You Need Help: Long-Distance Relationships

Q1:

My phenomenal datefriend and I (both they/them) have been dating for a couple of months. They are AMAZING and make me feel like the sun is bursting out of my chest. In a couple of months, they’re going to graduate and they aren’t sure what’s next for them. (Maybe moving. Maybe moving internationally! Maybe not.) We’ve established that we need to have a chat soon about what might happen to this relationship come May.

I find myself internally approaching that chat with this framing: I love you, I think you’re incredible, so you have me rather over a barrel. Want to try long distance? I’m there. Want me to move and follow you? I’m there. Want to close this chapter and let it be the beautiful thing it was? Okay.

I know I’m doing myself (and my datefriend) a disservice if I approach it like that. But I don’t know how else to do it. They’re so lovely and sweet and level headed and compassionate! Help!

A1:

First of all, congratulations on what sounds like a truly awesome connection. They sound pretty ideal. What strikes me as positive is that you’ve already established that you would like to talk about it, so whatever happens is likely to be drama-free. Here’s my suggestion: Take yourself to a coffee shop with a notebook and a pencil, get caffeinated and write for a while about your life and if there’s anywhere else in the world you would like to be or see. Would you live overseas with a friend or by yourself? Do you have job opportunities and friends in places this person is considering going? Is it time for school or an art residency? Is there a place in the world you would and could casually visit every few months? You may find that you have some big dreams of your own — and going into the conversation knowing what they are is a good thing.

That way, you’re less like “omg i will follow yooouuuu, wherever yoooouuu may goooooo” and more like “wow babe – i’ve always wanted to visit cape cod. i mean, i have been looking at cool venues in austin but like, it’s doable.” And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wouldn’t even suggest breaking up. You two seem level-headed enough to at least come up with some options to try.


Q2:

My girlfriend and I are currently long distance (in different countries), and she seems to be going back and forth on whether she wants to live with me. Several months ago we planned for me to move to her city and move in with her but then she told me that she didn’t think that’s what she wanted. And then a few months ago she started talking about how much she wants me to move in with her and we made a lot of really specific plans for my moving in. However, just yesterday she suggested that I move to a city eight hours from hers and that we could just see each other on weekends. I really love her and want to live with her (it always feels really nice and right when we are in the same place) but this back and forth is really stressing me out. I don’t know what she wants or what to do because I need to start making plans in terms of applying for jobs/moving either way. Please help!

A2:

I will be blunt: I would never move to another place to be with someone I established a relationship with online, especially if they kept wavering on me. It sounds like a broken lease and a sad cat just waiting to happen. Here are my concerns: You would need to acquire visas, which are very hard to get. I have friends who are married and are still separated by borders. Your girlfriend is cycling through periods of unsuredness that stress me out just thinking about. I’m super concerned that you would end up without a place to live having moved all the way somewhere. And immigration is sadly really scary right now in virtually any direction. Even if the relationship goes okay, the chances of you being able to stay together somewhere could be far more complicated than you think.

I would spend a lot of your free time doing research. Could you survive on your own in her country? If so, make a contingency plan and fact check it with your friends and resources about that country. Stay on top of immigration law and make sure you’re not going to end up lost. You may need legal help, legal advice, and you definitely need to save up a lot of money. The golden rule for moving for love is that the location has to be just as great without the love. My friend, the one who can’t be with her partner right now because of immigration? She loves this show Crazy Ex Girlfriend on Netflix, you should watch it. Terrible. But pertinent. It’s about a person who moves to a town for another person and kind of has to put up with the town, and cover up her mistake… please do not be that girl.


Q3:

I met my girlfriend on a dating app (Her!) and we have been making it work somewhat long distance (only 100 miles apart, but still) for over a year now. Things are falling into place allowing me to move in with her as I have gotten accepted to graduate school in her area. In my two previous relationships we lived together basically from the start, mostly for money reasons. I feel like I should be totally ready to move in given that we’ve formed a solid relationship first, but I find myself very anxious about it. I really don’t want to take that as a bad sign, I just don’t want to compromise what we’ve built together. How do I get my head on board with going with the flow of this change and making it an exciting thing, not an anxious thing?

