Can you start a relationship long distance? Plus, breaking up with kindness


Long-distance relationships are hard even for existing committed couples, let alone ones that don't yet have that level of trust, intimacy and communication skills built up. Photo: TNS/Dreamstime

Dear Anna,

Two months back, I (39, F) instantly meshed with a man (36) at a concert. Despite the seven-hour distance between us and a mutual disinterest in romance, daily texts and weekly marathon calls quickly became our norm. He affectionately called me “babe” and his texts were often flirtatious. I told him I wanted a long-term commitment. He said he wanted the same. However, his upcoming travels delayed our meeting.

I admit, doubts started to creep in about his lifestyle choices and communication style, since I seemed much more invested in regular communication. He reassured me, yet prioritised his social life over us talking.

I’m supposed to go visit him for a four-day weekend in a few weeks and, as our meeting nears, our texts have cooled, prompting mixed advice from friends on whether to pursue this or walk away.

Feeling the crossroads of compatibility and the fear of fizzling, I'm wondering if I should cancel our impending rendezvous or see if in-person chemistry might rekindle our initial spark. Any advice is sorely appreciated. – Crossroads Conundrum

Dear CC,

My initial response is that if you’re already feeling those twinges of disappointment and lifestyle red-flaggery – and your relationship has barely begun! – it’s probably best to listen to them.

Plus, you’ve got seven hours of distance between you, which is hard even in existing committed relationships, but for new ones that don’t yet have their trust, intimacy and communication skills built up, it can be a death knell right out of the gate.

That said, spending a little time with him in person might be the antidote you need to get clarity on your feelings and to determine if you’re actually compatible. Then again, it might just confuse things further – especially if you spend the four-day weekend in a haze of intimacy.

However, you don’t need to make any decisions right this second. You can be a little uncertain for a while. You can feel it out. Whatever you decide, keep a healthy dose of scepticism about you. Enjoy your time together, of course, whether that’s virtual or in-person, but keep an eye on those feelings of unease or uncertainty that come up. And most importantly, listen to them before they become screams.

If you do meet, use the long weekend to ask some of the harder getting-to-know-you questions: On topics like marriage and kids (if that’s important to you), conflict (as in, how do they handle it), what his values/ priorities are in life, what a healthy relationship looks like to him, thoughts on monogamy, and so on. Then you’ll be on your way to at least getting to know him a little bit better!

Dear Anna,

I've shared a close friendship with a woman for over a year, and since December, we've explored a romantic side of our relationship. However, I'm realising that the romantic feelings aren't quite there for me. She's been a great friend, and I truly value our connection. I want to go back to our platonic relationship but am uncertain how to approach this conversation. I've never ended a relationship before, and I want to avoid falling into the trite narrative of "It's not you, it's me, but let's stay friends," even though it’s true. Do you have any advice on how to convey my feelings honestly without hurting her? – Just Friends

Dear JF,

You will hurt her, so let’s just get that out of the way. But it’s OK! Breakups hurt, even the most amicable ones. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid – best to do it swiftly and allow for swearing.

That said, there are ways you can soften the blow (a little). When you talk to her, make sure it’s in a setting that feels safe and private, preferably somewhere that won't be permanently stained with the memory of this conversation.

Start by letting her know how you value her presence in your life, and it’s your strong foundation of friendship that got you this far. Make it clear that your feelings for her haven't gone away but simply shifted. Explain that your romantic feelings have taken a back seat, but your desire for her companionship, laughter and shared moments remains front and center. Be honest, but sprinkle that honesty with kindness.

Avoid the "It’s not you, it’s me" talk by steering clear of cliches in the first place. Instead, focus on the unique aspects of your friendship that you cherish and want to preserve. Then, most importantly, back up your words with actions. In other words: Be her friend – text, send memes, do the things you like to do together, check in on her, etc.

It might not be an easy convo, and there might be a need for some space initially, but if your friendship is as strong as you say, there’s a solid chance it’ll weather this storm. Besides, she might be feeling the same way you are about going back to platonic. You never know... until you know.

Navigating these tides might throw you both a bit off balance, but remember, the aim is to keep the ship sailing, even if the destination has changed. – Tribune News Service/Anna Pulley

Anna Pulley is a syndicated Tribune Content Agency columnist answering reader questions about love, sex and dating.

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