Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Email about handling hope in a long distance relationship

The world is getting smallerA couple of weeks ago, I received the following email from one of my readers.

Dear GB,

I have to say, what i like about your blog is that you have a distinct point of view but, aren't concerned about trumpeting it to the world. You just be yourself, and every person you describe has their own place in your world. To be able to do this seems to show real self-assurance, and also great respect for others. Its very cool - I raise my hat to you!

I have a relationship puzzle that i'm trying to process - perhaps you can share some insight? I hope i don't ramble on. Here goes.

I'm a gay guy in India running my own small media business, and am in a relationship with an European expat, who moved out of India 6 months after i met him.

So that was all the time we lived in the same city together, and it was very good - we spent most nights together, and traveled a lot within India. It was great fun - we are the same age, and have the same outlook socially and culturally, both being reasonably well-traveled and well-informed.

In the year since he left India, we've both taken trips specifically to be with each other, every few months. So the relationship is fairly serious. Since I have other friends in his country, my trips there are filled with meetings, visits and general fun and socializing, besides basically being with him the entire time.

Luckily my work is do-able on the Internet, so i can work when traveling. He has a desk job, and its harder for him to come to India.

I have to say it was 'love at first sight' for both of us. I'd also say that when I heard he was leaving in six months, I wanted to run away in the other direction. I didn't, eventually, but i was very slow in 'falling in love' over the next 3 months - i was protecting myself - which he knew. But then it got to the point where neither of us could resist it anymore, and his last 3 months in India for both of us, were see-saw swings from a sweet happiness, to quiet panic and despair over his leaving.

We are both monogamous in relationships, by nature - and we both don't believe in long-distance relationships. And yet here we are, a year and 8 months later, between a rock and a hard place.

You are in a long-distance equation. How does one approach such a relationship, when living together is going to be very difficult to achieve. When the normal expectations of 'moving in, living together, sharing a life and friends' cannot be met, how does one visualize the long-term? Is it possible to? What should one change in ones generic expectations of relationships?

Sometimes i think we should both see other people in our respective cities. As of now, that goes against instinct, and in any case we both seem to have endurance to hold, until we meet every few months. I trust him, and he trusts me.

In any case, its not the logistics of sex that are the issue, its the logistics of maintaining an emotional connection over long distance. He's got a moving job, his country doesn't support gay marriage, and I'm not interested in emigrating to Europe. I like living in India, and Europe is always great for holidays! So right now its tolerable, maybe even ideal, at this early stage in the relationship.

But bluntly, what do we think we're doing?

Its very Brokeback Mountain, but without the guilt!

Apologies if its not coherent, i'm venting some general frustration here! Anything you have to say, even in general, would be nice.

Stepping back and thinking about this situation, it's amazing that these days, long-distance relationships like the one the reader describes are possible. Day by day, as communication links improve as traveling becomes easier, the world becomes slightly smaller. None the less, to use the reader's words, it's still a 'relationship puzzle'.

He's right that one of my boyfriends, boyfriend number 2, lives in a different country to me. Because I've also got boyfriend number 1, the arrangement that's been agreed between myself and boyfriend number 2 is that we're part-time boyfriends. We're constantly in touch via email, we speak once or twice a week on the phone and we see each other when we can. I obviously can't be a full-time boyfriend to him though. But perhaps one of the biggest differences between my situation and the situation that the reader finds himself in is that I encourage boyfriend number 2 to look for a full-time boyfriend.

For some people, long-distance relationships can have some advantages, and the reader who sent me this email might be that type of person. Running one's own business is usually very demanding, so the advantage of a long-distance relationship is that when the couple aren't together, they can devote long periods of time to their work activities without being neglectful of their partner. I often think that a long-distance relationship suits my boyfriend number 2 for that reason.

Even long distance relationships have benefits for the people involved. Thinking about my situation in connection with boyfriend number 2, even though we don't see each on a day to day basis we still provide each other with emotional support. He knows he can rely on me, and vice-versa. I'm particularly lucky of course because if anything terrible ever happened to boyfriend number 1, I've got boyfriend number 2 to help me through the situation. Another fact is that when we do see each other, the sex is more passionate than it would be if we saw each other all the time!

The reader who sent me the email should derive all these benefits from his long-distance relationship, plus one additional benefit. If physical proximity ever becomes important to either of them, then they can always decide to try and work out a way to live in the same city. No doubt the European guy has skills that would make it possible for him to get a visa to live and work in Delhi if he wanted to. And although the European country where the European guy lives doesn't allow gay marriage, there may be other ways for the Indian guy to get a visa to live and work there, particularly if he's a businessman looking to employ a few people rather than take the jobs of the locals.

My experience is that slowly, one's priorities change. So I see no reason to kill off this long distance relationship just because of the distance. I reckon they should occasionally discuss this issue, but eventually it will either too burdensome on the guys involved and die naturally, or the guys will change aspects of their lives to make it easier. There are so many possibilities in terms of what they could agree, for example perhaps they should both see other guys in their respective cities when they're not together. But even that is no reason to break their connection, because their relationship still provides them with enormous benefits. Its really nice to know that somewhere in the world, there's someone who loves you!

The reader asked a lot of questions in his email and I don't really feel that I've even scratched the surface of this huge subject. So does anyone else have any other thoughts on long-distance relationships for this couple?


Sir Wobin said...

Sounds like physical proximity is already very important to the Indian reader, otherwise he wouldn't be writing.

Lots of mixed signals in his email. Says he was weary of falling in love knowing distance would be a problem but tries to make it work anyway. Doesn't want to move from India but might move his life to be with his loved one. Monogamous by nature but thinks maybe they should have freedom due to the distance issues. Swings from saying the idea of living apart makes him feel desperately sad, then later tolerable and finally that it might be ideal for the current stage of the relationship.

He described their time together in India in idyllic terms. I expect the reader enjoys the emotional attachment and physical closeness. The distance is causing him a lot of conflict. Sounds like things are manageable in the short term and that the reader's question goes more to the long term: "what do we think we're doing?"

Doesn't sound like a long term long distance relationship would work for these people. Maybe work will bring them to the same city again. Like GB says, you may drift apart if that doesn't happen. Enjoy it until then.

Anonymous said...

Priorities and personal circumstances do change. If being together is important right now, then it might be quite difficult to maintain the relationship. But if the people concerned are reasonably happy with the current arrangement, it is worth persevering.

GBD xxx

Anonymous said...

I fully understand this situation because i know it since 6 years with Philippino.

Anonymous said...

Indian men are totally fucked up when it comes to relationships

Anonymous said...

Now, now... Generalising Indian men this way isn't fair nor is it helpful. Lots of Indian men in fulfilling relationships out there.

close encounters said...

somewhat ironic that you included a picture of Concorde - life would be so much easier if you could travel around the globe at twice the speed of sound !

Karen said...

Long distance relationships can be rewarding and challenging at the same time. Researchers at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada are conducting a study of individuals in long distance relationships to determine some of the special challenges faced by long distance couples, especially in the area of sexual satisfaction. If you'd like to participate, please visit:

african woman said...

I do agree with @karen it is indeed a challenging stuff.
Some couples maybe successful to their long distance relationships but many failed. For me, I consider myself as one of the successful couples who survived in a long distance relationships because we've together for almost 4 years with my boyfriend.

To make the long distance relationship works it requires patience,hard work and most specially understanding.

By the way you did a very nice topic to be indulge with because long distance relationship requires enough courage so that it will survive.