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Long Distance Relationships & Commuter Marriages

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Family Relations > Long Distance Relationships & Commuter Marriages



Blended family in two different cities?

Oct 2008

My boyfriend and I have been in a committed relationship for a little over a year. We are really well suited to one another; have a lot of fun, share many common values and interests and the sex is great. The problem? He lives in Saratoga and I live in Concord. We are both in our early 40's, divorced and have kids. Due to careers, schools and custody sharing neither of us are in a position to relocate in the near future. Realistically he could relocate in about 5 years. Our time together is usually on weekends when it's just the two of us. We really like and enjoy one another's children but, with schools and extracurricular activities in different geographic locations, it's nearly impossible to spend 'blended' family time together. My boyfriend is an all around wonderful guy and we have something special. It would be great if we could spend more time together to really integrate our lives but I feel helpless as to how it can happen. Has anyone made a long distance relationship (with kids) work? - Are we kidding ourselves?


My boyfriend and I started with a long distance relationship: about 50 miles and an hour plus drive each way. We both are divorced and have our kids part time. Nearly two years later, we have both changed jobs and we moved in together in May. I know I am very happy with things and it made all that driving early on to see each other once or twice a week totally worth it. Plus, I loved all our phone and email communications. If you really care for each other, you can make it work. Best wishes! Former relationship commuter
I am in a new long-distance relationship with a wonderful man who lives on another continent. We, too, are divorced (though in our fifties), and I have a child young enough to make it impossible for me to move (I share custody with my ex). And my job is not moveable, either. So here we are. We send each other text messages several times a day (just ''kisses'') and write at least one fairly substantial e-mail per day. We Skype (free telephone call with video on the computer) once a week or so, and we see each other once a month ($$). Because we are very sure of one another and at ease about our deep feelings for each other, it is relatively easy. Yes, we miss each other, and it is hard when day-to-day problems arise and the lover is not on-site to help or just be there. But both of us have big networks of friends who serve in those capacities, and it is so rare to achieve this level of closeness and security with someone that we feel it is worth it. Before I met him I was trying to find someone through internet dating, and the contrast is just so striking -- the guys I met on-line were nice for the most part, but it just didn't ''click.'' With this guy it has. So I guess I would say that if you feel the relationship is right for you, and you don't feel that you absolutely must have the day-to-day relationship right now (I have so much else to do that I can't honestly say I need it that much), go ahead and have the relationship you can have right now, with the idea that you can move closer in the future. trans-Atlantic
My wife and I dated long distance (LA-SF) for over a year. Two things were important to the success of an LDR: 1) we both knew that it was not an indefinite situation. We knew that there was an end point and that one of us (me) would make the move. 2) we both made the commitment to see one another basically every or every other week. Without those two factors, it will be difficult to make it succeed. Doing the long distance thing is hard enough. Not knowing whether you will ever be in the same city exacerbates that. It puts a lot of pressure on the two of you to make the most of your time on the phone and together if you don't see one another that often. Forget about email. No matter how romantic you guys are long ditance, there really is no substitute for face to face time. More frequent face to face time helps to 1) increase your familiartiy and intimacy and 2) reduce the pressure of your interactions. ''Absence makes the heart grow fonder'' is true only to a point and then it can morph into ''Out of sight, out of mind'' SOme people manage to make it work without all this. Some actualy thrive on not being in the same city all the time but given that you are asking this question leads me to believe that you are not one of those people. Good luck! Former LDR

He has to move for work - is this sustainable?

Sept 2008

I'm looking for advice, hopefully success stories, about long distance relationships. I've been involved with the most wonderful man for the past 3 years and although we haven't lived together we see each other several times a week and spend weekends together. His kids are grown, my daughter is twelve (I've been divorced five years) and all is fine except he is moving away. The company he works for is moving to Chicago and he needs to go. He's looked for other work here in CA but since he only has 5 more years at the company before early retirement he can't chance losing those benefits. What do we do? I can't move now. My daughter's dad is here, my job is here and I can't imagine uprootng my life right now. I'd go in a heartbeat as soon as my daugther is in college. What is sustainable? We could see each other once a month but can we retain that bond between us? Wondering what other couples do in this situation. distance romance


Why not pay attention that 'heartbeat' and give this long distance relationship a chance. Lots of couples are doing this these days. Perhaps because of the economics. I often hear about these situations in my psychotherapy practice in email I receive. In fact, it seems to be so common these days I'm frequently interviewed on the subject for women's magazines. I even spotlighted the subject in 'Breathing Room - Creating Space to Be a Couple' (New Harbinger) http://tinyurl.com/2evgul I used to tell my audiences that my idea of a perfect relationship is someone who lived 7 minutes away. Then I had a change of heartbeat. I've been in an LDR myself for almost 5 years.

