help me navigate my feelings & needs in an LDR
August 3, 2016 9:06 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend left less than a week ago, and I've been heartbroken ever since. Is this normal? This is my first serious relationship (I'm 25, he's 28). When we're together things are blissful and perfect. He has affirmed his commitment to me in many ways, but I feel our communication needs may be different. I am trying to understand the root of my unhappiness, as I felt so hopeful when we were together in person. I am also trying to understand whether I am cut out for an LDR in this capacity. Please help.

We have only been together for a few months, but things moved very quickly (yet organically). We love each other very much and have met each other's families. He moved to start a master's program at a prestigious school on the west coast, whereas I am in an in-between year applying to professional school after doing a master's myself. I live in New Orleans, and he was here for a couple of months working odd jobs before grad school. When we met, we had both committed to our respective paths already. I need to stay here for residency purposes (I can save a LOT of $$ in loans if I can get into the state school, and my chances are very good as an in-state resident). He asked me to move with him, and for a little while I was seriously considering it. Then I realized I couldn't just follow him there haphazardly, that that wouldn't be in line with who I am to do something so impulsive after just a few months. I have been working hard towards my professional goals and feel like they are finally so close to coming into fruition.

He lives simply, and is not into technology at all. When I met him he did not have a computer, and his phone is the kind that uses t9 texting, which prevents fluidity in our text conversations. After talking at length about our looming LDR, he agreed to get a computer (and he has) to allow for skype, because I said video chatting was a non-negotiable. We spent a few weeks together up north where we're both from, then he came down to New Orleans for a week to be with me before going to school. In person, he is everything I've ever wanted. He makes me believe in soul mates. He is the most caring, romantic, incredible human being. He writes me poetry and songs and love letters. He does everything in his power to make me feel happy and nurtured, and he is patient when I have my crazy moments. He kisses away my tears and reassures me that we will be fine, that he will do everything in his power to make this work. But when he's away, I feel a constant, dull heartache.

I think my biggest struggle is adjusting to the disconnect between in-person him and far-away him. He has mostly lived off the grid since college doing humanitarian work in various places. This is the first time in quite awhile he's committed to being in the country for (at least) two years. So he is not used to having to keep in touch, or having to maintain intimacy from a distance. He is bound to northern California for two years, but said that afterwards he would move to be with me wherever I get into dental school, which hopefully will be New Orleans. Having an end-date and a plan for our future helps, but it's just soooo far away. I trust in his love for me, but I am scared that our connection will fizzle without extensive communication. He isn't much of a planner, and is okay with limited communication, because he thinks we will make up for lost time during visits. We've had ~20min phone calls daily since he's left, but only skyped once (and that was b/c I expressed that I was upset). We talked about our visits but haven't booked them. I feel like I'm being hypersensitive sometimes. I already feel jealous of his new friends and new life. I can't decide if it would be unreasonable of me to ask for 1-2 set skype appointments per week. I feel the lack of routine/schedule is adding to my anxiety. I am not this needy in person, and worry that the LDR will turn me into a monster. Yesterday, I asked if it was okay if we didn't talk for a few days so I could have time to clear my head.

Finally, I realize that a huge part of my sadness/neediness is the fact that I'm feeling kind of lost right now, socially and job-wise. I have very few friends down here, since most of my grad school cohort moved back to where they're from. I hate the job I just started that I thought I'd love, so now I am going back to the drawing board to find something fulfilling to do for a year.

After some yoga/meditation, I realized I need to shift the focus back to myself, but then the question becomes whether or not a two-year relationship of this sort is really sustainable. It can't survive on love and memories alone, so what is it that makes an LDR work? What types of things can I do/ask for to feel like myself again, and to promote the health and success of this relationship?

Thanks in advance.
posted by DayTripper to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's been less than a week since he left? Of course you miss him wildly. Of course you feel confused and sad. He only just left! You can't predict the success of a long distance relationship less than a week into trying the thing. Slow down. Let yourself feel your totally logical sadness over him leaving, without panicking that this immediate sense of loss you have over his leaving-- a feeling which may well ease with more time-- somehow spells doom for your relationship. Adapting to this new phase of your relationship will take time and adjustment on both of your parts.

