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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Long Distance Relationships | Showing Interest in Someone

Quick Access:
Long Distance Relationships
Revealing an Interest Online

How do I cope with a long distance relationship?


Long-distance relationships are actually quite common – think of the university students who have “hometown honeys” or jet setting executives who must travel constantly and on short notice, or even Hollywood stars, who must sustain a loving relationship while off for weeks or months on media tours or filming the next big movie. And when you think about it, all online dating relationships are inherently long distance relationships. Some of these can be bridged easily, if two people live nearby. Other times, two people might be states or even continents apart.

A book could easily be written on the topic of coping and nurturing long distance relationships. I guess I should first debunk the myth that long distance romances never work. They’re quite difficult to pull off, because absence doesn’t necessarily make “the heart grow fonder.” However, they can be made to work if both parties are committed to work at it. I’ll give you a link to some excellent online resources for coping and nurturing online relationships, but right now here are a few guiding principles:

Foster effective communication.
The quality of the relationship is more likely to increase if both people develop the ability to share feelings openly with each other.

Maintain a conscious mind-set of commitment.
The level of commitment will vary across couples, but a conscious decision to commit is one of the three building blocks of stable and satisfying relationships (the other two are Friendship and Passion/Intimacy).

Relish your independence.
Good relationships, long distance or not, are balancing acts. It takes the right balance of independence and dependence for an individual to be autonomous but still get emotional needs met by his or her partner. Each person should be allowed and encouraged to mature as an individual. Therefore, keep realistic expectations. Don’t expect yourself or your partner to stay exactly the same as when the relationship started.

Establish clear expectations for the relationship.
It’s crucial that a couple must discuss and understand each other’s needs and expectations within a long distance relationship. Without this, each person is working on a different relationship and significant problems are likely.

Do things that draw the two of you closer, rather than emphasize the separation.
Heed this point from the way you two communicate online to the making sure you two actually have quality time together through occasional in-person visits.

And as for coping with long distance relationships, keep these thoughts in mind:

Don’t mope around, looking forward only to those times when you talk to your partner.
Stay active and take care of yourself.

Put meaningful things in your life other than your significant other.
In other words, have a life.

Occasionally help those who have challenging life circumstances.
It can help put your problems in perspective.

Have supportive people in your life, and give them support in return.

Occasionally do something that’s atypical for you but not unhealthy or self-defeating.
Go visit a zoo, take a class to learn a new skill or indulge an interest in art or history, or go get a new hair cut. Keep exciting activities things in your life – it promotes brain chemistry that’s good for your psychological health.

Okay, now let me leave you with some sources that I promised:

From Online Dating Magazine:
Feature: Making Long Distance Relationships Work
Connect Column on Long Distance Relationships
The Dating Tipster Advice Column

From The Web:
Long Distance Couples
UMR Counseling Center - Long Distance Relationships

What’s the best way to approach someone online that I’m interested in?

I’m a firm believer in doing what feels comfortable. You’ve many standard options for approaching a romantic prospect:

Send a “wink” – it’s a hybrid of a “short email and an emoticon” that online sites usually have for you to send others. It’s a great and non-threatening way to let someone know that you find them interesting.

Send an email – if there was something particularly attractive or intriguing in a person’s profile, then you might want to send an email to tell the person about it. But, don’t go on too long in the email – get to the point.

Send an Instant Message (IM) – maybe someone caught your eye that you rarely see being active online. In this case, you might want to “strike while the iron is hot” and introduce yourself spontaneously.

More important than the method you choose is the fact that you actually do it! Many people hesitate contacting others out of fear of rejection, laziness, or skepticism that the other person is a good prospect. You lose nothing by taking a chance to reach out to someone. Acting reserved, coy, and “playing hard to get” doesn’t bode well. Both men and women prefer someone who takes the initiative and makes their intentions known. So, regardless of what method feels right to you at the time, take a risk and make that connection. And for heaven’s sake, be respectful when you reach out. "Taking the initiative" is not an invitation to be crass or highly suggestive.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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