It's like he's trying to be on Jersey Shore. But not really.
July 12, 2012 6:50 PM   Subscribe

First installment of significant time apart due to work travel. How do I deal with this?

Us: In our 30s (him almost 40!), neither past married, not living together (yet) but have a short-term plan, both professionals with high-power jobs and busy lives. His job does not require much travel while mine is essentially hell on wings. We are both people who need to spend lots of time together and have lots of contact with one another.

I've been dating my awesome boyfriend for just over 8 months. We are very serious and I know he's going to propose in the next 6 months (per him telling me). I am totally head over heels, ass over tea-kettle for him. Sometimes I wonder if I feel more strongly than he does, but that's neither here nor there as he is a tough one to read, but I take whatever he says at face value so everything is great. We see each other every day, fall asleep in the same place every night, go running together most mornings and email each other during the day and text. We are basically puking kittens and a committmentophobe's worst nightmare. This works for us however, because we were friends first and continue to be besties despite the crazy-ass romantic side of the relationship.

The situation: My job is insanity, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I am extremely prone to last minute travel, very spontaneous even (as in - *boss phone rings at 4pm*: "Hey, can you go to State that is a 3 hour plane ride away for a 2 hour meeting tomorrow and then come home, same day so you can be at 9am meeting in your office Next Day for XYZ Important Meeting?") yes, it's absolutely ridiculous, but I am OK with this because it's only what I know and I can handle it and it's fun. Next week for example, I will be in 6 states in 5 days and will be sleeping in my own bed every night. I will be spending the entire months of September/October in Europe in different countries.

Anyway, BF does not typically travel for work. At all. However, since we've been dating, for whatever reason, I've been having a heinous dry spell of travel, which means that I've actually been home and can fall into what people consider a "normal" routine. This is fine with me, I am such a road warrior that being home feels nice. It's almost like when I am on the road I have my ROUTINE and then when I'm home, I don't know what to do with myself.

The Issue!: The issue is this. I've been home for 8ish months and have been able to establish this awesome relationship with someone I'm crazy about and who claims to be crazy about me. Well, right now he's currently on another continent for 2 weeks for work and it's absolutely killing me. It's been two days and I'm going through some serious withdrawal. He's called me every day so far, but it's been so difficult talking to him on the phone (I HAAAAAATE THE PHONE) and the lack of contact feels like a hangover. It feels like a breakup, but without the break? Ughs.

Ok, so here are my questions!

1.) What can I do to pass the time/stop thinking about all of this?! I have plans with friends, am busy with my own job, have a list of stuff to do if friends cannot hang out, am exercising...what else? I'm trying to be busy.

2.) I trust him. I really do, although I know I have trust issues. However, I'm worried because with the amount that I travel I've seen countless times how people who don't travel often for work just go balls to the wall and think they can get away with murder. I've been hit on by married men at hotel restaurants while I have been busy reading my newspaper. How do I tell myself to knock it off?

3.) More into number 2 - he's there with downtime on weekends and has concert tickets to two different shows. He's already called me while semi-drunk after dinner. This is not helping. I was thinking about sending an email with all of this just to get it off my chest - is that a dumb idea?

4.) The situation sucks. He's off (working obviously) but in his downtime/in the evenings, etc. is seemingly having the time of his life while I'm at home. I'm catsitting for him, watching his house for him, getting his mail - doing everything a loving partner would do for someone they love while he's off gallavanting. No Thank Yous. No What Can I Dos. Just OMGS I DID XYZ COOLEST THING EVAR AFTER WORK TONIGHT AND I HAVE TO GO EVEN THOUGH I JUST CALLED YOU 3 MINUTES AGO BECAUSE I NEED TO RUN OFF TO THE NEXT COOLEST THING EVER!!!!!!!!

5.) Our Love Languages are very different, despite the copious amounts of quality time that we spend (and love spending!) together. His number one flaw to me is that he epically sucks at showing any sense of gratitude. I was raised to thank everyone for everything - even if I bump into a stranger in the grocery I'll apologize then immediately thank them. I don't feel very appreciated right now. He recently forgot my birthday which sucked and I fully expressed that. I want him to know that I'm doing all this shit for him while he's away because I love him. I would really like just a "thank you". That's it. If I go the email route, how do I say this nicely?

Seriously, WTF.

