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A Distant Heartbeat: The Reality of Long Distance Relationships

Long Distance Relationships
By martin.frenette

“They lived happily ever after and had lots of children…” That is how love stories end in books and on the big screen. We’ve all heard it, but few will agree that relationships are that simple for those who like to perform. Long distance relationships have always been a reality faced by actors and acrobats who have more experience than bookkeepers and botanists in this department!

If many performing arts schools’ graduates envision themselves dating an artist who gets booked on the show they are signed to, it rarely is that simple! The reality of not being able to see nor talk to each other at all times has been a recurring breaking-up cause among artists. Those romantic struggles are why now 42 years old James Tanabe had sworn off monogamy and long-distance relationships in his early performing years.

Now engaged to the woman whom he has spent 12 years loving almost exclusively in different time zones, the American-Japanese producer sings a different tune. One that oddly reminds those fairy tales’ closing lines.

“Young performers are surrounded by attractive, energetic people and get pulled in every possible direction, which can be a great source of worries and doubt for their partner. Being away and aware of what the other is exposed to can build insecurity and cause tensions in a couple. That is why trust and excellent communication are key to a successful long-distance relationship.” says Tanabe with a look that clearly says “easier said than done, right?”

Good use of technology sounds like another must to the recipe based on a decade mostly spent between Germany and the United States. Even if nostalgia spreads across his smile when reminiscing the “good old days” of those long emails read with a good glass of wine, a wide variety of apps and platforms now provide far more options than the “computer days” ever did. That being said, even the best tools are useless if those behind can’t communicate properly.

There are no universal, undisputed rules when it comes to communication.

Every artist has its vocabulary and each person has its language, therefore couples all come with their own culture. However, “How do you feel?” and, most importantly, “tell me more” should be integral parts of any couple’s discussion, regardless of where they’re from and how long they’ve been apart. “I miss you” might sound romantic, but the former hand balancer firmly believes that such a saying should be stricken out of love talk.

Looking forward to seeing and missing someone are two different feelings, even if very similar to some. Instead of missing a lover and focusing on how things would be in their company, one should go out and live their life. That feeling is fuel for individuals as well as the couple since an upcoming reunion can motivate them to try new things and share them later on. On the other hand, “I miss you” can translate into a lack of activities and interests in one’s personal life. “Keep in mind that the happiness of being is greater than the misery of missing!” says James with a head nod.

Clear understandings of who both partners are and of their needs are essential. Each relationship’s culture and origins make it different. In James and Lena’s case, both agreed that work would always come first and be their decision compass. A couple’s growth also relies on valuing each partner’s even if that means momentarily thriving on different paths. While he was working on marketing strategies at Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas offices, she was flying above audiences in Vienna. For two career-driven individuals, turning down work just to spend more time together would have likely caused the end of their relationship.

Even from afar, celebrating the other’s achievements as you would your own is essential.

Proximity should also not be a factor when deciding whether or not to embark on a professional or personal project that both can be invested in with the use of technology. Having a common goal often makes two people feel closer.

On-screen or in the flesh, communication is the key component that is present in every couple. Instead of planning to talk, letting discussions happen whenever one can answer the other’s call can keep conversations fresh and enjoyable. Assuming that the other is free to talk whenever you want them to be or sticking to a schedule can ultimately set a couple to fail. There can be no deception when there are no expectations according to the German cabaret fan.

Communication is also bound to change the longer a relationship lasts. Getting better at it can mean going beyond the baby talk, being more honest and vulnerable, or accepting that there might simply be nothing to say. In a way, distance helps to develop such skills as gauging when to listen or to ask the right questions and can require more attention from afar than it does when in constant proximity.

“It also is important to accept that it may end, that a problem might not be fixed. However, ending it because you just did not like it anymore is never the answer. No relationship can be forced nor faked, but there is time to figure it out. A stressful or traumatic event might just be the realization that you no longer want to be these ‘happy-go-lucky kids’ anymore.”

Neither stressful nor traumatic, the desire to start a family did it for this particular couple and James frankly admits that they might have kept their relationship a long-distance one hadn’t it been for this mutual desire! Long-distance has never rhymed with loneliness nor with “taking so much time.” Any relationship can be very time consuming if day planning means constantly wondering if it would be better to wait or asking for the other’s approval.

“This understanding that “what we’d do while apart is fine as long as the other never finds out about it and, therefore, never gets hurt” served them right for only the first couple of years. The father-to-be highly recommends it to those just starting to embark on a long-distance romance. As they gained in age and in maturity, it transformed into “doing what you need to do to be in this relationship” like seeing friends with whom the other does not get along for instance.”

When asked for one final piece of advice, it feels like dozens of quotes and concepts are bouncing in the back of James’ mind until he finally puts his hands down in front of him and answers: “Keep in mind that if you see something as an obstacle, it will inevitably be one. Distractions on the road, lack of communication, they can all contribute to it. Challenges can make you reflect and think. It teaches you the process of accepting and questioning yourself.”

“And, of course… Tell me more! Always!”

 

Also by Martin Frenette:

When the Lights Go Off on Broadway

Advice for Performers: Read Your Contract!

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