I think a 20 minute call daily is a totally reasonable amount of contact during a week when your boyfriend is no doubt extremely busy setting up his new place to live and getting ready for school. And it makes total sense also that he hasn't firmed up his visit dates with you yet-- he probably doesn't even know his full schedule for the semester yet. Think about his needs for a minute! He must be missing you too, and on top of that, he's adjusting to a whole new environment and undoubtedly has a lot on his plate. Give him some time to get settled and figure out what his school obligations and schedule are going to be before you decide on a definitive visit and call schedule.

It sounds like he has been doing a reasonably good job of listening and responding to your needs. He bought a computer at your request, just to talk to you, even though he doesn't like to use computers to communicate. He has called you daily to check in since he left even though he is probably in the middle of meeting with school staff, unpacking boxes and setting up furniture. He's already talking about visiting you. So yes, go meditate more, and do some more yoga! Go hiking. Visit the art museum. Watch movies. Visit the library and check out an enormous pile of books. Sign up to volunteer at an animal shelter or a community garden, or to register voters (you'll meet new people to befriend if you volunteer). Find fun or interesting or meaningful things to do with your time so you won't spend all day thinking about how the job you thought you would love is actually crappy and you miss your boyfriend and you hardly have any friends. And revisit this question of whether you are cut out for handling this LDR at this time a month from now, when your boyfriend has had time to settle in and you've had time to properly grieve and consider his absence, time to find something meaningful to do with your time other than your annoying new job, and time to settle into a new rhythm of interacting with him from a distance.
posted by BlueJae at 9:34 AM on August 3, 2016 [8 favorites]

What is an LDR please?
posted by A189Nut at 9:54 AM on August 3, 2016

What is an LDR please?

Long distance relationship.
posted by O Sock My Sock at 9:55 AM on August 3, 2016

Hey, first I want to say congrats on staying the course with your career goals. I'm assuming you're female (if not, please pardon the assumption) and I think women often have outsized pressure to sacrifice our careers for relationships -- the fact that you made the decision to keep working towards dental school is definitely a testament to your strength of judgement.

I was long-distance with my SO for 4 years while he completed medical school. Our situations are slightly reversed since I think it was harder on him than me. Nevertheless my advice is simple: you have 2 years before, hopefully, you'll be reunited with this guy. Who do you want to be 2 years from now, when you guys reunite for good? Try to take as much angst as you can and throw it in self improvement. Now is the time to focus on your career, your fitness and health, building new life skills. If things go as planned these next two years will pass in a flash compared to the time you spend with your partner. And on the off chance the LDR doesn't resolve as you'd hoped... you've spent the last 2 years making tons of progress in your life.
posted by loquacious crouton at 10:05 AM on August 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'd say a set schedule can help a lot. Expressing needs clearly and preemptively is even more important long distance than up close. But in an LDR life can't be about that phone call, it's got to be about yourself and the present tense.

That said: I suck at LDR. I'm not cut out for it. I couldn't handle being away from people, I wish I had learned that soon rather than thinking I was doing it wrong. I've moved across the country 3 times with my girlfriend->wife and I have no regrets. Our brief attempts at LDR nearly ended us.

Give it a good full-hearted try but set a time to evaluate if this is working. 4-6 months to see if this is bringing more to your life now than it is taking away.
posted by French Fry at 10:32 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm feeling kind of lost right now, socially and job-wise.
No matter what else you do or decide, it's a good idea to start moving toward building some sort of social life, and finding something that is absorbing and diverting -- something you enjoy doing. Regarding "social life," I'm not talking about finding a new bunch of friends to hang out with. It could just be finding opportunities to be around people and interact in some way. And it's not necessary to take up a major hobby; just do something (possibly creative) that you enjoy or feel is important.

