Should I Have a Long-Distance Relationship with a Man in Another Country?

Should I Have a Long-Distance Relationship with a Man in Another Country?

I am a 28-year old woman living in New York City. I met a 35-year-old man online and we agreed to meet. I’m 5’ 10″ and he’s 5’ 8″, but height and societal standards of looks, in general, have never influenced me. We had a great time. He planned an awesome date, was so generous (so important to me), and even gave me cash for a taxi home so I wouldn’t have to take the subway. We went out 3 more times that week and the chemistry just grew and grew. THEN, he had to leave.

Yeah. . . He has dual citizenship in America and another country. He grew up here, but his company is based in the other. However, he is in NYC for business 2 weeks out of every month and even slipped that he’d be willing to plant roots here if he had a reason to (wink wink). He was supposed to come back two weeks later, but I wouldn’t be in town because of the Christmas holiday. He moved things around to come in early January when I was back. He even decided to fly into NYC for one day to spend time with me before heading to another city for business for one day and then coming back to NYC. It would’ve made much more sense for him to go straight to the other city, but he wants to see me. Even for a few hours! This meant so much to me, being that my love language is acts of service. He then moved his schedule around so that he could spend his days in meeting and his evenings with me when he is in town. And he kept his whole weekend free for me. He never goes more than one day without being in touch/calling and saying how excited he is to see me again. My love tank is full and I’m basically feeling ready to be his girlfriend. Am I being unwise to feel that he’s boyfriend material even though 4 of the 5 weeks I’ve known him he’s been out of town? Is this doomed from the start?! I feel drawn to him because he’s so consistent. Even more so than guys who live a few blocks from me. Help!


Emotions are stronger than logic.

This is one of many reasons why relationships are so complicated and why I don’t see myself going out of business any time soon.

Emotion makes us think we all think we are exceptions to the rule.

Emotion makes us think we all think we are exceptions to the rule.

We’re not. Exceptions exist but they are, by definition, rare.

But don’t say that to the man who thinks he “deserves” a woman twenty years younger.

Don’t say that to the woman who thinks that if she’s a self-made millionaire, she “deserves” to date a man who makes more.

And definitely don’t say anything to the millions of starry-eyed lovers who think that long-distance relationships are a good idea.

I’ve written about this before but have come to a more pointed conclusion after 16 years on the job. Before I get into it, allow me to address the predictable blowback first:

  1. “But I’M in a long-distance relationship that turned into a happy marriage!” Yes, you did. And you’re an exception to the rule. As is my sister. And my childhood crush. And any number of people in the world. It’s not that it’s impossible – any more than it’s impossible to come to Hollywood and win an Oscar. SOMEONE actually does this – but what are the odds that it’ll be you? A lot lower than you think.
  2. “But I live in a town with no people. What choice do I have?” I’m sympathetic to you and can understand why you’d set a search radius of 500 miles to find love. But you can’t be too surprised that most people who live in cities have no interest in driving/flying three hours to go on a first date. Those who do – and I’ve been one of them – are often either really desperate, detached from reality, or find the idea of an LDR to be perfect – specifically because it’s easy to have a fantasy relationship when you don’t see each other every day. LDRs are a wonderful vehicle for the scared, damaged and emotionally unavailable (which doesn’t mean that everyone who does this is scared, damaged or emotionally unavailable).

Anyway, Ashley, the main two reasons I tell clients – as a policy – to avoid long-distance relationships is simple:

First of all, relationships themselves are challenging and to be successful, you need a lot of data, interaction, emotional investment, and time to assess whether someone is compatible for the rest of your life. It is simply much harder to do this when you have to plan into visiting each other and each trip feels like a mini-vacation. In other words, it’s pretty easy to text every day, say you love each other and have amazing sex every few weeks. But that doesn’t resemble a real relationship where your lives are truly intertwined. You don’t get to assess whether your relationship has legs until you spend a lot more time together.

