Have you noticed how much gay men travel? I don’t have any statistical information, but my bet is that between traveling for work and traveling for pleasure, gay men are probably more mobile than most people in our society. It makes sense, then, that many of us will find ourselves making romantic connections with men who live far away from wherever we call home.
Different people have different feelings about this. Some men might enjoy a flirt or a fling out of town, but would rule out any possibility of actually dating someone who lived far away. It strikes them as too impractical, expensive or unsatisfying. They want someone more frequently available for face-to-face or snuggle-to- snuggle contact.
Other men have found that there are advantages to dating someone who lives further away than just around the corner. Maybe the distance makes it easier to take the development of the relationship at a slower pace.
Hurrying things up is just more difficult when the object of your affection is hundreds of miles away. Or they prefer the combination of having romantic contact with someone who doesn’t make too many demands on their schedule because he’s not around to insist on going to the movies or a concert.
Of course, most of us have little control over whom it is that we fall for. We didn’t seek this or that out; it just happened. And so it is with dating someone at a distance.
What do you do when the object of your affection is miles away from your home? One place to start is by looking at practical matters. Falling for someone who lives a four-hour drive away – as I did a few years ago – is different from falling in love with someone who is the citizen of an foreign country you visited on vacation. If there is little practical likelihood of having some sort of regular contact, it’s going to make it very difficult to do the work that dating requires in getting to know someone.
Some couples find that monthly contact can be supplemented by meaningful phone calls and written messages. In fact, the time spent together can seem especially precious and fun. This is all well and good, but realize that getting to know someone who is hosting your visit or who is a guest in your home is different in many ways from having contact in the workaday world. Weekend visits make it easy to set aside all other concerns simply to be with your beloved. How will he act when he is surrounded by the routine distractions and conflicts that are part of his life or yours?
A special word should be said about communicating. Email and text messages are relatively cheap and it certainly is nice to find a message from your sweetie in your inbox. Be aware, though, that the instant communication of email makes it easy to transmit content that has had its emotional context removed. That’s especially the case with text messaging. Sharing intimate thoughts via internet is different from sitting on your sofa holding hands. It’s much easier to misunderstand words sent via email. At least with a phone conversation you get to hear the inflection in the speaker’s voice. I recommend avoiding email whenever there is likelihood that the reader won’t fully understand the emotion behind your words. The same goes for texting and other ways of communicating that can strip the emotional nuances from your words.
Sometimes long distance dating brings up special emotional issues. If you’ve been carrying on contact with someone for quite a while and you find yourself getting more and more emotionally invested in the person, it’s important to examine what’s happening. Are you getting your needs met? Is there enough contact to really get to know one another and to enjoy each other’s company, or are you setting yourself up with someone who may be a great guy, but who is still unavailable for all intents and purposes?
The question of exclusively dating someone who lives far away can be a tough one. Keeping options open means living with the anxiety that Mr. Right will meet someone whom he likes and who lives closer to home. On the other hand, dating exclusively with someone you see infrequently can be very frustrating.
As your relationship deepens, you will need to talk openly about what works or doesn’t work for each of you with regard to dating other people.
Truly getting to know someone means moving beyond the “mini-vacations” of romantic weekends together. Those are important; it’s understandable that after spending time apart, two lovers would prefer one another’s company to virtually all else. Remember: dating is not only enjoying someone, it’s getting to know him. That means making time to spend time with their friends, find out about their interests and pursuits (outside of bed and candlelit dinners!) and to generally form an impression of who this guy is when he’s not on his best behavior. Make time to include others, perhaps by double dating with his friends or yours.
If things are continuing to move in a serious direction, at some point you may want to open a conversation about relocation – you moving to where he lives, or him moving here. This involves a certain degree of risk. If one of you lives in a place with a vibrant economy and a large gay community, it may be little trouble to find work and set down roots. If the plan is for one of you to relocate someplace that feels more isolated, the decision to move may make you swallow hard.
Will one of you wait to relocate until there is a clear commitment that the two of you are now lovers? That can mean keeping the long-distance dating thing going for quite a while until you are sure, but better that than to rush into a relationship that is built on hope and illusions. Will relocating happen without such a commitment, but with the understanding that being closer will allow you to get to know one another more deeply? That’s a great situation – but also requires the mover to assume the risk of uprooting himself only to find out that the person he’s dating ends up not being the one he hoped he would be.
Life is not without risks. Dating someone who lives some distance away sharpens those risks and may be too uncomfortable for some. It’s perfectly all right to decide that even though the object of your affection is a wonderful guy, the circumstances of dating someone living elsewhere are just more than you can comfortably deal with. Better to be honest with yourself than to end up making a painful and avoidable mistake.
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