Over a recent long weekend, I had a long session of cocktails and conversations with some of my male friends discussing relationship statuses. The conversation was sparked after one of the guys admitted that during a recent visit to Los Angeles, he became smitten by someone he met. However, since he lives in New York and the girl lives in Los Angeles, dating her was not really an option. This dilemma of physical distance led to a thought-provoking question: Why is long distance, particularly for men, a deal breaker? Any distance that requires an hour or more of driving is what these fellas define as long distance, which is very extreme, but you get the point.
The guys I was meeting with either were in relationships that were not optimal or seeking a relationship but the availability of partners in the city who meet their “criteria” was scarce. So I asked, “Would you consider a long-distance relationship?” Predictably, the responses were “absolutely not,” “hell no,” “not an option” and mostly just “no” without any ifs, ands or maybes.
For me, personally, a long-distance relationship is not completely out of the question. Like many people in today’s world, I travel, am socially involved and some days just need space after facing the hectic demands of the day.
In this group of friends, there is a popular DJ who travels frequently and works long hours throughout the week, a married man with a typical 9-5 job, a bartender, an image consultant (who also frequently travels) and a senior operations administrator—each with various lifestyles and work demands that require some level of flexibility. But when it comes to a relationship, they all agreed “there isn’t flexibility with distance.”
Why is that? The common reasons fell in the realm of trust and self-control.
Trust: Everyone tends to struggle with the idea of trust and it’s even more difficult to grasp the concept when in a romantic relationship from afar. The bartender provided insight on his position: “I don’t trust the situation. If they are away, what are they doing? How do I know if they don’t have another man where they live?” Trust is difficult, a person can be in the same city and still have another partner. Sadly, it is not uncommon in 2017. One of the guys blatantly said, “I am territorial. Mine! And I don’t trust other guys around what is mine!” Not all men are that extreme, but we get his point. The other guys were a little more honest and admitted they do not trust themselves because of their personal issues and need the physical presence of their partner to continue to reinforce their attraction and or love.
Physical needs: The accessibility of instant physical gratification is important (i.e., sexual needs). Physical intimacy is a key component to most relationships, and lack thereof can create issues with monogamy or, in worst cases, cause one to lose physical interest in their partner in general. One guy said, “It’s not always about sex. When it is cold, like now, for example, I just want to lie next to the person I am with. Hell, placing a leg over her to me is a big deal. Sending me a picture of you doesn’t do anything for cold nights. I want to cuddle!”
Support and communication: The guys admitted that communication is not always easy when in a long-distance relationship, more so because communication is not always a guy’s strength in a relationship in general.
“The last long-distance relationship I was in, the person would get mad at me when I tried to talk about issues because they didn’t think I took them seriously. Basically, if we got into an argument or something, it was via text and I would respond, ‘I understand.’ I honestly understood, but I think it’s because my girl could not physically see me display the emotion and it was a big deal to them. I hate communicating like that, so I shut down! Talking on the phone for hours is just not my thing! She would get annoyed and I would get annoyed! Just pointless drama.” If they were physically together, it would be easier to establish better communication for a positive long-term relationship.
Some guys want their partner to be their No. 1 supporter and that anytime something good or bad happens, the partner should be there to celebrate or console them. Hey, imagine being a basketball player’s wife or partner—that could be tough and a lot of pressure!
Cost: From a practical standpoint, everyone doesn’t have the money that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have to travel back and forth in the middle of the night to see their spouses. So you can only imagine how hard it is for the average person to afford to maintain a long-distance relationship resulting from professional choices that keep the couple physically apart. In most major cities, the cost of living is already ridiculous and traveling to those areas can be just as costly as traveling to some international destinations. Socially, opportunity cost is a factor, too. The question one must ask is, “What am I giving up to be with this person? What if I miss out on something that is here by chasing what is far away?”
How do guys avoid double standards when it comes to the idea of long distance? During the discussion, the guys were open to the idea of staying with someone if the relationship became long distance due to reasons like a new job or opportunity. But all agreed that they couldn’t start one—even if the person appears to be their “forever or soul mate” if there is pre-existing distance. The rationale is that the foundation has been built, so therefore it’s not a problem.
But dating and trying to build a relationship with someone who lives across the country is a no go! The guys felt you wouldn’t have anything keeping you vested because you don’t see them often. When you are dating someone, you are excited to be around him or her, which creates a connection. It’s a little more difficult to remain interested in someone you will have to get to know through limited interaction and text. “What if, in person, they are not what they appear to be in text or over the phone? I don’t want to fall in love with someone who doesn’t exist!” one said.
I often hear my friends (both male and female) complain about how their partner, who physically lives in the same city with them, never has time for them or they are constantly in the doghouse because they didn’t make time for their partner. How is this different from a long-distance relationship? The consultant in the group said, “It’s different because, at the end of the day, I am physically here. I am just at work!” (I believe that long-distance relationships don’t always mean physical distance, but that is another post at a later time. We will just deal with the issues of physical distance for now.)
Even though we, as a society, are moving toward a world in which relationships derive from social media, professional global networks and through the power of technology, most face-to-face interactions take place via a computer screen or smartphone and have given rise to this new normal of socialization. But when it comes to a relationship, men prefer the old normal.
The consensus from this group of men: If you are not physically here, then you are not here in my life. Deal breaker.
Relationship status: single.