3 min

Arousal = attraction + obstacles

But can you and your long-distance lover face the 'dailies'?

Dear Dr Ren,

I met my boyfriend three and a half years ago while we were both vacationing in Mexico. He’s American. We’ve been in a long distance relationship since then and are deeply in love.

Though we’ve never lived together, we travel to see each other regularly and holiday together as often as possible. We speak daily, know each other’s friends and see ourselves as life partners.

Here’s the problem. I have a government job that requires licensing. “Ken” owns a successful computer-based business. I have suggested that we get married here in Canada and he operate his business from here. He says all his business contacts are there so I should move down there (I was born in the US but I have dual citizenship). I’ve explained I can’t work in the States without recertifying, which would involve retraining.

I don’t understand why this is even an issue. “Ken” really likes Vancouver and our laws here make our being together so much more possible. He’s been in his city for only 10 years and his family isn’t even there, so it’s not like I’m asking him to leave his only home. Am I missing something? How can we resolve this? I realize this question isn’t specifically about sex, but I hope you’ll consider answering it anyway.

Wanting One Home


Dear Wanting One Home,

As I understand it, your question is whether you should move to Ken’s home in the States or he should move to your home in Canada. I think perhaps you are asking the wrong question.

The two of you met while on holiday and have enjoyed a long distance relationship (LDR) ever since. Granted, it has lasted for more than three years, and you have gotten to know each other well via daily calls and frequent visits. I do not doubt that you have sufficient information to have established a loving relationship.

What you have not developed, however, is a chance to see how you will fare when devoid of the artificial circumstance of living apart.

Contemporary sexologist Dr Jack Morin developed a formula that applies here: arousal = attraction + obstacles.

Those in LDRs always have the obstacle of distance, meaning that arousal remains high long after it would subside in more traditional forms of relationships.

I agree that you and Ken would benefit from living together. You need to see if you are as good a match when faced with the “dailies” as you have been during the relative ease of independent living.

I am not suggesting that you will fail at this, but I do think you would be wise to try on a living-together situation before either of you completely upsets your life.

Some possible options might be:

1. You take a six-month leave of absence from your job and go to live with Ken.

He foots the bill as an investment in your relationship. Then Ken comes to live here with you for the same amount of time. You pay his expenses during his stay. At the end of the year, you re-evaluate.

You “win” the argument about who moves if logic were the only determinant (Canadian marriage, portability of his business). Ask Ken why he hesitates, and give him room to tell you the truth. He may be less committed than you are; he may be equally committed to you and his current city.

Ask yourself, if you could easily work Stateside, would you then give up your life in Canada? Patriotism runs deep.

2. Both of you move somewhere else.

3. Don’t change anything.

You say you have a lovely thing going. If it ain’t broke… Rather than putting a strain on yourselves now to decide who capitulates, why not put a moratorium on the question to give your relationship a chance to mature without this pressure? You can mutually decide how long that period should be.

You don’t tell me much about the inner workings of your relationship. This may be a good time to take an inventory. Do you share core values? How do you manage money? What about leisure time? Do you fight well? Are you aligned on ethical matters? What about sex?

It’s difficult to determine an ongoing “fit” when each visit is fuelled by pent-up longing. Without the artificial context of an LDR, these important factors may read differently. You need time, daily familiarity or both to determine the answers. Eventually, you will probably want to live together. Most do.

Still, that prospect is now causing a rift between you and your lover. Find out why. If it is just logistics, you two will uncover solutions. If it is about timing, patience will cure the problem. If something more basic or serious is afoot, you will need to address the issues directly.

Have I given you perfect answers? Certainly not. There are none. You would be wise to concentrate on the warm and loving relationship you have developed over the past three years and plan together how you will spend your next years together.

Got a question for Dr Ren?