The idea of love with someone you can’t spend all or most of your time with has long been romanticised. The popular lesbian writer Jeanette Winterson summed it up perfectly in The.PowerBook when she spoke of “great and ruinous lovers” such as Tristan and Isolde and Lancelot and Guinevere. But really just how romantic is it to miss someone that much? And how do we cope with a long-distance relationship in 2022.
James, 25, has been with his partner Alfy, 27, for eight years. They are very much in love. They are also living in two completely different countries. “Alfy has a very good job in Canada and I am a carer for my mother in the UK,” James explains. “People still don’t understand why he doesn’t get a new job here but he qualified in Canada and he also has close family there. We try to keep the spark alive with regular Zoom calls – which often turn a little X-rated!”
Katie, 40, also admits to regular phone and Zoom sex with her partner Tracey, 35. “She lives in Whitby and I’m in London so we do try and meet as often as time and money allow, but in the meantime things still get a bit fruity!” Tracey adds: “It’s frustrating, sure, but in a way the anticipation of getting together physically rather than virtually can be quite hot. That said, I know we both get pretty depressed sometimes and I’d much rather it wasn’t like this.”
Some people really don’t see the bright side at all. Sarah, 32, and her partner Tara, 49, are thoroughly miserable about being apart. “Tara has been in prison for two years now and it breaks my heart. I can’t really be very flirtatious during calls or visits so we have to make do with cryptic comments in letters, which sometimes get intercepted. Her next court date is a while off so we just have to sit tight.”
Effy, 18, ended her relationship with Fiona, 19 after they both went to different universities. “I loved her but aside from the distance there was the fact we were both getting caught up in uni life and I’m afraid I ended up having a one-night stand with a girl I met at LGBT Soc. Fiona was also getting close (ha ha) to someone else and we sadly decided to part ways. I still chat to her on Facebook and I’ll always remember her fondly but I think we did the right thing.”
The SexualAlpha study asked a sample of 7,392 individuals from the United States if they had been in a long-distance relationship. 32 per cent of the 76 per cent of respondents who said they had, vowed that they’d never do it again. However, Crystal Jiang (City University of Hong Kong) and Jeffrey Hancock (Cornell University, New York) also conducted research over the course of a week into how couples navigated long-distance relationships. They concluded that, difficult though it is to be physically apart, those couples actually made an extra effort to stay close.
“Indeed, our culture emphasises being together physically and frequent face-to-face contact for close relationships, but long-distance relationships clearly stand against all these values,” says Jiang. “People don’t have to be so pessimistic about long-distance romance. The long-distance couples try harder than geographically close couples in communicating affection and intimacy, and their efforts do pay back.”
Lockdown forced many couples apart, so the concept of the LTR is more familiar than ever. Not only this, but the increasing popularity of internet dating has meant that it’s perfectly possible to “fall” for someone on the other side of the world. Even celebrity couples have long-distance relationships, whether it’s because they’re filming on location for long periods or have other high profile commitments that force them apart. Victoria and David Beckham, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton – they’ve all been both together and apart at some point. LDRs take a lot of patience and whether it can work all depends if you think that love conquers all or if it’s really not worth the effort of keeping that sexy spark alive…