“Should I break up with my long-distance boyfriend/girlfriend?”
When posed this question, I would respond with an emphatic “YES!”, but that would make for a very poor answer. Instead, let us take a closer look at what a long-distance relationship is before passing judgment on its validity.
After all, a long-distance break up can be messy, so one should understand why it is a necessary evil. “Dating” is best characterized as a catch-all term used to describe the amorphous amalgamation of interactions amongst and between sexually active individuals. Under this definition lies the iconic long-distance relationship, which is so often seen amongst first-year college students. This category of relationship is by no means reserved only for the young, and occurs whenever two individuals promise monogamy despite a large physical distance between them. Now that we have our terms defined, let us examine the implications of attempting to remain intimate with someone who is far away. Before I progress however, I would be remiss if I did not qualify my writing. Because dating and relationships are so difficult to clearly define, it is a little absurd to speak with any sense of authority on the matter. Any advice, be it from friends, family, or seemingly self-proclaimed experts on the internet should be taken with a grain of salt and are only valuable as an analogue to one’s own plight. Now, on to my argument.
My aversion to long-distance relationships and subsequent recommendation to break up is based on two points: a disconnectedness with one’s surroundings, and what I will refer to a “quid pro nil.” Presumably, one enters into a relationship with the intention of spending time and “being with” their significant other. I would argue this is the most basic tenet for actually being with another person, but in a long-distance relationship proximity is a principle issue. Thanks to technology in the form of texts, calls, FaceTime, Skype, etc., there are a number of ways to keep in contact during a long-distance relationship, but these mediums fall far short from physical contact. Additionally, I argue that using a computer or phone pulls an individual away from their surrounding reality. There are of course varying degrees to how deeply one can be invested in communicating with their significant other, but at its best the investment is benign, while at its worst it is obsessive.
The second issue I want to elaborate on is the concept of “quid pro nil” or “something for nothing.” Relationships can be a wonderful experience which allow us to grow and connect with others. The basis of growth, however, is not free, and the price often comes in the form of self-sacrifice. In short, we learn to cohabitate (although in varying levels of commitment). The key prefix is “co-" meaning “together." In a long-distance relationship, both parties clearly make sacrifices for one another, but they do so separately. What ends up occurring is that both individuals continue sacrificing so their respective significant other can sacrifice. Put simply, both are suffering without any apparent gains which are evident in a healthy relationship. There are also a number of other major weaknesses in such a relationship including, but not limited to: potential cheating, stress, and inherent loneliness, but the two I discussed are perhaps the most insidious.
I have always viewed long-distance relationships, at their very best, as a test in which two people are forced to see how long they can try to maintain intimacy in the face of overwhelming odds. Long-distance transforms what may be a healthy and happy relationship and gives it a necrotic nature which ends only when the two parties are able to reestablish proximity or when they break up.
So, when posed with our original question, I firmly reestablish my answer that a long-distance break up is necessary. I would like to note that I make no mention of love or other extenuating circumstances because herein lies the subjectivity of any relationship. All I will say is that it would be a disservice to both yourself and someone you care about to enter into an agreement which more often than not ends in tears or anger.