Prudie of Slate.com was asked the following:
I recently met a man at an out-of-state work function. Within three days we realized we had a strong connection. We even slept in each other's arms, although we did not have sex. The problem is that he's in the West and I'm in the East. We both don't want to let whatever it is we have—friendship? romance?—go. I know there's no guarantee of ending up together, and I'm afraid of giving out too much of myself, then being resentful. What are the rules for long-distance relationships? Should he come here first and show commitment or should I be brave and take a trip out there? If I go, do I just say, "I want to see you this weekend," or should I wait for him to ask if I can come see him? If he asks, does he pay? If I ask, do I pay? I don't expect a free trip, I just don't want to mess up.
—To Fly or No To Fly
Prudie's answer was OK but bland; Trudie offers a more exacting take...
"Your long-distance relationship faces two main enemies, you and the other person.
The first danger is that you deliberately seek someone far away because he is inaccessible and thus less emotionally threatening. If that is the case, you don’t really want to be closer. Go for it. Or don’t. More precisely, you will do both at the same time; that is what preference intransitivity means.
If you had opted for someone geographically closer, you would be more distant in some other way, in Ramsey rule-like fashion. Until you have conquered your fears, geographic distance is probably less emotionally abusive on you and the other person than the other kinds of distance you might opt for. So go for it. The "longing" will feel sad but it is also beautiful and bittersweet and will lead to lovely poems; more importantly it is better for social welfare than directly torturing some poor guy next door.
Under the cheerier scenario, you do actually think the distant person is your best bet and you are not seeking distance per se.
But then you must confront the Alchian and Allen Theorem. The higher the fixed cost, the "higher quality" a trip you will both tend to seek. (New readers: take any set of relative prices and add a fixed cost to each; notice that the ratio, in relative terms, shifts in favor of the bigger, more costly, or higher quality item.) More concretely, who would fly across the country for a mere kiss on the cheek?
But moving too fast is dangerous and ill-advised. And in the longer run you will each "expect too much" from each visit. Remember the old question: "Are We Having Fun Now?" The quest for continual high-quality excitement is not conducive to casual down time together, which is the glue which binds relationships together in the longer run. The Alchian and Allen Theorem is a potent enemy of the all-important "low expectations" and that alone is one good reason to keep transportation costs low in your life.
The solution is simple conceptually but difficult to implement. Do something else with part of your trip to the west (east) coast. Lower expectations for the visit. Meet another friend too, or set up some business, or give a paper at a scintillating academic conference. Yes you will have less time with your potential beloved, but the remaining time will get you further toward where you want to be. How much time does one need to fall in love anyway?
Affectionately Yours, Trudie"