Are These Feelings Normal When in a Long Distance Relationship?

Dear Deb,

My boyfriend and I have been in a relationship for 7 months, but he is visiting his dad in Minnesota. This is his first serious relationship and my second. Things were great before he left, but now I think my feelings have changed.

At first when he was gone it was horrible, I was on the verge of crying all the time and didn’t wanna do anything. I felt empty and lifeless. He calls almost everyday. We’re trying really hard to make it work out. But i’m not sure if the feelings I have for him are anything more than friendship.

I still miss him, but the idea of being single sounds kinda nice. I don’t know if I love him the way I thought I once did. I’ve been finding other guys more attractive. I actually had a dream about another guy the other night (not a sex dream, but a romantic kinda dream). I don’t wanna hurt him, the idea of it makes me sick.

I just don’t know if it’s fair that he loves me so much and I don’t know if I feel the same way. He’s so committed to making everything work out. It seems like my mind is kinda playing a trick on me though. I feel sick when I think about hurting him, and I can’t bring myself to talk to him about it because it might hurt him. Every night i find myself waiting for him to call.

It’s like my body loves and misses him terribly but my mind isn’t so sure. He loves me so much, always trying to do whatever he can to make sure I’m happy. He sends letters and gifts. He’s so perfect; I don’t know why I feel this way. I have no idea what I should do. Break up with him or wait out the summer? Or are these feelings normal when in a long distance relationship?

Any advice you can give me would be appreciated.

Sincerely,

Confused

Dear Confused,

long-distance-relationship

Those are pretty common emotions to go through in a long-distance relationship. People can be “perfect for one another”, but that chemistry doesn’t work very well when you don’t ever see one another. He’s not there and you’re feeling lonely, so it’s natural to be looking around at other guys. Your mind is playing tricks on you, because your life probably seems like it did back when you were single. You don’t have a guy around, so you start to notice other guys.

I’m assuming the two of you are pretty young, so I imagine “losing a summer” where your friends are going out with boys and having a good time seems like quite a sacrifice. You have a long life ahead of you, though, so don’t necessarily let a temporary separation cause you to call it off with a guy you have a good relationship with. In a little bit of no time, he’ll be back in town and you can enjoy life together once again. You’re lucky, because this isn’t a permanent long distance relationship, but a temporary situation.

Having already been in one serious relationship, you’re probably assuming you have a little more perspective on “love” and “serious relationships” than your boyfriend does, since this is your first. You’ve seen one come and go, and you probably don’t want to put your boyfriend through an awful experience similar to the one you’ve already been through. That shows you are a caring person who doesn’t want to do your guy wrong. Of course, that can’t be the only reason or even the main reason you stay in a relationship, because it won’t be good for anyone if you aren’t committed to the relationship. So you have to weigh all the factors and decide what is best for you: once that decision is made, you have to weigh all the factors and decide what is best for your boyfriend.

You have two options that a loving girlfriend has. One, you can stay together and gut it out through the summer, hoping it’s as great as you remember when he returns to you. If that’s the case, never say anything of your doubts, because that will hurt your boyfriend’s feelings and possibly cause jealousy issues that could damage the relationship.

Two, you can decide you don’t love your boyfriend like you thought you did, and you can break up with him in order to spend time meeting other guys this summer. In that case, be as honest and upfront as possible, while understanding that he’s going to feel hurt and perhaps even anger. If this is his first time in a serious relationship, then it’s going to hit him particularly hard, just as I’m sure it did you.

As you’re probably starting to figure out, serious relationships can be awfully complicated and confusing. Sometimes “being serious” sounds like the best thing in the world; sometimes, being serious can be terribly inconvenient.

There are trade-offs for everything we do in life. No matter what you do, you could always be another place doing something different, having different experiences. As we get older, we learn a little bit better (if we’re lucky) what it is we want and need in life, so those choices can become a little easier. But by going in one direction, you choose not to go in a number of other directions. By choosing any one boyfriend, you choose not to be with any number of other potential boyfriends.

As they say, you can’t have everything in life. Trouble generally starts when you try to have everything. In this case, it’s going out with other guys this summer while your boyfriend is out of town, while hoping that your serious relationship will go back to the way it was when he returns. Eventually, he’ll learn what happened and you’ll realise that you really can’t have everything in life.

That’s a theoretical situation, of course, and I don’t want to imply that’s what you are considering. My point is, you have a choice to make. You’re in the same situation and feeling the same emotions that generations of young men and women have experienced. Separation and longing are timeless, while restlessness brought on by loneliness is just as timeless. That’s where the term “restless heart” came from. You’re feeling restless, because you’re separated from your boyfriend and lonely. There are other attractive guys around everywhere, so it seems like it might be better to just find another guy.

No matter what people tell you, people who are happily in a serious relationship are still going to find other people they meet attractive. Attraction doesn’t stop simply because you “find someone”. On the contrary, you decide to ignore that attraction because of the rewards that the relationship brings and your love for your boyfriend or girlfriend. So don’t kick yourself or think your strange for feeling attraction for other men you meet. That’s natural. What you do with those feelings is what’s important?

So, Confused, you have a decision to make. I can’t make it for you. You’ll have to search your heart and decide whether you love your boyfriend and want to stay with him despite the separation, or whether you would prefer to enjoy a summer with friends and other guys. In either case, be honest with yourself and understanding towards the feelings of your boyfriend. If you decide to break up, tell him your honest feelings. If you decide to stay with him, don’t torment him by telling him you’ve had your doubts. Make a decision and stick with the consequences of it.

If you do decide to stay with your boyfriend, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun this summer. Don’t stay home every night and lock yourself away from the world. You’re young and your summer should be carefree and fun. You don’t have to have a guy on your arm to enjoy time with your friends. Heck, you can have guys around without giving into temptation. There’s nothing wrong with a little flirtation, as long as you don’t do anything that’s going to hurt your serious boyfriend’s feelings. Assume whatever is said and done will get back to him, because it almost always does.

Long distance relationships stink. I’ve been in them before and they can be torture for both people. Consider that both of you are going through the torture together, so that’s a shared experience the two of you have, even if you aren’t together. But the two of you are real lucky, because your long-distance romance won’t be long distance for long. You’ll be back in one another’s arms next month.

My Best Regards,

John Clifton