Borrowing The Soapbox Therapist’s soapbox…

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!

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8 thoughts on “Borrowing The Soapbox Therapist’s soapbox…

  1. Rachel says:

    As someone who has spent years doing the trans-Atlantic long distance thing, I completely agree with you Jenny. This Soapbox Therapist doesn’t really sound like she’s ever done distance before. But she does have one thing right, and that’s the “focus on the good” part. But I disagree with what she says are the good parts. For one, you do learn a lot about communication, but it’s a different type of learning. You learn how to make short conversations meaningful, in a “cut to the chase” type of way. Johan and I don’t beat around the bush when it comes to conflicts, opinions, or just plain ole life stuff. We never had the luxury. And secondly, my girlfriends have always been super important to me, and being long distance with Johan meant I didn’t have to compromise my relationships with the ladies who mean the most to me. Some of my absolute favorite memories are from that time, I had a BLAST! You get to, in a sense, live a single life without the pain, confusion, and awkwardness that sometimes comes with it. You can be confident the relationship you already have, but go and kick up your heels whenever you want. It’s hard to go without those simple intimacies as you put them, but they aren’t gone for good, just for a time. Doesn’t make it any easier, but it doesn’t have to be all bad. 🙂

    • Jenni says:

      Good points, Rachel… and I’m pretty sure she’s never done long-distance either. I think only someone who hadn’t would think it was romantic and spicy! I’ve been having trouble focusing on the good parts of long-distance, mostly because being with Matt is the BEST part of my life and we’ve been more or less joined at the hip since day one… but hell, if you and Johan could make international long-distance work for years, I think Matt and I can meander through a few non-consecutive months with him in California. I’m just pretty sure that this isn’t a gift from the universe, a la Soapbox Therapist!! What a ridiculous thing to say!

      Thanks for the advice. 🙂 It helps to hear from people who have done it successfully!

  2. garpu says:

    The Hoopy Frood and I were in an LDR while I was at UW. He was supposed to move to Seattle, but the dotcom layoffs hit, and he could find work in Boston. Yes, it sucked. God, did it suck. But get “excited?” I’m widening the ever-larger head-shaped dent on my desk at that. The person’s never been in an LDR in her life.

    • Jenni says:

      I don’t think so either. I’m sure it’s innocent enough — I’ve heard a few people who had romantic ideas around long-distance relationships — but she’s touting herself as a therapist. Romantic notions are really not helpful from a therapist. But I see the validity of what Rachel said, above — just because it sucks doesn’t mean you can’t make the best of it. I guess I better get on that! 😉

  3. Samantha says:

    I saw this post from the soapbox therapy blog and I just had to comment! I think you’re opinions of Brooke (the soapbox therapist) are understandable, cause she is super positive about a pretty hard topic, but I happen to know that she actually married the guy she was in a long distance relationship with for over a year! So, she’s totally done it!

    I’ve been reading her column for a while now and I’ve come to really appreciate the fact that she always finds the “opportunity” in everything. I used to be kind of a wet blanket (not saying you are 🙂 but Brooke’s perspective has really opened me up to realize that there actually is an opportunity in everything in life-if you choose to see it. I ended up doing some phone coaching sessions with her cause I loved her column, and the sessions totally changed my life. She helped me to realize that even when things are crappy, there is something to get out of it. Have you read her bio? She’s had 2 brain surgeries and all kinds of insane stuff happen in her life. Anyway, as one of the first Soapbox Therapy followers (I think?) I’m glad people are reading her stuff…she totally changed my life!
    Sam

    • Jenni says:

      Thanks for your comment, Samantha. I still think it’s a much harder situation than the blog leads on, but it does cast it in a slightly different light to know that the author has been in that situation. Thanks!

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