Let me first say that your advice is always solid and I often find myself nodding in agreement when I read your column. That being said, I would really like to hear your keen insight into my relationship. I met a really wonderful woman two weeks before she left to a far-away state. Our fascination with each other carried us through a year of constant phone contact and occasional visits. We’ve talked about sharing a future together. I trust her more than any other lover I’ve ever had, so much that I don’t break it off when she sleeps in the same bed as her recent ex-girlfriend. (Merely because of their financial situations and that the couch is too small.)
She said that she would move back to Texas in July after her contract with AmeriCorps is up. Upon a recent convo she said that she might just stay there until December 2010 (!), just to get a taste of college life.
I’ve had a history of getting stepped on and of selling myself short. I feel like I could wait for a century just to have a life with her, but should I? Should I have ended it when she didn’t want to sleep on the couch instead of her ex-girlfriend’s bed? I’m not so dense or egotistical as to not consider uprooting what I have here. Should our love really be tested to this extreme so early into our one-year courtship?
— The Long Distant Runner
My ego appreciates you buttering its toast.
I have a few questions for you to ponder. Are you happy? Is she happy? How and why did the recent ex-girlfriend end up in the same far-away place?
Trusting someone from afar is healthy. If you have a history of allowing others to manipulate you through your low self-esteem, I suggest talking to a therapist. Improve yourself and all of your relationships will become healthier, and it will be easier for you to recognize people who are or will take advantage of you.
A long-distance relationship is never easy and can be quite confusing if it starts out that way. Romantic weekend visits are filled with expectation and excitement. Phone calls are simple to cut short if you are not in the mood to talk. After a year, you can feel very close to someone, yet there is a disconnect as you haven’t established the same intimacy and familiarity. After a year, that starts to add up to pressure for the relationship to progress and evolve. I encourage you to not look at your love as being tested. That is overly dramatic and an invitation to tragedy. You chose to pursue a woman who lives far away and this is simply the nature of your relationship, not an obstacle course set forth by the fates.
It is uncomfortable, but not unreasonable to not break up with her because she is sharing a bed with her ex out of convenience and comfort. She should have a plan with a time frame for correcting that situation if she is truly invested in building a new relationship with you. If she doesn’t, I would be skeptical, especially if she is thinking of extending her stay there.
It is fair for you to consider moving to her to aid in the evolution of the relationship, but you should discuss it well ahead of time directly and openly. If she still wants to move back to Texas in 2010, then you will be uprooting twice and that will most likely stunt your life, personally and professionally. I suppose you could reflect on that story about the turtle and the rabbit if you wanted a metaphor.
I recommend against moving in together immediately when you do both land in the same city. You may still need to have separate homes for a bit, even if one is just an efficiency apartment where the sheets are hardly ever disturbed. A true period of courting and melding your lives is healthy for the relationship. Going from living thousands of miles apart to living together will put too much emphasis on your expectations and possibly distort your perceptions of each other and the relationship. Right now you are both an escape from one another’s daily life; when you live in the same city and eventually home, you become each other’s daily life.
Just stay honest with her and with yourself. Hopefully she is doing the same. Nobody is perfect and nothing is ideal unless you accept it as so.
Much love and cheap airfares,
Your Uncle Mat