How to manage emotions in super-long-distance relationship?
May 29, 2011 2:07 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with an extended period of time abroad without my significant other?

I'm currently studying in a foreign country very far from my own. In general, I don't feel very homesick. My problem is that I am in a relationship that became very intense right before my departure. We had planned to "take a break" for the duration of my time abroad, about 3 months, but after a week I decided I didn't want to do that so my counterpart and I are going to stick it out.

However, in the time since making this decision I have begun to feel a deep loneliness and longing for this person. It's making the time pass -very- slowly. I'd like to just enjoy my time here but I can't really get my mind off this person. I'm going through intense ups and downs. I don't really want to address too much of this with my partner for fear of appearing manipulative or overbearing. I just want to find some way to manage my emotions to make this time go as quickly as possible. I don't have much experience with committed relationships and I've never really felt this way before. Just focusing on my work is not an option; my workload is minimal. It's basically like an extended vacation that I'm stuck on.

Oh, and I can't seek professional help here. I don't speak the language well enough.
posted by barbudo to Human Relations (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
BTDT. You absolutely need to make friends where you are, find things to do to distract yourself, and allot yourself something like 10 minutes a day to dwell. It is super, super important you not stay in your room/flat pining because one day you will look back and be utterly frustrated you wasted an amazing experience abroad.

For perspective, I spent 3 months in Greece, Spain and Italy when my madly-passionately-in-love-with college boyfriend was back in the US. I was fairly miserable but years later, what I mostly remember is not how sad I was, but the amazing places I went, the things I saw and the experiences I had. You can do all of that while being bummed, and it is important that you do.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:17 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have been in this situation several times now because I am an international student studying in the US. I go back home every summer for about 3 months.

I find that there are two things that make this easier:
1. Skype. Now that you guys have decided to "stick it out", try to communicate with them when you miss them. Send texts, emails, or Skype them. Emails and Skype do not cost any money, and they were immensely helpful when I was dealing with the feelings of longing.
2. Surround yourself with people/activities. Keep busy. You are going to notice that as you get to know people and put yourself in situations that are novel to you, you are going to think about this person a little bit less. Hey, maybe you'll even come back home after a long day and think: "Hey, I haven't even thought about this person once today!" As a bonus this will provide interesting Skype-ing material.

That's all I got. Remember that there is an end to this, and good luck.
posted by kuju at 2:59 PM on May 29, 2011

How about making it a point to plan excursions for yourself where at the end of your day, you can write a postcard to your SO detailing what you did. It can be a way of motivating yourself to get out of the house, and then you'll have the anticipation of a story to share with your SO, almost as if they were accompanying you on your trip. And then they will have a lovely collection of postcards as a physical reminder of you.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 3:31 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with Neely O'Hara that this is great fodder for a long, romantic correspondence.

There have been a couple of times when I have been in new relationship and I have received love letters and I still have them all, even though those relationships are gone. There is nothing more romantic than a hand-written letter or postcard.

Yes, you will miss them. I think you should plan a way for them to visit you, and then for the rest of your trip try not to dwell.
posted by mai at 3:40 PM on May 29, 2011

I'm kind of in a longer-term version of this- I'm at the tail end of being abroad for 6 months, and I've spent a week with my boyfriend in that time. We'd been dating for about 4 months before I left. This has what has made it work for us:

-Skype! As often as you need to. For us, more skyping=more better. And if you think sexy skype is too awkward for you... maybe consider reconsidering that.
-Planning when you're going to see each other again. When your skype conversations turn into "I miss youuu sooo muuuchhh" "I miss YOU soooo much toooo!" talking about a happier, less-separated future is a nice way to brighten the mood.
-Talk about how you're feeling! You're both going through the same thing, and being there for you emotionally is what a SO is *for*. Send them emails or facebook messages when you're thinking about them, and trust that they'll be happy to hear from you. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need from them, too.
-Send each other things in the mail. Having a tangible physical reminder of the other person is so good. If you don't have a physical framed picture of your counterpart, get one. Don't feel awkward if you maybe hug it or give it a kiss sometimes.
-Take care of yourself. Keep a schedule, force yourself to socialize, find something other than dwelling to devote your energy to. This separation will be so much tougher on you if you let yourself get depressed.

Good luck! It's hard, but worth it, right?
posted by MadamM at 4:03 PM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wait, why can't you talk to them about this? Admitting you're stressed by the distance does not equal manipulative or overbearing. I'm in a LDR and my boyfriend and I struggle with it every day, but we make it better by keeping our lines of communication really open (even if it's just to say stupid stuff like "oi, get your hot ass down here so I can snuggle with you before bed").

What's to stop you from writing or calling your SO to say, "You know, I really miss you. I'm glad we decided to stick this out 'cause I can't stop thinking about you! Sometimes it's hard to be away, though. I've been a little stressed about it lately because we did so much work together before my departure and now I feel so far away from you. I don't want to be stressed about this anymore. What do you think?"
posted by patronuscharms at 5:56 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, on preview, DarlingBri has it. Allow your study abroad experience to be a positive one. Explore absolutely everything that this country you're in has to offer. It'll end up being a transformative experience... And if your relationship with your SO is meant to be, it will weather the distance and the duration of your trip so it can continue.
posted by patronuscharms at 6:09 PM on May 29, 2011

I've been in this situation a couple of times. The best thing I could figure out to do was to limit my use of the internet. I had a set time to check emails, and I didn't go beyond that. I was also staying in an amazing hostel at the time, and found LOTS of people willing to fill my time or let me join them on their excursions.

Do you have SMS/text capability? That really helped a lot too. And I totally agree with everyone else - talk to your partner about it. If you don't feel comfortable because it might seem manipulative, then say that up front so they know your motives.

Memail me if you want to talk about anything. I've been through it and it totally sucks.
posted by guster4lovers at 7:37 PM on May 29, 2011

Maybe you could try thinking of your time spent abroad as an investment in your relationship. Tell yourself this:

As you navigate new situations, meet diverse people, and see incredible things, you will be growing and developing into a person who has even more to offer and share with your partner when you get home. You'll have a new depth of perspective to bring into the relationship. Your partner will be so fascinated by your worldliness and impressed by the ways you've grown that they'll find you more alluring than ever before. You'll have a long-lasting stock of fresh stories to share over romantic dinners and a network of friends around the world who would love to let you and your partner come stay with them for a few nights during your future travels together. Sure, it's hard sometimes. But you're making the sacrifice of being apart because you want to be the best person you can be, not just for your own sake, but also for your partner. Take the energy of your desire to be with your partner and channel it into getting the most out of your experience abroad so that you have the most to bring home to them!
posted by ootandaboot at 10:40 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

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