The good, bad and the ugly of long distance relationships

Dating guru Sally Smith gives us the lowdown on what it is really like to endure a long-distance relationship.

The good, bad and the ugly of long distance relationships
Are their advantages to loving from afar? Photo: MsSaraKelly / Flickr

We all know that you want to be in a long distance relationship about as much as you want to accidentally spit in someone's face when talking to them. But then you get sucked into the glorious honeymoon phase with a fine young man who persuades you that it can all be different if, just this time, you'll give it a try.

So here is the good, bad and the ugly of long distance relationships.


No need for one of these if you are loving from afar. Photo: Worak / Flickr

You can look like a yeti and he'll never know

There is nothing more satisfying than the repeated luxury you have to let your bic razor rust on the side of the bath. I don't care what any magazine says about maintaining yourself for your own confidence. What crap. If I ain't getting action, the forest can grow so wild that I would consider writing a folk song about it. The only issue you'll have is wearing short dresses in the baking sun of summer here, but counteract that with long, loose fitting moo-moos. I hear they are so in (or something, I should really read fashion blogs more, or at all).

You don't have to do shit for someone else

 As a woman, I have been guilty of getting a bit mumsy from time to time when in the same postcode as my fella. By this I mean finding myself after a few months getting way too familiar with offering to cook and clean more than my 50 perceentshare. Not very feminist, I know. But when he is hundreds of miles away (or thousands in some cases), I am free as a bird to lie on the sofa, look gross and eat biscuits.

You communicate more

Who doesn't love the four hour skype? If you are a woman worth her salt you absolutely set up the lighting to make you look less dog tired at 10pm. Your laptop gets hot from the hours it spends on charge, you share things you wouldn't dream of talking to someone about in person. You take poo breaks that you tell him are just for a wee. You send each other useless youtube videos you laugh at and instantly forget. Isn't love grand? (slow clap)


Forget about looking glamorous if you are flying budget. Screenshot: Indecent Proposal

You're so horny

When only the slightest jolt of the train/bus/metro in the morning gets you off, it's time to book a flight. I don't care how creative you think you are at keeping the spice alive. No phone. Ever. Can replace the real thing. If anything it's all a bit awkward as no man who isn't David Beckham can do sexy-face in photos. It just looks godawful and everyone suffers from it. It's like they are in their kitchen, leaning against that wall, and in all honesty think they are nailing the shot. The new trend for the female pout face is not much better ladies. I don't care how much you can extend your arm on your selfie.

Budget airlines

In a long distance relationship, we travel alone. We're not bringing our mates along for obvious reasons. We also would like to save on travel so when we book our flights we go Easyjet or if we are really tight fisted, Ryanair. We want to bask in the pre-coital glow of the imminent trip, but end up wanting to gouge our eyes out with a spoon once boarding the flight. All preconceived notions about arriving looking like Demi Moore in a 90's sexy thriller are quashed by Croque Monsiers, a strict one bag limit and 6 euro wines. There is always someone in front of you in the queue for the gate who shouts at the flight attendant when she forces them to jam their handbag in their already jam lacked hand luggage.You arrive wasted from overpriced booze and in the foetal position.

People's inane questions and comments about you being in a long distance relationship

People know best. Or so they think. If one more person tells you it never works out, you are going to give them a good old slap. FAQs include, Do you have a plan? Have you heard the statistics of how often it works out? Responses should include… Have you heard the statistic about how interfering in other people's relationships shows a deep down need to go out and get one of your bloody own? or… Has anyone told you opinions are like assholes and everyone has one?


Selfies from the beach won't help. Photo: Sasha Asenslo / Flickr

Sometimes you really don't wanna talk

I have already mentioned how communication thrives when doing long distance, however, sometimes you would rather not chat about your extremely average day. A typical conversation goes as followed:

Me: Hey

Him: Hey

Me: Whatcha doin?

Him: Just had dinner. You?

Me: Me too. I'm tired though. The bus took ages to get home. What are you up to?

Him: Nothing, just washing up and maybe gonna watch the new episode of Game of Thrones.

Kill me now. I'm serious. Kill me now.


Yes, this definitely earned its spot under ugly. Even the most confident of ladies when faced with the stress of a concerning influx of social media posts of him out and about without you can send your head into a spin. He might be as trustworthy as WebMD is at telling you you probably have cancer, but we all get a little insecure sometimes. At best, you bury the green monster deep down inside and act like you are as solid as an ox. At worst, you carpet bomb him with late night vino filled WhatsApp messages showing how needy you really are.


I was just a little sick in my mouth writing the above as I believe it represents much of what's wrong with the world. This newly coined abbreviation meaning 'Fear of Missing Out' is often applied to when you are too hungover or broke to go out with your mates. Multiply that feeling by onehundred and that's how atrocious FOMO feels from afar. The real crux will be who has the better living situation at that moment in time. If you are the one in Spain living it up, his FOMO may eclipse yours seeing your bikini shots on the beach with a glass of sangria surrounded by your laughing, tanned, young, carefree friends. He on the other hand, is at the pub with an overpriced beer sulking whilst surrounded by, nobody.

Sally Smith is a British woman in her early 30s who has been living in Madrid since 2010. After finishing her degree in Psychology she moved to Spain to teach and sing in a band while undertaking an unofficial psychological study of Spanish men.


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‘Break the apron strings’: Ten golden rules for dating a Spanish man

Spanish men are great at playing the dating game says Sally Smith, a seasoned participant in Madrid's dating scene. Just watch out for their mothers - and their wives.

