Love 2.0: Mobility in Relationships

Virgil gave us the famous quote, “Love conquers all.” But who can believe him nowadays?

In a world where students and professionals often venture far from home to pursue their dreams, more and more find themselves separated from their significant other. But for such relationships, distance doesn’t have to mean the end.

Take Amber and her fiancé Mario. They’re literally oceans apart — many, many oceans. Mario is an electrician on a container ship and can spend up to four months at sea at a time, traveling all over the world. Amber, though she’s from Virginia, USA, recently moved to Rostock, Mario’s hometown in northeastern Germany. 

Diving in

Even though her German was still shaky, Amber decided to take the plunge and relocate this past summer. “Since this is where we would finally settle to live when we have children, I thought it better just to move here and start our life together in Germany.”

But “life together” obviously implies something different for Amber and Mario. Though they’ll see each other when he is home, Mario’s weeks off are few and far between. So far, the couple has tasted just a bit of the two extremes.

When Amber arrived in Germany, Mario was home on vacation. The two moved into the same apartment and spent almost all of their time together, taking walks along the Baltic Sea, playing pool, and relaxing in the beer gardens.

But since Mario’s most recent voyage, Amber has had to navigate quite a bit of territory without her free translator. “I had to finish my visa on my own and managed some banking problems, and without him I have no idea if I understood things correctly.” Of course, Amber misses Mario for much more than his German skills. “He’s my best friend and it’s hard to be away from that person.”

The translation issues come into play in their long-distance communications, as well, where even seemingly crystal clear messages between native speakers can often get warped. According to Amber, e-mail allows for regular contact when Mario is at sea, but the mode tends to be a bit crude and impersonal. 

“My bad jokes don't make sense to him,” she laughingly admits.

There’s one thing, however, that makes the choppy phone connections, misunderstood e-mails, and lonely nights slip into the background. Asked what makes it all worth it for her, Amber nonchalantly replies, “It’s him.” This sentiment is surely shared by most couples in working long-distance arrangements.  

Ignore the naysayers

In truth, Amber and Mario aren’t the slightest bit unrealistic for thinking things will last. In his recent book entitled Long Distance Relationships—The Complete Guide, Dr. Gregory Guldner reveals the truth about the supposedly unfavorable odds. He says the numbers in fact prove long-distance relationships have the same chance of survival as any other relationship. 

Dr. Guldner is the director of The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, a U.S.-based research site for therapists and psychologists dedicated to the study of separated couples. Considered an authority on the subject, Dr. Guldner has been interviewed by news outlets such as CNN. 

But in his book he’s quick to point out another important consideration for long-distance relationships, or LDRs: 

“Staying together isn’t always the best thing for a relationship, as we all know … So another way of looking at whether LDRs, or any relationship, ‘works’ is to examine the quality of the relationship.”

Dr. Guldner cites studies showing that relationship quality is equally strong — and weak — for both long-distance and conventional relationships. In the end, he suggests that it is up to each couple to assess whether a long-distance relationship is right for them.

For Amber and Mario, it is right. Though Mario had less to say — he’s currently thousands of miles away — Amber speaks for the both of them. “We are getting married next year, and even being apart or together constantly, we still have a strong friendship and love.” And really, whether you’re one or one-thousand miles apart, what more could one ask for?