Second of all, in order to make an LDR work, one person has to eventually uproot his/her life and take a leap of faith to quit his/her job and move to a new town. That’s objectively risky given what I just wrote above. One can see how it’s very easy for people to get disproportionally excited about an LDR only to discover their incompatibilities after they’ve already moved in together cross-country. A friend had a passionate 8-month long-distance relationship over Skype, proposed over the phone, watched her move from Europe to Los Angeles, only to have a nasty breakup less than a month after she moved in. He was shocked. Sadly, I thought this was the most predictable outcome in the world.

So, you can explain the uniqueness of your circumstances (He’s willing to plant roots here! He’s making a colossal effort to see me! He talks about a future! He said he’s never felt a connection like this in his life and that he’s falling in love!) and it doesn’t change those two issues:

a. LDRs have a much higher degree of difficulty than local relationships.

b. You have no idea if your relationship is real until AFTER he uproots his life to be with you – and by then, it’s often too late.

My advice – especially since you live in New York City – is to find a consistent guy who treats you well within the 5 boroughs. No reason to take a high-risk chance when it doesn’t appear to be necessary for your ability to meet men. If you were in the Yukon, perhaps I’d advise differently, but thankfully, you don’t.

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  1. 1

    1) Is your “love tank” full, Ashley? Or are you fundamentally misunderstanding Chapman’s concept, mistaking infatuation for love? You have known this man for just a few weeks, and you don’t know him well at all. You have no love; by definition your love tank can not be full. Your hope-tank is full.

    2) In a related manner, if your love language is Acts of Service, and if this man lives out of town, then by definition everything he does in order to be with you will be an act of service. Not because that is his natural way of giving, not because it necessarily speaks to any emotional truth for him, but simply because of the reality of the situation. Which will, NECESSARILY, change once he is no longer long-distance. So, is what you like about him the very thing that will necessarily dissipate? You feel drawn to him because he is consistent – more so than the men who live blocks away. Is he more consistent than they are, or does he seem so because he’s around less, and so his inconsistency is blamed on factors outside of his control, and therefore forgivable (unlike the men who live down the block)?

    3) Is your love language actually acts of service, when your writing seems to heavily imply that it is Gifts, given that you were so clear that “generosity” is so important to you? Generosity is the content of the language of Gifts. Dedication is the content of the language of Acts of Service. A person who spends half of each month away is, by definition, not dedicated. He’s dedicated only when he’s around.

    As an addendum, I thought for a while about why you’d write about your respective heights in the opening of your letter, only to then write how you’re not the sort of person bothered by heights and appearances. Was the intent there to foreshadow? That while you’re aware that, in general, long-distance dating is a bad idea, you believe yourself to be an exception because you are otherwise exceptional? If so, please re-read what Evan wrote.

    1. 1.1

      Excellent analysis Jeremy.
      I thought the same thing about the height comments. Why would someone mention something and then say that it doesn’t matter, unless it does?
      This whole situation reeks of red flags. She needs to watch Dirty John and get her feet back on the ground. She’s not ready for what she thinks she is.

      1. 1.1.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        Jesus Christ, she does not need to watch Dirty John. She just needs to invest her time in finding love in her area.

      2. 1.1.2

        I’ll have to google “dirty John.” No idea what that is. It’s not that I think height matters to her if she says it doesn’t, Scott. It’s that I think she thinks that because it doesn’t matter to her, other things that might matter to others won’t matter to her either. I agree with Evan that she needs to invest her time in finding love in her area. I’d just also suggest that she try to understand herself a bit better. It is so tempting to reach shallow conclusions and think that one has found one’s truth.

        1. Lurking

          I just googled it. Dirty John was a real life con man that scammed women from online dating sites. Con men are dapper and exciting and always coming and going. Hard to verify the truths of their stories, family, and employment. Before I saw this comment, I was thinking that it sounds like a lot of the stories. Only a small fraction of catfishes end in murder of course, but lots of financial abuse goes on. If he starts hinting quickly that he ‘needs a loan or a place to stay’ watch out.