What do I do? I'm trying so hard to figure out my stance and feelings on this and it hasn't registered. Maybe I'm jealous? Maybe I need to learn better tolerance? Maybe I need to let things go? When I travel, I literally get up, go for a run, go to work, leave work, go directly to dinner, go directly to hotel, shower, then book/bed. That is my routine and it's probably this way because I no longer see the glamour in business travel. I feel like he's on spring break or something right now. :/

What else?
posted by floweredfish to Human Relations (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's been TWO DAYS, let the boy have some fun on his foreign continent. Most people don't get the chance to travel abroad for work, and would want to pack in as much touristing as possible. And remember that he isn't one of those married businessmen -- he's still in the honeymoon phase with you. Just tell him next time you talk that you really miss him and would cope better if you guys could have some longer phone time each day while he's away.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:25 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly? You sound manic. Do you exercise? Right now it's time to go for a two hour sprint or double your weights at the gym.

He is not you, so he is not going to have your routines. He sounds like he is having a blast and is excitedly sharing it with you. That's actually awesome.

Go for a giant run, wear yourself out, and you will be able to relax and think about this better.
posted by Vaike at 7:32 PM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was thinking about sending an email with all of this just to get it off my chest - is that a dumb idea?

Yes, it's a dumb idea. What do you want him to do about it, not enjoy his very rare trip? Not call you while he's enjoying himself, because it makes you feel bad that he's enjoying himself? Not tell you what he's doing, so you don't have to think about him enjoying himself?

The only thing you would be right to say in an email is if you would really like, say, a specific present from where he is. Something concrete that he can do for you. The rest can wait til he gets back. Now is very definitely not the time to work on your overall issues with his ability to say thank you, etc.
posted by jacalata at 7:32 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

@jacalata - this makes perfect sense and thank you for saying this. I know I'm being ridiculous with all of this.
posted by floweredfish at 7:42 PM on July 12, 2012

It's been two days. I'm guessing you're still feeling a bit roughed-up after the birthday thing, and justifiably so, but two days apart doesnt typically inspire this kind of reaction. It's ok to feel overwhelmed, so I suggest you give yourself some time and space to reflect on why you're feeling this way. Then, when you've come to a conclusion, you can address it. And when you want to address it, do it verbally- it will go over better! :) write your email but use it as notes for your verbal conversation.

This is very simplistic, but I suggest you think of this two-week period like a test for your relationship. First, you should think about what a successful result would be (eg, you miss each other, you communicate to the extent that is mutually satisfying, and things are good when you are reunited). Think about what your role is in "passing" the test, and what his role is. Think about what challenges could limit you successfully passing the test. Think about how you can help him pass, and how he can help you pass. And finally, know that even if this first test is bungled, you'll learn from it, and you can use what your learn to grow your relationship and prepare for future challenges.
posted by samthemander at 7:46 PM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

The man you love is having fun. Celebrate this and be internally happy that you can play a small role in his truly enjoying himself by taking away any worries he might otherwise have if you weren't such an awesome cat and house sitting girlfriend.

Please do not kill his buzz for his sake and yours. If you do, he may not want to share his joy with you in the future.
posted by murrey at 7:49 PM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

My boyfriend has been in Europe for six weeks, while I've been at home going about my normal business.

All I can do is keep busy, let him know I'm thinking about him, and try not to spoil his fun by hassling him too much and expecting too much attention while he's off enjoying himself.
posted by peppermintfreddo at 8:03 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have no idea if what I've done is any model to follow, but I was in a similar situation recently, and I sent exactly that sort of email. In fact, I sent a few of them. Ugh.

In our case, I was away for two weeks on business. What ended up happening is that he was kind of unhappy with me, we had a lot of fights over Skype, and I felt really awful and neglected. I kept on asking him to make certain plans with me for when he got back. He didn't want to. I asked for other specific things and he didn't want to do them. I took that very hard, and it was really painful for me, and frustrating for him.

HOWEVER, on the next trip (this time, he was away), he was really, really careful to be extra helpful and supportive. He set up a special Skype number for me to call that rang through to his foreign mobile. He checked in with me a lot and was extra considerate. He told me to call him whenever I felt lonely, and I did a couple of times during a two-week trip. Result: No fights at all.

I'm not sure if these are causally connected. I think he realized how much he missed me while away and wanted to make sure I was all right, and I had told him that this was an issue. But I'm still not 100% sure why this worked so well.

