Carry-on baggage
July 5, 2010 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Relationship issues involving long-distance and extended vacations.

My question boils down to: how do I resolve the overwhelming anxiety I have about an upcoming trip I am taking with my partner? In about one month, my partner and I will take a trip to another continent to go to a friend of mine's wedding, and then to visit my family for a couple of weeks. This is really a beautiful, huge, month-long trip that we have planned.

Backstory on us: we first met and got involved about a year and a half ago, but have been solidly together for about a year now. All but 6 weeks of that time has been long-distance, with my partner studying for a master's degree an 8-hour train ride away from where I live. We visit each other about once a month and skype regularly.

In the past two-months, the long-distance has become, for me, unbearable and I have said as much. We have numerous little arguments that blow up and turn quite ugly, and I think they reflect some pretty fundamental differences in our personalities. Some of these arguments have also led me to be slightly mistrustful, and we never seem to resolve them to a point where I feel like we really understand each other (although my partner does feel that we have reached that point and that I am just being difficult).

So, we have been pretty much on the edge of breaking up for a while now, despite having planned this trip together back in January. My partner has convinced me that we just need more time together, and that the trip is a good chance to have that time together. My partner is very eager to do the trip, but given the situation up until now I am feeling insane anxiety about whether our going together is a good idea or not. I really, I really would like for everything to just continue acoording to plan, and for us to have a great time.

People of metafilter, can you offer me an open perspective that views our trip as a good chance to maybe grow back together? Do you have words of wisdom and warning about how terrible an idea this trip is? Or is it the opposite, and can you convince me I just need to snap out of it and chill out and enjoy what could really be a fantastic vacation?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think a month-long trip together can be difficult even for established and happy couples. It's a challenge to be with another person non-stop for a very long time, no matter how much you love them or how well you get along.

It sounds like you consider breaking up to be inevitable. Would it be easier for the both of you to break up now, or one week into this intercontinental trip?
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:22 AM on July 5, 2010

From what you are writing, it really doesn't sound as if this trip is going to let you two "grow back together" - to me, it sounds like that if this trip wasn't scheduled, you would have broken up already. If the only thing keeping you together is the obligation / excitement of a holiday, what happens the first time something goes wrong on that holiday? Do you want to potentially spend the entire holiday fighting or sulking, especially if the two of you can't seem to reach a satisfying resolution?

A pair of friends were in a similar situation - they'd been together a long time, problems started to happen, but they had a massive trip planned and decided to give it one last go. The trip ended up as a disaster, and they split up pretty much immediately after coming back.

I would suggest that you'll have a much better holiday if you go on your own, free from the anxiety, the unbearable tension and fights, and free to refresh and reboot.
posted by ukdanae at 11:23 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Before you spent enormous amounts of time around someone, it's best to settle all past arguments. You two need to talk and resolve your issues, in order to be able to enjoy the 24/7 time you're about to get.
posted by new brand day at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2010

Oh, also:

although my partner does feel that we have reached that point and that I am just being difficult

My partner has convinced me that we just need more time together

It sounds like you're easily swayed by your partner. It also sounds like you're ready and willing to be swayed by us. No matter how well any of us can persuade you, you will still have those feelings of unease and anxiety. Take some time to figure out what you want to happen from all this, and how you can get it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:29 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the past two-months, the long-distance has become, for me, unbearable and I have said as much.

Emphasis mine.

I'm in my third year of a long-distance (different countries) relationship and have struggled with (and at times still continue to struggle) with the distance. Every time issues crop up, I have to figure out if it is an issue with the distance or the relationship. A month together would be an excellent way to figure out which it is.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:59 PM on July 5, 2010

For stress management from too much together-time on long trips:
- I've learned to take personal time when I need it. Sometimes it's as simple as having a good book to sink myself into, or accepting that there's no need to fill the void of conversation. And sometimes I just simply ask that the other person let me have some personal time - we can part ways for a few hours and meet up later, I'll do what I want. No need to feel guilty in asking for it, and I ask when I'm starting to feel overwhelmed instead of waiting until I'm ready to freak out.
- I take care to be more courteous and mindful of my travel partner, keep them in good spirits and it maintains my mood too - I easily take on the moods of others, so this is self-preservation. Someone's getting bitchy, it's probably time for food and/or a rest.

There's something in the OP's post that says to me this trip could still be a lot of fun for the both of them, if they're willing to put a priority on enjoying the experience and eachother's company. If the OP's plan is to start delving into things on day 1, then this won't go very well. If they take some time to bond, get to know eachother better, and see whether there's still a lot of potential for romance, then perhaps the discussions will be more productive when they happen. And if in the end the romantic side of the relationship's doomed, the friendship can (and should) live on.
posted by lizbunny at 1:59 PM on July 5, 2010

Mr 26.2 and I took a 3 week vacation to Europe when we were dating about 3 months. (Other stress factors for the trip - I thought I was about to be laid-off and we both ran a marathon while we were there.) That trip should have been absolutely relationship crushing. It wasn't.

On this trip I learned his inability to navigate is bone-deep and he gets cranky if he's not fed. He's also the guy who always helps people with heavy bags, who offers to sit in the chilly window seat on the train and who lets me sleep on his shoulder. I came away from that trip knowing - absolutely and definitively - that he's a good and kind partner. Lucky for me, whatever he learned about me, he was willing to tolerate.

Go. You'll end the trip knowing if the relationship can work. Good or Bad, you'll know what you've got.
posted by 26.2 at 3:15 PM on July 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

As a former tour leader who saw way too many couples go on a vacation to 'save' their relationship, I can tell you that it doesn't generally work that way. Those who travel together early in their relationship actually fare better since they are generally more forgiving at that point. Travelling is stressful, and people react in funny ways.

However, I also know firsthand how stressful long distance relationships can be, and how trying to resolve issues over skype sometimes borders on impossible. Plus, you mention that you will be visiting your family, which will (hopefully) mean that you have some support systems of your own on your path.

If you do this, you need to do it with an open mind, and be willing to move through things and not just get lost in them. Set some ground rules from the beginning around alone time or signals you can share that indicate you (or he) just needs to be left alone for a while or that you feel a conversation is moving endlessly in circles. And build space in your plans for you to spend some time with just the two of you. Nothing is more frustrating than knowing you need to say something important and never being able to do so without an audience of friends, families, or acquaintances.
posted by scrute at 4:51 PM on July 5, 2010

Go. But take two giant steps back, and, assuming you have the right kind of communication with your SO and can get them on board with the plan, start out as "friends who are interested in each other". Don't jump hip-deep into "partners who have been together a year" mode, and spend the trip getting re-acquainted. (and following lizbunny's very practical advice)

After marrying quite young, my husband and I have been together for 4 years, and spent most of year 3 apart. Even though we're committed to each other, we've each been growing and changing on our own a lot since Jan 09. It's been helpful recently to go back to... not square 1, but square 2 or 3... and really look at each other and find out how we relate now. And take another stab at the romance that never fully blossomed in the whirlwind that was our (4 month) courtship.
posted by itesser at 5:14 PM on July 5, 2010

I don't know if you can grow back together or not, but the trip will have you find out one way or another....
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:08 PM on July 5, 2010

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