Ladies — At first glance, this email exchange I had with your fellow reader Karin seems to be about long-distance relationships — a dead horse that in the past I have beaten so thoroughly as to pulverize, nay, vaporize it. So how does this corpse seem to resurrect itself from the very air, and keep coming back?
Well, that’s easy. For tens of thousands of years, humans used to live and die within a 10-mile radius of where they were born. So you basically hung out with the boy or girl next door, because, well, he/she was next door. Usually in the same tribe, even.
But once you create means of transportation that take you to the opposite end of the planet in half a day, then the fast-acting mechanism of limerence — also known as that lovin’ feeling — could get activated somewhere very far away from home. For both parties. Add to that the exoticism of being in a novel place and the stress of being a stranger, and you have the optimal brain chemical cocktail to make you fall for someone exceptionally non-local.
Further add to that the Western Romantic Ideal — i.e. “this temporary state of massively impaired judgment called being in love means I must destroy everything in my path to give in to it” — and that’s when the trouble begins. Here’s the exchange, mostly unedited and as it occurred:
Hi Dr. Ali, I just read your post on long distance relationships, and it really spoke to me.
I met my boyfriend nearly 2 years ago when we were working in Iraq. We became friends, and then it evolved into more. We lived together for 6 months at our compound in Baghdad. And we’ve been doing 1 year of long distance since then, as he goes back and forth to Iraq a lot. But he has made his US home base in FL (where he is from), while my job is in DC. So, when he is in the US, we see each other quite a bit, but not nearly enough. Overall, in the past year, while we talk at least twice a day, we have seen each other in person maybe 7 weeks altogether. Note that he only works when he is deployed out to Iraq, and that he can live wherever he wants and have his job.
He is a very good person — a wonderful boyfriend. In fact, he is everything I could ask for and more in a man, and we know each other so well now. But of course, the distance is killing me. It’s become very hurtful.
In the past few months, we’ve had several conversations. Always tearful on my part, but never shouting or cursing between us. We love and respect each other every much. He was first to say I love you, and I do believe him. But he says he just can’t move, only feels at home in FL, nothing to do about me and how much he loves me, doesn’t know when we can move in same place, it’s scary for him, etc.
I just question how much he must really love me. It’s just heartbreaking for me. I don’t understand it in the least. Is he just selfish deep down? Maybe he does not know how to do a regular relationship? Or maybe I am not good enough for him to move for? I want to explain it, but I can’t figure it out.
He’s driven the relationship the whole way, e.g. he asked me to be with him, he has asked me in the past how I feel about marriage and kids. He has always known how I want to see my life in the future – i.e. married to a partner, with the intention to have kids. I recently sent him an email laying it all out: that I loved him, that he is wonderful, but maybe we don’t want the same things, most indicative in that he can live anywhere in the world and do his job and yet he chooses not to live in my area. His response was the same as usual.
Why do you think he is like this? How can a man love and care for a woman — and I do think he does for me — but not be able to move on and have some “normalcy”? I’m already heartbroken, so do I just give up on the best man I’ve ever met?
Thank you so much for any insight you can provide. It really means a lot! Best,
On Wed 3:16 AM, Dr Ali Binazir wrote:
So you read my post on why long-distance relationships are a terrible idea.
Then you were kind enough to corroborate everything that I said with real-life data. It’s pretty obvious what you have to do, so what exactly do you want me to say?
My only insight:
- You must have an unconscious need for high drama in your life (Iraq? Really?), and this is providing it, which means
- You’re also a little bit of a glutton for pain and/or drama. As such, anything that I say that applies to healthy, local, mutually-supportive, stable, peace-building relationships may not even apply to you. Normalcy is probably the last thing you want, whether you’re aware of it or not.
Also, if you signed up for a relationship with an adventurous man (partially because he was adventurous), do you think the best way to perpetuate it is to clip his wings and say, “Come here and be my domestic lackey”? No. You set him free. Especially if he feels like Florida is where he can flourish better.
If you love him, you must love him as he is, not as you want him to be. Otherwise it’s just ego speaking, not love.
On 5/20/15, 7:47 AM, Karin wrote:
Hi Dr. Binazir,
I think I wrote you because I don’t understand how a man can love someone but not be there with her, at least most of the time. And maybe you misunderstood: he can live wherever he wants when he isn’t working in Iraq. He lives in Florida, when not in Baghdad, because he loves it. And he hates DC, where I live and work. So, I can’t really clip his wings, even if I wanted to!
I’m trying to understand how he and I have come so far in this relationship, yet it is stopping short here. And maybe I am trying to rationalize it because I am not sure I will be able to trust easily after this man. If another man tells me he loves me in the future, will he really mean it? Because I just don’t understand how love and this chosen physical distance work here. Is this just how love is sometimes?
