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Long distance relationship

Question: Four weeks ago, I met this gorgeous young woman who lives in New York. She was visiting The Bahamas when we met. I am a successful Bahamian businessman, and she is a computer programmer in New York. How can I develop this distance relationship to the point of marriage? Is it wise to do this? Signed: In love Bahamian male.

Answer: Oops! You did not fall in love with this young woman in one week. You are infatuated with her. Now infatuation is not all bad, but it is not enough to build a relationship. Developing a relationship with someone living in another country while you live in The Bahamas is very difficult, and it is perhaps not a wise thing to do. First of all, let me remind you about the difference between infatuation and love. Infatuation is the chemistry you experience between each other when you first meet. It is the spark and fire that start when your eyes first cross the room. It is the “feel good” sensation that runs through the body and mind when you first hear her voice. This is all good, but it does not last. Most relationships start with infatuation, but it must not be the foundation on which to build the relationship. What then is love? Love is simply a choice. It is the decision to stay committed, faithful and true to the same person. Infatuation will definitely fade in time. Love remains as long as we decide to love. Love is eternal. Infatuation is temporal.

Dear in love Bahamian male, what you feel is great – however, to make an intelligent choice about your life mate, you need to be there with her. You will always remember her as that sweet, respectful, and innocent person you met at the convention. Only through time and personal interaction will you really know if she is genuine as gold. Remember, being able to laugh together, talk, and share with is not enough to know if someone is for you. Good friends often do not necessarily make good married partners. Being a nice person does not automatically mean that she will be a suitable marriage mate.

You must ask yourself some serious questions.

• Am I willing to travel frequently to get to know the person better?

• Am I willing to change my lifestyle, country, and future plans to develop a healthy relationship with someone in another country?

• Would she be willing to do the same?

• What was I really attracted to when I saw her at the convention in Miami? Was it her sexy walk? Was it her perfume? Was it her New York accent? If these are all, you will soon find another sexy lady perhaps in Exuma, Freeport, or Jamaica, when you are on another trip. Then you will only be acting like a traditional, sex-driven male.

Remember, you can choose to develop that relationship, but you will not really know her unless you have an opportunity to live in the same area with her, or her with you for a significant period of time – extended weeks, or a year or more. Or you may decide to travel very often to visit each other. The risks are too high. You want to know exactly what you are getting into when you marry. If you meet in New York today, return home, and write daily to each other, and only see each other every two months, the chances are that both of you will never see the real person. You will both be good actors with masks, always putting on the best performance for each other. However, the longer you are around each other where you have to continue the daily routines of life, the masks begin to peel off and your true self is revealed. That’s the person you want to marry.

If you really feel that it is worth investing your love into this young woman, then what can you do? Here are some things you can do (you can select the one or the options best suited for you):

• Move to New York, find a job, and live there for at least a year. Of course, you will live by yourself and not with her. There will be no shacking up.

• Suggest that she move to New Providence, find a job, and live here for at least one year.

• Or spend a three-month vacation in New York developing an acquaintance to enable you to see if you really want to invest in the relationship. Note that when you visit your friend it is not wise to plan to live together, simply because it is convenient and less costly. Be independent. It will be worth the money. Living together with someone you do not know can be risky. Even if you reason that you are only staying in the same house but not in the same room, that might not be wise. It is too emotionally close.

• Or, if you are happy about your findings, decide to make monthly, biweekly, or quarterly trips to New York, and stay one to two weeks or at least three to four days at a time. (This can be very expensive).

• Trips can be alternated. She could come to New Providence, then you could go to New York.

The point I am trying to make is that you need significant time together to get to know each other. Distance usually pushes people apart. Writing letters, texting, messaging, emailing, although very good to start with, is not enough to learn about an individual. You might know of individuals who have met each other in Germany and only wrote to each other for one year, then got married. The problem is that they had to learn how to become friends after marriage. That’s difficult to do, and it is risky business. The risk is that, other marital difficulties dangerous to the health of the relationship may arise that will hinder proper growth before you become friends. Do you want to take this risk? I admonish you to think before you leap into the arms of infatuation and romance.

Making the steps: If you feel this is the right person you should think about the following suggestions before making the final decision:

• Avoid accepting his or her explanations of life experiences (divorce, past or failed relationships, etc). As far as possible, seek a non-biased view of your distant friend and his or her life from a friend of your partner, relative, pastor, or associate, etc.

• Make sure discuss with each other family history including medical, psychological, and sociological.

• If the person is divorced you should see and read completely the divorce documents before making your final decision. Remember, as stated earlier, do not take his or her word for the reason for the divorce. The partner might have committed adultery but your new friend might have been the reason it occurred.

• If the person has dependent children, it is imperative that you discuss expectations, boundaries, and roles. Note that emotionally, both of you will be “parents” to these children. However, you are not to require the children to call you “mom” or “dad.”

• It is imperative that you seek pre-marriage counseling from a well-trained counseling/pastor/marriage and family therapist. Note that the older you are and if you had previous relationships it is even more important to engage in counseling.

Conclusion: Finding someone to love who lives in another country can be healthy if you make the wisdom steps suggested above. Finding someone on a matchmaking website can also be wholesome if you make wisdom steps. Be wise.

• Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to question@soencouragement.org, call 242-327-1980 or visit www.soencouragement.org.

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