Am I an emotional freak?
February 3, 2010 7:47 PM   Subscribe

What have been your emotional experiences in long-distance relationships? Am I normal? I'm especially interested in hearing about your experiences with reunions.

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 11 months now, and have been in a transatlantic relationship for the last 6. I knew him for about 4 months before we got together. It's been really hard for me, but we're going to be seeing each other again very soon. (Only another week, thank goodness!) I am thrilled! He'll be here for three weeks, so it's a good long time to catch up and spend together.

However, I am also freaking out now. I'm going to be moving back with him (will be living with him temporarily while I look for my own flat), and, while I feel like I should be excited, I am mostly scared. Lately I've been thinking more and more about whether the relationship will work out long term, and I'm just not sure. I don't know if my concerns have to do with the distance or not. He is a wonderful guy--sweet, charming, clever, thoughtful, very funny, and I do really love him. I trust him, he makes me very happy, he understands me, etc., but at the beginning of our relationship (in person) I was very concerned about some differences between us. We discussed them & I have never been happier than the rest of the time we spent together. But now I'm beginning to worry about those initial things again. Is that normal? Any practical ideas for overcoming these fears?

I have brought parts of this up with him (the fear of moving), and he has said that he doesn't feel the same way, but that if I'm worried I don't need to come back with him. I will eventually be moving back to his country regardless of what happens between us.

Apologies if this is rambly. It's my first serious relationship & very new territory for me. Anonymous because I'm a little embarrassed to be asking.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't had an LDR, but a number of my friends, have, including some transatlantic ones. Short version is that what you're experiencing is entirely normal and par for the course.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:51 PM on February 3, 2010

Am I normal?

In my experience, yes. I'm in a short long distance relationship [a few hours' drive] and we see each other every few weeks, talk in some way every day etc. I've found that the day or two before I see him, that the anticipation of seeing him will sometimes instead turn into massive OMG THIS IS ALL WRONG anxiousness to the point where occasionally I'm thinking "Oh man I need to call this off!" for the last few hours before I see him. This is predictible, reproducible, and idiotic. I've had to just learn to live with it and manage my anxiety better [and for god's sake not act on any of my weird short term irrationality] and my wonderful boyfriend has been very understanding.

Now, if I had these same concerns or doubts at other times -- whether we were together or apart -- I'd pay attention to them obviously. I think you can sometimes fall into the "when we're together it's delightful, when we're apart it's crap" mentality [or even vice versa] with any relationship. That said, most of your post really seems to say that you dig the guy.

Moving is scary and stressmaking and it's easy to make anxiety spill over into something easy to remedy "I'll just ditch this guy, then I'll be happy!" [it's crazy talk obviously] but instead try to view this as an anxiety reaction and do what you need to do to manage stress ... exercise, get enough rest, don't dwell on it, don't worst-case-scenario everything, try to see your concerns and just set them aside, don't let them make you nuts. When you see your sweetie, set aside some calm time to talk about them, but until then try to back burner them. You can't do anything right now and anticipation has a way of jittering into anxiety and that's not going to help you plan or make his visit any more awesome. Best of luck, yes you're normal.
posted by jessamyn at 7:58 PM on February 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's good you both spent time together BEFORE you became long distance.

Anything you might be fearful of now may have dissipated in the time since that you've spent getting to know each other. Yay!

That said... I've done long-distance twice, after being married, and dating in-town in-between the marriage and the long distance relationships...

It's good to feel a spark with someone. This is no replacement for proximity and time.

FWIW- both of my long distance relationships lasted longer than they could have because the distance made it easier to focus on the Good, not the Practical.

You'll know once you spend an extended period of time together what's right for you. You'll know.

Be open to your knowing.
posted by jbenben at 8:14 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your relationship has already survived the long distance part. That's GOOD! He's obviously quite fond of you.

If you love to be with him, then be with him. You're not supposed to know if it's going to work out yet.

I went through a similar situation (worked out beautifully). I am so glad I didn't act on any of those "what if it doesn't last forever" gut feelings.
posted by Iggley at 9:01 PM on February 3, 2010

I've been in several LDRs of varying severity, two of which involved being away from my boyfriend for months at a time and one of which involved a major move of several thousand miles to bring us closer together.

One of the biggest problems with LDRs is that they end up being so completely focused on closing that distance and what will happen when you do. As others have said, moving itself is extremely stressful -- combined with the pressure of whether or not your relationship will be "worth" what you've invested in it, it can be a lot to handle.

What you're describing seems perfectly normal to me, and it sounds like you're being very pragmatic about things. You say that this move would be inevitable with or without the relationship, so you don't have to worry about making such a big life decision entirely based on this man. And it sounds like he's been very good about not wanting you to feel cornered.

