I was on the phone with my new long-distance boyfriend and totally swooning. We had met online and went on several dates before entering into a long-distance relationship. He was telling me that he strove to be a gentleman and to treat a lady correctly. As I had been frustrated by men who were not gentlemen, I was happy to finally find a man who would treat me right. Those words sounded too good to be true.
Turns out, they were too good to be true. As the months progressed and we spent more time in person, I realized that those words were simply that: words. He had all the right things to say about how a man should act, especially towards a woman. The problem was that he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, act accordingly.
One of the benefits of long-distance is that you and your significant other are forced to talk extensively, so you get to know each other. But, there’s also the risk that what you hear over the phone won’t be backed up by reality. In my case, because I wasn’t seeing him in person frequently, it took much longer for me to realize that there was a problem.
To those women out there looking for love, learn from my mistakes. Here are four traits that I found in my (now) ex that took longer for me to discover because of long-distance.
01. Lack of charity.
He was always incredibly sweet to me, both over the phone and in person. My friends, however, received very different treatment from him. He would comment negatively (in front of them!) on the music, decorations, or house rules at a friend’s house. At a party, as a group of us stood in a circle talking, he was constantly muttering side comments to me, monopolizing my attention. Once, he implied that a dear friend was going to hell because she said “damn it” in a moment of frustration. I was mortified, surprised that someone who I had known to be sweet could be so rude, especially to people he knew were important to me. I hadn’t seen this side of him in our extended phone calls.
We were planning to go to an event, and he had decided what time we should leave. I agreed, even as I said that we didn’t need nearly that much time (we were in my city). Right before we left, my roommate called and needed me to check something in the house right then. So I did. We left five minutes later and were still early to our event, but I was shocked to find that not only was he upset about our delayed departure in the moment, but he was still upset the next day. Sometimes, for very good reasons, plans change. It took living real life together for this inflexibility to come out.
03. Possessive smothering.
Our weekends together were often filled with time spent with just the two of us, but we also tried to include friends. I, for one, wanted to see how he interacted with my friends and to hear my friends’ opinion of him. At first, he seemed perfectly happy to hang out with others, meeting for brunch, going to an event, etc. However, as the weeks passed, he increasingly wanted to spend the entire time alone with me. One of our last weekends, I watched him glower as my roommate walked into the living room. One-on-one time is great, but friends can, and should, help a relationship to succeed.
Adulting takes work. But you have to expect a certain degree of maturity from a man you might marry. My ex had a stable job, even if it wasn’t a very high-level job, but eventually I learned that he was actually living with his parents. Then, on a date at a sit-down restaurant, he couldn’t figure out how to pay the check properly. I was flabbergasted. His immaturity in practical affairs turned out to be a problem in other areas of life also.
As you might have guessed, this guy didn’t last that long. He lasted as long as he did, though, because we were long-distance. As these traits, and others, started to appear, I brushed them off at first. Surely he just had a bad day, I thought. Everybody has awkward moments. That must be it, he’s just awkward. Slowly, as we had more weekends together, I realized that these “awkward moments” were signs of deeper problems.
I’m grateful for what I learned from that relationship because it taught me what traits to look for, especially in a long-distance relationship. When I met my now-fiancé (also online), I was unsure. I was about to move, so our relationship would also be long-distance. In the short time before I moved, I over-analyzed his every action, looking for evidence of these negative traits that my ex possessed. I was delighted to find instead a real, honest-to-goodness gentleman who slipped a ring on my finger this past summer.
If I were chatting with a friend who is at the beginning stages of a long-distance relationship, here’s the advice I would give her, based on my own experience with long-distance.
01. Meet in person ASAP and often.
Obviously, you want to have some sense that this relationship is viable before you start investing in plane tickets, but get as much in-person time as possible and trust your gut if you start to notice too many “little” things.
02. Involve others in every weekend.
Make sure that every weekend you’re together includes friends or family (his or yours) for a part of the weekend. This will help you see how well he shares your attention, what kind of man he is around his friends, and how he treats others.
03. Pay attention to curveballs!
Notice how he reacts to a sudden change in plans. Do you feel free to suggest a different activity or restaurant, or is he so focused on his plans that suggestions from you aren’t welcome? If you’re living in close quarters with roommates, then it’s very probable that your plans will have to shift at some point to accommodate them. Let it happen. Life will throw you curveballs, and the sooner you find out how he reacts to those the better.
Married life, for most people, isn’t long-distance. While sharing ideas over FaceTime is wonderful, you need to be in real life with your man for significant amounts of time to see who he really is. It takes a bit of work and some extra attentiveness to certain traits, but it’s possible for an online, long-distance relationship to work. I have the ring to prove it!