This week, “Need Help Communicating” writes that her boyfriend (an exchange student at her university) moved back home three weeks ago. Everything’s changed, and suddenly their conversations don’t feel easy or interesting anymore… [And, hey, don’t miss the PRE-LAUNCH DEAL below on The Long Distance Dating Blueprint!!]
Could you give me some advice?
I had a crush on an exchange student at my university for ages, but I wasn’t planning on making a move because I knew he would be going home and I didn’t want to do a long distance relationship. I was mostly content with daydreaming about him, but then in April he asked me to date him!
The first thing I told him when he asked me out wasn’t yes or no, it was “but you’re going away.” So we sat down and had a long talk. In the end I felt like if I said no, I would regret it.
So I said yes, and we’ve lived happily for 3 months. They were the most amazing months! So many unexpected things happened, so many new experiences. He seems like exactly what I want in a man. He kept surprising me with his maturity, and I felt very secure and so happy.
So, 3 weeks ago (yes, only 3 weeks and here I am!) he went back to his country. We already have two visits planned.
But the thing is, while we always had something to talk about when we were together, now I just don’t find most of our conversations interesting. I’m a person who doesn’t do small talk, but with him I’ve been doing it just to keep in touch and it doesn’t make me feel any good.
Also, every time we come up with an actually interesting and exciting topic, he usually suggests that we save it for when we’re together. I agree that it would be much more fun to talk about it when we’re together, but that leaves no real substance for our distance communication.
I feel bad because I’m raising issues only 3 weeks after he went away, but I really want to improve our communication when we’re apart!
And I’m scared that it’s only been 3 weeks and we feel so far apart from each other (and I don’t just mean in miles). I really don’t want to break up, but I don’t know if this can work.
What should I do?
“Need Help Communicating”
Oh, it’s hard to go from being together during those super-happy super-charged, early days of new love… to being far apart. In fact, it’s super-hard!
Don’t feel bad for showing up here and asking for advice only three weeks into the start of long distance. That’s smart. It shows you are paying attention. You know yourself and what you want in a relationship. You know how important communication is, and you want to establish good patterns.
Only you can decide what to do, but I can share some thoughts. Here are my three pieces of advice:
1. Don’t break up yet
Don’t throw up your hands and decide it can’t work just yet! Take a deep breath and hang in there for a while before you decide to end anything.
You’ve just faced your first big challenge in this relationship. In fact, in a single day you went from “together all the time” to “long distance” and entered a completely different phase of your relationship.
That means you need to learn how to be ‘together’ in new and different ways, too. And that takes a good while longer than a single day.
So remember that this is a time of change–of stretching, adjusting, and learning new ways to connect. Be patient, and don’t rush into any decisions. There’s no guarantee that this will work long term, but give yourself (and him) time to find a new groove.
2. Stop saving the interesting and exciting topics for when you’re together!
Your relationship is not just about being together in person anymore. It’s about learning more about each other and connecting well even when you’re not physically together. And if you’re going to do that, you need to start talking about the “interesting and exciting stuff” long distance.
I’m not saying you can’t ever save something for when you’re together, but don’t make a habit of it.
When my husband, Mike, and I were long distance, we kept a running list of things we wanted to talk about. We called it the rolodex, and we would literally write these things down on a list we carried with us.
Some of the topics we added to the rolodex popped up in conversation and we wrote them down because we knew we wanted to talk about them but we didn’t have time or energy right then and there.
Other questions or topics got added to the list because we thought about them separately.
There were a couple of topics or questions on that list we decided to save for when we were together, but not many. Mostly we used the list two to three times a week when we had longer skype dates—times when we were talking and we knew we had at least an hour or two to have an unhurried conversation.
3. Find some resources to help you dig deeper and get to know each other better
Let’s not kid ourselves, it is harder to come up with new and interesting things to talk about when you’re not together. It’s harder to communicate well. Things just don’t come as naturally. Misunderstandings and frustrations crop up more frequently.
So consider getting some extra tools to help you tackle these distance-related challenges.
I have two resources that I think could really help you out.
The first is a book I wrote a couple of years ago with my husband, Mike, called 401 Great Discussion Questions For Couples In Long Distance Relationships. This is a collection of questions we discussed when we were in a LDR, plus lots of extras. It’s a great resource to dip into to help avoid the dreaded small talk and find out new things about your partner.
The second is my next book that is officially launching in seven days: The Long Distance Dating Blueprint: A 12-week series of fun dates for couples in long distance relationships.
This guide walks you through a new topic together every week for 12 weeks. Each week involves a couple of pages of reading, a “task,” and a bunch of on-topic discussion questions for a weekly “long distance date.”
This guide is designed to help you get to know yourself and your partner better, learn to connect and communicate more effectively, and have fun across the miles in new and fresh ways.
While I was writing it, I also put my “psychologist” hat on and incorporated some core elements of positive psychology activities that have been demonstrated to improve personal happiness and wellbeing.
Pre-Launch Special Deal
I’m so excited to get this guide out there next week. I’m excited not just because this project has been five years in the making (!!) but because I really believe that this is my best resource yet for couples in exactly your situation. You want it to work. You want to learn how to connect well across the miles. You want your relationship to keep growing while you’re apart. I’m excited, because I know this book & the bonus journal can help you do exactly that.
In fact, I’m so excited that I have it all up and ready to go THIS week. So, NFC, I’ve sent you a free copy as an encouragement gift (check your email). And for others who are reading this on the blog, I’ve got a pre-launch special deal for you!
PRE-LAUNCH DEALThis week only, buy the GREAT DATES BUNDLE and enter the code PRELAUNCH at checkout to get both those books I mentioned (401 Discussion Questions & The Long Distance Dating Blueprint, plus the Journal and other bonus files) for only 8.99 (that’s $5 off the bundle price and more than 50% off their individual prices). This is cheaper than even the special launch price will be next week, so if you want these books, grab them now.
NHC, I really hope the next 3 weeks feel a lot better than the last 3! Hang in there, adjusting to being long distance is hard work, but you can come out of this phase closer and stronger than ever. That’s what I’m hoping for you!
All the best,
PS, Just so there’s no confusion, here are two ways you can access the pre-launch special:
- Go to this page to check out the books and decide if they’re your cup of tea
- Click the BUY NOW Button
- Click the little “Got A Code” link on the checkout page that will pop up and enter PRELAUNCH