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No Plane, No Gain

I’ve been dating this wonderful guy for six months. He just got a promotion requiring him to travel three days a week for the foreseeable future. This means we’ll miss huge chunks of each others’ lives, and I’m afraid we’ll grow apart. Is it possible to stay emotionally connected if you don’t have everyday, in-person contact with your partner? Do you think our relationship has a chance?

--Holding Down The Fort

In the movies, two people, desperate to be together, overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles so they can live “happily ever after”...and then the house lights come up. What happens the next morning is anyone’s guess -- and for good reason. Chasing what you can’t quite have is the fun part. After the drama’s done, then what? Two people, overcome by seemingly insurmountable piles of dirty laundry, struck by the sinking realization that once-charming idiosyncrasies are rapidly morphing into excruciatingly irritating tics?

More often than not, it’s all downhill from “happily ever after” -- except for a select few. No, not those syrupy types who insist on seeing the best in everyone, but sour cynics who are willing to acknowledge the worst: People shed. People leak. People emit foul odors. This is also true of dogs, but they’re furry and cute, and are easily bribed to perform useful tasks, such as retrieving the newspaper. Many humans, on the other hand, seem incapable of learning to pick up after themselves. They also tend to be dull, annoying, and repetitive. They also tend to be dull, annoying, and…yeah, it happens to the best of us.

In other words, your boyfriend’s travel schedule might be the best thing that could happen to your relationship: the difference between raging animal attraction and a raging desire to call Animal Control to pry the two-legged pig off your couch. Don’t think of his absence as a form of deprivation; think of it as an opportunity to devote three whole days to growing out your leg hair, stomping around with PMS, and using the spaces between your toes to breed penicillin. But, you ask, what about the idea that “real” intimacy means sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly? Quite frankly, it’s best if you keep the bad and the ugly to yourself, and slinky up like it’s your first date whenever your boyfriend returns to town.

When’s the last time you saw two people who spend all their time together tearing across their living room into each other’s arms? You kiss somebody differently when they aren’t always around. And, like make up sex, “I Miss You” sex is always hotter. Communication can be hotter, too. Ever had phone sex with somebody sitting on the other side of the room? Perhaps the need to put a little creative effort into staying connected isn’t the worst thing in the world.

To kill off your relationship fast, live in fear that it will end. Granted, it’s hard not to place value on tenure, considering that when people hear you’re in a relationship, the first thing they usually want to know is how many years you are from getting the gold watch. What should matter is how good a relationship is, not how long it lasts. When it stops being good, it should stop lasting. It’s quite possible that there’s no such thing as “happily ever after.” Happily for some time after, however, might be doable -- for those willing to admit that the flip side of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is probably something like “an excess of presence makes the heart grow mold.”

Copyright ©2004, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.