Meeting across the miles
“Please only contact me if you live within striking distance of my home city,” I wrote on my dating profile. I’d decided I wasn’t suited to long-distance relationships, and I wanted to weed out anyone who didn’t live reasonably close. It didn’t work – I still heard from people across the pond and beyond, who thought a few thousand miles was nothing between friends and “a flight to the UK is a small price to pay to find out if you’re the one”. Maybe they were right… maybe not.
Until a few decades ago, people would rarely date someone who lived outside their immediate area. They may have literally married the girl or boy next door, because most of their work and social life would be spent within a few miles of their own home. Improved transport systems and an increasingly mobile population have expanded our dating pool, but it’s the internet that really changed the game. Over the last 20 years, the world has shrunk to fit into our laptop or smartphone. Sign up to a dating website and, within minutes, we can be chatting to someone on the other side of the world.
So what happens if you find yourself powerfully attracted to someone who lives far away? Despite the challenges, some couples go on to form long and happy marriages. But long-distance relationships are no easy path, and they come with hurdles and pitfalls. If you find yourself interested in someone who lives at the other end of the country, or the other side of the world, here are my four top tips…
1. Find ways to ‘meet’
Research shows that in most successful relationships that start online, the two people meet quickly – the optimal time is within two weeks of initial contact. That’s all very well if you live near each other, but what if meeting will involve a plane journey, a hotel and a lot of time and money? If you think you may have a real connection with someone who lives far away, think laterally. Meet ‘face to face’ on Skype or Facetime a few times, so you can talk in depth, observe them as you interact, and get an idea of whether there’s any genuine chemistry.
2. Be wary of scammers
You may think you can spot a scammer at 10 paces, but fraudsters are becoming ever more sophisticated in their methods. If someone has a super-attractive photo, seems too good to be true, and has great reasons why it’s hard to meet (a classic is that they’re posted overseas, often in the military) – be suspicious. Ask probing questions, use reverse image searches, and investigate their social media – if they’re genuine, they won’t mind you checking them out. ‘Meet’ on Skype or similar, so you can be sure they’re the person in their photos. And if they ever ask for money, bail at once and report them to the website. For more on spotting scammers, read this blog and this advice.
3. Check your motives
Some people seek out long-distance relationships because – consciously or unconsciously – they prefer to keep love at arm’s length. They enjoy the romance, the loving words and the intense encounters – but they find the pressures of a day-to-day relationship difficult to cope with, or they struggle with physical or emotional closeness. Try to honestly assess your interest in this person: is it because they show genuine potential to be uniquely right for you, or are you attracted to a relationship that won’t change your life too much? How about them – are they keen to progress to a real-life partnership, or do they really prefer things the way they are?
4. Go in with your eyes open
It’s easy to get carried away by the promise of love, but a wise person considers what will be involved if a relationship develops. Seeing each other may mean time off work, and long, expensive journeys. It will take longer to get to know each other, so the relationship will develop at a slower pace. For all practical purposes, you’ll still be single for the time being – you may still spend evenings and weekends alone, experience loneliness, and be without a “+1” at parties and gatherings. Sooner or later, one of you will have to uproot your life and move to a new place, leaving behind friends, family, job and church. None of this means it won’t work out – for many people, it does – but it pays to go into it with your eyes open.
Next month: Have you met someone special who lives far away, and have decided to embark on a relationship? HopefulGirl will share her tips for managing long-distance love.