Ask Dave-Can long-distance love last?

She met a great woman—who’s moving to attend grad school. Advice ahead on handling the situation.

By Dave Singleton

ear Dave,
After years of being single, I finally met the greatest woman. I knew immediately that I liked her. The last four weeks have shown me that she is, indeed, the right one for me. I am 32, four years older than she, and a little more settled in life. I own my condo and have a good job that I don’t plan on leaving. She is still finding herself, but she’s smart, sexy, and mature for her age. But the problem is that she just got into graduate school starting next January in Florida, about three hours away from here. Both of us want to
Timing, commitment, and your feelings all play a key role.
keep dating no matter what. We care about each other a lot. She feels she needs to do this, and I know it’s a smart move for her career-wise. But I am scared. Can this work? How should I handle this?
- Lovelorn in Atlanta

Dear Lovelorn,
Long-distance relationships can work. Timing, commitment, and your feelings all play a key role. But who knows what will happen? There’s no crystal ball you can examine on this one, I am afraid. Before you start projecting too much about what may or may not happen, keep this in mind: No relationship “good” is ever born out of desperation.

Look at the options. Your feelings could grow and you could find ways to stay connected despite the distance. She could move, and one or both of you might find that the strain is too much. Something could happen to divide you before she even makes it to graduate school. For example, you could let the news of impending departure sabotage your dynamic as a couple.

The best you can do right now is to be honest and upfront with each other, and if, as you say, you’re both committed to dating, enjoy the time you have now. Then slowly ease into how dating with a few miles between you might work.

I certainly understand your concerns. The possibilities of a long-distance relationship are fairly polarizing. Absence either makes the heart grow fonder or ruins the relationship. A wise person once said, “Distance is to love as wind is to fire: it kindles the great flames, and extinguishes the very small.” Before you make any decisions about how to handle this, consider these questions.

Is it too early to worry?
Yes, I think so. It’s true that an upcoming move is a concern looming on the horizon. But the good news is that she’s not leaving tomorrow. You have a few months to weigh your future together. No immediate decision is required. Why not take a few weeks, adjust to the news, and see if you can reestablish the exciting dynamic you were cultivating before her announcement? If you can, go with the flow and see how plans and feelings unravel. Only time will help you to determine if the feelings are strong enough to warrant a commitment.

Should you weigh the risks vs. the benefits?
Definitely! When you invest your money, stockbrokers ask you to determine your level of risk tolerance. For example, if you are risk-averse, the
The same approach applies to matters of the heart.
broker might play it safer with your funds than he would if you told him you welcomed an educated gamble. The same approach applies to matters of the heart. What’s your tolerance for emotional risk with your girlfriend? It’s a very personal answer, but one you need to weigh. If the future feels too daunting, you could break off dating. Maybe some space would help, but it’s doubtful considering the newness of this relationship. Since you have strong feelings for her, why not take a chance and hang in there until you have a clearer sense of the potential?

What are the rules of long-distance love?
If you decide to attempt a long-distance relationship, consider what’s involved. Yes, long-distance love can work if you consider these ground rules:
  • Exert relatively equal effort. Unless there’s a compelling reason to not share the cost (both time and money) of travel, sharing maintains balance in the relationship. In your situation, you are probably in a better financial position than your girlfriend, but try to find ways to keep important aspects of partnership on an even level.
  • Be smart about telephone time. Don’t have intense, serious conversations unless you are face-to-face. Small problems that would be resolved within minutes face-to-face can become laborious dramas when you are trying to ascertain tone, expression, and other important nonverbal elements of communication.
  • Maintain momentum and continuity. Don’t ever leave a visit without your next visit nailed down. It’s especially important for long-distance lovers to maintain continuity and momentum, which are more readily maintained in a physically closer relationship.
  • Stay integrated. She’s going off to create a new life. You will be maintaining and building your own separate life when she’s gone. But remember your life together. Make sure new friends know your partner, even if they might not see her very often.
Bottom line: Don’t make any decisions about your future together right now. Allow yourself time to absorb the news. Remember that love, like life, always involves taking risks. And it sounds like you are off to a promising romantic start. Keep in mind that your relationship is still very young, so you have time to explore your romantic potential (as well as savor those wonderful new romance moments!) without making decisions about the future. When the time comes to consider your future, if you’re really committed to staying together, you’ll find a way to make it work.

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit Dave’s website and send your dating questions and comments to him at
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