        2. In Hiding

          I watch way too many “true crime” shows.

      3. 1.1.3
        Mrs Happy

        Height is important to her. We know this, because after introducing basic demographic data, she led with it. People talk about what is important to them, even if they don’t realise. She is tallish, and height of partners will have been an issue for years for her, because it is for society.

        I agree with EmilyTO below; Ashley is falling in love. So it doesn’t matter what anyone says here now, she’ll ride the love wave, because it feels so great, and really, who wouldn’t. Cute to watch, she gives off such excitement. She may return to these comments in the future when cracks arise.

        1. ScottH

          Mrs H- not sure. Should we take her at face value? Or take her at the opposite of face value? Or is she saying that since height should matter but doesn’t, that long distance shouldn’t matter even though it does (as I think Jeremy is suggesting). I think the 3rd things is likely the most plausible. Definitely seems to be some form of verbal micro-gesture since she made some effort to mention something that doesn’t matter, of which there are infinite things that don’t matter that she didn’t bother to mention.

          And yes, she definitely should focus on finding love locally but she seems hopelessly head over heels after one short week, but should probably be hopefully and cautiously so instead, hence the dirty john comment which (IMO) would definitely temper someone if they knew the story.

        2. Mrs Happy

          ScottH, do you think this is likely to be a Dirty John situation? I think it’s more likely to be just what it is, 2 people getting on well and excited about being together whenever they actually can.

          Your John comment is reasonable, but mainly in that all people who meet relative strangers need to be very careful. I can never understand how conmen con so many, they seem so obviously dodgy from the start to me. Unfortunately while people fall in love their ability to evaluate is skewed. Such is the power of evolution. Amazing really.

          I’m now daydreaming about the infinite things that don’t matter, which is quite a trip, thanks for that.

        3. Emily, to

          Mrs. Happy,
          Dirty John is an extreme example. I read the story in the LA Times. His behavior wasn’t giving off red flags but huge red, waving banners. The guy was a sociopath.
          The letter writer is, as you wrote, in the early stages of falling in love. She’s infatuated with him and it sounds like he is with her. How often does that happen in life? She should enjoy it. Time will tell what happens in the future and if things grow from where they are now.

        4. Jeremy

          Mrs H, you wrote, ” People talk about what is important to them, even if they don’t realise. She is tallish, and height of partners will have been an issue for years for her, because it is for society.”

          Meh. Depends on her personality. She may well invest her ego into NOT caring about height, specifically BECAUSE it’s such an issue for society. While others, as you wrote, would definitely care. Sharp demarcations by temperament.

          This week, my wife’s union is on strike to protest cuts to education by the government. The union wants them to picket outside the board office today, in the -10 C weather. As my wife grumbled last night about having to do this, I asked her what would happen if she just, you know, didn’t do it. “Well,” she said, “I’d lose the strike pay, I suppose.” “Uh huh,” I said, “and how much is that.” “I don’t know, maybe $50?” she replied. “Fifty whole dollars,” I said, astounded. “It’s not about that,” she stomped, “it’s about the principle. The rule is that union members have to follow union rules.” “I love that,” I replied, “so very circular. Perhaps you could see your way to not going, as it makes absolutely no sense, and you’re still recovering from illness?” She thought about it and eventually agreed. This morning her colleagues, who are largely guardian-types, are already lining up outside Starbucks to fortify themselves with warmth and caffeine before proceeding to follow the rules.

          One needs no advice to follow one’s own predilections. The advice one needs is when not to. This is so very apt to this post.

        5. Cathalei

          There is a difference between what’s important to someone personally and the anxiety they might feel about what others would think. Maybe she got too much grief over her past dates being shorter than her and thus she’s worrying about what they would think if/when these naysayers see them together. Many women get the “you deserve better” comments about this stuff and if such comments come from people whose opinions they otherwise care about, they might grapple with doing what they feel right.

