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How to Survive a Long Distance Relationship

markmanson.net/long-distance-relationships

Mark Manson 8/6/2015

Long distance relationships are the worst. Is he/she worth waiting for? Are they feeling the same way I do? Am I
kidding myself thinking this can work? Would I be better o dating the mailman instead? At least he comes to my
house every day. Does my girlfriend even exist or is this just a Nigerian guy conducting an elaborate credit card
scam?

I get it. Ive been there. Long distance relationships suck. Theres no way around it. In all of my years Ive never met
someone who has said, Yeah, my boyfriend lives in Finland, its great! On the contrary, everyone Ive met in a long
distance relationship can relate to the slow agonizing feeling that takes place over months or even years that
feeling that your heart is slowly being carved out by a butter knife and replaced with Skype calls and open chat
windows.

All three of my signicant relationships have involved long distance in some way. As a young man who was terried of
any sort of commitment whatsoever, I found that I could only allow myself to fall for a girl if she was at least 500 miles
away. 1 The rst one, we both genuinely tried to make it work, but things fell apart spectacularly. The second one we
both agreed that our lives were taking us to dierent parts of the world and we were probably better o letting it go.
The third, we immediately made plans to end the distance as soon as possible and then did.2

So I guess what Im saying is, Ive seen both sides of the long distance relationship coin. Ive seen them implode and
Ive seen them zzle out. Ive seen them be worth the pain and loneliness and also reach the moment of needing to
let go.

When it comes to surviving the distance, heres what Ive learned is most important:

1. Always Have Something to Look Forward To Together


What kills long distance relationships is the constant underlying uncertainty to everything. Is this all worth it? Does
she still feel the same way about me as she did before? Is he secretly meeting other girls without me knowing? Am
I kidding myself with all of this? Maybe were horrible for each other and I dont know it.

The longer you two are apart, the more these uncertainties will fester and grow into legitimate existential crises.

Thats why when making any long distance relationship work its necessary to always have some date that you are
both waiting for. Usually, this will be the next time you are both able to see each other. But it can be other major life
moments as well applying for jobs in the other persons city, looking at apartments together, a vacation together,
and so on.

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The minute you stop having some milestone to look forward to together, youll be stuck in emotional limbo. One thing
that is true about all relationships is that if theyre not growing, then theyre dying. And this is more important than
ever in long distance relationships. You must be evolving towards something. You must both have a converging
trajectory on some point on the horizon. Otherwise you will inevitably drift apart.

2. Be Slow to Judge
A funny thing happens to humans psychologically when were separated from one another. Were not able to see each
other as we truly are. When were apart from one another or have limited exposure to a person or event, we start to
make all sorts of assumptions or judgments that are usually exaggerated or untrue.3

This can manifest itself in various ways within a long distance relationship. In some cases, people get insanely
jealous or irrationally possessive of their partner because they perceive every casual social outing without them as
potentially threatening to their relationship. They become paranoid, asking who the fuck is Dan, tell me who the fuck
this Dan guy is, and why is he writing on your Facebook wall oh, hes your stepbrother? I didnt know you had a
stepbrother. Why didnt you tell me you had a stepbrother, are you hiding something from me? OK, maybe I wasnt
listening when you told me, but I still dont want you hanging out with Dan, got it?

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Hyper-sensitive Jealous Boyfriend screams: No! There is no fun without me.

Other people become extremely critical and neurotic that every small thing that goes wrong is an end to the
relationship. Like if the power goes out and their partner misses their nightly Skype call, they sit there thinking to
themselves that this is it, the relationships over, he nally forgot about me.

Other people go the other direction and start idealizing their partner as being perfect in a bunch of ways that theyre
actually not. After all, if your partner isnt in front of you all day every day, its easy to forget all of the little obnoxious
parts of their personality and just imagine how perfect they must be.

All of these irrational fantasies are unhelpful. 4 And when stuck in a long distance scenario, its important to distrust
many of your own judgments and inclinations to a certain degree. Remind yourself that you really dont know whats
going on and the best thing you can do at any moment is simply ask your partner.

3. Make Communication Optional


A lot of long distance couples create rules or expectations that they should have X number of calls or that they need to
talk every night at a certain time. You can even nd some articles online recommending this sort of behavior.

It may work for some people, but Ive always found that communication should happen organically and
unconditionally. You talk to each other when you want to, not because you have to. And if that means going 1-2 days
without communicating, then so be it. People get busy, after all. And periodically having a few days to yourself is
actually pretty healthy, Id say.