A3:

First, can I say that you’re not the first person to tell me they met someone on Her? Who thought queer babes wouldn’t cruise…. SMH. Anyways, I think the anxiety is a good sign. This relationship feels different, better somehow than the rest. You’re moving in for love and family building, not for survival or convenience. You probably don’t want to fuck it up. Why not de-escalate and do something silly like pitch a tent in your living room on the first night and act like kids, or make a point to go out to a nightclub before grad school and living in sin begins. Make sure to get some good old-fashioned courting and hot sex in — and try to get in as much as you can seriously because grad school can suck the life out of you. Make sure you have dates that aren’t about moving. Save the rent talk for when rent is due, catch my drift?

You could also think about what your anxiety might be alerting you to. A little bit of nervousness can be good, but it can also highlight what’s wrong in a situation. It’s kind-of like that feeling when you’re halfway to LA and you get worried that you left your flat iron on at home and it doesn’t do that auto-turn-off thing. Did you forget to turn off your stove? Try to think about the little things you might be overlooking: would it be better to rent a flat near your school for a while, so you have a place to settle into your studies? If not, would a studio benefit you? How about a two-bedroom apartment, a place with two beds and a place for you to study? Create a network of people and possibilities so when the time comes to pack up, you’ve done your best to start the next chapter of your life with the resources and spaces you need. Hot tip: Grab your nearest Virgo and ask them to make a list of all your moving considerations. We like French Press & Kush strains.


Q4:

My girlfriend and I met in North Carolina over two and a half years ago and fell in love. I am from the United Kingdom and was travelling when we met, but we decided we wanted to start a long-distance relationship when it came to time for me to go home.

Things were great during the first year, but we have been struggling in the relationship recently. We argue a lot — she says I am not there for her when she needs me or in the way that she needs me, and I feel pressure a lot of the time from her to be there which stops me from planning to do the things I like to do.

After a recent argument, she told me she was going to join a dating site because she was lonely and wanted to make friends. I said I wasn’t okay with that, but she went ahead and did it anyway. She has met up with one girl three times in the last seven days, once in her home. It makes me insanely jealous and insecure that she is meeting up with girls when I’m in bed or at work, but my girlfriend assures me I need to trust her that she is not interested in anything other than friendship with these girls.

What should I do? I’m not sure that I can continue like this for much longer.

A4:

Jealousy and long distance don’t mix. Generally I don’t believe that sexual relationships that are long distance should be monogamous. At the very least, I would suggest reading the chapter on jealousy from the book The Ethical Slut, which might help you come up with some coping tools. Long chapter short, your jealousy can be used for good things like inspiring you to do some self care, reaching out to your own friends, making art, doing the gym — but if you’re feeling gross at work or in bed, you should pay attention to those feelings as something more. You might not be cut out for this, and that’s okay.

Your girlfriend, like it or not, needs friends. She needs her own friends, separate from the relationship, and so do you. Because you’re physically separate, you can’t monitor her private time nor should you want to. You need to either become secure that no matter what your girlfriend does in her town, that’s her time and body and her choice — or accept that your trust levels can’t go high enough to continue this relationship without causing yourself more stress. I honestly think some people are more monogamous than others, and I think some folks are cut out for long distance and some aren’t. I feel like you need to know that your partner is being faithful, and when you’re apart it only makes it a million times harder to feel secure in yourself and your relationship. Read The Ethical Slut and see if there’s a way to self-manage your jealousy, transform it into something positive. Don’t beat yourself up if it’s not in the cards.