The key to LDRs is keeping the connection and good communication:

-Talk together (and often) about what kind of contact both of you need to make it work. How do each of you feel best connected and how often? Maybe nightly phone calls to look forward to. Or emails. Or texting. Or chat. Or camcorder. Or a combination. How long do you need the conversation to last in order to feel connected. How often do you need face-to-face contact? Whose town?

-Know that your needs might change, so keep the door open to refreshing the dialogue.

-Build consistency into the relationship. Because LDRs by nature cause both of you to shift gears, building consistency helps it to thrive. And, it's fun to look forward to your contacts with each other.

-Try to get an understanding of how much alone time each of you needs during your time together. Know what your own 'bottom line' needs are for time and space. Talk with your partner about how to get space needs met for both of you.

These tips are from one of my articles and interviews. Contact me at 510-540-6230 if you want more information or go to my website: http://www/QueenofRejection.com Elayne Savage


The commute to see her is really getting to me

June 2006

I am seeking advice on a romantic relationship I have been having. For the last 3 months, I have been dating a woman who lives just south of Pacifica. Soon after we started dating, Highway 1 - Devil's Slide - was closed due to the heavy rains, which caused to roads to need serious repairs. The scheduled re-opening of this area will not happen until September at the earliest. As a result, it now takes well over an hour to commute from Berkeley to where she lives.

My whole life revolves around Berkeley and the East Bay. I have a child here (part-time), and run my business here. Both of these things take up lots of time and energy. I have been driving down to see her every Fridays; and she has come up to visit me on Saturdays. The problem is, the commute on Fridays is really getting to me; and the result of all this commuting is that we rarely get to go outside of our houses to do any fun activities. Besides, I am pretty entrenched in the urban atmosphere of the East Bay, and I find that the rural area is nice, but boring.

I wondered if anyone can shed light on "long distance" relationships, similar to this? I should say also that both of us are "over 49", own our own homes, and pretty entrenched in our own locations. While it is possible that eventually one of us might move, that would not happen for a long time as it would involve significant life changes. While I think that she is a special person, I have also found that there are definite differences between us.... and when you add the hellacious commute, it just makes it worse...

By the way, she has no children, but she does have a dog who is old and cranky, and does not travel well...

A few days ago, I told her that I could no longer make it down there every week, at least until they re-open Hwy 1. She is pretty angry about that, and basically I think she wants to break up over it. I am not sure what I want, but I also see that it would not be fair to her to continue a relationship if there is little hope of it working. We have dated only 3 months, if we break up now it will be better than being unhappy and frustrated for another few months...

Any opinions on this? Commute Challenged


If there's no way you'd move toward her, be straight with her. If there's no way she'd move away, and wants to break up with you, maybe you're not right for each other. You can always just ''take a break'' and see if you're really dying to be together again. Frankly, even both of you traveling every weekend sounds tedious, but if you can't make it work (even for now), then don't belabor it. But be nice about it, and be honest. Maybe you'll find you care enough to find some common ground. Or maybe you'll find that it just isn't right
One thing you might want to do is make a list of the pros and cons for yourself. Pros on one side of the paper, cons on the other. You could start by taking the post you wrote, and picking out all the descriptors you used for your feelings about the relationship, about her, and about you, and put these feelings into the two columns.

For instance, some of the expressions I see that could go in one column are that you are, ''commute challenged'', the relationship ''would involve significant life changes'', that there are ''differences between us'', it's a ''hellacious commute''. Her dog is ''old and cranky'' and there's ''little hope of it working''. You used the word ''entrenched'' (twice) to describe your current situation.

Once you have this simple list it may help to shed light on your question. This method has helped me solve the most intractable seeming problems over the years. Best of luck, long distance relationships are challenging anon


Deciding what to do about a new relationship that's having problems can be very difficult and agonizing. You don't want to give it up out of fear that it might be the right one but at the same time you don't want to hold onto something that may not be right. Here are my two cents on the situation.

