Dear Mrs J,
I am struggling with my long distance relationship at the minute.
I am finding it hard to work out if it’s just the current situation or the relationship itself. Like any couple we had our arguments and disagreements but right now everything seems to be so much worse. Although we were never able to ‘kiss and make up’ right away because of the distance we always had a future date to look forward to. Now we don’t know when we’ll next see each other. I don’t want to end the relationship and look back with regret realising I only made that decision because of the lockdown, but equally I feel like I should do something to sort this. Then I wonder if doing anything will change much for me or will I just feel the same but without them in my life? It’s not like my day to day routine will change, it’ll just mean I have one less person in my life.
You don’t tell me whether you are a male or a female, or how old you are, or where your partner lives, whether you are married, or how long you have been in this relationship. So I will have to make some assumptions – forgive me if some of them are wrong!
I am going to assume that you live here on the Isle of Man, and that the other party lives in the UK, and that you are not married to each other. I am assuming that you are on lockdown at home, but you may still be working; you don’t mention family and friends.
Anyway, what follows may startle you – but I think you need to hear it.
My gut response when I read this for the third and fourth time is that your heart is not in this relationship any more. I would go so far as to say you know that it’s in its death throes but you just don’t know how to extricate yourself. I am assuming that you have been together for a while – maybe quite a few years, maybe a bit less time – but it does not sound like the relationship is bringing you any joy any more. It sounds as though you are drifting along, waiting for a trigger to help you make a decision: you don’t want to look like a bad person and end it – so you are hedging your bets. Potentially you are being quite passive and settling for a relationship that is not hitting your spot any longer.
Let me tell you, Anon – at this stage (ie, not married to each other, no kids) you shouldn’t feel stuck in a rut with anyone. You sound like someone who is going through the motions, staying with your partner so that you can reassure yourself (and maybe others around you) that you are successfully in a relationship. What you describe sounds like a friendship, at best. You don’t suggest any laughing, any love, any passion, any fire. Passion and fire is what gets you together in the first place, but you need intimacy, proximity, compromise, a desire to keep learning about each other, kindness, selflessness, communication and sharing to keep you together. Those things aren’t remotely as exciting, and they require bloody hard work – but they can lead to a wonderful, rich, strong and committed relationship that endures, and passes the trials and tests that life and circumstances lob into your path.
You haven’t said how your partner feels about the relationship – are you struggling to talk openly about what each of you wants and needs? Are you afraid of starting the conversation, in case it causes a scene? You might actually find that they are desperate to talk about it: they might want to discuss where you find yourselves at the moment, where this is heading and whether or not you have a future. Be brave – grab a glass of wine, take a deep breath, and broach the subject when you have each other’s full attention.
If you want to – if you BOTH want to – you can put some ooomph back into this relationship. Long-distance can mean sharing things digitally: do a quiz with forfeits for the loser; have a virtual date night, drink a bottle of the same wine, cook dinner ‘together’ and eat it ‘together’; watch the same show on Netflix, then talk at length about it; do some tipsy flirting – just use the tools you have to bridge the distance between you.
It struck me that you might be afraid of being lonely if you were to end the relationship. There are things you can do to mitigate this, even in these peculiar times. Get a few friends or family together and use Zoom or Houseparty to have a virtual gathering. There are also some great community pages on Facebook (lockdown groups for women and men), beginners’ gardening pages, pet pages, craft pages, food and recipe pages – you name it, any interest is catered for. All of those pages are welcoming, full of people chatting away to strangers and making some surprisingly strong bonds, it seems.
Follow or ‘like’ lots of different pages, as there are a number of virtual events happening – one this weekend sounds really cute, in aid of the local charity Housing Matters: The Great Manx Tea Party it’s a virtual tea party, where you can get baking yourself, or buy in a delivery, get squiffy on fizz or gin, and eat cake. What’s not to like?
These are very strange times: I think a lot of people are recalibrating, and thinking things over as there is more time to do so. Use this time to consider your relationship and whether it is fulfilling you.
Take the lockdown as time to focus on yourself and your own needs – try online yoga (check out the Facebook pages from “Yoga with Cole”, “Omazing Online Yoga” and “Breathing Space” among many others). It’s great for quietening your whirring mind, or for giving yourself the space and permission to make changes and decisions. Indulge yourself with a long, hot soak in the bath. Read a favourite old book again, or discover a new author. Stay in your jammies all day, eat chocolate for breakfast. Just look into your heart and soul, acknowledge that you will undoubtedly be sad if you end the relationship, but that you WILL emerge from lockdown and you CAN be happy again.
Anon, my lovely, you only have one life. Get out there, albeit metaphorically at the moment: stretch your wings and your imagination. You can be happy, and in love, and fulfilled by someone – believe it will happen – but you might have to take some *active* steps to achieve that. Be brave: make this relationship work much better for you… or gently take your leave.