        6. Yet Another Guy


          Women who are 5’10″+ are far more reasonable when it comes to height than women who are 5’5″ or shorter. Most women who are that height are okay with a guy who is their height or even a little shorter because they have been dating men their height and a little shorter most of their adult lives (according the to CDC, the average American man is 5’9″ on the money). I was originally hesitant to date women who are 5’10″+ when I was in the dating market because I am hair under 6’0″ in bare feet (just under 6’1″ in normal street shoes) and I am used to women wanting at least a 5″ height differential when measured in bare feet (my ex-wife is a hair under 5’7″ and my girlfriend is 5’6″). However, what I have discovered that really matters to tall women is a man’s physical size. Taller women are not just taller, they are usually bigger. It is not uncommon for a tall woman to be a size 16. A size 16 on a 5’5″ woman means that she is fairly round, not so for a woman who is 5’10″+ because along with the increase in height usually comes broader shoulders and wider hips.

        7. Lurking

          I hope original poster comes back to us with an update. I hope this new guy won’t ask her for a loan, a place to crash, request her to pay for trips or toys, an unspecified ‘business venture’ or some other expensive request soon. It will be a ‘tell’ if he quickly disappears or rages or stonewalls her if she asks for verification.

    2. 1.2
      Emily, to

      Geez, Jeremy. Let her have her moment. Let ride the train as long as she can.

  2. 2
    Harry Palms

    She could always try circular dating and see if she can force a commitment/ring from him asap instead of wasting time seeing if he’s the one.

  3. 3

    I’m one of the unicorns where it worked, but these conditions made it possible:

    1. Incredibly good timing. My husband was ready for a new relationship after a divorce. He was moving to the city where we met (and where I had social/familial ties) within a few months. I had completed the part of my graduate study that required me to be at home.

    2. Great communication and trust. We easily and happily talked for two hours each day and never had any trust issues with how the other spent their time. (The fact that when he moved we were only one or two time zones away certainly helped).

    3. Effort. We both spent a good deal of time and money to visit each other and try out co-habitating. We each used all of our vacation days. We didn’t rush in to making any major changes and took time to talk about big issues like money, running the household, future goals, etc.

    4. Good fortune with the passports and right to work we both had. I’m a dual citizen and was able to move to his city with the right to work straight away and there was very little stress about money or social isolation. I started working within a month and had a routine and my own income.

    I have no doubt that my spouse is perfect for me but all of the above made it possible. Had we met even a year earlier I doubt any of this would have happened. LDRs add a lot more stress and complication to a relationship and some of us come through but please don’t put all of your chips on one!

  4. 4

    Beyond the fact that this is long distance, it’s still a very early stage in the relationship, which is why everything still has a golden glow. There is nothing wrong with simply waiting a bit longer and seeing how everything pans out in, say, at least 6 months. Personally, I think it’s wise that Ashley is wary about the strength of her feelings, but I think she should be this way not just because of the long distance, but also because of early-stage butterflies. I wish them the best.

  5. 5

    “A friend had a passionate 8-month long-distance relationship over Skype, proposed over the phone, watched her move from Europe to Los Angeles, only to have a nasty breakup less than a month after she moved in. He was shocked. Sadly, I thought this was the most predictable outcome in the world.”

    I agree with Emily. Ride the wave. How will you know you’re not the exception? I saw a work person do this and give up a great job and move to Japan! Mere months later they had broken up and she was lucky since the company loved her and gave her the same job back. But that had to be embarrassing. To tell a whole company you were moving for love and to have to tell everyone it didn’t work out when you come back.

    As for your friends, I feel they had to go through that too, painful as it sounds. Sometimes you just have to know for yourself. And it’s not so easy to find someone consistent in your own country. But I think she’ll have a better chance with that once she knows in her heart for sure that this one wasn’t going to work out.