In my experience, the most important thing is to keep an open mind and resist the temptation to invent narratives for how things should/could be once you're together -- even if things are good, they'll almost certainly differ from your imaginings, and it can be hard not to feel disappointed if your specific expectations aren't met. Try to keep your hopes and goals as general as you can, to allow for all the (often very nice!) ways the reality of being so close to your boyfriend again will surprise you.

It's also important not to use the effort you've put into your LDR so far as a reason to continue it. Because LDRs are so much work and can be so painful to manage, once that distance has finally been closed it can be very easy to fall into the mindset of, "We've come this far, there's no way I'm giving up now." You and your boyfriend will probably be very happy together and everything will probably be just fine, and of course you shouldn't spend too much time worrying about worst-case scenarios. But I'd encourage you to continue to be honest with yourself about your own happiness and whether or not your relationship continues to be a satisfying one in the ways in which you need it to.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:02 PM on February 3, 2010

Some people are more fearful of change - even good changes - than others. My husband REVELS in shaking things up, doing things differently. I get twitchy if we rearrange the furniture. There's no right or wrong to this - moving is a big change, whether it involves a relationship or not. Going from a long-distance relationship to being-in-the-same-house is an even bigger change.

We were a few hours drive from each other when we met, and while I knew I loved him, I still had anxiety when we moved in together, because it was different. Because of weird, temporary logistical reasons (not marital-separation reasons), we live 2 hours apart now and only see each other on the weekends. I can't wait to see him every weekend, I miss him terribly every day, but it's still weird to go from doing my own thing every day to being with him. I'm pretty sure he feels the same.

tl;dr - pretty much what jessamyn said, minus the "oh man I need to call this off" impulse
posted by desjardins at 9:07 PM on February 3, 2010

Because of my work and the people I know, I am a rueful expert at the LDR. I have lived and worked all over this country, and sporadically on two or three other continents. I have people I count as my friends living on every continent except Antarctica.

The last time I had a romance with someone who was within four hours' drive of me was during Clinton's first term in office. Many since then have been across an ocean, a border, or both. For the last couple of years I have been involved with a fairly wonderful mefite -- in fact, we are on our way to rendezvous in Montreal tomorrow for five fun-filled days and four tempestuous nights -- and it couldn't be better.

However, I know exactly whereof you speak: after two years of me visiting her over Thanksgiving/ her visiting me over New Year's/occasionally meeting up on the west coast for vacation, we have been talking about how we can work it so we can be in the same city. This is not easy, as we both have things tying us in place, but we are really trying to make it happen. and yes, that same unease is there. Every day we are together is like a holiday, and if it becomes humdrum, we will lose something. Still, we are going to give it a shot.

You sound tremendously happy. If you can be with this person, be with him. if you risk nothing, you risk even more.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:20 PM on February 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

You're quite normal and it's perfectly natural to worry. If you weren't a little worried, well... that would be abnormal!

Try to relax and enjoy being with him when the reunion comes. Start building your relationship again from there. The good news is that you already know the issues you have concerning differences between the two of you, and you already know how those seemed to disappear the last time you were together.

Relax as best you can.
Be happy :)
Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:58 PM on February 3, 2010

I moved country to be with my man and I felt very similar levels of anxiety you describe. It was hard for the first few months of being on the other side of the world and there were many moments when I wanted to pick up and go home - especially if there were any arguments between us. Lots of tears n panic at times. But I made friends, got a job and got more settled. Long story short: we are still together 14 years later. He now lives with me in my home country.

LDRs throw up unique challenges, especially inter-country relationships. Long term, both partners need to 'sacrifice' things that local partnerships do not. We've found that we spend the majority of our savings traveling back n forth between countries for weddings, funerals, Christmases etc. The travel is great, but we don't get our desired variety of travel experiences, as we are locked into the same destinations each time we get on a plane. Both families have varying degrees of resentment over where we live, so that can be a factor too.

I guess what I am saying is that there are the heart's reasons for anxiety that come with any new relationship, and there's another layer of anxiety that comes from the exigencies of international relationships. It's no surprise that you have these feelings. Feel them honestly would be my advice, and don't forget to work as a team on these real issues.
posted by honey-barbara at 11:00 PM on February 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take a hard listen to Death Cab for cutie's Transatlanticism & see if it will move you to say yes.

The Atlantic was born today, and I'll tell you how:
The clouds above opened up and let it out.

I was standing on the surface of a perforated sphere,
When the water filled every hole.
And thousands upon thousands made an ocean,
Making islands where no island should go.
Oh no.

Most people were overjoyed; they took to their boats.
I thought it less like a lake and more like a moat.
The rhythm of my footsteps crossing floodlands to your door,
Have been silenced forever more.

The distance is quite simply much too far for me to row.
It seems further than ever before.

