How to deal when there's been more time away than together
May 29, 2009 11:36 AM   Subscribe

LongDistanceRelationship-Filter: Met, fell in love, knew she had to leave the whole time, now what to do? (long, complicated explanation to follow)

I know this question has been asked a million times on here, but it's always nicer to get a little more personalized advice.

I'm a male in my mid-20's. I met a girl in her early-20's a couple of months ago. We pretty much instantly connected and soon found ourselves spending more and more time together. It went from a couple of dates the first week, to three or four the next week, to almost everyday with each other. About 4 weeks in, she professed that she was falling in love with me, and I knew that I felt the same.

Here's the hard part: I knew when I met her that she was leaving soon. She was just finishing up college and was planning to move back to her home state on the other side of the country. Also, she would be starting a new job a few months after that would be placing her in a different location, which she would only find out in a month or two before beginning work.

After we realized that we wanted to stay together, it was concluded that I'd come visit her sometime in the next two months, and then see if we could survive the long distance thing. When she found out where exactly she'll be placed, I'd see when I could maybe come and join her in her new location. It's going to be mostly a "let's see if this can work" type of situation.

I know that both of us didn't plan on this (falling in love) happening. She was looking for some simple companionship when we met, and I was looking for about the same. We each think that the other is worth the hardships that we know come with long distance relationships, and are willing to try as hard as we can to make it work.

There are some things that worry me about this situation. First, it's weird to have this strong love feeling after such a short time. It'll be even stranger when we'll have been apart from each other for longer than we've spent together. I hope neither of us gets too frightened by this fact in the coming months. Second, I've learned that she had just gotten out of a two-year LDR only a month before meeting me. I've told her it concerned me that I was just a rebound relationship for her, but she adamantly says she was completely over that relationship when it ended and that she'd have fallen in love with me no matter when we met. Third, I hope that neither of us felt pressured to act drastically because we knew of the impending separation, that we aren't forcing the LDR or the commitment to each other (or the profession of love) because of a heavy attraction and an upcoming terminal point.

She left today. I, of course, am incredibly saddened by this, but am hopeful that we can keep this going. She's extremely special to me even after only a short time, and we both have very similar lifelong goals and outlooks. I can see myself with her for a long time, which is strange because I've been more or less a commitment-phobe all of my adult life. Point blank, I want to make this work.

What I'm looking for is advice about these concerns, and also on ways I can improve the chances of this lasting. I know most of the things I'm worried about are things that can't be helped (changes in mentalities, her being young and on the cusp of fairly radical life changes, etc.). I know with these things that they'll either work out or won't, but it still isn't comforting me at all. How can I deal with my worries, and how can I help the LDR work so I can eventually get back to this amazing girl? Thank you so much for your advice.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You should have get some outside activities to distract you during this time. I suggest volunteering at a soup kitchen or clean up a park or finding something that suits your interests and schedule. It really helps a lot because it forces you to focus on something else and you are helping the community and you have something to talk about to your girlfriend other than how much you miss each other. Speaking from personal experience, that gets old real fast.

Video games and the internet will not be enough to distract you. In fact, it will make it more painful. Volunteering will make you interact with others which is really helpful.
posted by spec80 at 11:45 AM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

hmm. to get so into each other so quickly means a break away from each other could be just the thing to see how serious it is. if you are apart from each other for a month or two and it really cools off then you may have saved yourself some grief.

of course the best thing to do is to keep in good contact, don't smother her with phone calls all the time. arrange to call her, and then get her to call you back, swapping each time. play it cool. if it's all good it will work out.
posted by Frasermoo at 11:46 AM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why can't you move with her? Are you planning on it? It's not clear. It sounds like your plan is to move with her, but then there's not much of a "long distance thing" to survive.

I understand why moving with her would seem crazy after only a few months, but your relationship isn't going to have a very solid foundation if, after a few months and in the throes of limerence (the crazy hormonal stage you're in right now), she moves away without your having solid, definite plans to move with her. In short, after two months you can't be really, truly in love with someone--because it's not enough time to get to know the real person. That's not to say that you can't go on to realize that they're just as good, if not better, than you thought they were. But you're not going to get a more realistic idea of your SO through short, intense visits and amidst prolonged, hormonal-addled periods of longing. The long distance thing can be really good at stretching out relationships which wouldn't have had a chance of hell in surviving if both partners were geographically close to one another. And that's not a good thing.

If you want to make it work, I think you're going to have to be with her, physically, as soon as possible. I'm not a total skeptic when it comes to long distance relationships--I've been in one for the past two years--but my SO and I were together for five years before we plunged in to the long distance thing. I would not do long distance with someone if you, say, haven't been together long enough to get into your first fight (and trust me, one will come eventually), as you really don't know what you're in for in a relationship until both parties get out of their hormonal haze and show their true selves, in all their ugliness.

