According to the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships (yes, that’s a real organization), some 14 million Americans are involved with people who live a long way from them. Even more astonishing, some 4 million of those couples are married.
Obviously, keeping these types of relationships alive requires a good deal of travel. So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I decided to interview romance expert Andrea Syrtash, author of the book “Cheat on Your Husband….With Your Husband” to get her take on how to sustain a long-distance relationship.
Frommer: I’m surprised by the numbers. Why are so many people in long-distance relationships nowadays?
Syrtash: Online dating has contributed greatly to this trend. And the number one complaint from online daters is that when they go on a date, the person looks/sounds nothing like they did online! So, I wouldn't suggest flying somewhere to meet someone you haven't had a video chat with them first.
Frommer: Make sense. So let’s say that video chat is over, what’s the next step?
Syrtash: When you're apart, it's essential to stay in touch and technology certainly helps (you're more present face-to-face on Skype than on the phone!). BUT it's also important to schedule in-person visits. Tech can't replace that.
Frommer: How often should long-distance couples try and see each other in person?
Syrtash: Momentum is key so make sure you visit at least once a month, or as much as your bank account and schedule will allow.
Frommer: Well, that raises an interesting question as that much travel does get pricey. How do you work out who does the actual traveling?
Syrtash: If one of you has the ability or funds to travel more, you don't have to take turns each time. Like anything in a relationship, this should be communicated and negotiated. You also don't always need to fly to each other's homes. Pick destinations in the middle so it takes less time away and you have an adventure together.
Frommer: I guess that’s the fun of having a long-distance romance: all of the adventures you have together.
Syrtash: Yes, absolutely. But since you’re in this to, hopefully, build a long-term relationship its important to also have times when you do everyday things together, like doing the laundry. Not every moment can be heightened. Regular time together is important so you can really gauge your compatibility.
Also, you want to schedule your time together in a smart way. If you haven't seen each other in a few weeks, you may need a little time to get back into the swing of things. If you have a weekend planned, spend the first night catching up on your own and the next day with friends or family.
And I’d say getting to know your significant other’s friends and family is crucial. Long-distance couples have a tendency to cut themselves off from others when they reunite (because it's been so long since they've spent time together!). But a good part of your partner's life at home consists of his or her friends, family and community. It's important to make connections with these people so that you can get to know the significant people in your partner's life. Its another important way to get a sense of your compatibility
Frommer: Final, and saddest question: What do you do if you’re going to be apart on Valentine’s Day?
Syrtash: This is going to sound geeky, but plan it as a date night anyway. Decide what each will cook, set up the computer in front of your dinner table, dim the lights, bring out the flowers and have a remote date night. You’d be surprised how much fun it can be.
Photo by RCB/Flickr