Making long distance last

Making long distance last

Long-distance relationships look a lot different today than they have in the past. Modern technologies like unlimited minutes, texting and Skype provide a lot of ways for long-distance relationships to connect, said Laurie Smith-Nelson, clinical assistant professor psychology.

“Long-distance relationships are easier now than they’ve ever been,” Smith-Nelson said.

Ashley Gibson, a junior studying accounting, said she spent three and a half months apart from her boyfriend when she was in Washington and he was in Virginia. The hardest part was not being able to see each other, but Skyping almost every day helped a lot, she said.

Any sexual activity negotiated and consented to in a relationship is healthy, but it also must be done with integrity, Smith-Nelson said. By integrity, she means if photos or other sexual material is shared between two people and the relationship ends, those people should destroy those photos.

“Because what I am seeing and hearing about more and more is people share private, intimate, sexual things with a partner, and then out of spite after the relationship ends, the partner shares those things with other people,” Smith-Nelson said.

Sharing digital, sexually-explicit material is getting more and more popular, Smith-Nelson said. Long-distance relationships aren’t more common, but sexting and sending nude photos are, she said, and there’s a risk to it. We’ve all heard about celebrity nude photo leaks, but most people don’t want to talk about how common it is for everyday people to have their private photos shared, she said.

“Whether your relationship is long-distance or not, if you consent to sharing pictures or having video taking something or doing something on skype and your belief is that that’s for your partner’s private use, you have to really trust that that’s how it’s going to be used,” Smith-Nelson said.

Malin James, sex blogger and freelance writer, said maintaining a long-distance sexual relationship requires a lot of trust, but also gives a couple a chance to communicate their wants and needs, sexual or otherwise, more often and more clearly than most couples who live in the same area.

“If you can trust someone with whatever’s in your head and you can communicate that, that’s a nice way to build trust,” James said.

Being in a long-distance relationship is a chance to practice something that trips most couples up: communication.

“I think that sexting and all the rest, gives you an opportunity to put what you want into words.” James said. “You have to get pretty good at describing what you want.”

In her own experience with long-distance relationships, leaving a picture, a video or audio clip in an email can be a nice little surprise gift to a long-distance partner, she said. Anything goes when you know one another and what one another likes, she said.

“It can be totally sweet and romantic or totally filthy, as long as it has meaning for the two of you,” James said.

James has been in journalism for 10 years and writing erotica for the last three. Her stories range from the light and fun, to the darker, exploratory and emotional side of sex, she said. Although she enjoys the more commercial, romantic erotica, that isn’t the style she writes in, she said.

“It’s more what sex says about them and means to them,” James said.

She uses writing to explore the psychological and emotional side of sex, she said. Sending sexy words or pictures is a good temporary fix for the intimacy that can be lost in long-distance relationships, she said.

“It’s hard to make a long-distance relationship work without that sexy contact and communication,” James said.

It’s hard to imagine, when people are young and in love, that a partner would do anything that hurts or humiliates, Smith-Nelson said. Be careful, and trust a partner to have integrity if sending sexually-explicit material, she said.

“Relationships take work,” Smith-Nelson said, “And just because you don’t live in the same place doesn’t mean that it’s any less or more work, it’s just different work.”