In the short term, listen to spec80--stay busy, take care of yourself socially and emotionally, and encourage her to do the same. That's good advice not just for long term relationships, but any relationship, especially in the intense, crazy, early stage.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:32 PM on May 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

My first thought upon reading your concerns was, "So what?" I don't say that snarkily, or with an intent to dismiss them, but it just seems to me that perhaps you're overthinking it a little. You're in love now, so who cares how short of a time span it happened in, or if it was motivated by a potential separation down the road. You two love each other, RIGHT NOW. Work with the circumstances you've been given.

And, you absolutely CAN work with them. I'm living proof of this. In two months, I'll be getting married to a woman I dated long distance for the first year and a half (in our case, we were already long distance at the start, and we met while she was up here visiting a mutual friend. We hit it off so well that we decided to fly back and forth every month and a half or so and give it a shot. The rest, they say....) In terms of what to do to make this work, I can only offer the same advice I offered someone else in a similar thread. The key point there was to make sure that you stay active in each others lives even though your thousands of miles apart. You can still do things "together" even though it may not seem like it at first. Oh, and plan frequent visits if at all possible (the fiance and I, as mentioned, went a month and a half between visits. If you could go every month or so, so much the better.)

It sounds like you've got something special there, and are willing to do what it takes to make it work, which is key. Remember that attitude when, somewhere down the line, maybe a few months from now, you'll get the inevitable doubt. In my case, it certainly ended up being worth it.

Oh, and one last P.S. If your relationship can get through this, then it can get through a LOT. Good Luck.
posted by Rewind at 1:08 PM on May 29, 2009

Seconding PhoBWan. In my opinion, unless you two can set a definite end date, there's almost no chance of making this work. You need to decide if you're going to make the leap of faith or not once she knows where she'll land.
posted by canine epigram at 1:16 PM on May 29, 2009

Nthing that you need to set an end date to the long distance.
posted by kookaburra at 1:25 PM on May 29, 2009

I did this. End of high school. Remet an old friend who had been away, fell in love almost instantly, then I moved away to college and it was totally devastating. You are older than I was then and I hope the extra maturity helps you gain some perspective.

Our year apart from each other was hellish and we broke up twice, but he eventually moved to the city where I went to college to be with me.

In the end, it didn't last, and in retrospect, I might have been happier if I had ended it when I moved away, or at least when I found myself really unhappy a few months later. But I loved him so much I couldn't imagine being without him. Now I can.

There's no reason not to give it your best shot. If you find yourself worrying about the future, just remind yourself that any relationship can fail, that's the risk you take when you love someone.

In my opinion the best ways to mitigate the negative effects of long-distance are:
1. Use varied forms of communication. Chat, phone, skype, letters - keep the romance burning and don't let it get too routine.
2. Visit as often as you can. Once a month is the absolute minimum that I think is sane. Every two or three weeks is better.
3. Keep a busy schedule, get out of the house as much as you can so you don't have time to mope and miss her all the time.
posted by mai at 2:11 PM on May 29, 2009

Early days yet. I'm with Rewind on you overthinking it. Take it as it comes. LDR are hard and you both need to be communicating with each other both during the away time and the together time.
Mrs arcticseal and I had a LDR for 5 years, UK to Canada. We'd often go 3-6 months without seeing each other. The key is communication, but the time away should allow the two of you to distill the feelings you have and to see if they're going last.
One positive thing about LDR is that they can add to the romance if you approach it correctly, write letters (email is good, but letters are much better), send small care packages, postcards, phone calls, flowers, all the things that show you're thinking of the other person. It doesn't have to be expensive, just thoughtful. The time together can also be fun as it's almost like being on permanent vacation with each other.
As I said, it can be hard work, but you can make it happen if you're both committed. We got married after 5 years of LDR, and this November we celebrate our 10 year anniversary.

As Rewind says, once you demonstrate the commitment to make an LDR thrive, you're more resilient to the tests that life throws at you. Good Luck!
posted by arcticseal at 2:12 PM on May 29, 2009

Don't let the long-distance thing get in the way and seem insurmountable. I met my now-husband on vacation (we were in the same place, separately) and we spent only ten days together before returning to our respective countries.

We had already decided at that stage that we were madly in love and would figure out a way to be together (we both had jobs and homes and friends we loved, but it turned out to be more practical for me to uproot). We did the LDR thing for a year -- he visited me twice, I visited him twice -- before I moved to be with him, nearly nine years ago.

In a world of e-mail, Skype, and cheap long-distance phone plans, you shouldn't suffer too much. (I had a LDR in the early 90s that was conducted largely by faxed love letters! That was fun, but not enough contact ...)

I suggest getting the person in an earlier time zone to call the other one, so the first voice you hear for the day is your beloved. (We were eight hours apart, so he gave me a wakeup call as he was going to bed.)
posted by vickyverky at 2:37 PM on May 29, 2009

Well, I was just out of a year-and-a-half LDR when I met my current girlfriend. First we had a month off about two months in, due to me getting an internship. Then we had about nine months off because she moved to Boston. That was pretty hard, not least because I had (maybe still have) terrible phone conversation skills. I think a lot of them had been killed by the bitterness over the previous LDR, but hey.

