Sunday, May 28, 2023

Dating Without Borders: The Surprising Charm Of Long-Distance Romance

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‘If, like me, your children are grown and you simply want a special someone to have adventures with, the long-distance romance has a lot to commend it.’ Guest writer Maria Hoyle on the benefits of dating nationally – or even internationally!

“They’re just so unromantic,” is an accusation often levelled against men. I beg to differ. A few years ago I had a guy drive seven hours from his California home to LA airport, hang around for the best part of a day, then board a 13-hour flight to Auckland – all to meet me for a first date. Now I am no Helen of Troy – and it was only one Boeing, not 1000 ships – but that is quite the odyssey for love.

That said, there is nothing quite so alarming as having the man you’ve been innocently flirting with – and who you assume to be tucked safely on the other side of the globe – announce he’ll “see ya at arrivals first thing.”

“What if he’s a serial killer?” a helpful friend enquired. “Then he has astonishing dedication to his craft,” I replied. I wouldn’t imagine most people go into serial killing for the travel opportunities.

“What if he’s a serial killer?” a helpful friend enquired. “Then he has astonishing dedication to his craft,” I replied.

Anyway… he was lovely, and clearly he wasn’t a serial killer, and he stayed for a wonderful five days. We walked up Rangitoto, wined, dined, chatted for hours, drove up north, had a fair number of ‘bednics’ (it’s a thing), and we remain good friends to this day. It was like a little honeymoon, floating fabulously free with no marriage attached.

Why do I open with this anecdote? To illustrate two points. First, the added layer of complexity/opportunity – depending on your viewpoint – that technology has introduced into our romantic lives. Tinder had shown Mr California to be in Auckland – which he was. The crucial information both me and the app were missing was that he was just visiting, and due to fly home. Which he did… then back again for the date. My second point? That long-distance romance (LDR) is worth serious consideration.

That idyllic episode only confirmed to me what I’d suspected for some time: dating without borders has its charms. ‘He’s so distant’ is usually a lament. For me it’s now a big tick.

Of course, I’m not trans-continental about it – pandemically speaking, that would be impossible and a tad expensive. No, It’s more of a different city thing. Hamilton (twice), Whangarei, Nelson…. 

The notion that your dearest aren’t always your nearest is exceedingly plain to me. I’ve had live-in partners who dumped me unceremoniously and turned my world upside down. But I have had fulfilling, fun, insanely romantic times with men I’ve seen once every couple of weeks at the most, and they have all – with one exception – ended amicably.

Ah, I hear you saying. But it’s not ‘real’. It’s romantic and all that, but it’s not tested by the day-to-day schlepp of life. Real love involves garden centres, worming the dog, T-shirts in bed and actually wearing your reading glasses.  However, the question is not so much whether a relationship, any relationship, can withstand the daily slings and arrows of life, but whether it works.

If, like me, your children are grown and you simply want a special someone to have adventures with… the LDR has a lot to commend it.

And this will entirely depend on what your end goal is. If you want to raise kids with this person, then clearly commuting between Ougadougou and Grimsby isn’t going to cut it. Not in the long term. But if, like me, your children are grown and you simply want a special someone to have adventures with, a little sprinkling of magic on top of the tough fabric of existence (think fairy bread made with dark rye), the LDR has a lot to commend it.

I like this quote from writer and philosopher Alain de Botton’s School of Life:

“Our love stories are suffering from a mistaken cultural hierarchy. Just as the book is wrongly thought more important than the essay, so the live-in relationship is too readily assumed to be superior to the long-range version. And yet, without ever meaning to do so, the long-distance relationship may simply, despite all its evident challenges, throw up some of the absolutely ideal conditions for true love to thrive.”

Of course, it’s not just the reckless romance of it all, the long weekends in idyllic coastal baches and the thrill of reunion. Perhaps, when it comes down to it, the success of the geographically-challenged romance is because of something more prosaic.  With the LDR, according to The School of Life, “we can’t help but do that thing that holds couples together – communicate.”

When we live up-close, communication – that super-glue of emotional bonding – risks being confined to ‘did you take the red wheelie bin out?’ and “can you get that? I’m on the loo”.

I had an 18-month affair with a guy from Hamilton, and we wrote each other the best letters (some emotional, some flirty, some downright erotic) and talked every night for about an hour. It was wonderful while it lasted (and here’s another important point about the LDR – make sure you share the same agenda about where it’s going; we didn’t). So maybe it’s not so much about the kilometres you drive, but the intimacy you clock up through real, meaningful communication.

Lastly, and importantly, with the LDR there’s no tug of war between your independent self and the you who craves intimacy. In between meet-ups you, and they, get to write your own rules – the dog is allowed on the bed, the leg hair can go feral, and you can go days without chatting if that’s what you need.

Hey look, I’m no expert. All I’m saying is that the LDR isn’t to be sniffed at, both as a permanent state and as a stepping stone to something more ‘babies and white-picket-fencey’.

So yes, after god knows how many attempts, I’m as hopeful as ever about finding love. And if it means throwing postcodes to the wind, so be it.  Although in the interests of sustainability, I may need to invest in an EV.

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