You Need Help: I Moved Closer to My Girlfriend but She’s Too Busy for Me

Q:

Hi!

I’ve been a relationship with my girlfriend for 2.5 years. We met 3 years ago during while I was living in Germany (though a train ride away, which was basically long distance for months at a time due to restrictions), but then I moved back to my home country to finish my studies. After 2 years we decided long distance was too much and I have moved back to Germany to do more study so we can be together.

She’s wonderful and has been really attentive to helping me settle in. However, now the dust has settled I feel like she barely has time to see me and is often too tired from all her commitments to do anything other than chill when we do see each other.

We don’t live together and our schedules are quite mismashed. I have a lot of independent study time and she has lots of meetings and classes plus a job. I’ve always loved that she is an ambitious person but now I am (maybe hypocritically) feeling that she does not really want to prioritise our relationship or adjust anything that she was doing when we lived in different countries to make time.

I know part of the issue is that I am adjusting to a new country and language and that I will feel better once I’ve made friends. However this all takes time and is difficult in a culture that is more reserved than I’m used to and where I’m not a native speaker.

What should I do? I don’t want to stop her living her life or make my loneliness her problem, but I hate having to schedule two hour time slots to see her in the weekday and having to rush when we have evenings together. She’s been really emotionally supportive and has taken on a lot of admin and stress about me moving here and being happy (much more than I realised before I arrived) and I know she cares about our relationship, but she’s also just never free!

A:

I think this is absolutely a conversation you can have with your girlfriend. You’ve been together 2.5 years, and I think it’s reasonable that you want to spend more time together. If you mutually decided long distance was too hard (which is what it sounds like), then I think you can also mutually work toward an arrangement that suits both of your needs.

This doesn’t have to look like you asking her to stop living her life. But I do think that when a long distance partner moves to be closer to another partner — especially given that that’s what both people wanted — then sometimes the partner who did not have to move does have to be open a bit to change and to figuring out how to make space for that person. You shouldn’t be the only person adapting right now. You’ve made a major life change by moving, and while I’m not saying your girlfriend needs to completely change her life or give up parts of herself on your behalf, there does need to be a sense of compromise and an acknowledgement that this is a major transition for both of you. It’s great that she’s providing a lot of emotional support and is generally helping you with your adjustment period. But if you have additional needs like wanting to spend more time together, I think it’s fair to ask for that. In many ways, it makes it easier that it’s such a specific ask.

I don’t think needing to schedule specific time together is in and of itself a problem, but it sounds like it might not be working the way y’all are doing it right now. Does she cancel or cut short those scheduled times? If so, it’s worth emphasizing that you only want to commit to scheduled time if you know it’s going to be honored in full (barring any genuinely unpredictable situations, of course, there should always be a bit of leeway because life is chaotic, especially for someone who’s balancing classes and a job). Is the time you spend together intentional and intimate? If you need to ask for things like her not being on her phone or other stipulations that might make her feel more fully present, those are also worth bringing up.

In a lot of ways, I can relate to your girlfriend. I’m often exhausted by my various commitments in life, and it can make it hard to have fun with my fiancee. Instituting regular date nights helps, especially when we can share the responsibility of planning said date nights or take turns. Something that is true for me that I’m sure is true of your girlfriend — especially, again, if she also wanted you to move closer — is that I genuinely want to spend as much time as possible with my partner. Being busy isn’t being avoidant for me. I just sometimes go down the rabbit hole of my own work. It’s a balance I struggle with sometimes, and I think one thing I’ve really realized helps is maintaining an openness to shifting and adapting as needed. There are times when it’s easier to set weekly date nights, and there are times when it’s harder, so during those times when I can’t make weekly date nights happen, what else can we do to spend meaningful time together? Breakfasts together? Walks? Something else?

It’s great that you’re supportive, but I don’t think you have to see your own needs and your desire for more time with her as working against her ambitions. There are always ways to compromise, always ways to try new things. You’ve had to make a lot of adjustments to your life (a new country and a new language are HUGE), so I think it’s okay to ask her to make some, too, especially if it’s all in service of overall relationship health. It might take a while to figure out exactly how to make it all work, but so long as you’re both working toward the goal of more quality time together, you’ll get there.

It is not hypocritical to ask her to prioritize the relationship and also do things differently than when you were long distance. Even though you’re not living together, moving to be closer to her represents a new phase of the relationship, and both parties should be feeling that. Long distance is hard, but there are also some benefits to long distance in the sense that it’s “easier” to be super present and attentive when you’re together because those moments are so rare. I’m not saying she’s taking you for granted, but I do think it could be beneficial for you both if you initiate a conversation about what you want from this relationship and why you moved closer. The person who moved shouldn’t be the only person experiencing change. I hope you both can be open to talking about this and figuring out solutions that feel good for both of you.


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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 843 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. This is the classic difference between someone who has built a life around themselves in their own country and has been there for years so has many connections and has laid roots, and the fresh expat who doesn’t know anyone in the country, has no roots and massively relies on the one person she does know and is close to to be her total source of companionship and entertainment.

    Neither are wrong. But I’ve been there when I lived abroad. My ex hated me disrupting her gym and friend schedule which had been in concrete and undisturbed for years. Then I realised that me being there in the first place and so far away from both is both rare and extraordinarily special and I deserved more than being scheduled in like a pass time instead of her making exceptions and compromises every so often.

    It makes me wonder if they’ve been together for almost 3 years and one of them has moved abroad for the other – why aren’t they living together?

    Surely moving to another country absolutely cements that you want a future with this person, so why hasn’t the girlfriend opened her doors to the expat? Are they both living in student accommodation?

    The bottom line is: OP moving abroad for her partner is a huge deal and extremely special. Many people would laugh you out the door at the idea of moving to a foreign country for love, even after years of being together. I’ve definitely had partners that would never give up their lives, their careers and be away from their family and friends for a relationship.

    So I agree, the girlfriend should be recognising that.

  2. I see both perspectives here, and I wonder if gf both wanted the LW to move there and also feels anxious about the pressure that puts on her, to be the primary anchor that the LW has to this new place/in everyday life. That said, gf’s behavior (as recounted here ) seems to suggest a lack of self awareness or even empathy for what this major transition (!) is like for LW. I agree that a conversation about how they are feeling, and having an open dialogue about what they both expect or want from their time together, are overdue. Also, is the LW not also being invited sometimes to join gf’s activities with friends? I totally get that they don’t need (nor should) merge lives fully but I get the sense from the letter that she is barely being integrated into gf’s life at all. I’d also encourage LW to try to connect to folks via her studies or through interest groups (like a sport or a language class) to cultivate a sense of belonging and community there that isn’t exclusively linked to the gf, even as I firmly believe the dynamic between them and how they spend time together also probably needs to shift for the relationship to survive.

    I also appreciate Kayla’s personal take and giving the gf benefit of the doubt, but in your case it was the opposite scenario, right? You were the person who moved away from what they knew. So that dynamic also feels a little different, no?

  3. As someone who has also moved to Germany from a diff country, I can empathise with LW SO MUCH. “Reserved” is putting it mildly, Germans are really extremely hard to befriend, especially coming in as an outsider. LW, you deserve to be appreciated and integrated into your gf’s life. Beyond that, I highly recommend joining some sort of queer group if there is one where you live, as I have found that queerness is one of the easiest avenues through which you can meet people (sports and stuff.. forget it. Germans don’t talk to you for the first 6 months). Feel free to shoot me a message if you want to find out if we live close, maybe we can hang out :)

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