The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - How To Have A Long-Distance Poly Relationship
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How To Have A Long-Distance Poly Relationship|
Those who say you can’t fall in love with someone because of their words don’t know how to read properly. No, in these days of the Internet, it’s startingly easy to fall in love with people who are inconveniently distant. And if you’re poly, you may start a relationship with these far-flung lovers, trying to make a real relationship out of someone you get to see twice a year.
Long-distance relationships are fucking hard, man.
But having had both some success (I’ve been dating Angie for almost three years, I married my wife who I met online) and some magnificent failures (*cough cough* NO NAMES) on the LDR front, I think I’m qualified to discuss some of the guidelines for carrying on a successful LDR.
Tip #1: Recognize That An LDR Makes For Ugly Fights, and Plan Appropriately.
The reasons that LDRs are so hard is that the arguments last, but the snuggles are crap.
Which is to say that if you have an argument with your meatspace partner, you’ll fight – but then you’ll snuggle afterwards, hug off the tears, and probably have some rather nice makeup sex afterwards. There’s all this slack just hanging around, free and lovely, and you don’t even think about it.
Whereas in an LDR, the arguments can start like brushfire because often you’re texting and can’t read expressions or body language, and those arguments stay longer. You don’t have the benefit of happy cuddle-time to wash away the inevitable clashes, so every conflict feels magnified.
The solution here is twofold: first, recognize that any arguments seem way worse than they are because of that distance. Second, the best way of preventing arguments is to assume nothing but good will from your partner. If they say something that seems dickish, suppress your normal RAGE TO KILL and ask, “If I was going to frame this in the best possible way to make it sound as though they loved me ahow would I do it?” Then speak to them as though they were, indeed, trying to be good people.
Doesn’t always work. Sometimes they are being dickish, at which point it’s time to course-correct. But by assuming the best intentions, you will stave off a lot of the little miscommunications that kill.
Tip #2: Get Used To Disappointment, Princess.
An LDR is a lot of lonely longing. You want them around, but you can’t afford the plane fare or the vacation time or whatever.
You have to recognize this is what you’re signing up for when you get on-board. It’s not going to be as fulfilling as having them around to take to the movies; the reward is that you get some time with that fabulous brain that you wouldn’t have otherwise had. But you’re going to spend the majority of your time living in the real world, without them.
You can ameliorate that with texts and constant emails and whatnot, but an LDR is to a certain extent an exercise in loneliness. It’s not going to be like your other real-world dating relationships – it can be emotionally intense and time-intensive, but it’s still going to be saturated with “This would be so much easier if she were here.” But she’s not. She can’t be, by definition – that’s why you have an LDR. And if that longing is going to be a constant ache that you cannot deal with, then you probably shouldn’t be in one.
Which is why the next tip is so important…
Tip #3: Have A Real Life, And If Possible Have Have It Symmetrical.
A lot of LDRs bomb out because one partner has a vibrant social life and is going to parties all the time, and the other is stuck in an shit apartment with a bare bulb and no friends. That imbalance is going to cause jealousy, because one partner is going to want a lot of time that Mrs. Party-Happy may not necessarily be able to give.
The solution? Don’t let your LDR be the excuse for not building up your own life. The more satisfying your life is in the place you actually live, well… I mean, come on, do I have to sell you on the idea that “It’s a good idea to be happy in your own space”? But if you have an LDR and hate where you live, that’s going to cause problems. If you want your LDR to work, then recognize that “improving your life without your LDR” is part of the process.
And this applies even if you plan on moving to be with them! If you’re the sort of person who never gets out and stays lonely inside your shell, then moving in with your LDR just means that there’s a better-than-even chance you’ll be lonely and clingy and miserable with her. If you can’t maximize your happiness without your LDR, you’re probably not gonna do it with your now just-plain-R, and it’ll bomb out a few months down the line.
Shape up. It’s a good idea regardless.
Tip #4: Have Goals.
LDRs are lonely, but it can be better if you have plans. Always try to have the next visit-date planned as soon as you can, so you have something to look forward to (even if that visit date is “Christmas, 2012″). If the goal is to move in together, then try to set a date for that.
Give your LDR a sense of “I get to see him in X weeks!” It genuinely does help.
Tip #5: Have Dates. Or At Least Rituals.
This can be as complex as a Wednesday night Skype-date, or as simple as making sure you see the same movie and talking about it afterwards. But make sure that even as LDRs, you have activities you do together. For me, it’s often writing long-ass emails about my day, wherein they respond with long-ass emails about their day. In either case, having this symmetric set of activities works. It makes the distance feel shorter. It makes you feel as though you’re sharing things.
