […]

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