I hear you giving lots of reasons for ending the relationship. One reason is the commute. Other reasons include having differences with her and being bored with where she lives. Also, you mention that she doesn't have children and her dog is annoying.

My advice to you is first to figure out why you're coming up with all these reasons. Either 1) you're putting up barriers to intimacy (and letting the commute do the rest for you) or 2) you genuinely aren't interested in seeing her. If it's an intimacy issue, you really need to examine this. Perhaps you've explored it in therapy, or might consider doing so if you haven't already? On the other hand, if it's a matter of you not really being interested in seeing her, you need to be honest with her. There's no point seeing someone if you know you're no longer interested in them.

As for her being angry with you for not wanting to commute, these are my thoughts. While on the surface it seems inconsiderate that she's angry at you for not wanting to commute each Friday, it could also be a response to how you feel about her. In other words, she may be hurt by the distance you are putting between you and her and the lack of communication on why you're making that decision.

This gets back to the issue of honesty. If you don't want to see her (regardless of the reason), you should be forthcoming and let her know. Or at least tell her you need some distance while you decide what to do. That way she'll have a chance to decide if she wants to continue seeing you. This way both of you will get to decide what to do without keeping each other in the dark Anon


by your message it seems like you already want to break up. i'd say break up. doesnt seem worth it to keep pursuing the relationship. after doing a long distance relationship for 6 yrs and then in end just breaking up, i've always thought that these relationships just dont work. good luck to you! cate
So you drive to see her for Friday evening (and drive back?) and she drives up on Saturday during the day? Do you spend the night there and caravan back to Berkeley in two cars? Can you sleep over, (on the couch even if you are not at that intimate a relationship yet)? Can you not alternate Fridays and Saturdays, or even just Saturdays, one weekend in HMB, one in Berkeley? It seems ridiculous for you both to be making that horrible drive every week, for the same amount of time to be spent together. Why do you both have to be in both cities every week? I think you can work out a way to do this with fewer sacrifices on both your parts, and then decide if those sacrifices are worth it. If it is true love, then it is probably worth the drive. On the other hand, if it is true love, it will probably be able to be rekindled after the pumpkin festival. anon
Long distance relationships can work, but I think it take a lot of patience and humor, and lots of agreement on what you both want from the relationship. And it sounds more like you two have a commuter relationship than a long distance one. When my husband and I were separated for a year while I finished college (and before we were married), we were 500 miles apart, so a weekly visit was not really possible. We had less frequent but longer visits, and that seemed to work well for us. Plus we knew the long distance was a fixed time.

It sounds to me that it's more than the commute that is causing you trouble. If you're feeling ambivalent, it might be a good idea to take a little time off. Or take it the other way, and set aside a chunk of time together--a week or two somewhere. In either (or both) situation, you might discover more what you want with each other and from your relationship Here now


There might be another way of thinking about this impasse. Did you by any chance unilaterally decide to limit your Friday visits? It may be that she wanted to be included in the decision-making process and is angry about that. Maybe if you talk about the difficult commute and its associated problems, you could come up with some other solutions together. Here are some ideas: you visit her for one whole weekend, she visits you for the next whole weekend; she does the Friday commute sometimes; or you meet her in some third city and do something different. I'm sure the two of you could come up with your own list of ideas that would be worth trying. Good luck! anon
It would seem reasonable for you each to take turns - you go to Pacifica every other week for whatever time seems reasonable and she goes to the East Bay the alternate weekends. Seems strange that you both have to do all that driving each weekend. You might want to ask yourself how long you would be willing to do this while deciding whether this person is the special one for you. I did it for 5 years and it became clear that neither he nor I was willing to move so I ended it. Would have been better not to wait so long.... 5 years was too long
So, you both go back and forth to each other's places every weekend? Why don't you go to her house one weekend and she comes to yours the next? Maybe a neighbor can watch the dog. It makes it more interesting and fun when a couple can be more fluid, spontaneous, and flexible, in my opinion... Maybe you can find a place to meet on a Saturday morning that's in between and outside and go for a walk or spend the day at the beach and then spend Saturday night with each other and forget Friday night altogether! Suggest new things to try and if she's not open to them then I would move on. Who wants to get stuck in a rut after only 3 months! all for trying new stuff!
Wow. I feel for you. In fact, I posted a similar message to this board about 3 years ago and got no responses!

But here I am, 3 years later, in a happy, commuting marriage.

Here's the first thing: You have to love each other very, very much. Because it is DIFFICULT, and it will remain difficult.