As to your points:

1) You are doing fine, keep doing it!
2) Don't worry about this. There is nothing you can do about it. And those married men are not him. If/when you get to that stage in your relationship, good communication will carry you through it.
3) Let this go. Go to shows yourself. Get drunk with *your* friends.
4) & 5) This is a much larger problem than this particular trip. Appreciation and love styles will be an issue for a long time. Now is not the time to tackle it, as others have noted.

I'm still figuring out why this is working much better, and we are due to be apart for another few weeks soon, so I wish I could be more helpful. Feel free to Memail!
posted by 3491again at 8:15 PM on July 12, 2012

I hate the phone very much, and I go out of town for work Mon-Thursday every week. I bought a cheap webcam to keep in contact with my gf, and it is soo much better.

If he can hit up a internet cafe sometime and skype you, that will help things. YMMV.
posted by sandmanwv at 8:59 PM on July 12, 2012

When I am away for stretches at a time, my husband plans his own weekend getaway. It's Friday. Go somewhere tomorrow for fun - to remember what it's like to enjoy a city other than work/eat/sleep.
posted by wingless_angel at 11:59 PM on July 12, 2012

Two days!! If my SO gives me grief about taking care of the household and not saying thank yous, AND worrying about me cheating on him, AND not being 100% happy for me that I get to escape the office for a bit, then I would have DTMFA like yesterday.

Imagine if this question was written from the other perspective: "My otherwise-wonderful girlfriend of 8 months has been hassling and warning me about men cheating on wives on business trips, and being really upset I haven't said thank you to her for taking care of the household matters. I have only been gone two days. Is this a red flag?" one can only imagine the responses from the Green.

You need to chill and see a therapist about possible abandonment and anxiety issues.
posted by moiraine at 12:13 AM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is fine with me, I am such a road warrior that being home feels nice. It's almost like when I am on the road I have my ROUTINE and then when I'm home, I don't know what to do with myself.

Don't send the email you mentioned sending. If he reacted to your road warrior lifestyle the same way you're reacting to his one off, you'd have lasted two weeks. Don't let your relationship be the victim of you not knowing what to do with yourself.

Go hiking tomorrow. Send him an email that says something like "Thinking about you. Hope you're having a blast. Can't wait to see you again."

Find something to keep you busy and the time will fly by.
posted by phoebus at 12:27 AM on July 13, 2012

You're going to be gone for *two months* in Europe in September and October? Surely you can handle this for two weeks if you expect him to handle it for two months. If he doesn't do the same stuff for you then that you're doing for him now, then there might be issues. Right now it sounds like you're in the acute missing phase and everything seems crazy, but it will settle down.

Also--as somebody *currently on* her two-month gallivanting about Europe while boyfriend stays home, pays the bills, and waters the plants--of course he's going to have crazy drunk fun for the first two days, even the full two weeks. My boyfriend hardly heard from me for the first two weeks, and now (into week four) he's hearing from me more as I'm settling into a routine. Your guy will be back by week four. You can totally do this.
posted by besonders at 12:40 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also hate phones, and recently spent almost a full year apart from my wife, and one thing that was a lifesaver was Skype (Or some other video chat software). If you're going to be traveling a lot, definitely make sure you have a laptop with a webcam, and then instead of setting up times to call each other, set up times to Skype!
posted by Grither at 4:20 AM on July 13, 2012

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

There is just something about the way you say you trust him that screams that you don't trust him. That's your issue, not his. Don't burden him with it; leave him alone. Don't send him any emails "getting this off your chest." Take a deep breath. Trust him or not, it doesn't matter. What will play out will play out.

That said, peppermintfreddo and besonders are offering the best advice here. Basically, just chill.

For what it's worth, I am starting to understand how the shoe being on the other foot feels. For 20+ years, I traveled for work occasionally, sometimes overseas, sometimes for weeks. My wife was always stay at home.

With the kids grown, her career is now quite active and she is in the middle of a two week trip (and the second trip in three weeks). I kind of wonder, I kind of worry, but ultimately I need to let her do her thing.
posted by Doohickie at 12:16 PM on July 13, 2012

The strength of a relationship is revealed not when you're together, but when you're apart. If you want to send him something, send him a love letter; just make sure it's not too clingy.
posted by Doohickie at 12:18 PM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, I found it exhausting just reading all of this. It really exudes nervous energy. Which is apart of love in the early stages, but just calm down and try to take an objective look. I'm also for wearing yourself out with exercise, like someone above suggested. Best of luck.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:07 PM on July 13, 2012

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