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LOVE LIVES HERE
OUR ADVICE COLUMNIST'S VALENTINE'S EDITION

Q. My significant other has just been offered a great job in - you guessed it - North Carolina. I'm thrilled she has the opportunity for advancement, but I am concerned about what it means for our relationship. Can a long-distance relationship work?

T.A. Buffalo

A. There are two schools of thought on the long-distance relationship question. There is the "absence makes the heart grow fonder school, and then there's the "out of sight, out of mind school. If you would like your relationship to last, AFS strongly urges you to enroll in the former, not the latter.

The first thing you must do is have a tete-a-tete with Miss Raleigh-Durham to make sure you both have the same idea about this transfer. She might be looking at this job opportunity as her ticket out of her dead-end relationship with you, in which case preserving the romance will be tough going for you, pal.

It is also key to acknowledge to each other that your positions may well change during your separation, and to agree to be open and accepting of such changes. Sure, she hates sun and balmy temperatures now, and is sure she will miss slogging around in eight inches of slush for 120 days every year. But she JUST MIGHT CHANGE HER MIND ONCE SHE'S THERE. By the same token, you might be convinced you will be content watching ESPN2 while eating a Sugar Smacks dinner every night until she gets back, but then your buddies will drag you down to Chippewa Street a couple of nights in a row, and Hey! Before you know it, things happen ...

But let's assume for the moment neither of you is going to pull a Meg Ryan. Here's what you need to do to keep your love alive during the interstate interim:

1. Contact. Keep in It. Some would say daily contact is necessary, but AFS knows couples who live in the same HOUSE who don't have daily contact, so play this one by ear. Use the phone, e-mail, Jet Blue - whatever it takes.

The longer the separation, the more effort it will take to keep your partner in the loop about developments in your life. Some loves will last without a constant exchange of personal minutiae. If you notice you're having more scintillating conversations with your mother that with Significant Other, your relationship clearly does not fall into this category.

2. Keep Your Relationship on the Front Burner. It needs more attention, not less, when you are in different area codes. Sure, you can let a phone call go unreturned when you know you're going to see her within the next day or so. It's riskier to let things slide when you'll see a lunar eclipse before you see her. If either of you are putting off making a call or writing an e-mail, it's a sign you are slipping into "cat's away territory.

3. Ratchet Up the Romance. This is the perfect time for sweeping acts of long-distance emotional excess. Send flowers. Write love letters. Remember the passion and keep it alive.

4. Keep Yourself Interesting. Don't put your life on hold waiting for her return. Remember, she is experiencing new things, meeting new people, encountering new temptations every day. You might want to stay as familiar and as comfortable to her as an old couch - and there is something to be said for that. On the other hand, after the stimulation of so much that's new, she might look at you and decide to redecorate, if you catch our drift. Consider throwing some slipcovers on your personality to keep her interested. Take a class. Hang with some new people. Don't let her have all the fun.

5. Reunite, Reaffirm, Recheck. When you are able to hook up in the same place, be aware that re-entry might be difficult. You might need to travel some emotional distance as well as physical miles before you are able to relax and really be together. That's normal. Just accept the fact that at some point you need to peel yourself off one another and - this is the hard part - TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP. Have your feelings changed? Are you feeling vulnerable? Are there little problems that need to be addressed before they become big ones? IS THIS RELATIONSHIP STILL WORKING FOR BOTH OF YOU?

Phew! Once you've had that chat, you'll need some time away from each other. What time is her flight?

Q. The last two people I dated told me I could use some work in the kissing department. One's criticism was quite emphatic, in fact. Can you help me? What am I doing wrong?

A. Well, even a kisser as expert as AFS would be hard-pressed to diagnose the problem without actually experiencing a smooch, don't you think? Also, just how explicit do you think AFS can be in this medium? This is a family newspaper, after all.

Nevertheless, AFS has experienced enough kisses of both the revolting and the transporting variety to be able to provide some small measure of G-rated guidance for the kiss-challenged.

Are you awkward or unsure going in? Don't second-guess yourself when you're two inches away. If you want to kiss someone, and that person is not gnawing on a turkey leg, clipping his or her nails or otherwise showing a decided lack of interest, GO FOR IT.

Are you puckering up so tight that your mouth feels like an oil drill hitting the kissee's lips? Are you swooping in like Dracula, drawing the breath out of your victim - as well as the oxygen out of the room? Are you utterly passive, merely allowing yourself to be kissed without actually participating yourself? If so, STOP IT, RIGHT NOW! No wonder you're getting the kiss-off! You need to relax, loosen up and ease your way into it. A good liplock does not put your lady love in mind of a) a ride on the Scrambler; b) periodontal surgery; or c) something displayed on crushed ice at your local fishmonger's.

Note: Every buss does not necessarily have to rock your partner's world. However, the best kisses in some way remind the participants of the best aspects of their relationship: the tenderness, the whimsy, the passion, the excitement. They should not call to mind the worst: the competitiveness, the possessiveness, or - heaven forbid - the ennui.

That, unfortunately, is as far as Ask FIRST SUNDAY can go even in this, the month of romance. Happy Valentine's Day.

Ignoring Ask FIRST SUNDAY's advice on love - or other subjects in her cerebral arsenal - is the kiss of death. Write to her at Ask FIRST SUNDAY, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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