Q5:

I went overseas for a few months and dated a girl who was def more into it than me. We agreed to end it when I left but she keeps mentioning coming to where I live and even moving her life, and also told me a good while back that she really really likes me still and I just kinda ignored it. I really like her and want to be friends but not like that at all. Can I keep ignoring this (please)? Do I have to be really formal and clear with her? Do you think she’s probably getting the message? Am I a shitty person?

A5:

Give it to her straight, doc. You need to set clear boundaries with her right away so that she is getting the message, and if she continues then she is doing so knowing that she is doing it against your consent. You don’t need to be there for anyone but yourself and I would say that to anyone. Tell her how you would like to know her (as friends) and what would make you uncomfortable. Hopefully she respects your boundaries; if she doesn’t, make even more boundaries. Sanction her until all she can do is like your tweets and then if that’s still creepy, block her. The more time you spend pushing and pulling for a girl tugging on your sleeve, the less time you are spending making meaningful connections with new people. Also she may feel like you’re leading her on! Don’t do that.


Q6:

I’ve been in long-distance relationship for two years. Friends for four years before that. We’ve never met IRL, but we’re planning on meeting this summer (we live on two different continents).

Here’s the problem: although we were madly in love at first, made promises to get married and have kids one day, etc., I find myself not into it anymore. This is my first real relationship, and I’m terrified of all this commitment at my age when I’ve never even gone on a date. We wouldn’t move in together for at least another year anyway, but she frequently talks about how excited she is to live with me, start our future, all that.

That’s the next problem. She’s definitely more committed and in love than I am, which makes me feel horrible. The whole long-distance relationship thing is getting to me at this point. I want someone I can hold hands and be with, not someone I can’t touch or see for months and months. She’s also almost graduating college, while I’m just getting started. I think we’d be much better friends, but I’m terrified of breaking her heart when she’s so in love with me. Help!

A6:

You might break her heart either way, friend — but it will hurt even more if you wait too long to quit. I wouldn’t give this bold of an argument for a help column without feeling like I have the authority to do so. I don’t know why, but I have escalated relationships that needed to stay on lower levels just because my partner wanted me to, or my friends wanted me to, or society wanted me to. I took that escalator up really, really high once, I got married. A second time. That morning I cried out on the deck while trying to put together my vows. It was hard for me to think that my “cold feet” were telling me something but they totally were. I was only 27 at that time and had already been through a few super serious relationships. It wasn’t always like this. In college I went to sex ed workshops and queer dance parties. I made out with a lot of different kinds of people in a small college town and experienced all the small college town drama and intrigue that goes with it. I also needed a lot of alone time in college. Doesn’t matter what you study, you will do your best work and be the healthiest/happiest if you have plenty of time to yourself. I am in my third year of grad school, single, and not upset about it.

So here’s the funny thing — I actually think that distance might be god for you. I have found recently that flirting online or even just chatting about your day through text with consensual friends is a really low-stakes way to get some of the foundational energy that relationships provide. Intimate online friendships are kind of what get me through my life. However, high-stakes relationships can take away a lot of the college experience, this is meant to be a time of transition… and something tells me you’re ready to experiment. It’s okay to be young and break hearts, just be honest and do it with kindness and maybe you’ll have a friend for life.


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Mx. Trouble, MFA, is a femme trans person who writes about fine art and fisting. They also work online as a sexual entertainment provider. Follow on twitter @courtneytrouble

Courtney has written 4 articles for us.

7 Comments

  1. The response to Q2 seemed kinda americentric and didn’t really focus on the stated concerns of the asker? They never mentioned difficulty with visas or immigration, only getting a job/moving (if they are both from EU countries, for example, moving to her gf’s country and ability to stay in that country are not nearly as complicated as you would think). Additionally, the response assumes that they established their relationship online, but the asker only states that they are currently long distance (even specifying time spent together IRL).

    It feels like the response-writer latched onto the detail that could be related to her own life (her friend’s international LDR) and projected the issues from there?

