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The Challenges of Long-Distance Relationships

Several times a year, Champs contact me with a variety of questions about long-distance relationships, such as, “My new boyfriend lives in Oshkosh. I live in Milwaukee. Do you consider this a long-distance relationship?” Or, “Can a long distance relationship be successful? Can it work out?”

Those are important questions for the age 50-89 demographic. Long-distance relationships often—not always—are a result of people meeting online. And lots of seniors are doing online dating. Even though singles may specify a mileage radius within which they want to date, they sometimes hear from interesting people in other cities, states, and countries.

For singles living in remote areas or small towns, where there are few or no adult singles, long-distance relationships are one of the only chances of having a relationship, so, most relationships in those places start out as long-distance ones.

Let’s try to answer the first two questions.

How far apart must two people live to be considered a long-distance relationship?

Of course, it is an arbitrary number. Loose rule: if it’s too far to drive to spend each night together, it could fall under the long-distance umbrella. So, for discussion purposes, let’s say it’s about an hour’s drive or more.

Is there any limit to how far is too far away from each other? Nope, consider our Champs Chris, 82 (83 next month), San Clemente, California, and Tina, England, 76, who have been in a LDR for 14 or 15 years. They live 5,419 miles apart. And, they did not meet online. They met when he was a dance host on a cruise ship. They have made it work. Next month, they are getting married.

What is the definition of a successful long-distance relationship?

I consider success to be when one person relocates to live with or near the other. And then they happily stay together. When people meet online, and live far away from each other, early on, they need to have the relocation discussion. Is someone willing to move?

Or, success could also be defined as: if neither person relocates, the couple continues to see each other, and they are exclusive. They do not date others. This version of success is difficult to maintain unless the couple lives close enough to see each other weekly or at least twice a month. Not impossible, as Chris and Tina have done, but difficult. Loneliness becomes an issue.

Other challenges of long-distance relationships.

Last week, I mentioned that I had lunch with Champ Wayne. He promised he’d share some brief thoughts on the issues surrounding a long-distance relationship. Wayne lives in Newport Beach, California, on the West Coast. The woman he met, via networking with friends, not on the Internet, lives in Massachusetts, close to 3,000 miles apart.

As promised, Wayne emailed a brief list of 8 long-distance relationship issues, which are listed below, with my comment on each issue:

1 – “Initially exciting… feels like a honeymoon when you see each other.”

Tom’s comment: In February, 2016, Wayne emailed: “Had a great visit with the lady I visited in Boston…” So, 11 months ago, there was a honeymoon period.

Of course, “feeling like a honeymoon” can happen when you can see each other daily as well. Over time, the honeymoon feeling can fade, it’s only natural. But when you want to see each other daily, and you can’t due to the distance, it’s frustrating.

2 – “Hard to sustain if you start to develop feelings for one another.”

Tom’s comment: Why? You aren’t together. You can’t just pop over to her house and say, “Let’s go out for pizza, or to a movie, or for a walk.”

3 – “Must confront the realities of each other’s separate lives, family, job, friends, interests, etc.”

Tom’s comment: Wayne mentioned last week that he has his life and family in the Western part of the country, and she has hers on old Cape Cod. Neither wanted to leave their situations. What if the children and grandkids live nearby? Not many people want to leave them to move to another city?

4 – “Are both people working? retired?”

Tom’s comment: This can be a big issue. When people are retired, they may want to travel and be free. Whereas, if one or both is still working, they may not be able to get away to see the other. Living miles apart can complicate the working vs. retire issue even more.

5 – “Financial situation of both parties.”

Tom’s comment: Traveling cross country or across the ocean to see each other can be pricey. If one keeps funding the other, the funder might start thinking, “Wow, this is costing me major bucks. I love her/him, but is it worth it?” Finances are important even in geographically-close relationships. The effect is multiplied in long-distance relationships. Also, who pays for the relocation?

6 – “Health issues?”

Tom’s comment: When people live together, or nearby, and a health issue crops up, the healthy one can care for or help the one in need. Not so when the couple is far apart. As we get older, this becomes a bigger issue.

7 – “Hobbies, compatible?”

Tom’s comment: What happens when you go visit your lover and she or he is into NASCAR racing? So, she’s planned a week-end together at the Daytona 500 and you would rather be at the beach? All of the other stuff can mesh but if you have dissimilar interests, the relationship might fade. When you live together, difference in interests can be overcome. You are still at home at night together.

8 – “Overall, both parties must make decisions at some point in time to deal with the issues.” Wayne emailed in December (10 months after his initial email), “I was dating a woman in Cape Cod… you are right long distance relationships are tough.” (They are no longer dating).

Tom’s comment: It seems to me it comes down to the issue of someone being willing to relocate and to be happy in the new environment. That’s a real challenge, particularly when you consider the 8 issues Wayne has presented today.

In my book, How 50 Couples Found Love After 50, 33 of the couples featured met online. At least 20 of those couples lived an hour or more away from each other. In most cases, relocation by one of the partners made the long-distance relationship successful—at least for a while. After the book was published, some of the featured people stated they did not know the person to whom they moved to be with well enough. The relationships didn’t work out. And then they were stuck in their new locations without friends or families.

Relocating is a big consideration. Take it slow, know what you are doing. Don’t move too soon.

On the other hand, long-distance relationships can flourish and people can spend their lives together. Just be smart.

For more long-distance relationship articles, go to the website. On the right side of the home page. You will see Tom’s Top Article Categories. Scroll down to the Long Distance Relationships category. By clicking there, you can read the seven previous articles I have written on the topic.

Oh, and by the way, an Oshkosh-Milwaukee relationship is long distance—88.6 miles, about an hour and a half driving, via Highway 41.

This couple is enjoying dinner around a pool in Havana, Cuba. That's pretty long-distance

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