    1. 5.1
      Emily, to

      “I agree with Emily. Ride the wave. How will you know you’re not the exception?”
      I meant ride the wave of infatuation. It’s one of the most wonderful feelings in the world, the letter writer’s boyfriend seems to feel the same about her and things are moving forward between them. Do you know how much the universe has to line up for all of that to happen. 🙂 Now, if we’re being honest, most relationships don’t work out. That this one includes the factor of distance makes it less likely to work out, but time will tell so why not give it a try?

  6. 6

    I met my husband abroad on started as a holiday fling and I had no thought of even trying to meet up when we got back home, as we lived hundreds of miles apart. He was keen to visit,which surprised me, and I thought it was sweet of him, so I agreed. Within about 4 months we had found a property together in my area – we bought it and he moved here. Prior to this I had always avoided long distance relationships and I would still advise against them- its very high risk.As evan says, the inherent problem is that you can’t know how its going to work out till one of you has uprooted themselves. You could visit each other for years and still not know- its just artificial. I didn’t fancy years of flying back and forth, so basically I took a punt. But I was in my late 40s, I’d been married before, so if you like it was less important than for a 28 year old with her whole life ahead of her, possibly wanting children etc. .. So how has it worked out for me.? I’d say pretty well, but not as well as I’d hoped. We’ve now been married 7 years. My husband is very avoidant when it comes to conflict, so it’s difficult to discuss issues with him. This was not apparent to me when we took the plunge. As a result, the relationship is not as deep as i would have liked. He does love me, but not as passionately as Id hoped for.I think thats just his personality, but again,its imposdible to fully judge these things in a long distance relationship.We have a pretty good life together and he has settled well in my area, but this,too,was a gamble.Id say all in all we have been lucky, and we are probably as happy as the average 50-something couple, but its not a route i would recommend- there are simply too many unknowns.

  7. 7

    How effective is it?

  8. 8
    A lady of a certain age

    Per usual, Evan’s reply is spot-on. A twenty-something woman in NYC is spoiled for choice and should not potentially waste months or years on the wrong guy. I have been in her position and you do not get those years back. From ages 27-29 I was with a guy who was “fun” but not a long-term option (volatile and self-centered). Then I “settled” with someone else for a while because he was kind, consistent, and communicative. As a long-distance veteran, you cannot really tell if someone is right for you under the circumstances OP describes. People are putting their best selves forward during those fleeting moments of togetherness – consciously or not.

    That said, I am now in a very long distance relationship with a man. We met 4 years ago at the wedding of mutual friends, but did not start dating until a year ago. We are both 40 and have had no dating success in our respective countries despite living in major cities – I have been mostly single for 7 years despite e-Cyrano help and plenty of online dating. He manages to spend 4-6 weeks at a time visiting me about 3x per year. There is a good chance of his being able to relocate to my city in 2020 (hoping!). We have been through some heavy things in the last year – sickness, injury w/ surgery, professional turmoil, etc. – so it does feel “real” rather than just honeymooning. Plus there is a level of trust from how we met: if one of us treated the other poorly in any way, that would be slighting the dear friends who brought us together. We each feel responsible to act honorably, and we are naturally “high integrity” individuals as evidenced by our professional and personal lives.

    I am tied to my city because I take care of a parent with a terminal illness. If/when that parent passes, I would happily emigrate to SO’s English-speaking country and have managed my finances/career well to enable that move.

    To summarize I think major long distance can work, but trust and candor are key along with some plan for the long-term. Do not recommend until the stakes are higher – over 35, no success locally, etc.

  9. 9

    Thanks for sharing all these ideas. Really helpful to motivate any team!

  10. 10

    I am from California and I met my European husband while on holiday. What I thought was supposed to be a fling turned out to be a very long, challenging, painful year+ of a very long distance relationship. I also always avoided long distances relationships and so did my husband.