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Its OK, sometimes when Mr. Overalls just wants to play Candy Crush. Let him.

When you force communication, two things can happen. The rst is that when you inevitably hit days that you dont
have much to talk about (or dont feel like talking), youll half ass it and ll your communication with a bunch of ller.
Great, now youre half-assing your relationship and spending time with your partner not because you want to but
because you feel obligated. Welcome to every shitty marriage ever.

This half-assed communication often creates more problems than it solves. Like, if your partner seems more
interested in his tax returns than catching up with you, chances are you should just hang up and try again in a couple
days. There is such a thing as overexposure.

The second problem that can happen from forcing communication is that one or both people can begin to resent
feeling obligated to the other person all of the time. This resentment then sparks stupid ghts which almost always
devolve into some form of, Im sacricing more than you are! No, Im sacricing more than you are!

These arguments never lead to anywhere useful.

The best way to go is to make all communication optional. Both of you can opt out at any time. The trick is to not take
these opt outs personally when they happen. Understand that your partner is a fully individual human being outside of
their relationship with you, and that to be happy they often need to attend to other things.

Doing this requires something called trust. Its a novel concept. But you should try it out sometime.

4. Make Sure The Distance is Temporary


A long distance relationship cannot survive without hope. And for there to be hope, there must be some possibility

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that you two will one day be together and achieve your Happily Ever After.

Without that shared vision of Happily Ever After, everything else will quickly begin to feel meaningless.

Remember, love is not enough. You both need to have life visions that are aligned, shared values and mutual
interests. If shes taking a 10-year contract working for the Singaporean government, and he makes a career
dogsledding around the polar ice caps, well, then theres not much hope for that relationship, no matter how much
they may love each other.

Not only must there be some shared vision of a possible future for you together, but you both must also feel as though
youre working toward that vision. If hes in Los Angeles and youre in New York, nothing will kill the relationship faster
than applying for jobs in London and Hong Kong.

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In my second relationship, my girlfriend took a job working in Africa. Meanwhile, I toiled away in the US with no money
trying to get my rst internet business o the ground. All hope for making it work was removed from the equation and
we soon broke up.

My current girlfriend is Brazilian. We began dating while I was living there in 2012. I left after a few months and we
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kept in touch. Both of us were battle-worn veterans of failed long distance relationships, and one of our rst
conversations was that if we didnt feel that there was a possibility of us living in the same city again within a year,
then there was no point in keeping in touch.

Obviously, this wasnt an easy conversation to have. But we had it because we both knew it was necessary if we
were going to continue.

Six months later, I made the commitment to move back down to Brazil and stay there with her until we could gure
other plans out.

Long distance relationships can only work if both partners put their money where their genitals are. OK, that sounded
weird, but what I mean, is that you have to make the logistical, life-rearranging commitment to one another for them to
have any chance of working. Paradoxically, you end up with this weird dynamic where long distance relationships
force you to make much more signicant commitments to a person who youve had far less exposure to. Its like
buying a car when youve only seen one picture of it.

Is it worth it? This is the question I get most often from readers. On one level, yes, its always worth it. Because even
if the relationship goes down like a Malaysian Airlines ight,5 you will have learned a lot about yourself, about
intimacy, and about commitment in the process.

On another level, its hard to tell. Because when youre stuck in a long distance relationship, you dont really know
what its like to date the other person. You only have this halfway, vague idea of what its like.

Sure, you know their personality and their attractive qualities. But you dont know the reality. You dont know each
others ticks. How she avoids eye contact when shes sad. The way he leaves a mess in the bathroom and then
denies making it. How shes always late to important events. The way he makes excuses for his mothers
unacceptable behavior. Her tendency to talk through movies. His tendency to get easily oended at comments about
his appearance. And so on.

You dont get a sense for the actual relationship until youre there, in person, and in each others faces non-stop,
whether you want to be or not. This is where true intimacy exists. In the constricted personal space between two
people who have spent way, way, way too much time around each other. This intimacy is sometimes dispassionate.
Its sometimes obnoxious. Its sometimes unpleasant. But its capital-R Real. And its what determines if a relationship
will last or not.

Distance prevents this constricted intimacy from ever forming in a meaningful way. When were apart its too easy to
idealize and romanticize each other. Its too easy to overlook the mundane, yet important dierences. Its too easy to
get caught up in the drama of our minds instead of the calm and boring truths of our hearts.

Can it work? Yes, it can. Does it work? Usually, no. But then again, thats true for the vast majority of relationships. 6
And it doesnt mean we shouldnt ever at least try.

2017 Innity Squared Media LLC

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