Today, I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with long distance gurus, Chris and Kate Brauer-Bell, authors of The Long Distance Relationship Survival Guide. Mike and I read their book while we were dating long distance (I mailed a hard-copy all the way to PNG, that’s how much I liked this book :)).
Kate and Chris closed the gap after nineteen months of long-distance dating. They have now been happily married for more than a decade and have three children. They believe that the skills they developed during their long distance relationship have been a significant key to their relationship success, particularly during the early years of their marriage. Enjoy the interview, and come back on Friday to read their post on LDR Survival In The Technology Age.
Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your personal experience of long distance relationships? Are you still in an LDR?
We met when Kate lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Chris had just moved to Greenville, South Carolina, about 450 miles apart. The irony of this is that for years until that point, we had actually lived in the same urban neighborhood, just blocks apart. We had shopped at the same stores, gone to the same parks and restaurants, even knew some of the same people. We used to joke that Chris had to move cross country just to meet the girl next door.
We found the idea of long-distance dating daunting and probably would not have endeavored to do it if we hadn’t have felt that we experienced “love at first sight.” We were so naturally drawn to one another that even though we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, we really felt we had no choice but to at least give long-distance dating a shot. That was fourteen years ago now, and we are still happily together, now married with three beautiful children.
Although we cherish our nineteen months of long-distance dating, we have actually made career choices in the years since specifically to help us avoid long-term travel. As much as we were able to make being apart work, we’ve found we really just enjoy being together that much more.
That’s not to say there are never times when one of us is called to travel, either for work or family reasons, and when that happens, we fall back on the skills we learned early in our relationship, when we lived 450 miles apart.
How did you come to write The Long-Distance Relationship Survival Guide?
During the time we dated, we looked for helpful books on how to make this kind of relationship work. We wanted solid advice. At the time, we really didn’t find what we were looking for. Kate was already a writer, and we told each other that if our relationship worked long term eventually we would write the kind of book we had been looking for, to give other couples the practical strategies they would need to navigate their own LDRs.
We dated long-distance for nineteen months before making the commitment to get married. Once we were engaged and living in the same city, we decided it was time to start researching and writing the book. We knew what our own experience had been but we didn’t want to limit the Survival Guide to our experience alone, so we sent out the call to interview couples for the book.
What we learned was that, even when we looked at over 100 successful long-distance relationships, the strategies and skills we had learned in our own relationship were the same strategies and skills that other successful long-distance couples had made work for them, too.
In your book, you say that spending the first year and a half of your relationship long distance was the key to your marriage success. You’ve been married now for more than a decade. Do you still feel that way?
Certainly it has been a significant key to our success, particularly early on. We avoided a lot of miscommunication heartache that tends to plague most young marriages simply because long-distance dating had perfected those skills. We came into marriage with a very deep, abiding commitment and no doubts that we wanted to be together. We had
already made major sacrifices to make that happen, so our commitment was already strong. Of course, in ten years of marriage, challenges arise that test any couple. Those who survive long term are going to be the couples that have trust, communication, a sense of adventure, and commitment.
The other key factor to marriage success which we did not touch strongly upon in our book but that we have learned in the years since is kindness. In our ten year marriage, we have experienced many things that could have torn other couples apart (serious illness, loss, financial and legal difficulties), but the skills we learned in our long-distance relationship, combined with a healthy dose of kindness, have continued to bring us closer together with each challenge.
For better or worse, how have your long distance experiences continued to shape your relationship over time?
Developing our own separate, independent life skills has certainly been one of the greatest rewards of our long-distance relationship. Self-reliance is a necessity of longdistance dating, and we’ve found the same can be said for a happy married life, too.
When you spend day in and day out with a relationship partner, it is easy to become overly dependent upon one another’s skills and abilities. But when you live apart, both partners must develop abilities to maintain an apartment or household, shop for and prepare food, make repairs and maintain cars. If we don’t develop those skills as single
people, it’s all too easy to become lazy and never develop them once we are married. In our marriage, we do have our own roles and responsibilities. Kate cooks the meals; Chris does the laundry, etc. But our time apart allowed us each to develop a complete set of practical skills, so we are able to cover for one another when needed and do not feel totally lost or incompetent when we are called upon to take on additional responsibilities.
Do you have a favorite quote or section from your book? Is there something in The Long-Distance Relationship Survival Guide that you read and think, “Yes, that is so right on!”
For us, the big light bulb moment in writing the book was the realization, after interviewing so many long-distance couples, that there are key, identifiable pillars that all successful long-distance relationships have in common. Our experiences were not unique to us alone. Even eight years since its original publication, we think the book’s continued success in so many countries can be attributed to the simple fact that those pillars are universal. Identifying those pillars (communication, mutual goals, trust, creativity, time management, keeping things real, intimacy, and eventually making the commitment to be together) and devoting a chapter to each is what makes The Long-Distance Relationship Survival Guide different from other books and, we think, has kept it relevant over time.
If you could go back and revise The Long-Distance Relationship Survival Guide, how would you change it? Where would you expand it? Is there anything you’d edit out?
We are hoping that we do a Revised Edition soon, because so much has changed with communication technology in recent years. But even with changing technology, the core skills required by long-distance dating haven’t changed. We will talk more about that in our blog on Modern Love Long Distance this Friday.
Another thing we’d like to include in a Revised Edition would be more interviews with same-sex couples. At the time we wrote The Long-Distance Relationship Survival Guide, our audience focus were dating couples who were working toward marriage. A decade ago, our nation’s definition of marriage limited that to heterosexual couples. Today, with
so many same-sex couples entering into marriage, it seems only right that we would want to seek their perspective as well. Of course, the current book speaks well to couples regardless of orientation. Love is love, and long-distance love has the same challenges whether a couple is opposite or same sex.
Even with changing times, the themes in the Survival Guide are as relevant today as they were eight years ago. The fact that so many more people are entering into these relationships goes to show that true love will go the distance. We wrote our book in the hopes that other couples would find the same satisfaction and deep and abiding love that our long-distance relationship gave us. Technology expands and cultures adapt, but through it all, the nature of love remains.