In the aptly named paper “Go Long! Predictors of Positive Relationship Outcomes in Long-Distance Dating Relationships”, the research indicates couples in long-distance relationships experience more “intimacy, communication, and satisfaction”.
How can that be, I wonder. I’ve been in two serious long-distance relationships. One failed big-time as I grew used to not having my love in my life. The second is this marriage where we’re half on, half off most of the time and on very shaky ground all of the time. If history repeats itself, I’ll get used to not having Husband #2 around pretty soon. Shouldn’t he and I be strengthening our relationship with this wide distance between us, as the paper suggests? And why is it that most long-distance relationships fail?
Ah, but here’s the caveat that answers my burning questions…
In order to “succeed”, the two participants in the long-distance love affair have to recognize the distance problem and actively work to prevent the miles from coming between them. Faced with a common goal of wanting the relationship to survive and recognizing the problem of distance, the two partners increase their efforts to maintain what is lost by not seeing each other regularly. They work together as a team.
This explains why I don’t feel the increased intimacy, communication or satisfaction with our current separation.
Once while in a frustrated state, I blurted out to Husband #2 that I was giving our relationship my very best effort. I followed up with a question to him, “Are you giving it your best effort?”
“No. I’m just letting things progress naturally and seeing what happens.”
Arghh! Arghh! And double ARGGGGHHHHHHH!
“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Actually, I didn’t get frustrated. Instead I was sad. Kind of like the sadness that you feel when you see someone heading for disaster but you realize you can’t stop them. The sadness I felt was for a loss that I can see coming.
I’ve learned something valuable from my past. Without nourishment and effort, my long-distance relationships wither on the vine like grapes without water. Just the other day I was watching a nature show on gorillas. The male gorilla has to go around to each female in the group and engage in sex every day or else the female gorillas will lose interest and wander off to find a more interested male. Hmmm. Perhaps I’m like a female gorilla (ok, if I don’t shave my legs for few days the similarities really start to show)… Maybe I need the men in my life to be interested in me. Maybe I’m not content to try and try and try (unsuccessfully) to win someone’s attention…to prove to them that I am a worthy partner.
And then every once in a while a bit of enlightenment happens.
The book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Towsend was recommended to me by Cathy Meyer. I’ve purchased the book but not started it yet. On a whim, I asked Husband #2 if he would be interested in reading it with me, as part of our individual journeys in self-discovery. This time, he said yes and bought his own copy yesterday. I’m not sure yet if he did this a) to make me happy or b) out of genuine interest. Either way, I asked that we discuss the book only from our own vantage point and not as a finger-pointing excursion. In other words, I can only address what I see in me and he can only address what he sees in him. There will be no “you are just like THIS” going on.
Is this an exception in our relationship? Yes. I will make sure to thank Husband #2 for his willingness to participate in our two person book club.