Tuesday, November 3, 2009

After "The Talk" (or DTR)

Imagine meeting a man that's cute, sweet, smart, has his life in order, and just lifts you off your feet from the first meeting. Soon, you're traveling together, spending time with each other's loved ones, and making plans that maybe -- just maybe -- means that you're in it for the long-term. But suddenly, the game changes and the thrilling ride just seems to level out, leaving you to wonder when and why things took such an unexpected turn.

It's that kind of situation that Laurie, a colleague and friend of mine, painted for me as we were on our way home from work tonight. She'd met him a couple of months ago while on a vacation with her girlfriends and what ensued was a love affair out of a chick lit book, no kidding. Even though he lived in a totally different time zone, they'd made a connection and soon he was flying in to see her, they were spending time meeting each other's friends and family and he even came to a work party to meet her colleagues! We all suspected it was going somewhere and were way too happy that she found a storybook relationship with a great guy without even trying.

Anyway, during one of their visits together, they'd had the "DTR" (or, "defining the relationship") talk, in which he mentioned that because of their extreme distance (an ocean, at least) that exclusivity may not have been the best option for them. Now at this point, she's clear that she likes where they're going and doesn't want to see anyone else, which she tells him. In spite of the heavy topic, they managed to have a great weekend, which put her concerns aside.

However, when things got weird during their extended vacation, she knew it was different - and just like that, he thought it was best they stay friends. They still communicate often and have maintained a friendship, but it leveled off from their budding romance.

As Laurie told me this, I was admittedly confused for her. It was clear his wall went up fast, probably when she told him how she felt. But for a guy that started the chase in the first place, it just makes no sense that he backed out, especially after all the effort.

In breaking it down in my own head, I found myself wondering if he was caught up in the magic or thrill of it all as opposed to wanting to commit to anything long-term. I mean, did the deeper feelings she had make the situation more "work" and less fun? Honestly, I'm not sure. But my theory is that you don't mind putting in the effort when you want your other half to stay in it for the long haul.

Ultimately, you can never predict what happens after you start seeing someone. Will they stick around? Will they fade? Will they still be in the picture in a year, a month, a week? Sometimes, you may just have to take your chances and hope that the vibe you share should be enough so that nothing -- not even the "defining the relationship" talk -- will weaken it.

6 comments:

  1. Diva:

    Have you done an entry on committed long distance relationships yet? I think you should because they rarely work out and people waste a lot of time and money on them.

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  2. Interesting. Why do you say that, if you don't mind my asking? I personally have never been in one, but some people seem to think otherwise.

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  3. There are plenty of committed long distance relationships that work. I've been through 2 long-distance "stints," one at the very beginning of my relationship and one post-engagement. You have to make it work. Check out this week's NYTimes Magazine feature on Michelle and Barack. Its pretty good :)

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  4. Boliva: As with any situation there are exceptions to the rule. I'm glad to hear that you made it work!

    Diva: There are a number of reasons why I'm not a believer in serious relationships that start out as long distance.

    Communication is the main hurdle that I see. Even with major improvements in technolgy it is tough to build trust and understanding over the telephone. When you're talking on the phone or over the internet it is easier to manage perceptions and to paint a picture that might not match up with what is really going on. You're unable to gauge their body language while interacting with them if most of your rapport building occurs over the phone or internet.

    Trust is another big factor for me. It is tougher to convince yourself to trust someone if you see them in person infrequently. Every Saturday night you will be wondering whether or not your man is cheating on you. I have 5 male friends in long distance relationships and I know that 3 out of 5 are actively cheating on their girlfriends. I bet that out of the other two one of them is cheating but hasn't told me. Given that data, do you want to take the chance that your man is the 1 out of 5 that isn't cheating? Just remember what Bill Clinton said, "Deny, deny, deny."

    Sexual chemistry is important but needs to be evaluated over an extended period of time. If you are hooking up once a quarter how can you get a sense about his respect for your needs and ability to fulfill them?

    Traveling is very expensive and time consuming. Most people have limited means and time and in my view, should use those resources as efficiently as possible. Why not try to find someone in the town that you live in? You'll save a lot of money and time. Plus you will have a chance to get to have more face time, sex and fun. You can incorporate them into your group of friends and have the benefit of your friends impressions of your partner.

    HurricanesFan is not a believer.

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  5. Hurricanes -- You make some valid points, that I'd like to consider in a little more detail.

    Long-distance relationships, like 99% of other relationships, start out in person. The truth is, I'm willing to bet excellent money that most people know whether or not they're into someone pretty early on into the game. I mean, would you be willing to waste your time on someone you have lukewarm feelings for? Likely not.

    What it boils down to is while proximity is important (and I, for one, am a fan), I think that the time you spend with someone should help in determining whether the vibe is strong enough to keep it going. Even if it's long distance. Truth is, you can build on lots of other things when you decide to actively make it work. Then, if you decide you want to give it a whirl, you make moves and sacrifices. If it works, great, if it doesn't, well you tried.

    On the flip side, I know people that live blocks from each other and spent all that time together, only to realize they weren't feeling it. Which makes me wonder if distance, while a large hurdle for many, isn't just one of a variety of factors to consider.

    Although, Hurricanes, your points do serve as great insight into committed long distance relationships. And I may tap Boliva's story as an example of what made it work. Maybe there are things to consider that would make hurdles like distance only minor thoughts.

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