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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » How to start the conversation about LDR

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Author Topic: How to start the conversation about LDR
sweetgreendreams
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My SO and I have been together for a few years, and we recently made the (independent) decisions to take jobs on opposite sides of the country after college. Soon we're going to graduate, and we need to talk about what is going to happen to our relationship. This conversation is making me really nervous, but it's also becoming more and more pressing. He's hinted that he wants to stay together (asking me to come visit him in his new city), but we haven't talked about it.

Any suggestions on how and when to start talking about this?

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Robin Lee
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Hi sweetgreendreams and welcome to Scarleteen,

I can definitely understand how starting this conversation could feel scary. The two of you are already facing a lot of changes--finishing college, moving to a new place, starting a job, etc--so to talk about how or if your relationship is going to change can be tough.

Sometimes, with difficult conversations, there's really no way around it but to just start them. It can help to pick a time when things are quiet, when you won't be interrupted, when you're both feeling pretty relaxed.

Would it help to talk through here what it is that you'd like to say to him or ask him?

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Robin

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sweetgreendreams
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Hi Robin,

My biggest fear is that he'll want to break up with me. We've had long-distance before (summers apart with no visits, winter breaks) and lots of time during the school year when we haven't seen each other for a week at a time, so we know what it's like to be apart. We're also both very independent people. Still, I'm worried that he'll not want to go through with this.

If that's the way the conversation goes, I'm not sure I want to deal with being in a relationship with an expiration date. That's why I've been holding off.

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Robin Lee
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So, it sounds like you're saying that if he didn't want to continue the relationship after you both move away, you'd not want to continue the relationship at all. I can imagine that's sad to contemplate; at the same time, chances are just as good that he'll want to continue the relationship, in which case I imagine you'd both want to plan and figure out the future.

It doesn't sound like either of you has given each other the idea that the relationship might end.


In starting a conversation, it's okay to let him know that you're scared about the outcome.

What ideally would you want to talk to him about?

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Robin

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sweetgreendreams
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I want to talk to him about how we're going to find an end date. There's a lot of uncertainty about our future plans, so I don't think we can come up with anything specific right now. That also makes me nervous because I don't want to go into a LDR without any idea of when we'll be able to be in the same place again.

Also how are we going to visit and communicate? That's a big one since it will be long long distance.

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Karybu
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It sounds like you have a very good idea of what you want to discuss, and saying what you've just said here could be a very good way to open the conversation. Uncertainty can be very difficult to deal with, so it might be helpful to talk about that too.

In terms of communication, technology can be a big help. For instance, the majority of my current 6-year relationship has been very long distance (different countries or cities in the same country that are several hours apart by plane) and Skype has been a godsend. Email and instant messaging is also really helpful. Visits can be a bit tougher to negotiate, especially if you're far enough apart that visiting involves a plane trip - that can get pricey very fast, but it is doable.

If it would be useful, I don't mind sharing a bit more about how my partner and I have negotiated a LDR without knowing when we'd be in the same place again, and how we've made sure that communication stays solid.

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"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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sweetgreendreams
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Thanks, Karybu, that would be so helpful.

Based on the conversations we've had so far, it seems like this has been on his mind, but he's also scared to bring it up, and he'd rather focus on more immediate things (like his schoolwork) than the future. There are both good and bad sides to this approach, but maybe I'm stressing too early?

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sweetgreendreams
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anyone?
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Heather
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How long is this before this happens?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Karybu
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Hey, sweetgreendreams, sorry it took me awhile to get back to you with this.

Without knowing how long it is before you two will no longer be in the same place, it's tough to say whether you're stressing "too early" but I'd say it's probably not too early to make it clear to him that you do want to talk about this at some point soon, and maybe narrow down a time for the two of you to sit down and have that conversation. It's understandable that with a lot of other things on his plate (and I'm guessing you're in the same situation?) he may not want to add one more, but this is clearly something that's important to you and something that will impact both of you, so it's a necessary discussion to have.