    What the question boils down to “I want to move to be with my partner, but I don’t know if they really want that or if they will flake on me when I’m there” which is frankly a loaded enough problem on its own and deserved a more focused and un-biased response

    • I agree the answer made some assumptions that weren’t mentioned in the posted letter.

      My big comment for Q2 is 8 hours is NOT a see each other on weekends distance. Maybe I just need more sleep than many, and I’m making an assumption that it’s an 8 hour drive (versus train trip), but that’s making a 16 hour round trip for a bit more than a day of togetherness before someone returns home tired and with no weekend chores accomplished before starting another work week.

      LW2, I’m sorry but your girl doesn’t seem to want you to live in the same city with her and have an IRL relationship. All the flip flopping shows her lack of commitment, and at this point you should only move somewhere where it is best for you even if the relationship doesn’t work out. It seems like you want more now and she doesn’t do if that doesn’t work for you, it’s time for you to move on.

      • Hello commenters! I am a little confused because in both paragraphs I mention how difficult it is to immigrate, and how the asker should look into wether they will be happy in the places they’ve chosen to move to. I am not confidant that the partner wants to live with this person, and is trying to push them away or make physical boundaries. I think most of all, this person should take real stock of wether this person really wants them to move – sounds like they don’t – so if they’re going to move anyways they should do it for themselves. Especially if it is international, because things may become a disaster fast. Does that seem to cover what you are concerned about? I did mention getting a job and visas, so I’m not sure if the question was read correctly but I’m always happy to keep an open dialogue about different things we must all worry about with LDRs, and my point of view comes from an international one. Thank you.

        • Thanks for responding. Unfortunately I am unsure if you understood the criticism? My issue was that you spent *too much* time discussing how difficult immigration is and in a discussion of visas, which was not the stated concern of the asker. And that you state things as fact that are actually based on assumptions (“You WOULD need to acquire visas, which are very hard to get”). This may be true for an American, but if the question-writer and her gf live in Schengen area countries (a German moving to Italy, for example) it simply isn’t the case!

          I don’t think mentioning that the process immigration can be difficult is out of line when talking about international LDR generally, but it seemed like in the first paragraph of the response had very little to do with the actual text of the question.

  2. Q1 and Q3 – I have been in verrrrrry similar situations and have lots of advice if you want it! I used trial periods and it worked great for me/us.

    Q1 – we set a three month time-frame for trying long distance after one of us graduated. [fun fact This is also how I found autostraddle when I googled ‘lesbian ldr’] That way we could just focus on making a great, fun relationship for that amount of time, and then check in at that time about how it was going – if we wanted to stop, continue as is, or continue with a change. (and if you keep going, set up regular check-ins, like every 3 or 6 months). This kept us in the present and freed us up to try a bunch of fun things [including tips from autostraddle – thanks!] and not worry about ‘is this working?’

    Q3 – your anxiety could be saying that moving in isn’t the best next step for yall. Maybe you just want more fun time with each of your own space so going to each other’s place is special. If you don’t know about it, check out the escalator concept and make it your own – https://solopoly.net/2012/11/29/riding-the-relationship-escalator-or-not/

    (if you can swing it financially) my partner at the time and I did a trial period of living together for 3 months (prompted by a shift in my lease and job situation) and I planned to move to my own rented room at the end of it, and I did. At the end of our trial period, we talked about what we liked and didn’t like which made it all better, smoother, and more exciting when we eventually decided to move in together indefinitely later.

    Alternatively/also, again if financially feasible, I super second the suggestions of you getting really creative about what your living arrangements can look like and picking what feels right – the two bedroom idea is cool (I never thought of that!), or maybe you rent a room for you in someone’s house for a few months, etc. Focus on making sure you can have your own personal space (either immediately or after a short trial period) so you can settle into your new life, and handle ‘would we both be happier living together now, later, never?’ as its own question.

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