Dark nights cuddled up to a bright screen listening to your partner’s breathing. That’s the base of a long distance relationship. No matter how it started and no matter how it ends, we’ve all been there, praying for the distance to disappear and for the illusion of the screen to become real. Whether distance is all you know, or you’re adapting to the new daily routine of miles apart, all LDR couples feel the same weight of each mile. They may just see each mile a little differently.
The Two Types of LDRs
When a long distance couple begins in this newfound technological age, it’s no longer safe to assume that the couple has even met in person. It’s not safe to assume they’ve kissed, touched, or breathed in the same air. But one thing’s for sure about this type of LDR, the intimacy is more real than any tangible object, memory, or picture. This leads me to the first type of long distance relationship, the lesser known but increasing prevalent, met from the distance group. Whether that means they met on the internet, through friends, or maybe even at a function far away from their homes, this couple has only known distance. There was a time when relationships like this seemed impossible, the idea of a pen pal was just that, a pal. But with the revolution of the internet and the now technologically implanted youth, it’s no wonder there’s people out there creating intimacy out of 1’s and 0’s.
Separated by Circumstance
The second and more talked about type of LDR is the separated lovers. With them, your traditional cute meeting scene takes place. Whether it’s through school, work, friends, tinder, or the local watering hole, these crazy kids found love in this dark, damp, hopeless place. But then the story takes a turn when some intervening circumstance drives them apart. Maybe someone got a promotion, going to different schools, time to relocate, serving overseas, or maybe just chasing a dream. Whatever it is, this couple that has found a routine in dating, sleeping over, or driving to their partner’s place but they’ve suddenly been ripped apart and put into the cold no man’s land of distance. Phone calls just aren’t the same. That ache in their stomach when every skype or facetime pixel just isn’t enough. Their hand is no longer running through your hair after a stressful day. This couple has a harder time adjusting to the practices of a long distance and if anything, are more stubborn than ever to close the distance and get back to “normal.”
The First Visits
I’ve read more articles than I can count about the anxiety of meeting an online friend or significant other in person for the first time. Even though some of my closest and deepest bonds with people have been ones I’ve forged online, it’s nerve wracking to bring that connection into the physical realm. It’s nerve wracking simply because they’re wondering if it may change things. Meeting your significant other in person has so many variables. What if you’re different? What if they’re different? What if it’s just not the same as it used to be? What if you managed to capture only your best angles in every online interaction ever (yes even when you were half awake facetiming with drool running down your cheek and puffy eyes from a binge watch marathon that you don’t want to talk about KAREN) and you’re not as (insert societally created body image issue here) as they thought you were? That’s something the other type, the separated lovers, don’t have to deal with. When they step off the tarmac and rush through baggage claim to the passenger pickup area of the crowded and poorly marked airport, they have to worry about a whole different animal.
What if it’s not how it used to be? It’s a valid worry. People change. Especially when they’re thrown into new environments and settings. Time changes everything, for good or bad. What if you didn’t grow together but grew apart? Yikes. That’s a dark shadow our first group doesn’t have to deal with. They’ve thrived on the internet, they’ve thrived apart, because it’s been all they knew. But running back into your partner’s arms after the sands of time have shifted, with new the friends, jobs, homes, etc. can be a just as anxious experience. Anxiety when dealing with change is normal, even if it’s a positive change. Even if it’s the change we’ve all been waiting for, closing the distance, even if it’s just for a few days. Find solace that you’re not alone. Every LDR couple worries about the change, the reunion, but it’s just nerves. Find solace in the communication and connection you’ve built with your partner, regardless of what screen has been between you.
Differences in Long Distance Intimacy
Going from screen to physical or physical to screen can be tough when dealing with the topic of intimacy. While long distance presents its share of challenges for lovers, it seems to have a radically different set for both types of LDR groups. Our first group, the “started from the bottom now we’re here” group, per se, has a level of intimacy that can rarely be found in any “normal” relationship. It’s a closeness that can only be felt by two lovers that started from a distance and fought to make it work. Even with group two, not many people understand the commitment and trust it takes to take a physical and close relationship to stand the test of distance. It’s a bond and challenge that truly is not for the feint of heart. But that’s not the intimacy we’re talking about. Love, sex, and intimacy are important parts of most relationships and for most of those things, they’re hard to do miles apart. But not impossible. Sure, I could talk about facetime, skype, or phone sex, but instead I’m going to talk about the different problems with intimacy each type of LDR may have.
Let’s start with the separated lovers. Group 2 has known sex and intimacy in their relationship for a while now. They know the do’s and dont’s, the signals and slight gestures. They know the look. But the daunting reality of sexting, phone sex, or heaven forbid maintaining a healthy sex life with thousands of miles in between, can be terrifying. Messages are easily misinterpreted and opening a sext or nsfw snapchats in the wrong setting can be quite embarrassing (or frustrating, let’s be honest). Getting a rhythm and getting over the awkwardness of “should I really send this?” or “ugh this is weird” is a big feat.
However, for the other group, the SFTBNWH group (see previous Drake reference/joke for acronym), they worry about just the opposite. The sext? They’re masters. Phone sex? You better believe they’ve got that down. The sexy snapchats? It’s their bread and butter. But being in person and reading all the physical signs? The little details where words no longer fill the space. They’re not waiting for the “dot dot dot” to pop up or “read at” anymore. You’re not looking at your partner from just the shoulders up anymore. You’ve got a whole body my friend. You have signals, movements, rhythms, lips, clothing, positions and noises. Wow. Deep breath. Look, it may seem like a lot of dials, gears, and buttons but when it comes down to it, cars aren’t that hard to drive. Especially if you’ve been simulating them in video games for years (did that metaphor land? Oh boy).
When it comes to the long distance game, each type of LDR couple has its strengths. They both certainly have their weaknesses. Each type approaches and handles these topics (and many more) in very different ways. But the cool thing is that these are all topics specific to the LDR community. The couple down the street that met in high school and has been together for twenty years, married with kids, never leaving the block they were born on, doesn’t understand the intricacies, commitment, trust, and bond that comes with a long distance relationship. Discussion and communication are the LDR community’s specialty, which is what makes this community so important. Dealing with these issues are always hard and scary, no matter what side of the LDR realm you’ve clambered out of. But having fresh takes and watchful eyes from both sides of the LDR fence may actually be helpful when taking on that bleak and trying purgatory we call the long distance game. So, lean on each other and keep learning new things. Let’s keep those relationships healthy and strong.
The LDD team and I really loved this article submitted to us and we hope you had some good giggles and could relate to the two different long distance groups. The entire section about intimacy is TOO TRUE.
– Tammy (Founder & Writer)
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