As young idealists trying to claw our way through the ambiguous and confusing (but exciting!) trenches of the post-dating world, we Millennials are always on the lookout for new role models in the realms of love, marriage and passion. In an era of relationships that all too regularly go the way of Kelsey and Camille Grammer, Tony Parker and Eva Longoria, and Courteney Cox and David Arquette, we are open to any and every tip or wise word we can get about how to keep a connection strong as the years pass by.
And now it looks like we've got a new pair of role models to add to the list. Billy Baldwin and Chynna Phillips -- welcome back on the map!
Maybe they're not the post-dating role models that we would've expected, having almost gotten divorced in 2010. But with a renewed commitment to their wedding vows and a willingness to try out some less traditional methods of keeping the love alive -- methods that embrace the tools of techno-romance that are so second nature to our generation -- they've stepped out as a couple that, for the moment, we can look to for some romantic inspiration and validation.
What are Billy and Chynna doing that has suddenly put them in the middle of our post-dating radar? Why, they're having Skype sex! And they're not embarrassed about it. At least, Billy isn't.
Rob: "What was your guilty pleasure?"
Billy: "Uhhh, what was my guilty pleasure? I will tell you that Skyping is great."
Rob: "Do you have Skype sex?"
Billy: "Of course!"
Of course! Not a big deal! Billy and Chynna are both entertainers who travel a lot, and technology has given them a way to turn each other on -- online -- without having to type anything. And with visuals! Why wouldn't they be having Skype sex?!
Well, when you say it like that... it seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?
Billy and Chynna may be one of the few married celebrity couples to admit to having Skype sex, but they're joining a new wave of people who are increasingly engaging in techno-romance, i.e. the rampant use of technologies to cultivate and explore romantic, sexual and flirtatious interactions, and even relationships. Because, let's face it. As a society, we're not only getting more comfortable deepening our connections via techno-romance, but it's becoming somewhat of a necessity.
I have been touring the country interviewing young men and women for my upcoming book on modern romance, and the number of couples I meet who have spent time living apart and "doing long-distance" is astounding. Some of them are still long-distance: others have made it through the geographic separation and are now living in the same regions or cities. But so many of them -- despite the obvious difficulties and frustrations of not having your partner there beside you on a day-to-day basis -- are really, truly happy and functional.
Sure, I also meet individuals who were previously in long-distance relationships that ended. But many close-proximity relationships fail as well. Couples can break up when they are a continent away, and they can break up when they are sitting across from one another on the couch. Yet I've been getting the sense that the overall percentages of these types of break-ups are getting closer.
I've met military spouses who have dealt with someone being deployed for a year. I've met non-profit volunteer workers who have lived on different continents, pursuing their passions while maintaining a relationship. I've met countless pairs who temporarily went their separate geographical ways for graduate school or professional opportunities, only to beat the distance and reconvene at some later point. Perhaps most impressively, I've met couples that started off long-distance, meeting when they already lived apart and then cultivating strong, committed relationships from miles away.
And how are most, if not all, of these successful long-distance couples making it work? With a whole lot of techno-romance to tide them over until they can see each other again.
They text quick updates and thoughts and words of love throughout their days and nights. They form "book clubs" over email and Facebook, reading the same books and discussing them at regular intervals. They Gchat from their offices. They communicate constantly via BlackBerry Messenger. They watch a DVD at the exact same time and chat about it on their cell phones. They comment on each others' Facebook photos and status updates and "friend" each others' "friends," enforcing the impression that their activities, feelings and networks aren't actually so divided. They chat on Skype -- and yes, they have Skype sex, too.
We need to revise the still-prevailing rhetoric that long-distance relationships never work. When I sit down with single people who have recently met a potential love interest who doesn't live nearby, or with couples who are getting ready to become long-distance, they are terrified and doubtful. "Everyone knows that long-distance doesn't work!" they cry. "My friends and family think I'm crazy! People keep telling me that I'm wasting my time!"
Nothing like a self-fulfilling prophecy to kill a good thing before it even begins.
What I share with these pending long-distancers is that every successful long-distance couple to whom I have talked has heard the same things from their loved ones. Because still -- despite the texts and Facebook wall posts and BBMs and Skype sex dates -- we have stubbornly held on to this toxic idea that long-distance relationships are simply destined to fail.
I'm hearing the real stories, and I'm telling you -- that is not true. Couples are making it work every day, mostly thanks to techno-romance. They are trusting their love and, in the case of burgeoning relationships, their early connections, and they are defying the conventional wisdom and building strong partnerships anyway.
Does it help to have an end date for the distance? Definitely. Is it easy and fun? Not really. If you're consistently enjoying Skype sex more than real sex... well, that's something you might want to look into. But technology has blessed us with endless -- seriously, endless -- ways to explore and deepen our love, at a time when professional, personal and familial obligations often have us traveling the globe and landing in new places for significant periods of time.
We're lucky to now have all these tools at our fingertips. Just ask Billy, Chynna and their Internet service provider.
For more on the post-dating world, check out www.WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com.