Ask Dave-Can Long-Distance Love Work?

My girlfriend and I have dated long distance for two years. Is it odd not to be living together yet?

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
My girlfriend and I have been in a long-distance relationship for just over two years. I live in Atlanta, GA. She lives in Jacksonville, FL. We're committed and monogamous but have no plans to live together. My friends ask me all the time if we are going to get more serious and live together. It’s a
We make a point of seeing each other at least every couple of weeks.
fair question. I have no answer. Two years into this relationship and I don’t know what the future holds for us.

When we’re together, we have a great time. We make a point of seeing each other at least every couple of weeks. I go to see her more due to her business demands. She runs her own business and doesn’t want to leave Florida. I work at a company that has regional offices and I guess I could try to transfer closer to her. But I am more social than my girlfriend, have a ton of friends and don’t want to leave Jacksonville.

This past week, we had a misunderstanding about our next visit. We ended up talking on the phone for two hours and worked it out. But the phone incident was a reminder to me that dating long distance is hard. I have had relationships before and I know those little things blow over easily when you can resolve them face-to-face with your partner.

Is it weird that we aren’t making plans to live together yet? Should I just be happy with what we have? Any advice about managing long-distance relationships would be helpful.
-Lisa in Atlanta

Dear Lisa,
It’s easy to have a telephone misunderstanding when you can’t look into someone’s eyes during a conversation, especially an intimate one. And it’s true that long-distance relationships have well-known cons. Costly phone bills, tiring travel, and occasional loneliness are all par for the (faraway) course. Weekends and intermittent visits can be more pressured than you’d like, with extra emphasis on making the most of the brief time you share. Sometimes, you miss the daily physical affection that’s one of the perks of living together, or at least being nearby.

But long-distance love (LDL) also has pros as well. Distance allows you to really get to know your partner over time before moving in together. It gives you breathing room when you need it. Remember the saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt?”

But whether near or far, relationships are about the connection between two people. When you find a strong romantic connection, even if it’s not conveniently located, then that is perhaps the greatest “pro” of all.

Books like Loving Your Long-Distance Relationship by Stephen Blake reinforce the fact that couples make long-distance relationships work by flexibly rethinking the rules of romantic engagement.

The truth is that all relationships take work. The basics, such as love, good communication, trust, respect,
It sounds like you and your girlfriend have a good thing going.
and flexibility might be especially important for LDL. But more face time doesn’t guarantee success. I think that the success (or failure) of long distance relationships depends completely on the people involved. LDL isn’t for everyone. The more independent-minded might thrive, while those who require attention 24/7 will not.

Regardless of what the experts say, you have to decide how happy you can be dating long distance. It sounds like you and your girlfriend have a good thing going. Consider these tips for making your long-distance relationship closer than ever:

Acknowledge the downsides.
Be realistic about the pros and cons of your long distance romance so that you won’t be surprised when there are bumps in the road. As Washingtonian Mary, 38, says, “You have to make peace with occasional feelings of sadness when it feels like you’re saying goodbye over and over again.” Then remind each other how lucky you are to have found love in the first place.

Establish ground rules.
Make sensible rules, such as:
  • Exert relatively equal effort. Share the cost (both time and money) of travel.
  • Be wise about telephone communications. Don’t have intense, serious conversations unless you are face-to-face.
  • Make your partner feel secure. Don't ever leave without your next joint plan nailed down.
  • Integrate, integrate. Make sure your friends and family know your partner, even if they might not see her very often.
Talk about the future.
If being together on a daily basis is what both of you want, then begin to strategize ways to make this happen. Will you consider moving closer to her, which will necessitate switching your job? Will she consider new options for her work, such as getting help in her Florida office and opening a new office nearer you? Does it make sense to consider this now, or in a couple of years?

Fight projections and “shoulds.”
I’m sure your friends are trying to help when they ask about your plans to live together. But their comments are not helpful. They imply that something is wrong, or at least not what it should be. There are many paths that a loving relationship can take. Don’t let others dictate what yours should be. A few months (or even years) are no time at all in the big scheme of your life together. Leave open the possibility that you may continue in your relationship as-is for a long time, and that will be good. Relationships with a little bit of distance can be as real and meaningful as a relationship with the girl next door.

Bottom Line: Don’t lose hope. If this relationship is something you both want, you and your girlfriend can weather minor misunderstandings and inconveniences.

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit Dave’s website and send your dating questions and comments to him at
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