Better opportunities and a bad economy force people to be increasingly flexible and expand their job searches to "everywhere." Once you get that great job offer or are accepted at the college of your dreams, packing your belongings and moving away can be an easy decision.
In many cases you not only leave a box of books or winter clothes somewhere in a storage unit or a basement, there might also be a significant other who waves goodbye. For some it's just a breakup waiting to happen, others are determined to make a long-distance relationship work.
Even though it's more convenient than ever to stay in touch and communicate, long-distance relationships still have a bad reputation, and we all know couples who've broken up before all the boxes are unpacked (or where surprise visits ended badly). Unless you are in a successful long-distance relationship, the general sentiment seems to be that they don't work (seems tautological, doesn't it?).
The Sunny Side of "Absence Makes the Heart Grow..."
But let me point out a few advantages, other than not having to shave your legs every day and being able to wear mystifyingly unflattering underwear. Long-distance relationships can be more beneficial than you might think -- not just for the airlines and phone companies (or Skype, in many cases), but the personalities and the careers of the people involved.
For one, long-distance relationships are a quick and easy way to find out how much closeness you need in a relationship. Proximity is an important factor when falling in love -- but can you make it work once there is physical distance? You will also easily realize how much you support each other's lives and careers.
If you have a great job offer there but a partner here, you will have to make a very difficult decision. What will you miss and regret if you choose one over the other? A short separation might mean temporary misery, knowing that you missed a great opportunity might haunt you for years. (And yes, it will come up in a fight.)
Either way will have drawbacks when love is involved. In the end, whether long-distance is the right solution always depends on a couple's ability and willingness to commit and make the relationship last. If both partners know what they are getting into and are equally determined to make it work, long distance relationships bear an immense potential for personal and professional growth. If done right, both partners might get some of the best of both worlds - the relationship world and the single world.
The Best Reasons to Hang Onto that Long-Distance Boyfriend (or Girlfriend)
1. You have time.
Long-distance relationships are as not as time consuming as other relationships. Actually, let me rephrase that. Long-distance relationships take up time differently. You probably don't have any dates for weeks at a time, and you can organize your activities around phone calls or video chats. Your evenings and weekends are free and you can easily (and without guilt) work late, network, take classes, find new friends and cultivate hobbies. Underwater basket-weaving, anyone?
2. You can be alone.
Being able to be alone (not lonely) will make you a better person. You will become more independent both in your personal life and at work. You will learn to make decisions by yourself, juggle schedules and organize time.
3. You can focus.
Long-distance relationships let you focus on your work or school when you are apart and on each other when you are together. If you have to leave your office for date night while others are still trying to make that deadline, you might not be able to relax the in the same way as when you know that you will have a few days of just relationship time while your phone, laptop and work thoughts are taking a break as well. Long-distance relationships demand a big compromise in the beginning, but possibly fewer and smaller ones during the relationships. (Plus, you get to eat all your desserts without having someone poking around in them!)
4. You can find yourself.
Your 20's and 30's are an important time to find out who you are and what you want to do with your life. It's not a general rule but sometimes you need to be alone and on your own to ponder the more profound questions of life. Developing your individuality and personality are important factors to make life and relationships work -- and it will help both partners. Being independent and having room to grow both personally and professionally is crucial in life.
But It's Not All Sunshine and Roses
Maintaining relationships is always hard, no matter how close you live. It takes work, patience and way too much compromise. Living in different time zones might let you (temporarily) get away cohabitation issues. But the everyday things -- socks all over the floor, dishes soaking for a week and discussions about toothpaste and hair in the sink -- won't get any easier when they eventually happen just because you chose the long-distance route on the way there.
There is no recipe for long-distance relationships. Not every job is worth moving for; not every person is worth staying for. Ultimately every situation is different and there will be sleepless nights, discussions and possibly a lot of missed phone calls. But it might also be a great opportunity so both partners can follow their dreams and pursue their goals -- while slowly trying to merge their lives together.
Some jobs only come around once in a lifetime; some people make the world seem like a magic place -- and hopefully, if it's what you want, your partner will work with you (and collect a gazillion airmiles) to make it stay that way.
Isabelle Mitchell is Levo's tireless Midwestern Correspondent and Swiss Ambassador to Long-Distance Romance.