|STICK WITH A LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP?|
DEAR MIDLIFE BACHELOR: I’m a 34 year old just getting out of an eight year relationship with my wife which ended a year and a half ago. It turns out among the many wonderful things about my wife (I’m not being sarcastic), one of the drawbacks was that she had a serious mental disorder. It was immensely painful – I had to hospitalize her several times and she was suicidal for some time.In the aftermath of this relationship, after dating one other person for a short time and going on around ten other dates, I met a wonderful woman and we had a five month relationship that just ended because I had to move to another city. She told me that I could date when I got to the new city for work (it is quite likely that I’ll return to her city next year for good in the summer), but she really did not want to know anything
about it. We’ve continued to talk on the phone regularly.
Right now I’m totally needy when it comes to sex – and my relationship with the six-month woman was tremendous in this area and part of me does not want to jeopardize it. But how can I get what I want in the meantime? I’m a bit afraid of the long distance relationship and the commitment that it implies. I’ve already lined up a date for this evening and I feel slightly guilty about it. How do you think I should approach all of this complexity? Mark
MLB ANSWER: Hi Mark. First of all – you sound like a very sincere and grounded individual – I notice that the negative and painful experiences you obviously had with your ex-wife do not appear to be interfering with your life in the form of excess emotional baggage … so this is a compliment I pay you. Many people take a lot more time to heal from a marriage gone awry – no matter the cause.
On the topic of long distance relationships – the primary reason they are good is that you tend to really value the precious time you DO have with that person. Plus – you tend to not get sick of them as quickly (since you don’t see them every day, or possibly even every week). In other words, people tend to be on their best behavior when time together is scarce. Your situation is a little different because you said you dated her for five months prior to you moving to a different city – so you’ve already gone through the “new relationship phase”.
In my own history, when I had a really good long distance relationship – after several years or so, we both got to the point that we couldn’t stand being away from one another … and then she moved here to Los Angeles from Texas. [Mine wound up going nuclear (no survivors) after four months – but that was just my specific situation.]
In my mind, when faced with a potential long-distance relationship, the question you have to ask yourself is – do you care enough about this person in order to make the commitment necessary to ONLY see her … even if it is only once a month (or whatever interval is practical)? This commitment will need to be a two-way street – meaning that she needs to make that same commitment if you do. That will really give the long distance relationship the best odds of succeeding.
Now if I dive into your specific language – you say that she says it is fine for you to date others in your new city, and that she doesn’t want to hear about you likely moving back to her city next year. From the outside – it appears from that language that she does not want a commitment from you … and usually most women who do want a commitment will be the first to tell you. In other words, it appears that she is giving you the green light to do whatever you want – and this could mean that she wants to do the same.
Again, diving into your specific language –you say you feel guilty about lining up a new date in your new city … and that you don’t want to jeopardize the sex or the relationship with the long distance woman. But at the same time, you have your needs as a man. Really – I think the best thing you can do is to talk to the long-distance woman, and tell her how you feel about her … that you do want the two of you to be exclusive. And if she still says no or “do what you want”, then that is exactly what you should do. If instead you decide to stick it out, and remain faithful to her … you might deprive yourself of meeting someone new and potentially a lot more committed to a relationship with you. Making the best decisions as a single person is always difficult. The only other advice I have for you (from my own past) is – try not to make decisions strictly with your dick … try to make them with your head, and your heart. [Some of the worst decisions I ever made in my life were made primarily by my dick. ha ha]
You might also want to check out one of the discussion threads in our Midlife Forum on the topic of Long Distance Relationships. We’d be happy to have you join the forum, and update us with what you discover over time.