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Dating from a Distance

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Anonymous asks:

Over the weekend I hooked up with this guy I just adore. We live 90 miles apart, so I assumed he wanted something casual and tried play it off like that's what I wanted, too. We loosely agreed that I would get in touch with him when I am in town again. I am kicking myself; I want to date him, not be a sporadic hook-up buddy! What was I thinking? It's gonna be so much harder to have that conversation now.

But, that is not the main thing holding me back. The idea of a long distance relationship doesn't appeal to me because I was in one for 2 years and swore I would NEVER do it again. That is not to say all relationships are the same; I just don't see the point in throwing up extra obstacles (like distance) when you're trying to establish a new relationship. And I am not going to move just for him.

So, I don't know what to do. It's easy enough to tell him how I feel and get a response; but, even if he does want to date, I am not sure I would do it with the current arrangement. I don't want to pass up this opportunity, but I don't see how it would work either! What do I do? HELP!

Heather Corinna replies:

What I am hearing is...well, the reality that when it comes to love, we simply cannot often get everything we want, or have love happen in exactly the context we'd most prefer, or are most comfortable with. In a word, we often just can't have everything (and as comedian Steven Wright once asked, if we could, where would we put it?).

What you're essentially stating is that you want to date this guy, but not in the circumstances you two are in at the present. Right now, you're where you are on the map, he's where he is, and you'll have two choices if he's also interested in dating: you can commute to date, or you can not date if you don't want to commute. And that really is all there is to it.

In other words, you want to date someone who lives around an hour and a half's drive away -- which I personally don't even consider long-distance: my commute to one of my jobs takes longer than that, after all -- but you don't want to have to deal with that distance. This is a conundrum, just like it would be if I really wanted to eat that cake over there, but somehow not digest the calories it contains.

This is the part where I say, "WHOAH, gal!" I think we need to pull back the reins here, big-time.

I agree that either of you moving for a relationship that isn't even a dating relationship yet, let alone a dating relationship you've had for long enough to establish might be worth a move, is not a sound option to even consider at this point. Thinking about a move is about 876 steps further than where you are at right now: that'd be like my signing a mortgage on a house based on income from an advance for my tenth book when I don't even have an offer on my second book.

Right now, you aren't even at a point where you are looking at an ongoing relationship, or anything serious.

It sounds like you have had one kinda-date, and one in which it doesn't even sound like you were particularly honest about yourself or what you wanted. You have yet to even talk to him again or discuss what you feel like you want, and the fact that you agreed to something you really didn't (which can be, indeed, a challenging conversation, and one where you might well learn things about him or the two of you that make you feel less thrilled about him than you are right now).

I hear you putting yourself many steps ahead of where I see you as being. You two haven't even had a couple dates yet to establish if you work together in a way where you'd both want to have a more regular relationship. You haven't even yet had the conversation with him to know if he wants to date at all, or if he's interested in the same thing you are. (Myself? If I and someone else didn't even posit talking to one another on the phone unless I was going to be back in town, I'd actually figure that there probably wasn't a real interest in anything beyond hooking up.) You still have yet to determine what he wants, or how feels feels at this point about the last time you saw one another. You don't know yet if he is or is not comfortable with dating with this kind of commute himself: you're not the only one who may have preferences in that area, after all.

I want to be sure you know that can have conversations about these things with someone who we are interested in without the conversation itself being any kind of commitment. You can express to this guy that you like him a lot, that while you agreed to something casual the last time, you don't feel like that's what you'd be interested in were you two to see one another again, and that you have an interest in dating him. You can express that you know -- if he shared that interest -- that the distance, for you, feels like a possible problem, and that you are wary of long-distance relationships because the last one you were in didn't work out for you. Then, after voicing those things, you can ask how he feels about all of this, and see what he responds with.

Let's say that he, like you, has an interest in dating, and does not have a problem with having another date. If that's so, then you two can try a date or two -- perhaps taking turns taking that commute -- and see how dating goes, and if your experience of dating him does or does not seem worth dealing with the distance. For all you know, the distance won't be the biggest barrier here: maybe he's not so great when the date happens out of bed. Maybe you two want very different things in relationships or in your lives. Maybe you just don't connect as well as you thought you would, or just not well enough that it feels worth a commute for one or both of you... or maybe you do connect fantastically, and maybe it's all good stuff that makes a fairly minor commute seem like no big shakes. As you mentioned, it's also a good idea to remember that all relationships are not the same, and one long-distance relationship being sucky doesn't mean a different relationship, with a different person, with your own additional growth since that last one, may well be a very different experience.

But before getting all hung up on a serious relationship which involves a bit of distance, you need to take the time to find out if a serious relationship is even something you both want in the first place, and which feels right between you, and the only way to find that out is to spend some time together first and see. The cart does need to go behind, not in front of, the horse, and just as it is with sex, with relationships or love, we can put something out there as a possibility without any of us needing to say yes to it because we're voicing something that is a maybe. In other words, either of you gets to consider any of this and accept or decline: we don't only need to voice things we want when we're 100% -- or any percent at all -- on actualizing them.

One other thing I want to toss at you is the idea that sometimes -- be it a love relationship, a job opportunity, what have you -- the timing or situation of something we want just isn't quite right in a given time or space. Deciding a given opportunity isn't right for you right now, if that's the conclusion you come to, does not always mean shutting the door on it forever. That person or opportunity may show up again in your life at a better time, in a better place when it does better suit your needs and wants. I know that it isn't always easy to accept that can be so, especially about things we feel very strongly about or very much want, but the older you get, the more you'll probably see that happen, so for now, trust me when I tell you that it tends to often enough.

With people, particularly, I feel like if and when we make real connections together, it's more common for us to circle one another's orbit more than once than not. If you and this guy have the super-amazing kick-ass love mojo together, even if you both determine now isn't the right time or place to pursue that further, you may well wind up finding each other again in another time and place. That might sound really esoteric or kind of goony to you, but from my own personal experience, our really good interpersonal opportunities just don't tend to be one-time offers: they tend to resurface, sometimes without us even making any effort to make that happen.

For right now, though, if you do feel like this is something you may want to pursue -- and don't just only want to see him for a hookup when you're back in town -- you just need to start with that phone call and at square one, which is saying, "Hi! How are you? I've been thinking of you," and then voicing how you feel and seeing how he's feeling. If he's interested in dating, too, you've got little to lose by each of you making that commute once so you can have a couple of dates: again, this isn't y'all flying halfway across the world to see each other, it's you doing the kind of commute many people do daily just to get to work or school. Again, you get to take this step by step, weighing your options and the situation as you go, and when it's more actual than abstract.

Okay? So, if you want to consider this, take it step by step. All you have to do if that's what you want now is pick up the telephone, which probably requires little more than a short trip from your keyboard to your pocket.

Here are a few links which might be good food for thought in all of this:

written 15 Dec 2008 . updated 20 Jan 2009

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