He Can’t Keep His Distance; Yakety Yak (Don’t Talk Back)
Against my better judgment, I’ve entered into a long-distance relationship. Both of us have lucrative jobs that we cannot abandon, so we only see one another about every two weeks. My friends are constantly trying to pair me off with guys who are more local, and I’ve been in situations where it has taken every ounce of willpower to not engage in some sort of intimate “activity.” I feel like I’m missing out, and all of this is starting to make me resentful. I deserve intimacy, and the distance between us is starting to get on my nerves. I don’t know what to do.
Dr. Hurd replies,
A few observations about long-distance relationships. They can work, but in my experience, only under two conditions:
1. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to either party. Sure, you’re attracted to others in his absence, but is his companionship worth giving that up? It’s really the same principle with any committed relationship. You willingly accept the tradeoff not because it’s a sacrifice, but because to lose that person would itself be a sacrifice.
2. Both parties have a credible belief that the distance issue is not permanent. For example, it’s March, 2013. Do you have reason to believe that by a certain date the two of you will be together full-time? If so, that can make the wait infinitely more bearable.
I have seen some relationships where the partners are content with the distance. But that’s probably something very different from the kind of thing you’re seeking.
As difficult as the status quo is, you suggest in your question that it’s better than either of you giving up your careers. Obviously you understand the burden on each other, and on the relationship, if either of you were to sacrifice your job.
We’re taught that self-sacrifice is the root of all good, including in relationships. But what we’re taught is wrong. Because when you truly love someone, you want that person to fully be who he or she really is. If he moved here to be with you (or vice versa), you might cherish that, but it doesn’t do anybody any good unless he really wants to do so.
By the way, I notice you started your question with, “Against my better judgment….” Perhaps that’s where you initially went wrong. You knew (but maybe didn’t want to know?) that something like this can’t work for you. Too often we forget that our better judgment can actually be our best friend. Carefully consider points #1 and #2 above before you do anything you can’t reverse.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
We have a friend whom we like a lot. She has recently become coupled, and we invited them to dinner. To put it mildly, our friend’s new partner monopolized the entire evening. She quite literally never shut up. She had a comment, observation and/or story for everything that was said, whether it involved her or not. We were horrified. We don’t want to lose our long-time friend, but we just cannot be with her girlfriend again. And please don’t tell us to suck it up. We were ready to kill her!
Dr. Hurd replies,
I’m not one for “sucking it up.” And I’m also not one for, “Let’s resolve this problem without saying, doing, or risking anything.” Sorry, it can’t be done.
You’re asking me if there’s a way to (1) keep your friendship as it is, while at the same time, (2) having nothing whatsoever to do with your friend’s girlfriend. Excuse me? Your friend’s girlfriend is important to her. You have no choice but to accept that.
You might weigh the pros and cons of saying something to your friend, but regardless of what you say, it will all come out as, “We don’t like your new girlfriend.” It’s a lose-lose. If you say anything at all, it must be the truth. Otherwise, don’t say it.
Let’s look at the long run. If your friend shares your values and interests, then her new girlfriend’s over-talkativeness could possibly wear thin for her as well. Give it time to play itself out. That’s not “sucking it up,” but it does require perspective and patience.
It’s possible that your friend’s new girlfriend felt insecure around new people. That sort of discomfort is not unusual. Maybe she was at her most anxious, and consequently ended up talking her head off. If you show extra interest in her next time, maybe she’ll be more relaxed and not quite so chatty. I’m not promising anything, but it’s worth a try.
Try to remember that you like your friend a great deal. Knowing her as you do, what do you think she sees in this person, in spite of the long-windedness? Try to focus on that. I know you don’t like it, but it beats the alternative of losing her altogether, doesn’t it?
At least for now, your friend and her new girlfriend are a package deal. Get used to it. After all, her choice in partners wasn’t your choice to begin with. It was hers.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office may be reached at 302-227-2829. Email your questions or comments to Dr Hurd.