Tip #6: Let Real Life Happen.
One of the greatest gifts I was ever given was by my girlfriend Angie. We only see each other maybe five times a year, and I was in the middle of my annual spring depression YES I HAVE INVERTED SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER, YES IT’S IN THE SPRING IT HAPPENS SHUT UP.
But I was down. I couldn’t function. And I said that I didn’t think I could make it out, I was too oversocialized, too low on battery power, and if I came out I think it would just go poorly.
And she let me cancel. She let me reduce the number of physical visits from five to four just because I was in a black hole. She didn’t yell at me, she didn’t make this about her being insufficient, she just let it go.
That is, I think, a major portion of the reason we’re still together. It’s not that she didn’t want to see me, but rather that she was willing to let real life be real life. I would have been shit that weekend, probably depressive and crying and fight-picking…
…and while others would have made me feel terrible for having issues, and don’t you realize this is all the time we have, we have to make it work?, Angie just let it slide. And we hugged a lot closer the next time we get together.
The point is that you’re going to have real life intrusions. Don’t make them personal. Sometimes she genuinely won’t have the cash to come out when she said she would, or his fibro will flare, and all your grand plans will fall down. Just like they would in real life. Yes, your get-togethers are scarcer, but let real life happen.
Tip #7: Think Your Partner Is Amazingly Awesome.
Really. You’re gonna go through all that trouble for someone who’s not that awesome? Just remember why you wanted them in the first place.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/158148.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
Tags: polyamory, relationships
Tip #8: Move to the same city if at all possible?
At some point you want to spend more than just a snatched weekend with each other, surely?
(not that I have any experience in LDRs or anything, ahem...)
That's why this is a poly LDR discussion. The other LDRs tend to move inexorably towards breakup or combination, whereas with, say, Angie, there's zero chance either of us can move. So you have to make do, perhaps permanently.
|Date:||October 11th, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC)|| |
I know this says LDR poly relationship, but when I read this I can't help but think this all has to fit in with your wife. My question is, if you sit down and write long emails about your day to an LDR, do you ever start to feel like nobody is listening to you because you're telling the same story to your wife and maybe other LDRs, or do you leave that part out for your wife, because you've already shared it with someone.
You mention being happy in your real space and having a life beyond your LDR, but if you're in a relationship in that real space, isn't it easy to let some affections slip when you've already shared something with an LDR?
|Date:||October 11th, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)|| |
Not certain of the question here. I mean, I tell stories all day long on the blog and then tell them to other people in real life (many of whom, shockingly, do not read my blog), so it's not like it's lessened somehow. Unless I'm misinterpreting the question, which seems highly likely.
I usually write different emails to each of my LDRs. Some days I have cut-and-paste something I wrote that's particularly piquant, but generally this is my time with them and it's my own story.
quite obviously not Ferrett, but dang. you just jabbed me RIGHT in a major button.
in the poly relationship with the ex-husband, this DID become an issue. his otherlove would call him as he was driving home from work (which was an annoyance in itself, because then i couldnt reach him if i needed him to pick up something, we only had one vehicle) and he'd tell her all the news. well...then he had TOLD it, and didnt need to tell it again. only, then i'd get blindsided by something that i SHOULD have known, and the fight would meander on down the pathway to "i TOLD you! i was driving home when i..." and i'd give him the eyebrow lift and say nothing. "fucked that up again, didnt i?" uh huh. *shakes head* he's still a terribly silly man. we're friends again now, but damn. it didnt help the marriage any (which fell for any number of reasons and polyamory wasnt really one of them at all).
|Date:||October 11th, 2011 02:59 pm (UTC)|| |
Yeah, that's exactly what I'm talking about. The "But I'm sure I told you about that" scenario.
|Date:||October 11th, 2011 03:01 pm (UTC)|| |
Ah, I see the problem.
This happens with Gini, and she's not even dating anyone. She just forgets to tell me stuff sometimes, if she's told Erin or Amy.
It's an issue, but we work at it. I don't think that's just poly.
|Date:||October 11th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)|| |
Yeah, I do that sometimes, too. I think I've told George something but I've actually told any combination of "everyone else". My kids, my bff, the bbs, whatever.
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)|| |
Wait, Gini's not dating anyone? I am confused about your life-narrative now. I was sure you had recently mentioned she was dating someone named S... and Bec?
That sounds like an attention issue. I can't remember what I told my mono wife at times. Or co-workers. I'll write an email or text, rethink it, delete it, and then forget that I didn't share the contents of the correspondence.
