How to prepare to live together again after 3 months apart?
October 8, 2008 1:08 PM   Subscribe

What should I do in advance to prepare for the end of a short long-distance relationship stint? She's spending 3 months away, and I want the transition back to go as smoothly as possible.

My partner will be taking a research trip abroad in the spring and spending 3 months away. I am excited that she's got the opportunity and very supportive of the decision to go. I'm not worried about the time apart (well, okay, I am, but I've read through a bunch of LDR posts here and I have lots of good friends around and projects to keep me busy and letters to write her and so on), but I'm a little worried about how to best reestablish our lives together when she gets back.

We have lived together for over 4 years and been together over 7. We own a home, but have no pets or children. We are both female, if that matters. I will be going over to visit briefly towards the end of her stay, but the rest of the time she will be living alone (in a student-housing type situation). We did long distance for a similarly brief time at the beginning of the relationship, but not having lived together first.

Things I've already thought of:
--I want to try to keep to our existing regular evening schedule as much as possible, with the addition of the daily phone call
--I should remember to dust regularly and I plan to do a thorough house clean the day before she comes back
--I should not get into the habit of going to the bathroom with the door open. :)

What else should I be doing now and while she's gone to help us with the return transition, both emotionally and practically?
posted by marginaliana to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I want to try to keep to our existing regular evening schedule as much as possible, with the addition of the daily phone call

Prepare for the possibility that during the 3 months she is gone that she will not be able to keep the same schedule and there may come a point where she is not able to do the "daily phone call". This doesn't mean she's found someone else, doesn't mean she hates your guts or wants to move away. It simply means that when abroad, her focus is going to be on what she's doing there (as it should be) and with your focus being on her it's an easy target for conflict that you can avoid.

Really that's my advice with everything is just to be open to the fact that whether it's 3 months or 3 years, the exposure to a different environment can affect a person to where they will not be comfortable going back to a "routine" and may lust for a bit of what they experienced while they were away because it was new and different (and perhaps they liked it). Be open to change, don't take anything personal, and communicate EVERYTHING you feel, and you'll be fine.
posted by genial at 1:24 PM on October 8, 2008

listen to each other. don't focus on "as soon as these three months are over we can get back to normal!" - this should be a learning, growing, and changing experience for her. be sensitive to that and accepting of the changes she's making. make sure, whether in long distance or not, you're always looking at and loving the person she is now, not the person you met or the person she will be someday (this is advice i'm trying to hold on to).
posted by nadawi at 1:31 PM on October 8, 2008

also - do something with yourself during those 3 months. she's taking a research trip? well this seems a good time to learn about a subject you've always wanted to or work on a hobby you've always been so-so at, but would like to excel at. don't put all your eggs in her basket, waiting for her to give you mental stimulation. she's going out and finding it and would probably find it attractive if you did the same (but, you know, at home)
posted by nadawi at 1:33 PM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree wholeheatedly with Genial. Over the past few years you have developed a routine. She may discover new additions or things that she is happy to remove from that routine. Be prepared to make some changes when she gets back to allow for her to have changed as a person. (even in just 3 months) Though preparing for her return i would prepare teh house to be a place taht she can come back to as a home. Make the house a place where when she comes home she remembers why she misses it. A clean house, stocked fridge, freshly made bed, etc. etc. so that when she return home she gets to experience all teh things that she missed. I had a similar experience where my live in girlfriend left for an extended period of time, she was happy to see me when she got back, she was even happier that I bought dinner that night from her favorite take out place and allowed her to settle back in.
posted by elationfoundation at 1:36 PM on October 8, 2008

My husband works on a different continent every other month. 28 days is not a long time but I find that for the first few days or so he is back we get in each other's way a lot.

Actually, it's more like he kinda gets in my way. I develop routines in his absence and he disturbs them when he comes home. It happens every time, and we have been living like this for about a year now.

When he's gone we usually talk to each other either via Skype or text chat every other day.

No matter how much I miss him when he's away (which is a lot) and no matter how eager I am for him to come home when he finally does, I am always a little privately annoyed at the disruption until I get used to sharing the house with him again.

My only advice for you is to expect this, and when it happens, just wait it out. Everything will go back to normal after a week or so of her being back.
posted by Brittanie at 2:21 PM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm with Brittanie, I love having my husband around, but if he's gone for more than a couple of days I get into a routine without him and his return is sometimes mini-culture shock. Things I get used to doing with/by myself without having to consult anyone suddenly become joint decisions again.

I've learned that being flexible while waiting for the culture shock to wear off are the best ways to re-acclimate. Give yourselves time to get used to each other again. Give yourself a break if you feel annoyed, let things go more often than you would otherwise. Use the time you're reacquainting to try new things rather than focusing on how things used to be.
posted by Kimberly at 2:31 PM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

We also have the kind of relationship where I can say "I have to leave the house to get away from you right now because you are driving me fucking crazy," and he doesn't take it personally.
posted by Brittanie at 2:36 PM on October 8, 2008

Keep in mind that no matter what you do, when she comes back, it is not ***INSTANT RELATIONSHIP EXACTLY THE WAY IT WAS***. You may want to hop into bed the minute she comes back, while she may be all "Wait, I have to get used to you again a little bit, hold off there" and you need to not take it as rejection. The opposite might also happen. That's one example. That goes under the "communicate everything you feel" note mentioned above. You don't want to assume that she knows because you've been together for so long.

A shared specific acknowledgment that she has been away and you have been alone and that there might be some transition time is critical.

You are worried about it, that comes through your post. I don't mean that critically, it's very sweet. There is no one magic thing you can do during these three months to ensure that she comes back to you and everything is wonderful again except for the fact that you have been together for such a long time already. But I would also have this conversation with her, instead of with us. :)
posted by micawber at 2:58 PM on October 8, 2008

I am not part of a long-distance/travelling relationship, but my father has frequently travelled for work (by frequently, I mean I could come home from school and expect him to be on another continent as likely as at home) pretty much my entire life, and Brittanie has it spot on. My mum and dad readjust around each other pretty much constantly - my mother sets the home routine, and my dad sets the line of communications.
posted by bettafish at 4:54 PM on October 8, 2008

Thanks, all. She and I have had this conversation, but it's good to get an outside perspective from people who have actually done this. I think the advice about expecting the irritation but being flexible about routine is great.
posted by marginaliana at 6:15 AM on October 9, 2008

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