Love on an even keel
Having been in a long distance relationship for seven years and now having lived with that person for an additional seven years, I think I’m at least a little bit qualified to talk about the transition between a long-distance relationship and just a normal relationship.
I’ve shared my advice for surviving the distance. I’ve written quite a lot about married life and living with your partner. But what about the in between time? What about those first few days/weeks/months when you’re suddenly together for good? The time that is supposed to be so amazing and special and wonderful? The moment you’ve waited for, you’ve counted down the days until? That period of time has so very much riding on it. It’s all you’ve been dreaming of and suddenly it’s here. You’ve moved your whole life to be with him. Or he’s moved to be with you. There, here, wherever. You’re together.
The next morning you wake up and he goes to work. You catch up on emails, take a walk around your new neighborhood and then set out to make an elaborate dinner because you’ve got plenty of time. You get dolled up before he gets home because this is Life Together and you want him to think you look like this all the time. He comes home and very much enjoys the Boeuf Bourguignon. Then he crosses over to the sofa and turns on an episode of The Simpsons he’s seen no less than five times before. You curl up next to him, his arm around you. This is what you said you wanted. This is what you couldn’t wait for.
Finally, there is no rush. No pressure. No time limit. You have years in front of you. You are living a life together.
So, why does Life Together suddenly not feel so great?
When you were in a long-distance relationship, every visit was like a vacation. You bought new outfits and planned all your beauty appointments with military precision. You took time off from your job. You were so excited to see him and practically passed out from giddiness as you waited to throw your arms around him. You spend the visit eating at nice restaurants, drinking far too much, and sleeping in. You were mostly in a blissful cocoon of coupledom for whatever length of time you had together.
There was pressure to make the visits wonderful. There were time limits. You couldn’t help but feel rushed, knowing you’d have to say goodbye again.
But those bits are easy to forget.
Now you are finally together-together and it seems like all those visits are a distant memory. You’re not used to having an early night because you both have to work in the morning. You didn’t really think about the day-to-day: the bills, the grocery shopping, the evenings spent in front of the TV or behind computer screens, the bickering over whose turn it is to wash the dishes. Where are the fancy restaurants? Does he really need to go into the office every day? Should you even bother shaving your legs?
The build-up, all the waiting, the intense hoping and wishing…it set you up for a major comedown.
The even keel
I’ve been there. So many of my friends and fellow expats have too. It’s an adjustment you don’t prepare yourself for. Even if friends and family warn you of this comedown, you think to yourself, no, not me. Everything will be perfect if we can just be together for good.
You have to go through it. Maybe your circumstances are different and the comedown will sneak up on you a few weeks later. Maybe months. Perhaps it will manifest itself in other ways. But when it gets a hold of you and settles in your heart, you’ll know what I mean.
Share it with him. Talk about it early on and then try your hardest not to bring it up every time you argue. Let go of Life Before and finally, finally, Life Together can begin. You’ll discover you’ve got time for all those things you thought you were missing and so, so, so much more. Nobody’s going anywhere.
When we were apart, we’d get frustrated with having to talk on the phone or write emails. We didn’t want to speak or write or text. We were tired of it. We wanted to be able to sit next to each other and say nothing at all. We would have done anything to simply just be with one another. So, I tried to remember that whenever I was feeling antsy, whenever I was looking back instead of forward. There is joy in being on an even keel. There is power in just being.