If it still helps to hear my experience, here goes. (If not, just disregard the rest of this post!)

We've been together for just over 6 years at this point, so quite a while. When we met, I was a few months in to my last year of university, he had already graduated and been accepted as a PhD student in Australia (we're both from Canada originally, we met there). It was October, he was due to leave in January. Crap timing, basically, but he made it clear from the get-go that he probably wasn't looking for anything long-term because moving halfway around the world tends to interrupt things in a big way. Obviously, I didn't have the same investment in the relationship when he left that you have with your relationship, so that probably played a part in my feeling that if we didn't stay together, that was still cool because I'd had a few months with a really neat person, not a waste of time, etc. We agreed to keep in touch and see how things went, and if either one of us at any point felt that we didn't want to anymore, that would be ok.

As it turned out, we communicate really, really well. I started making plans to visit, and that turned into making plans to spend a year traveling around Aus when I was done with uni (which took longer than expected, so by the time I finally got there, we'd been together in person for 3 months and together long-distance for about 9). Skype, like I mentioned earlier, was hugely useful for keeping in touch, and after he'd been away for a few weeks we started having regular scheduled chats, and we emailed back and forth a lot as well. We're both very independent people, though, and we were both living very busy, full lives when we were apart, which helped a lot - neither one of us was just killing time until we could see each other again.

I spent the next couple of years going back and forth between Canada and Australia, first traveling and then doing an 8 month course at his university. Then I decided that I wanted to go to grad school, and I was aiming for Australia but not his city. I'd had to go back to Canada at the end of my course, and what with one thing and another dealing with the university application process and then Australian immigration, it was a year and a half before I was able to move to Melbourne. We had two visits in that time; it's an expensive trip to make, and takes a couple of days just to get from one country to the other. Now we're both in the same country, but several hours apart by plane. We see each other once every few months, and we've gotten very good at finding cheap flights (this usually involves flying very early in the morning or very late at night). At this point he is planning to move to my city when he's done with his PhD, but it's not clear yet when that'll be, and he may need a new type of visa and have to go back to Canada until that comes through.

There are a few things that have really helped over the years, especially when we're not sure what's going to happen next:

Communication, communication, communication. We check in with each other a lot, not just to say hello and have the usual conversations you have with a partner, but to make sure that we're both still comfortable and happy with the way things are going, and that we both want to continue to be together. Having set times to talk via Skype has been so important, because it helps make that communication something that's a constant. Now that we're both in Australia, we text quite a bit too, even if that's just saying hi a couple of times a day.

Making sure that when visits happen, they're as equal as possible - it's not one person doing all the traveling. I go visit him, and then the next time he visits me. We split the cost, and try and find times that work well for both of us.

Keeping busy. Both of us have very full, busy lives away from each other, which is important in any relationship, but can be especially key in a long-distance one. It gives you plenty to talk about, for one thing, but it also helps to ensure that neither one of you is just sitting around waiting for the next time you're together. Maybe we're a bit better suited to that and find it easier than some couples just because we are so independent by nature, I don't know. But it's helped immensely, and even when we are in the same place, we go off and do our own things occasionally.

I know that's a lot to read, but hopefully at least some of it is helpful. I do think we've been lucky in navigating the LDR thing; I'm not sure most people could stay together long-distance the way we have, but it is doable and there are ways to make it work if that's what both of you want.

--------------------
"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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sweetgreendreams
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Thanks, Karybu, and sorry for taking so long to reply.

Your story/strategy is inspiring, and I hope that I can do something like that, whether it's with him or with someone else. While I need to work on communication, I do enjoy having a life separate from my boyfriend, and I don't think that will be difficult in an LDR. I'm impressed that you did that CAN-AUS; it's so many timezones!

I'll talk to him, though I'm realizing that maybe I don't need to have this conversation until closer to the time. Things could change, and I don't want to put pressure on either of us.

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