Bicoastal Baby — Who said it was easy?

Who said it was easy?

I said for me, long distance is a choice. I never said it was easy.

Well, it’s a choice most of the time, but that’s fodder for another column.

Luckily I’m not alone in my struggles (that’s not to say I wish struggle among others, it’s just nice to know folks in a similar boat).

Take D. for example. D. is a heteroflexible male med student living in Portland. His fiancé, B., is a bisexual female living in Eugene where she goes to school. It’s a 110-mile drive -certainly not a long distance relationship, but more accurately dubbed “Middle distance” by D.

They are also open and see other people. D. and B. spent a year living in the same area and then lived together for five months before D. went to Israel for five months. Two months into that trip, D. met E.

“Usually you can say I’m still here, I still care about you and that wasn’t able to happen,” D. said of his primary relationship with B, adding the time difference and spotty Internet connection where he was staying didn’t help. “For me, I felt more comfortable with B., it actually felt stronger because we’re doing this and she understands this and me being involved with this other woman doesn’t change us.”

But while B. said she was happy that D. found a new relationship so far away from her, she asked for boundaries in the new relationship. At first it was no intercourse (which loosened over time) but B. always wanted D. to keep some emotional distance from E.

“In retrospect, that would never work with me,” D. said. “Being poly is a relationship orientation and having an open relationship controls what you do and how you talk about it. For me, an open relationship cannot exist outside of the emotional connection. To have a healthy lifestyle it’s hard for me to put up those emotional filters.”

And while D. hasn’t seen E. since the summer, they still are dating and he is planning a trip to Israel in the coming months. The distance between them, too, has brought some challenges.

“When she gets busy and doesn’t have a chance to respond or respond completely I have to sit back and trust that she still wants me in her life and that she cares about me,” he said of his relationship with E. “She told me as I got more nervous with my emotional standing with her I tended to ask for more communication and hold on tighter. She felt pressure and said that unless she tells me otherwise she still feels strongly about me.”

In the meantime, B. started seeing J. (are you still with me here?) that has helped her get a stronger grasp on being poly.

“[He told her] Rules are stumbling blocks and if you have more rules there are more chances to make mistakes,” D. said. “Because people are going to make mistakes, your job as a partner in a nonmonogamous relationship is to trust your partner to make the best choices for you and the relationship.”

Since August, D. and B. have been seeing each other, on average, every weekend – which D. says brings odd expectations about how much they see each other when they are together.

“Do I feel comfortable saying I don’t want you to come up this weekend?” he said. “The relationship is kind of static because a lot of growth happens when you’re together. When you are together you don’t want to spend your time with hard topics so you brush them off or don’t acknowledge them.”

He added that typically when couples live together, because you are seeing each other often you can dedicate time on relationship issues and then build the social capital needed to connect in other ways.

“[In a LDR] When you’re together you feel like you have so little time together that you both deserve to be fully present but when you see each other more frequently you say I feel like this time I should be studying or doing something else because we have separate lives,” he said.

For Adina, the distance between Albuquerque, New Mexico where her partner was and Portland, where she lived, ended up being very difficult. Too difficult, especially since the couple was monogamous and started out long distance.

“All that psychic work that distance takes became too much,” she said. “I told her I needed ten minutes a day or at the least some kind of acknowledgement that I existed in her life every day. Without it I would stop believing I was in a relationship at all. And my gaze would stray.”

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