Long-distance relationships pose a variety of interesting challenges. People who choose to be in this type of relationship need to be able to switch back and forth easily between being independent and being greatly intimate. It can become quite a roller coaster that at first is quite exciting. Couples in long distance relationships often talk about the heightened desire that being apart can create for them. Being a little bit starved for sexual contact can make having sex that much more exciting when the couple gets together after a couple of weeks or months.
A quick Internet search on “sex and long-distance relationships” glamorizes these relationships, like an article in Cosmopolitan that suggests that for long-distance lovers, “Physical sex is like a rare and beautiful diamond to you: Every time you touch it’s special and sparkly.”
Well, yes, I think we can all understand how absence makes the heart (and other body parts) fonder. What I’ve seen in my practice, however, are couples that find out they have sexual problems when they are finally living in the same place or have decided to move in together. Here are some examples of couples sometimes learn:
· They have really different sex drives. While the relationship was long-distance, they had to have sex when they were together, or they’d have to go without for awhile. That meant it didn’t matter much if one partner wanted sex more than the other; both partners were going to get their needs met. Once they are together, however, they don’t have the same incentive or even the same “sparkly” drive to have sex. This can take some of the sparkle away from the relationship and leave one or both partners disappointed.
· Sometimes one partner has been faking orgasms. For example, a man might have delayed ejaculation, but his partner would never know because they only have had sex a dozen times and he was able to somehow hide this fact. Now that they are having sex more frequently, a problem like this can become a little more obvious and even troubling.
· When two people get together over the course of a long-distance relationship, it isn’t unusual to treat their time together like a celebration, complete with lots of alcohol. Once they move in together, one or both may find that they don’t really want to drink as much, maybe because they have to live real life now. Suddenly, sex isn’t nearly as fun, and some couples feel weird when they have “sober sex”.
· Conversely, sometimes one partner feels a great deal of pressure to perform when they get together after being apart for some period of time. Especially for men who experience ED in such scenarios, the problem sends them into a mental tailspin. In the belief that being in the same city will cure the problem, the couple may move to be together. Unfortunately, this may only put even more pressure on the male partner to figure things out—with upsetting consequences.
If a couple finds that they have sexual issues while the distance relationship is on-going, this can be difficult as well. Sexual differences or problems are hard enough to talk about face-to-face, let alone over phone or Skype. I have had couples come to see me while they are both in town just to work things out.
If you are working with an individual or couple in a long-distance relationship, don’t forget to ask about their sex life, or to help them develop a realistic idea of how sex might change once they are together. Discuss performance anxiety and suggest some ways to calm down, such as mindfulness. Perhaps they can do sensate focus type activities together on the first day they meet, and let other sexual activities develop organically. If the couple has moved in together and they have discovered sexual issues, treat them as you would any other couple, keeping in mind the kinds of things they may have experienced while apart.