Anyway, that was all, what, seven years ago? We're still going strong, at least as far as I know.
posted by klangklangston at 4:48 PM on May 29, 2009

I did a big long distance relationship that lasted for many years. And here's my advice.

If you love her. You do it. It's that simple. Because it's always better to be in love, even if it's longing, than not to be.

But there are other questions of course. Are you someone who would lament the lost time if you broke up down the line? This one seems to kill young guys for some reason. They come out of a long distance relationship like "How did I waste all that time?!?!" I chose a long distance relationship for some of the wrong reasons, but I never regretted my decision. I didn't feel like I lost out on years because I was committed to someone who was elsewhere.

I know people think that long distance can kill a relationship, but those are often for the kind of people who have to much insincurity to even handle a normal relationship (or should never have attempted a long distance relationship in the first place). That may seem like jerky thing to say, but I'm just trying to be blunt and direct. No offense meant.

The other thing is a long distance relationship can go the other way and actually delay the stages/natural course of the relationship (of course this is all dependent on if both people are in love and committed). By spending so much time apart you're actually putting a lot of your development on pause.

Another thing to mention. I'm definitely of a "relationship guy" and it can sometimes be detrimental to my relationships with my friends. Long distance can actually provide a great opportunity to hang out with all your friends and establish a great group of guy friends (provided they're not a bunch of idiots who just tried to ogle girls/get laid all the time and thus potentially damaging your long distance relationships) and a great group of platonic friends (provided your not an adonis and they can resist you spellbinding appearance).
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 5:20 PM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I met my wife in college, and after about a year and two months together, we graduated and moved to opposite coasts. After being together at school for as long as we were, I definitely felt that we had a very strong foundation for a lasting relationship. I don't know where your head's at on this one, but it's a good question to ask yourself.

We then spent about a year and a half in LA and New York, visiting each other maybe every few months, before my wife decided that it was time to be together, and that she was willing to move. (I couldn't move, as my line of work demanded I live where I do.) We got married in her hometown and she moved in with me the very next day.

Having been through all this, my advice is to treat the relationship as normally as you possibly can. Don't let your separation define the relationship, and by that I mean don't let it define how you relate to each other. You're boyfriend and girlfriend, and you should do what couples do. Share what's going on in your lives with each other, devote the occasional evening to being together (in whatever form that takes,) and find a way to be sexual with each other even when you're not physically in the same space. That might sound a little embarrassing, but trust me, it really helps.

As some time passes, you should hopefully get a better sense of whether this person is really THE ONE for you. My wife and I never broke up, but don't be afraid to if you've honestly come to believe you two might not be right for each other after all.

But if you ARE right for each other after all, one of you is going to have to make the decision to uproot. In which case, it's the other person's job to help the mover build a good support network as quickly as possible. In my case, I still live in the same city as my parents and siblings, who were all wonderful when it came to making my wife feel at home. It helped tremendously.

But until then, good luck, be strong, and prepare to use Skype in ways you never imagined.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 7:24 PM on May 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

Hi, I'm Doctor Suarez's aforementioned wife, and since I've been where you're at, I'd just like to wish you good luck. So, good luck!
posted by Asparagirl at 9:50 PM on May 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

wow, I am almost precisely in the same situation as you, having met someone a couple months ago who will now be leaving within a few weeks. I wouldn't say that we are officially in love, but it's true that we've done a lot to put the breaks on our budding romance due to our mutual apprehension about dating long distance. Considering that there's been so little time for us to come to terms with how we get along (or don't get along) and to establish that this is more than just a state of infatuation, it's very worrisome to sign myself up for months and months of longing and potential grief. On the other hand, if neither of you are phased by the pain of spending so much time apart and are simply all the more stoked at being together, I think that's a really good sign. If the connection between you is intense enough and you maintain very regular contact, it can work out. Just remember that time together is crucial and no matter how many emails are sent, you will have to refamiliarize yourself completely with this person once you've physically reunited. Unfortunately, I have very little hope for any future with the person that I'm seeing, but maybe our reluctance to plow full steam ahead is really just a sign that we aren't meant to be. You, in contrast, seem to be in a good place for something lasting to develop.
posted by afabulousbeing at 5:13 PM on May 30, 2009

First, it's weird to have this strong love feeling after such a short time. It'll be even stranger when we'll have been apart from each other for longer than we've spent together.

I met my husband on a Wednesday night in Seattle, where he was living. That Sunday night I flew home to Oakland to break up with the guy I was living with. I had two and a half more years of school to finish, so the plan was that we'd do the LDR thing until I graduated, at which point I'd move to Seattle. Six months into it, he emailed me, "I haven't seen the sun in a week and a half. I'm moving to California." We've now been together for fourteen and a half years, and the end of June will be our eleventh wedding anniversary.

If you love each other, I say go for it and try to make it work. Your mid twenties is a great time to do things like pick up and move across the country for love.
posted by Lexica at 6:50 PM on May 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

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