I know it may seem like I like drama. I wish I could convince you that I really, really don’t. I only went to Iraq because my work literally forced me. And I keep trying to imagine my ideal life. To me, happiness looks like coming home to a partner and relaxing, thinking of one day having a child together. Is this drama or pain?
Maybe the only way to rationalize my situation is that something is truly wrong with me, as you suggest. Do you think this is it? Or is my love just more than his?
Again, thank you for taking the time to write me.
On Wed at 9:26 PM, Dr Ali Binazir wrote:
Everything that I do is like looking through a keyhole trying to take in all of Yellowstone Park. Some details will be missing. And I haven’t met you, haven’t met the dude, don’t know your background, don’t know the nature of your relationship.
But this much I know: you’ve gotta let this one go, Karin. What else do you need to know?
Remember: a long-distance relationship is no relationship at all. And let’s not generalize to all men just because YOU insist on a bad choice (i.e. a non-local man).
You’re also coming from a massive scarcity point of view. It’s like you found this one 7-11 back where you were before, and now that’s the only 7-11 for you, forever. Um, there’s one of those every two blocks. There are MILLIONS of eligible men around you. There are opportunities for opening your heart and practicing being loving every minute of every day.
Also, you’re acting needy as hell, which is hugely unattractive. “Why can’t you come be with me if you can live anywhere you want?” ‘Cause I hate your stupid one-show town and like it down here in Florida where I can hit the beach, go fishing, and prove my manhood by wrassling ‘gators, that’s why!
And of course, the reverse argument could be made, too: if you love him so much, why don’t you move to Florida? Because your pre-existing job and network of friends is more important than his, of course. Ergo, you must not really love him.
You do realize that’s it’s a lot to ask for a person to uproot his life and come and move to your city — all for loooove, which I’m assuming equals that I’m-in-love feeling, which lasts 18mos on average? And how loving is it of you to ask him to do something that is clearly distasteful to him? Is this being loving, or being selfish?
What matters a hell of a lot more than being in love is fit. And there is beyond a shadow of a doubt a poor fit here. Hey, why don’t we extrapolate this into the future. Let’s say he does move to DC, grudgingly. And he hates it there. Now he’s always got one over you and will blame his misery on you — ’cause remember, he hates it there. Is this the way to start any kind of lasting relationship?
Instead of being whiny and selfish, tap into your higher self, Karin. See the bigger picture. Feel the abundance that surrounds you. Send him love, and be appreciative of what you had, your connection, your friendship, which is probably going to outlast all of this — if you play this right. Wish him the best, and set himself and yourself free.
Then open your heart and mind to local folks who are already in DC and like it there, and would be way more interested in you if you were to just pull your head out of the sand and look around. There’s probably half a dozen guys waiting on you who don’t dare approach you because, oh, she’s stuck on some dude in Florida, so she’s not available.
And by the way, chances are none of these local DC guys are going to get deployed to some god-forsaken desert for months at a time where they can get killed, which I’ve heard puts a damper on romance. Point is, you just might meet your future husband if you start paying attention outwards instead of being stuck in your story.
On 5/20/15, 10:46 AM, Karin wrote:
Thank you for writing back. Email hurt a bit to read; I hadn’t thought of myself before as needy and selfish, but I can see your point. I just do love him, and it’s hard to let go. Maybe there will be someone else, but I just don’t know. I appreciate your time in responding to me, Karin
On Wed at 11:56 PM, Dr Ali Binazir wrote:
Part of my job as a guy is to tell you how you come off to guys. And sometimes it ain’t pretty. But I’m sure you can handle it :)
Remember that you say you love him. But to love him truly is to wish the best for his long-term growth and thriving as a person. This thing you call love comes off a lot more like possessiveness.
I was going to keep this one as an email exchange, but I believe it’s got a lot of useful material in there. And there are a lot of people out there blaming circumstance, men etc for their plight instead of taking a good hard look at themselves and taking responsibility for their own happiness. So I’ll post this on the blog with your blessing. Best, Dr Ali
<end of email exchange>
UPDATE: Project Irresistible Online Course
So about 10 days ago, I said that I was putting the finishing touches on the online version of Project Irresistible, the 6-week course elaborating on the principles of The Tao of Dating.
Well, it turns out that the software needs further wrestling down. It looks nice now, but the system to take payments does not work, aaaarrrrrgh. It’s okay — I’ll figure it out eventually.
In the meantime, if some of you are thinking about taking the course LIVE — as in, I speak to you via teleconference in real time, and the whole thing takes 6 weeks, vs. being self-paced — please let me know! Say something in the comments below, and that way I have a sense if this is a worthwhile endeavor for us all. Haven’t done it in over a year, so I’m assuming there’s some pent-up demand out there.
Best, Dr Ali