And actually, my memory problems are better with LDRs--my live-in boyfriend gets irked at me for not remembering things, and that's reasonable, but I keep telling him that he has got to email me if he wants me to recall, say, plans. Because I don't keep my memory in my physical head, is why.
|Date:||October 11th, 2011 03:41 pm (UTC)|| |
Yeah, I can't keep track what I told my husband and what I told the teenager. Or I'll say "someone posted about X" today and my husband will say "That was me, doofus."
Haha. I totally do that, too.
Best instance was when I sent a buddy a news article about a Wolverine being on the loose in Michigan. His reply "Fuck you. I sent that to you first."
And then I argued he didn't and I was wrong.
I honestly don't think I could do poly because I'd have to keep a notebook and scorecard.
I do that one *all the time*!
|Date:||October 11th, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)|| |
This is why I am ever-so-glad my wife doesn't post anywhere online almost ever. I'm in the habit of bringing up fun or interesting posts from FB or wherever, and I know I'd make that mistake at some point.
|Date:||October 11th, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC)|| |
In my defense, I mentioned it because I thought it'd be something he'd be interested in! And he was, because he POSTED ABOUT IT! Hahahaha. ;)
|Date:||October 12th, 2011 01:55 am (UTC)|| |
I've totally done that!
it is an attention issue with him, at least. what cracks me up the most is that he has a sorta-whatever-they-are and she does this to him, which makes him insane.
then he realizes who he's bitching to, and says "ok, just laugh outloud, i know its killing you to stiffle the giggles". what can i say, we've known each other close to 20 years and we just really dont have *that* many secrets from each other as to how the other thinks. :D
i think the two best fights i've had with my sweetiemuffin have been (on both sides of) "i cant trust you not to hurt me right now". i did it to her, she did it to me. two different fights, different years even. we each learned from it, we learned how to communicate better, we learned how to LISTEN to what was behind the upset better.
i'd hope i'm a better person because of it. i know i'm more willing to sit on my hands for a moment or two, to step away from the keyboard for a few minutes (the dog ALWAYS is eager for a trip around the building!), to let my temper flare and back down again and not at someone else. it only took me 40 years to learn i can do that...and 8 years after that i'm still working on DOING THAT every time it would be easy to lash out.
i bet your partners are thinking you're mighty awesome, too. :)
|Date:||October 11th, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)|| |
I don't know how we keep sharing these wavelengths, but it's kinda awesome.
Y'know, I was going to write an entry about how it only took a day of being in your physical presence to get all twitter-patted and then you go on and write something brilliant about LDRs.
I tip my hat to you :).
You can still write that entry, you know. :)
Other than one recent local relationship, all of my poly relationships/whatevers have been LDRs. My current one is the only one I've had who wasn't within driving distance, and occasionally that sucks royally.
And I have discovered the amount of contact I need depends on the other person. I've had relationships where we talked on the phone several times a day (and I *hate* talking on the phone!), some where we almost never talked on the phone but could spend hours on IM, etc. It's all how I relate to them, how they relate to me, and how much time either of us has.
What makes a difference to me in how long the relationship lasts, and how much & what kind of interaction I need depends a lot on how well that person and I communicate. I've noticed the longer I've known someone, and I do count knowing them online as part of this, and the more I consider them a friend, the better the relationship is. My current LDR and I used to go at it hammer and tongs, including several periods of not speaking to each other, mainly because we have very different communication styles and it's hard to hear tone with text. Now that I've spent some time with him, I can generally hear the tone better and react very differently when there's an issue.
I don't agree with all of your points, but I can see how they would work in some of my relationships and how they don't. I think a lot of it still boils down to the poly mantra of "communicate, communicate, communicate" with a bigger emphasis on "communicate" for LDRs.
And, yeah, both of my current partners are amazingly awesome.
