Getting To Know You – Part III

Welcome to Part III of Getting To Know You, a series dedicated to discussing some of the questions and concerns regarding online dating and long distance relationships. I have been in a long distance relationship for over seven years, and recently married my long distance Love. I am writing from my own personal perspective, and hope it will benefit those who are following along.

Despite the fact that online and long distance relationships are becoming more and more common, there is still considerable controversy surrounding the topic. My goal is to help promote a more balanced and positive view of online and long distance relationships by addressing some of the questions and concerns that I encounter most frequently.

In Part I, I addressed the question, “How can you fall in love with someone you don’t even know?” and explained my thoughts on what it is to truly know someone. In Part II, I discussed questions regarding liars and psychos on the internet. Now I would like to talk about a couple of things that may sound funny or superficial at first, but are legitimate concerns that deserve a genuine response:

What if the person you’ve fallen in love with online has bad breath or body odor problems?

What if it turns out that you’re not sexually compatible?

I believe these two questions should be addressed together. Although bad breath and body odor problems are not necessarily sexually related, they can certainly put a dampener on things if a couple takes things to a sexual level.

I think it’s important to mention that body odor and bad breath are not necessarily a result of poor hygiene; certain medical conditions can cause either or both of these. Regardless of the cause, though, I think the key is the same as it’s been for every other concern to this point: communication.

Because Mike and I spent so much time talking before we met for the first time, most things were quite easy to talk about when we finally did meet in person. In fact, I don’t recall finding anything difficult to discuss. Granted, telling someone – especially someone you’re in love with – that he or she has an offensive smell, is not something I would envy. Thankfully, I was never faced with such a delicate issue. But I do believe it can be addressed in a sensitive and caring way.

I know for certain that the first time Mike and I met in person, I already loved him enough that ending things was not an option – not for any reason. If he had smelled bad at our initial meeting, I probably would have attributed it to the long journey. After arriving back home, and showing him around the rest of the house, I might have ended the tour in the bathroom, showing him the towels, etc. and saying something like, “You’ve been traveling a long time. Why don’t you relax in a nice hot shower while I fix us something to eat?”

For all you know that first day, your problem could be solved as simply as that. If over a course of days it appears to be a chronic problem that must be addressed for the sake of the relationship, you will have no choice but to talk about it. This is where all that time talking about everything under the sun and learning how to approach each other on anything imaginable will really come in handy.

Of course you’ll want to be gentle. You might start by assuring your sweetheart that you love him very much and want things to work between you, and that’s why you need to talk about this. You might say that you’re concerned about a health problem and wonder if he needs to see a doctor. You might ask him to try a different soap, deodorant or toothpaste.

There’s no easy way to go about this, and it will almost certainly be awkward and embarrassing for you both. But if you want things to work, and you’re both committed to making it happen, you will get through it together.

Something Mike and I say to each other when one of us is struggling with something: “If you have a problem, I have a problem.” This is not as “co-dependent” as it sounds. What we mean is that we are there for each other and work together for solutions to our problems, whatever those problems may be. In our relationship, there is no such thing as “your problems” and “my problems”. Part of being in love is sharing the laughter and the tears.

Sexual compatibility is another thing that did not create a problem for Mike and me. I believe this is a direct result of more than two years of conversation and learning to communicate with each other. As I mentioned in part one of this series, no topic was ever off limits to either of us, and that includes the topic of sex.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with couples telling each other what they like and don’t like. It’s OK to discuss things you would like to try and set limits on things you are not willing to try. In fact, I highly recommend it. But let’s say that despite all the discussion ahead of time, you’re finally in the moment and it’s not what you had anticipated. You can still talk about it! You don’t have to come right out and say that you weren’t satisfied; that would be a tad insensitive. But you can talk later about things you’d like to try next time. Just keep the communication open.

When counseling couples who are having trouble sexually, one expert gives the following advice:

Talk about it: Couples also would benefit from simply communicating with their partners about what they want in bed. “There is no secret to hot sex,” says Klein. “Sexy lingerie and dinners out are no substitute for an honest conversation about sex.”

All that said, don’t force it. We all have to decide for ourselves what we need in a relationship, and no-one should feel obligated to stay in a relationship that’s uncomfortable or clearly not working, for whatever reason. If you’re not able or willing to work through problems like the ones discussed here, there’s nothing wrong with that either. But be kind – don’t string anyone along if you know that the relationship isn’t working for you. Ending relationships for any reason can be difficult and sad, but it can be especially painful for the one who thought everything was going well, only to find out that the other party was never really happy.

Next time I will discuss what appears to be a very hot button topic:

Aren’t you worried he or she will cheat on you? Isn’t it easier to cheat when you’re in an online or long distance relationship?

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