Dear Rosie & Sherry,
I've known the woman I’m dating since we were kids, so our situation is a bit different. After going back and forth for many years, we finally decided to give “romance” a shot. The only problem is that we live in different states. We see each other every month and frequently speak on the phone. We've been doing this for about six months, and lately, she says she is having a hard time with it.
She has been compensating by relying more and more on her friends for companionship and emotional support. In the process, I feel as if she is pulling away from me. I know this is normal with long distance relationships, but when has the line been crossed? I suspect that she may be distancing herself because she is finding the arrangement too hard, and is beginning to think the whole thing is not worth it.
She reassures me that she has no intention of breaking up, and in six months we plan on moving to the same city. But for now, her conversations lack interest and she is getting used to life without me. I love her very much and I know she feels the same way, but the distance is getting to her. What can I do to resolve this?
LDD – Long distance dating – can be difficult, and we can understand why this woman feels frustrated because you only see each other once a month. It's important for her to continue the momentum of your courtship through face-to-face contact, and that's the biggest handicap of LDD. You're right that she could be distancing herself because it's hard to be apart a month at a time. If that's the case, we have some suggestions to make it easier for her to cope.
In our experience, long distance relationships have a better chance of succeeding when the couple dates with an ultimate goal of being together in an enduring relationship as soon as is practical. They do this by seeing each other at regular intervals and talking on the phone a few times a week, which you are doing.
In addition, they use face-to-face meetings and “phone dates” to build emotional intimacy. This is the sense of friendship, closeness, trust and sharing that makes the difference between a relationship that's “just fun” and one that is moving forward to something stronger.
One way that two people can do this is by sharing what's going on in their daily lives; talking about their values, goals and challenges; describing uplifting or enjoyable experiences; and discussing their thoughts and feelings about events that occur in their lives. The more you two stay connected on a daily basis, the more your lives will be enmeshed.
You can also do small things to show that you are tuned into each other’s interests or tastes. Some ideas are e-mailing an article you read about a subject that's important to the other person, bringing the other person a treat s/he likes, or planning a date that you believe the other will really appreciate or enjoy.
We have found that when long distance daters are primarily focused on having fun without a long-term goal in mind, they are more likely to grow frustrated, pull away, and break up.
With this in mind, how can you and this young woman relate to each other on a deeper level? By giving each of your in-person and telephone dates a purpose – something new you want to share and learn about each other.
In addition, it is important for both of you to live a full life while you are apart – school, work, spirituality, involvement in the community, and time with friends and family. It's good that she enjoys being with friends, but she should be doing so because it's important for everyone, single or married, to have friendships, and not because they are a substitute for you.
We'd like to suggest one other possibility to explain what you and this woman are experiencing. You attribute her apparent lack of interest to the fact that she is having a hard time being together only once a month. It's possible that even though she reassures you that she doesn't want to break up, she is having some doubt about whether you are right for each other in the long term. (Or it could be that she is preoccupied with something else in her life and is putting her emotional energy into that.) If that's the case, then living in the same city won't solve your problems.
To find out what’s really going on, we suggest that you talk about what each of you is feeling the next time you have an actual (non-telephone) date. Explore the possibility of building a deeper relationship through the suggestions we made earlier. They will make a difference, because if you want things to move forward, a deeper level of emotional intimacy is a necessity.
We wish you success in navigating the dating maze.
Rosie & Sherry