It's worth all the frustration. I'd just gotten out of a toxic LDR where we made all the above-mentioned mistakes, and Charles said right from the start that he didn't want to get involved in a LDR at all. Those fears and that resolve lasted until we first looked into each other's eyes, as he got off the Greyhound at Berea. We lasted a year and a half in a long-distance partnership, and then my ex-husband made it possible for him to move here (long story). It's been almost a year now and it's by far the best choice I ever made...I think he feels that way too. So I have to say that even without cohabiting it can be worth all the effort, but I definitely prefer cohabiting. :)
I, too, have inverse SAD, and nobody fucking believes me! Even people who don't have a diagnosable problem feel that it's "natural" to get all happy and excited in spring and summer, and celebrate warmth and light and all that, and equally "natural" to be depressed (or at least wistful) when it starts to get dark and cold and the plants die. I'm a Witch, and there are any number of songs and chants about the rebirth of the Sun in the spring, and the Sun God's power ripening the fruit and grain in the summer... I keep threatening to write "Hymns To Cold And Darkness". I will be so relieved when the time comes (and may it be soon!) that I can turn off the air conditioner, roll up the blackout curtains, and go out into the refreshing cold wind under a dark, starry sky...
|Date:||October 11th, 2011 09:14 pm (UTC)|| |
You should write them. I've always been attracted to the starkness of a clear winter night. (speaking as someone who feels very oppressed in winter... because of the endless amount of cloudy days)
Cloudy weather is just boring - at least solid flat overcast is boring; clouds can be so much more than that! I like to remember what solid overcast looks like when you're flying above it. Sunlight or moonlight turns it dazzling white, and it looks solid enough to lie down on, like a soft cushiony mattress. It's all the more beautiful when you remember that the underside of those same glorious clouds is grey, rainy, and dull. It all depends on, literally, your point of view.
Give me the darkest winter midnight, with the stars glittering so brightly they almost hurt your eyes, and a freezing wind that seems to come from the depths of primordial ice! Second-best is a cold night in late autumn, with a strong breeze that rattles and whispers in the almost-bare trees and makes the fallen leaves skitter along the ground like manic mice, and there's a feeling that almost anything might happen - no wonder people say that on Samhain the veil between the worlds is thinnest!
I should put those feelings into poetry and/or song lyrics, as I've been threatening to do for years. I had too many real-life demands, and then a major health crisis, but I think I'm running out of excuses ;-)
"Tip #6: Let Real Life Happen. ..."
I was in an LDR once and got sick before/during the visit and it was miserable. It made us less likely to want to spend time together, in the long run. I should have cancelled, but I didn't think he would be ok with that.
I love how clearly you write. :)
I'm still single after six years, but I do find these tips very helpful in case if I ever do get into such relationships... Thanks.
I tip my hat to you. I know that I could never, ever do another long distance relationship. I've realized in the past few years that physical presence is a must have for me to feel like a relationship is real. I admire people who make the whole LDR thing work.
Thanks for writing this. :) I was directed here by a girlfriend, who has been bemusedly watching me starting my first LDR in many years, with a friend of hers. I'd sworn off LDRs after the strain of my last one was too much. But then this beautiful, amazing woman comes along and every defense I had just melted away. Luckily, we're doing most of the positive things you talk about here.
Just today, I texted her with "23 days. Not that I'm counting.", referring to when we get to see each other again. :)
As usual great post, especially Tip #1.
I wish I'd read these tips in 2003 before starting a LDR, but she is still around so we've been able to figure something out.
Good luck to all of you!
I'm in a temporary, just-the-two-of-us relationship right now as the bf is 300 miles away working, and I see him every other weekend. I am unsure whether or not I should throw myself into building up my solo life here, as I fear that I will get too used to him being away and make it difficult when he comes back. Do you have any thoughts?
All these things are why even though I am so damn lonely lately, I am not going to get into a LDR. There are no people in this city who have any interest in me or who I have any interest in (romantically or friendship-wise), and I'm moving out of the US in less than 5 years, so there's just no point.
There are people I find amazing and would love to get with, but I don't want to be the miserable lonely girlfriend sitting at home on a Friday night because I have no friends here and can't muster the energy after work to go out to a movie by myself (going out in public to do things alone takes way more energy for me than going with someone else, hooray social anxiety). I was the miserable lonely best friend through a great deal of college because my best friend was at another school with a group of people she loved hanging out with and I was at a school where most people were too preppy and mainstream to understand me, so I made myself and her miserable because I was so lonely. And I know myself well enough to know I don't want to do that again, but if I put myself in that situation it will happen!
So yeah. No LDRs for me. XD You hit the nail on the head, as usual.
|Date:||October 24th, 2011 10:39 pm (UTC)|| |
I got online tonight looking specifically for this post. I remembered seeing the title and thinking "I need to read that soon." Then life happened and going back to it was tough. Then more life happened and I needed to read this.
I've been in all of one LDR in the past and now find myself in my first poly LDR. We see each other every few weeks, so this is good, but in the mean time it's rough. Made rougher by the fact that this poly thing is still relatively new to me and aside from her my dating scene has been relatively limited whereas she lives with one of the men she's seeing.
But this helps a bit.