Wednesday, March 23, 2005

How to deal with an impending LDR

Accept the fact that everyone thinks your relationship will fail.

This assumption is implicit in every look you receive after you mention your situation. Instantly, people look down or say, “Oh—“ and trail off…this is always a bad sign, because most of us don’t ever know when to stop talking – so, if people know they should shut up, it’s gotta be trouble.

Prove them wrong

This isn’t as easy or as difficult as it sounds. Of course, what do I know, since I haven’t actually started my long-distance effort yet? Still, I feel that AH (almost husband) and I have a going for us. AH’s university program is flexible enough to provide him with ample visiting time; if we were so compelled, we feasibly could meet every week for a few days.

However, I want to be realistic going into this: every week probably won’t happen. For one thing, it will be crucial for each of us to develop social support networks at our schools, since we are leaving friends and family back in the US. Without friends to lean on when the water gets choppy, we probably won’t survive beyond the second term. If he is constantly at Cambridge, he’ll never have the chance to bond with his Oxford brethren – and I just don’t think a statistician is going to be happy hanging around a bunch of geographers all the time.

Beyond that, this is graduate school: our lives are bound to spiral into a cycle of papers, talks, and seminars that leave us breathless and exhausted. There will be weeks when I can’t get out of the library, or when he can’t escape from his lab. Fortunately, I think we’ll be too swamped to feel neglected (a bonus, actually: since I won’t be at Oxford, I can’t get jealous of how much time he spends at work instead of with me – because I can’t expect him to be at Cambridge every day).

There are ways for us to survive this, although I know I won’t always be able to think with such clarity. I’m barely mature enough to say something like that and believe it when I’m confronting a situation – I still haven’t reached the point where I can keep believing it in the midst of a situation (which is why I’ll have email so other people can remind me that everything will be okay). But still – we’ll have the internet, the phones, the mobiles, and a dozen other forms of communication that other generations didn’t get to use. We’ll make a promise to call each other at least once per day. I’ll send packages, love letters, and increase the frequency of my “just because” notes.

In the long run, what’s three years compared to several decades together? Military families do this all the time; so do pilots, fishermen, and a lot of other people. We have five months to think this through before we leave, and though we can’t plan for everything, we should be able to hit the ground running.

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