Dear Wanda and Wayne,
I'm kind of in relationship limbo. Well, actually, I am dating a girl I really like for the past six months. But she could have to move for her work any day now and she'll have to be there for at least a year. She thinks she'll stay in the state but it could be the middle of nowhere or somewhere just down the street. She gives me occasional updates but we've avoided the topic of our future altogether. In an ideal world, I could see us together for a long time -- we get along great, have important mutual interests, mutual ambitions, etc. But I've never been in a long-distance relationship and I'm not sure I'm interested in one -- I mean, weekends without your closest friend, weeks/months without sex, etc. But if the topic came up with her and she was close enough to see every other weekend or so, I might consider it. I was wondering if you could maybe give me some advice on the pros and cons of long-distance relationships and how often they are successful.
Wayne says: I recently watched the movie "Her." Talk about your long-distance relationships. It was set in the not-so-distant future and the male lead was deeply involved and invested in a romantic relationship with a woman who didn't even exist -- she was a highly intelligent operating system connecting with him on all his fancy futuristic devices. In fact, he wasn't the only one perfectly happy dating an app; many in the film were equally invested in partners who weren't human. It was one of the saddest movies I've ever seen.
Or maybe I'm the weird one ...
Can technology really fill in all those major holes in our life? Love? Affection? Communication? Needs? The movie makes an intriguing case. And maybe we will all be so engrossed and invested in our technology in 15 years that this scenario might actually be realistic. I mean, modern day people are already getting run over by cars because they won't look up from their phones when they cross the street, and people are getting run over by drivers who are too busy looking at their phones instead of watching for people crossing the street.
Technology being what it is today, perhaps texting and emailing all day and Skyping and FaceTiming all night with your faraway femme can get you through the next year-plus -- along with the occasional visit for physical connection, of course. Heck, maybe the distance will even make you stronger and confirm that this is your perfect partner. At the very least, it will provide clarity on if you can handle the distance and if she's worth the wait.
Godspeed, romantic traveler!
Wanda says: Your lady "could have to move," "any day now," somewhere nearby or to "the middle of nowhere" -- "she thinks"? Oh, and as for duration: "At least a year." That's a lot of "could haves," "somewheres" and "nowheres," and speculation, all amounting to one hazy future. Time to have a talk. Yes, the dreaded DTR, or "defining the relationship" conversation. I know these make people everywhere squirm, cringe and sweat but with your partner's vagueness laying ground for such a hazy future, it's a necessity.
Because you're even contemplating long distance, I assume you're already in a committed, monogamous relationship. If not, get there quick. That level of buy-in from each of you is essential. Without mutual skin in the game, you won't weather distance. Then talk openly and honestly about her future route. What's the farthest-flung place she might end up? Is there Wi-Fi? Is a year absolutely the longest it might last? Could it be extended? Does she plan on returning home when it's done? And is this sort of geographic upheaval a one-time thing, or is it a pattern expected to play out throughout her career?
In a recent study, researchers from Ontario and Utah compared the quality of relationships between long-distance couples and those who live near each other. And guess what? They found no direct correlation between a relationship's success and where the two happen to live. Instead, the quality of the relationship came back to factors like intimacy, communication and satisfaction. So you're not doomed. This could work. But you need to understand the details of what you're about to attempt to do. Cross your fingers she's committed to returning home. Long-distance relationships can be a means to an end, or they can feel never-ending.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.