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Somewhat Useful, but Conservative and not Transformational
on September 22, 2012
Being in a long-distance relationship after being in same-city relationships presented challenges. Not wanting to mess things up, and to actually be a better mate, I ordered this book. It proved to be somewhat useful, and positive, but offered little more than I already knew from hard work in previous relationships. (I do not want to sound like a know-it-all though).
The book attempts to be all-purpose, and is short on depth and specificity I was looking for. Practical tips and conversation-starting questions to ask yourself and your partner about goals, travel, being sure the relationship is worth pursuing, etc., are discussed, but with limitation. If you're older than 30, spent time in therapy, and had previous constructive, long-term romantic relationships, you may not learn much; the authors may articulate approaches to self awareness and basic pragmatic strategies you already practice.
The book was published in 2006, after the couple had been together for a few years, and when one of its authors was 29. About half of the couples profiled in the text were also their age peers, i.e., in their mid-late twenties, and just entering independent adult-hood after college. This is not my demographic, and was hard to relate to since I am entering my forties, am well-established in my profession, had already passed their stages, and was looking for advanced, sage advice, which mostly was absent.
The portrayed relationship partners and the authors do not talk at all about achieving financial balance in long distance relationships: not once do they say "Hey, neither of you are rich, and, maybe, one of you is making less money than the other, thanks to patriarchal wage inequality [which would be especially relevant since it seems only heterosexual couples were portrayed in the book]. Here are aspects to consider so that the costs of travel do not become a strain on the relationship..."
There were a couple of instances of cautioning couples against moving in together for financial convenience while transitioning the relationship to the same location, since it puts strain on the relationship in a number of ways.
This is a major issue, and I was surprised to see an absence of discourse about it. The authors do offer a few tips on how to make inexpensive gifts to mail your partner, but that was about it as far as cost savings. One profiled couple had noted using a web rum for long distance dating as a resource for support. Knowing of one of those sites would have been useful for the reader than the authors' advocacy of a few sites to send flowers through.
Really penetrating issues of emotional, etc. preparedness for committing to a long-term relationship across many miles and even finances were lacking. Buy a book by Alice Miller or Communication Miracles for Couples if you want advanced, introspective discussions about preparing oneself for love and fair, effective interpersonal communication techniques to integrate into your relationship approaches.
Many of the challenges of technology-related tools for communication from afar that the authors consider are not really relevant, since this book was written over six years ago, and cheaper internet-based forms of communication like Skype, Whatsapp, and Google Voice are more available. This would apply to any book covering these topics. I do not even recall one mention of using calling cards or such services for international couples as a way to avert high costs of overseas phone calls. So you'll likely want to find current information elsewhere (online). What was useful, were simple strategies, like establishing the ideal times to make regular phone calls to your partner, and not relying totally on casual chance.
More importantly, as a reader, if you generally are excluded from the target audience of books because you are not heteronormative, of European descent, an average American, etc., then you will need to filter this book's information in order to adapt it to your identities and perspectives. For instance, the authors do not distinguish between emotional fidelity/commitment and sexual monogamy. While there is caution about sexual interaction, and not rushing into it so that you can be sure your relationship is not really a long-distance booty call, there is an absolute equation between love and sex, as if extra-relationship sex, or open relationships, aren't an option to consider.
Not including this vulnerable discussion in the book is a failure that cannot be overlooked. I am not a naive 22-year old who needs to get married and reproduce children right away. The book is abundant with discussions of partners who could not manage their jealousies over social interaction of their mates that stretch late into the night, or on weekends, etc., where the woman, usually, has to cease socializing in order to please her possessive man. This sounds like a Stepford Wife in the making. No more open-minded/well-adjusted couples' approaches are offered in comparison.
At the other end of the spectrum, the undersocial are categorized with negative hopeless categorizations that read [I am paraphrasing] "...not wanting to be alone with nothing to do on Saturday nights, the couple would watch movies together and talk about them afterward over the phone or via instant messaging." That is a cool activity for the partners, but to characterize not being in the same physical space are your partner as leaving you lonely with nothing to do sounds pathetic and damning. Get a hobby, as the authors suggest elsewhere, or engage in a constructive social life.
Also absent from this book is any discussion of, at minimum, being aware of cultural differences between where partners live, and also who they are. This is especially important for international and inter-ethnic relationships, where the places the partners live are not more or less homogenous. It behooves travelers to be aware of social differences, cultural mores, etc., when traveling, even when just traveling outside their immediate home and heads, and entering spaces that are not theirs.
From a reader's perspective, the book is more or less tastefully designed, and small; ideal for slipping into a bag to take with you and read on the go.