    We have been living together for a year now in his country, we are married and we are awaiting the arrival of our first child. We met when I was 28 and he was 33. I had been in several long term relationships in my 20’s and I can safely say that my husband and I provide each other with a unique emotional support that works for our relationship. We also have similar values. However, our relationship is still new and we do have a life long of marriage ahead of us. Here are few things that I believe made our relationship work so far.

    1) Neither of us were looking for love when we met. We just had a good time and got along extremely well. He was always consistent in the way he communicated with me. I trusted him and he showed me effort and seriousness about me when he brought me to his country to spend Christmas with his family and friends several weeks after our initial meeting. This was huge for me as I was able to meet the people in his life and see that was surrounded by love and respect from his family and friends. Being that we are both family orientated, when he came to California for the first time he met my family and friends and that was priority.

    2) We didn’t rush into saying I love you. We took these words very seriously. We also discussed all of the pros and cons of starting a long distance relationship. We recognized immediately that this was going to be challenging and if we really wanted to make this work eventually someone would have to move- when we felt ready. We also recognized that for visa and work permit reasons when one of us did move we have to get married immediately in order to properly start a life together- Again everything was out on the table and open for discussion.

    3) After several times of seeing each other the relationship became overwhelming and we we felt we had no options. He decided he didn’t want to risk getting married before living together and I wasn’t ready to give up my developing career to do a “trial” period in his country. So we broke up and had several months without communication. I left the ball in his court and told him if he was interested in figuring out a solution for us I would be open to hearing it, but I could not guarantee that I would pick up where we left off.

    I ended up hearing from him several months after we broke up. He asked me to come back out to his country for the holidays again and I agreed. We decided we wanted to make the relationship work and we decided we would get married. We once again sat and discussed the pros and cons and challenges we would face with me moving to his country. Everything was really clear and I agreed to take a year of intensive language courses to learn his language in order to better the chances of getting a job and communicate with his family- this was priority.

    So in the end our relationship required a lot of work and many commitments on both ends that we promised to fulfill. We knew it was going to be hard but we accepted the challenge. I am the one who had to give up my life and move and yes, sometimes I still struggle accepting that. We stayed realistic during the process and always discussed everything and any issue we had. Communication, trust, honesty and loyalty were key.

    I would NOT recommend a long distance relationship to anyone UNLESS you are serious about the person and willing to make major changes in your life to accommodate the relationship. We had the support of our families which was very important to us. We are definitely an acceptation to the rule and as a young married couple we still have lots of building to do but we are both very happy that we are finally together.

  11. 11

    Thanks for sharing this information. It can sure help any team.

  12. 12

    LDR’s are a gamble as most here have said. Sometimes you win, most often you lose. I’ve had a couple of them over the years. Lots of texting, Skyping, then finally meeting only for both of us to realize although we liked one another a lot we weren’t exactly right for one another.

    I’m 65 and live in a very small rural town. I’ve lived in major cities but much prefer small town life. The dating pool is verrrrry tiny in my area in my age range I’m active on twitter finance and get to talking back and forth with followers about subjects in common and have ended up dating several of those very nice guys. You’d be surprised how many couples I know met on Twitter! Some moved to different countries and got married. You just never know.

    That being said once again I met a super nice guy who lives about seven hours away… he’s in Canada I’m in the U.S. we are close in age (finally someone my age! yay! as the other guys were quite a bit younger) we’ve been having great conversations, So yes, we are planning to meet soon, we share a very similar outlook on life and how we envision living this last third of it. Who knows what may happen? I’m not one to discount serendipity and being on the same page in the same book as someone who lives a distance away.

    We will see how things unfold after we meet. It could be “hey that was fun but we’re actually not a match” or it could be “let’s keep this discussion alive and meet again soon.” I have no expectations but I do have a great deal of curiosity and am well aware that the universe works in mysterious ways.

    65 is very different than 25 or 35 or 45 …. you have come smack up against the reality of the precious little time you have left. I’ll take the gamble that he and I could very well be an excellent match. If not I’ve made another friend on this journey of life.

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