Today I stumbled upon a blog entry by The Soapbox Therapist that was oh-so timely.
To give you a summary, a woman had written in for advice about how to transition into a long-distance relationship with her long-term boyfriend. He had gotten an 18 month transfer out of state, and she was unwilling to leave her newish job to join him. Luckily, they negotiated biweekly visits, but she was still looking for a way to make it easier.
I can relate, sort of. Were it me, I would have gone with Aussie if he had an 18 month assignment, no question. I know where my priorities lie, and they aren’t the same as this woman’s, apparently — but to each her own. Regardless, the core question is the same — how to deal with long-distance when you aren’t used to it?
The Soapbox Therapist’s advice, to me, was half sensible, half eager but ignorant. She admitted it would be a difficult transition and there would be moments of sadness and frustration (true, true, and true), but told the woman to get “excited.” She says that distance makes the heart grow fonder. In essence, time apart makes every visit more special! It will spice things up. You can do all the special things together that get lost in a normal relationship — take short trips, go to spas, eat at fancy restaurants. You can send care packages and make mixed tapes! You can even send naughty pictures! Plus, this is a great way to take your communication skills to the next level.
Well, maybe on one level that makes sense, but is she really thinking about what she is saying?This isn’t what I’d expect from a therapist… it’s what a well-intentioned friend would say when she was trying to cheer me up. Sure, seeing each other every once in a while can be a great opportunity to do special things, but if you hardly ever see each other, it’s also the only opportunity you have to connect, argue, grow… which means it isn’t always fun and happy. Not to mention the fact that, if he’s working so hard and traveling so much, is he really going to be in the mood for these fancy outings you’ve planned? If your dude is anything like mine, I doubt it.
In my current, much-shorter-term long-distance relationship, the things I miss most are the simple intimacies. The kisses goodbye in the morning, the random hug or hand squeeze, the fitting together on the couch, the before-bed “I love you”s, and…the cruelest thing to lose…physical contact. All of the restaurants and spas and weekend trips in the world couldn’t come close to compensating for the absence of these.
I was particularly bothered by what I consider to be the money quote of this blog entry: “Allow your relationship to move to a level that seeing each other every day would never allow for.”
I can’t for the life of me figure out what level this might be. Sure, it might be great for your sex life. It will definitely give you a new appreciation for that person and the time you have with them — or at least clarify how important the relationship is to you. But relationships don’t get to the “next level” when your day-to-day, every day realities steadily grow further and further apart.
I’m sorry, Soapbox Therapist. For a minute you had me thinking that, with some mixed-taping and naughty photos and enrolling in an all-women’s photography class (which apparently screams “I’m grabbing my long distance relationship by the you know what’s”), this could be easier. And maybe it would be easier — I will definitely try out some of your suggestions. But you can never convince me that this is an exciting opportunity. Long-distance sucks. It sucks a lot. It absolutely does clarify things, and the moments together are extra special, but that’s not a good enough trade for me. You might imagine there is romance or spice to it, but there isn’t. It’s hard, it’s lonely, and it’s definitely, DEFINITELY not exciting!