Hello everybody, welcome to episode 68 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. Today we’re going to be chatting about long distance relationships – something that is yet to come up. We often try to play long distance relationships the same way we play short distance relationships, but it’s clearly a different situation that calls for some, not all, but some different measures. Let’s hear what this listener had to ask about her long distance relationship and try to help her out…
QUESTION: “I have been dating my boyfriend for almost three years and we have been doing the long distance thing since day one. He bought a house a few months ago and wants me to move in with him. I don’t want to. I haven’t directly told him this yet but I have made it clear how much I dislike it there. I tell him I can’t identify with the area at all and I‘ve given it the old college try more than enough times.
I‘m really unsure on what to do next because I love him so much. At first I toggled with the idea about moving and I also told him many times I would consider it more if I felt more of a serious commitment but now that it‘s been over three years I’ve made the personal decision that I cannot give up my happiness — I’d be leaving some place I LOVE for someplace I really, really, really dislike.”
Three “reallys”. We’re definitely gonna have to do something about that. That’s our question for today, folks. It’s a good one and I think the woman who sent it in for sending it in.
Love vs. Needs in a Long Distance Relationship (LDR)
Long distance relationships sure are complicated, aren’t they? In a way, their complication can be a good thing because the extra stress – if you will – that’s put on the relationship can sort of flush out problems faster and make couples confront things in a way that might be easier to patch up if they saw each other on a daily basis and those problems were regularly blanketed with things like, I don’t know, make-up sex maybe.
Anywho, one of the questions that comes up a lot in long distance relationships (certainly exists in short distance relationships as well) is love vs. needs. What’s stronger; your love for someone else or your individual needs? What’s more admirable; changing yourself for your love or looking out for yourself? There’s middle ground in the answers of both these questions.
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All couples in a long distance relationship negotiate between togetherness and separation.
Ultimately, there’s going to be some sacrifice necessary. Not a full upheaval of who you are, but also not being unwilling to make any alterations. But we always have to serve ourselves first, so let’s start there.
Negotiable and Non-Negotiable Needs
It seems you’re pretty well in touch with your life and/or relationship needs. That’s wonderful. What I want you to do is go a step further, however, and divide your needs into negotiable and non-negotiable.
Pro tip: the more non-negotiable needs you have, the harder it’s going to be for you to compromise when necessary.
Try to keep your non-negotiables around 3 and probably no more than 5 unless there are really extenuating circumstances. An example of an extenuating circumstance might be domestic violence, for example – something that is rare enough and serious enough that you might not initially consider it as a need as much as you would someone’s religion, or education, or something along those lines.
Your non-negotiables should theoretically be needs that are so crucial for your happiness as an individual that they outweigh the power of your partner. I know that doesn’t sound romantic, but you all have to stick with me on this one.
Long Distance Relationship and Geographic Location
So right now you need to decide if NOT living where your boyfriend lives is one of your non-negotiable needs in this relationship. Plain and simple: if it’s a negotiable need and it’s not as important as some other attributes, you might have to flex on it to make this work, especially if you living there is one of HIS non-negotiable. However, if you find this to be a non-negotiable need of yours, then the relationship is not going to work if you do end up moving in with him or if he’s unwilling to compromise.
Either way, we both know you need to directly tell him this as you said that you’ve not yet done. Not only do you need to tell him what you’ve told me, but you need to tell him whether this need of yours is negotiable or non-negotiable, and you need to ask him about his needs. Once both of your needs are laid out on the table and you’ve gotten over what are probably a few surprises on both ends, that’s when you can have a healthy, honest dialogue about where the relationship goes from here. And frankly, at three years in, a plan is going to be necessary.
LDR and Planning for The Future
Long distance relationships always operate best when there is some kind of plan for the future, no how matter when that plan might come to fruition. When we’re unable to see our partners for extended periods of time, the feelings of uncertainty and lack of progress will escalate much faster, leaving both parties in their heads and distracted from one another’s company.
For obvious reasons, it’s easier to get away with this in the beginning, but after three years, we all start to wonder what’s going to come of this. I don’t know what plan is best for you and your boyfriend, but I highly advise that you try coming to one together.
It helps both of you to set an end date for getting together, and have similar views as to how long you'll be living apart.
LDR and Commitment
That being said, there’s one more thing I want to address – and I apologize if I’m reaching here.
Towards the end of your question, you mentioned considering this move more if there was a serious commitment in place. And since you feel that isn’t there, you’ve put emphasis on looking out for your own happiness. After all, a study about long distance relationships show that moral commitment predicts the subsequent survival of the relationship.
Again, I don’t want to reach, but I can’t help but to feel there’s some frustration laced in that and perhaps a tension that’s pulling you away from this relationship naturally. If so, it sounds like something that would be addressed in the process of making a plan for the future like I just talked about.
If there’s an underlying issue here in that you feel your boyfriend isn’t committed to you which is getting you into the rhythm of making decisions more for yourself and your own happiness, I recommend you reflect on that as it could be what’s really prompting you to ask this question and be hesitant to move in with him more so than the location of the house he just bought.
That’s a wrap, dear friends. It was a fun question to answer, and I hope it was helpful not only to the woman who sent it in, but also to anyone who’s maybe feeling a little uncertain in their relationships.
As per usual, we invite you to send your own questions into us emailing them to advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Send them there, and we’ll do our best to give a good answer and some good support here on the show. We appreciate you coming in for this one, and we hope you’ll stop in next time. I’ll talk to you then, everybody!
1. Sahlstein, E. M. (2004). Relating at a distance: Negotiating being together and being apart in long-distance relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21(5), 689-710.
2. Lydon, J., Pierce, T., & O'Regan, S. (1997). Coping with moral commitment to long-distance dating relationships. Journal of personality and social psychology, 73(1), 104.