Whether you break up with someone or just decide to be apart for a while, you lose the togetherness and romance that formerly used up a lot of your attention. Even people who are in the same location as their lover and in a good relationship really need to have their own activities and pleasures, and someone in your position needs that even more.
posted by wryly at 10:43 AM on August 3, 2016

Long distance sucks. Especially if it's not you who decided to put the distance into your relationship.

I myself went long distance after only a few months with my boyfriend and after a while told him it was important to have daily contact, so we did as often as our plans and the time difference allowed. Then we went shorter distance and skyped every night. Then we moved in together, but he had to leave for a job in Japan and I have to stay here to fulfill a job contract in a job I hate and due to the time difference and work, we cannot even talk on most days other than the weekend. It really sucks, I know.

For the moment, I think all we can do is keep busy and be gentle to ourselves. (I owe this to the nice people in my last Ask!) Remember why we're doing this. Try to do fun things we don't need a partner for. Rediscover old childhood favourites. Make new friends or at least go out more. Read good books or watch entertaining TV shows. Eat good food.

I know it sucks when you cannot even be sure if your relationship will survive because it's so new. I'm really sorry. I guess it's not very comforting to tell you that if your relationship breaks due to the distance, that's probably good, because it would be worse to have it break up when the hard time that causes problems is your illness or something similar. I also know that telling you "it's only two years" won't help you right now, because two years are looooooong.

I would ask your boyfriend for more contact if he has time. Maybe you can have a fixed appointment he has to fit into his schedule unless he is right before finals or something similar. 30 minutes every night at 9pm. Send him letters or cards. (I sent mine German sweets.) Anything to keep the connection open.

Message me any time you want!
posted by LoonyLovegood at 11:11 AM on August 3, 2016

people are giving good advice above. focus on having a lush/interesting life in small daily ways, and focus on taking good care of yourself, and when you reconnect with him, share it.

also maybe read this and if you understand what she's trying to say there you could ask him to read it as well.

i think two years is not as long as it sounds and if you can figure out what will help you feel secure and he can figure out how to meet you half way (and vice versa) things will be fine. that being said, you can always reevaluate after a few months and see what's working or not.
posted by zdravo at 12:47 PM on August 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

You are not a monster. And you aren't being needy. It's good that you love someone enough to really miss them :)

Something else to consider: Not everyone likes Skype. I know that, for myself, even when I'm skyping friends or family, I feel pressure to make the lighting flattering and I re-do my hair and sometimes I'll put on a teeny bit of make-up..... I know it's silly, but because they live 7,000 miles from me, I want them to see me as put-together and enjoying life. On the other hand, when I'm on the phone, I can be flopped on the bed or sitting on the porch or walking around, and I'm concentrating just on the person I'm speaking with.

In both cases, it can take TIME to get good at the medium.
(It's not the same case at all, but here's my story: my boyfriend goes to school three hours north of where I live, and we see each other "only" on weekends. When we started dating (also the first serious relationship for both of us; we're 26) it took a long while for us to develop good phone habits with each other. The first few weeks, our conversations were maybe 15 awkward minutes every night.... Now, they are 40-60 minutes, usually. And that's what works for us.)

I think the key here is figuring out what works for you and your man.
Maybe you want four 5 minute calls scattered during the day, since texting is a challenge. Maybe you want to write each other long emails or letters or send a postcard every day. Maybe you want to have a standing 8 PM Saturday night movie date where you watch a movie on your computer and he watches a movie on his computer on his computer and you stay on the phone the whole time. It doesn't need to be the same thing for the entire two years.
Whatever it is, it needs to work for both of you.

You'll probably feel much better if you have a visit scheduled, by the way. TWO YEARS sounds huge. A month or two months sounds way more doable. Is it financially and logistically feasible for you to fly out and visit him? (maybe Labor Day weekend?)

PS I absolutely completely hear you on the feeling lonely and unfulfilled thing. It is no fun whatsoever. If you ever want to talk about it, you can message me anytime!!
posted by sunshine100 at 2:21 AM on August 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

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