My husband lives about 100 miles east of here, when he's not in Berkeley -- he commutes twice a week to be with his kids. I get up there much less frequently -- we aim for once a month. There are structural reasons for the imbalance: 1) I have a much more time-intensive custody arrangement than he does, and my child is younger; 2) He has to be in Silicon Valley a couple of times/week anyway; 3) He actually likes the Bay Area better. Nevertheless, the imbalance itself can be a source of friction.

You say that you ''rarely get to go outside of our houses to do any fun activities'' but I'm not sure why the commute precludes that. Just too tired after the drive? We definitely make a point of getting out, because it can be tempting to just ''nest'' when we get our one night alone per week. But we both feel it's important to get out. If you could make a point of getting out, maybe you could learn to appreciate her ''nature zone'' better, and she, likewise, can learn what it is you love about the East Bay urban scene.

Only you can decide whether the relationship is worth the commute to you -- but it sounds like she's decided that it's worth it to her, so I can see why she's hurt by your move to limit visits at her house. I think you have to know, to have faith, that she is THE ONE for you, for the rest of your life, and that this is an investment that will pay off in happiness in your old age. From that faith, you will then need to make the decision that you can do this commute with joy in your heart, and anticipation at seeing, after a long week, your lover.

Tune your radio to NPR, begin each trip with the intent to practice ''road patience,'' keep your cell phone charged, and commit your heart to love. Very best wishes to you --


I read the title of your post with sympathy, as I've been in many long distance relationships and I know how difficult they can be. However, I was expecting the distance to at least involve crossing state lines, so when I saw that the distance was a one hour commute, I chuckled. If you don't feel the relationship is worth a one hour drive, once a week, then I think it's pretty clear that you're not committed to making it work. anon
I have had similar issues and relationships over the years. I am now in the same position, entrenched in the East Bay, with part time care of my young children. My ex wants me closer to him for ease of child transferral. My ''about to be ex'' boyfriend is not willing to travel to Berkeley to see me if I move there from Walnut Creek where he is long established. As my sister advised me, if you aren't excited about the commute, that person out there is not special enough. Cut loose sooner rather than later. It is kinder and she seems to be giving you the cut loose signal through her angry response. Good luck! k

Living apart part of the time

April 2006

There was recently a question about temporary long-distance commuting. I have the opposite question. My husband and I are considering a permanent short-distance commute. The kids and I would live about an hour away and that would be our family home. My husband would come to Berkeley three days/two nights a week (probably leaving Tuesday morning and getting back Thursday night) for his job and be with us the rest of the time.

We would do this because we want to live in a smaller, mellower town where houses are more affordable and it is easier to raise kids. We have friends in this town and family nearby (though we don't expect our family to be of any help). My husband loves Berkeley and loves his job and has tenure so will be working here until he retires. After 6 years I still hate Berkeley and my husband agrees that I've given it enough time and we need to do something else. This was the compromise we came up with.

One more piece to the compromise: He currently goes away for 4-6 weeks each year (in 1 week long chunks) so he can really dig into his work. Having a place here will replace the need for those trips.

Has anyone out there done this? Is it sustainable? Is it hard on the kids? The mom? The dad? The marriage? Any tips for making it easier? anon


Please see my post today under ''Temp. long-distance commute with 3 1/2 Y.O.'' Yes you can make this work, and it could even improve not only your situation but his. Being an academic is very flexible and often telecommuting increases productivity. And coming home to a family that is happier makes it win-win for everyone. (And if you get a hybrid car you can even save on tolls and gas expenses. :-) It is sustainable assuming that everyone's needs are met and no other option clearly dominates. anon
I haven't personally done this but I know someone who has been doing it for over a year. He is gone during the week and home on the weekend. There are issues with it, but it is working pretty well. Since your husband would be home more and the distance you'll be from him is closer than my friend's situation, I think the issues they have wouldn't apply to you. Sounds like a good compromise for your situation. anon
Hi, I don't have experience with this, but wanted to say it sounds like you've thought it through really well. Anything will work if you've thought it through and if you and your husband are in agreement about the details. Perhaps also discuss his level of involvement with the children (ie giving you a break) when he comes home Fridays. Another option: I dislike Berkeley also and couldn't live there. We live in Alameda and I love it. It truly feels like a small community and it is a great, great place to raise kids. Perhaps you want to check it out before moving further away. Anon
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