I need you so much closer

posted by lahersedor at 2:43 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm chiming in another vote for "your anxiety is normal." I was in a trans-atlantic relationship for almost four years until this past October when I moved to his country (where we share a flat). I felt all of the same things you describe. Just before I moved I was more panicked than excited, and I felt terrible about it. I am Strong Girl, Independent Girl Who Goes on World-Trekking Adventures. I was going to be with the one I love, which I've wanted and planned for 4 years. This should not have scared me, but it did, completely, and no one really believed me when I told them how scared I was.

The truth is, this kind of move is more than just "we get to be together. Yay!" Moving house is a big deal. Moving in with a partner is a really big deal (especially if you've grown quite comfortable living alone). Moving to a new country is a Big Deal. Each of those things comes with its own set of stressors and anxieties. Add them all together and you're staring down the barrel of a Really. Big. Deal. It's only natural to feel nervous. It may also be a good time to unpack those anxieties - are they really all about your relationship or does some of it belong to the fact that you're about to change everything in your life all at once? That was definitely the issue for me, but I didn't want to admit to being scared about the move itself. It was easier to think I was scared about the relationship not working out. (it sounds crazy when I type it up, but there you go) Those initial concerns that are popping up again - why now? Is it possible that you're mostly just worried about the move itself?

I should also add that the adjustment period is taking longer than I expected. The anxiety didn't dissipate as soon as we were settled into our flat. Allow yourself some time to adjust to your new surroundings. You'll need to establish new habits and patterns, find a new favorite restaurant and local bookstore, figure out the shortcuts to work, how to open a bank account, and so on. I was completely dreading all of this, hence, anxiety, relationship doubt, and even rethinking the plan for a while. It's not easy, even in a country that shouldn't seem so different (I moved from the US to the UK). I'm still working through it and still feeling the upheaval. Fortunately, my boyfriend has been very understanding. He's more patient with me than I am, and he reminds me often that I only very recently changed every single thing about my life. It sounds like your boyfriend will probably be the same way.

In summary, take a deep breath, try not to let yourself get overwhelmed, and most importantly, keep being honest with yourself and with your boyfriend about how you're feeling. Don't balk on the relationship if it's actually just the move that's scary. As you say, you'll have to do that eventually anyway. I would imagine it's a much softer landing if you make this kind of life change with the support of someone who loves you.
posted by Eumachia L F at 4:09 AM on February 4, 2010

I would expect some anxiety - it makes sense to me. Since you would eventually be moving back to his country anyway and you aren't moving there just to be with him, I say accept that you're anxious over a big change in your life and give yourself some time to adjust - go in with the thought that you're nervous but you think it's gonna work out just fine. Realistically, you're in a better position to evaluate the relationship after you move and get settled, right? I wouldn't over analyze anything that happens during his 3 week visit or right around the time you move - yes, pay attention to your instincts, but know that you've got big changes coming up and realize that you can take the time to see where things go once you are moved.
posted by KAS at 6:51 AM on February 4, 2010

Another vote here for "perfectly normal". But wanted to add a word of warning:
(will be living with him temporarily while I look for my own flat)

If you can avoid this at all, try to. I mean, staying at his for a couple of days while you sort out the flat is fine, but if it's anything longer, you're into a whole new deal: when you do get your own place (if you ever do), you'll then be moving out from your boyfriend, and that's quite a big deal. If you're anything like lots of the LDRs I know, you'll just end up staying with him, even if you both feel right now like that would be a bad idea.

It is a bad idea, though, you're moving to a new country, and you want to be as independent as possible so you can set up a new life; if you stay with a partner, there's a real danger of co-dependency and you never really putting down proper roots.
posted by bonaldi at 6:52 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was in a LDR for a year and before each reunion, I flipped out and nearly ended the relationship. There's so much pressure to make everything perfect when you do see each other since you spend so much time apart. Totally normal, IMHO. If you're still panicked after you've been together for a week or so, then it's time to re-evaluate.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:37 AM on February 4, 2010

Just to add to the "you're normal" going on in here ... I met my fiancee one summer and we spent every day and night for 2 months. Then fiancee hauled off to Asia for a year of study abroad and we commenced the twice-daily video/chat sessions. I went to visit over winter break of that year (so we had been together from July to Jan at that point) and before I left was having feelings of "oh is this right, do I love him? blah blah" similar to what you talk about. As soon as I was back with him, within two days, I was back to being head-over-heels in love with him and had no anxiety. Fast forward to the following summer when he returns from abroad: I feel the same anxious feelings, and within a day or two it was back to the same old awesomeness. So, in my experience, once your boyfriend is actually physically with you all of the anxiety will melt away. YMMV.
posted by kthxbi at 6:16 PM on February 4, 2010

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