'Break the apron strings': Ten golden rules for dating a Spanish man
Photo: Ander Guillenea/AFP

When Sally, a Brit, arrived in Madrid several years ago she had the rather unrealistic expectation that Javier Bardem lookalikes would be queuing up to sweep her off her feet. The reality has been somewhat different.

Now in her 30s and a seasoned veteran of the dating scene she tells the Local how to avoid the pitfalls of a Spanish mummy´s boy and the perils of communicating through the language barrier.

Here are Sally´s top ten tips for navigating the perilous path to true love in Spain.

1 – Breaking the apron strings

dating tips spain
King Felipe VI with his wife Queen Letizia and his mother emeritus Queen Sofia on either side of him. Photo: AFP

If you believe you can move the relationship along at a snail´s pace and build up to meeting the family at around the six- month mark, then think again. If he´s into you then you can expect him to ask you to meet his mum, cousins and uncle Jose pretty quickly. Spanish men typically are still living at home until well into their 30s so his mum is likely to be the queen of his world (who irons his pants and gives him a Tupperware to take to the office).

I avoided this by always trying to choose men whose family lived in another city, or preferably another country. Latin American guys are good for this reason (though wrong for so many others).

You better make mummy happy. It´s a deal breaker.

2 – Take a dictionary

tips dating spain
Photo: Olya Nadia/Unsplash

At intercambios (language exchanges) you won´t just be swapping your mother tongues. These places are sweaty, sleazy pulling fests where the weak do not survive.  Beware of guys who are looking for a ‘2 for 1’ bonus of sex with you and free English classes. Another word to the wise… if your Spanish level isn´t great, you could end up dating a boring loser and not even realize until he has cleared out a drawer for you in the wardrobe of his mum´s house where he lives.

3 – Get online

tips dating spain Actors Catherine Deneuve and Rossy de Palma, perhaps debating whethe to swipe left or right on Tinder. Photo: LOIC VENANCE / AFP

That said, when it comes to internet dating, having the language barrier can be a big positive. Use the fact that you are an English speaker as your selling point in your profile and there will be a lot more swipes to the right. Plus you can weed out weirdos before you actually meet. Just beware of misleading profiles: guys who cover up their faces with sunglasses or baseball caps to hide how they really look, selfie-mirror dudes and any man with his shirt off (unless you are looking for a one night stand too). 

4 – Avoid Peter Pan

tips dating spanish men

Photo: Jakob Owens/Unsplash

Deciding to date from the expat pool can be risky indeed. On the one hand you don’t need Word Reference to send a Whatsapp message to them, on the other hand beware of the immature travelling type who will not only avoid commitment with any woman, but also be incapable of simple tasks like wearing a pair of matching socks or having a bank account.

5 – Don’t expect him to keep up

tips dating spanish men
Photo: Social Butterfly/Pixabay

As a British woman, I can tell you for sure that I can drink any Spanish guy under the table. He is stumbling to the bathroom to throw up on his shoes and I am searching for the shots menu. That´s all well and good until you have to dodge the obligatory goodnight kiss. Moderation please. Drink like a fish and there will be no Latin loving later.

6 – Play up your non-crazy side

Most Pablitos who have been around the block will have come across their fair share of drama with local señoritas – think Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and you´ll get the picture. If you seem like a cool chica who is low maintenance and won´t get jealous because they want some time out with the boys, you´ll come across as a breath of fresh air in Spain.

7 – Forget about timekeeping

tips dating spain

Former Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy checking he’s going to make it to the after-Congress party on time. Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

Don’t expect fixed plans days in advance with a slow build up, or even a clear idea of what you will be doing and when. If you arrive on time, you´ll be sipping your two euro glass of Rueda totally alone for at least 20 minutes to half an hour.

8 – Beware of the Rodríguez phenomenon

tips dating spanish menPhoto: JACK TAYLOR / AFP

When a married Spanish man gets left alone in the big city in the summer while his long suffering wife takes the kids to the beach house, watch out! When men stay at home and their partners leave for a while, it’s called estar de Rodríguez in Spanish. These men are looking for a good time and what better gift from heaven than a foreign girl new to Spain ready to start their engines? Look for the ring indentation on their right hand. Once you see it, run like the wind.

9 – Tear up the rules of seduction

tips dating spainFormer bullfighter Jesulín de Ubrique (left) had a reputation for being a bit of ladies’ man. Photo by DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP

Being used to a rather less seductive approach of picking up women from my British exes, I was happily surprised at the way in which Spanish men played the game. Words that would seem ridiculous coming from an English speaker take on a new charm when spoken with a Spanish accent. He’ll mostly stick to the traditional plans of dinner, drinks and the cinema at the early stage. When it comes to who pays, I have seen both ends of the spectrum from the stingiest to the most generous. My belief is, if he doesn´t think you are worth at least a meal, bin him.

10 – Remember that old traditions die hard

A still from Pedro Almodóvar’s film “Volver”, which similarly to most of his films has strong-willed Spanish women at the forefront.

Of course Spain has come a long way in terms of equality between men and women, but there is still a long way to go. If you survive the dating stage and think about getting serious and moving in together, it can become a battle of the sexes. If he has only lived with ‘la madre’ and his accommodating sisters, then you could be looking at an uphill battle not to take over this role and do the lion’s share of the housework. Try and date a guy who has already lived with someone and therefore comes adequately trained.

Sally Smith is a British woman in her 30s who has been living in Madrid since 2010. After finishing her degree in Psychology she moved to Spain to teach and sing in a band while undertaking an unofficial psychological study of Spanish men.

READ MORE: Seven of the best cheesy chat up lines in Spanish