My long distance relationship is taking all my time

Dear Lisa,

I haven’t been in a serious relationship in a few years and recently started dating someone. She lives in a different city (about an hour or 1.5 hrs apart) and we’ve been spending about 3 days a week together. Basically, I feel like this is too much time, or at least more than I want right now, because when we’re together we don’t get anything done other than spending time with each other (I’m a student).

I want to tell her I don’t need to see her as much as she needs to see me. I want to make it clear that I want to stay together but see less of her, but how I put that in a delicate non-hurtful way?

–Weekend Visitor (♂ Nelson)


Dear Weekend Visitor,

You’ve just named one of the most challenging parts of long distance relationships – skipping the dating & courting phase when you’re apart and going right to living together when you’re not. Very few couples can withstand spending three days straight together every single week; unless done with incredible awareness for the dynamics of the relationship, it chokes out the mystery, the attraction and eventually the chemistry.

To deal with the overwhelm, you could talk to her about it, but you don’t necessarily have to. She might be feeling this need to spend all sorts of time with you because she isn’t getting the attention she wants when you are together, even though you spend lots of time in each others company. Quality over quantity when it comes to attention. Here are some of my thoughts…

To help preserve your relationship, you need to be the one to take charge and set up some boundaries around your school/work/purpose. To do that, you can’t be putting her before them. Let’s lay down some ground rules:

  1. Stop any long, drawn-out conversations you have during the week – that means that you don’t carry on text conversations, spend long periods of time on the phone unless it’s planned or email each other very often. You can send her sweet texts or messages to remind her you care, or to flirt, but no conversations. An awesome way to connect is to start a conversation via snail mail, and keep it going. It’s romantic and it creates anticipation.
  2. Do not spend more than one night and one day together in a row per week. You have homework, a social life, family, and your own personal relationship with yourself. Resentment will build if you neglect these things and it will not be her fault.
  3. Do not have more than 2 dates per week – one of those will be in person, and one of those will be some other creative adventure (more on that in a moment) And once per month, don’t see her overnight on the weekend.
  4. Once per three months you need to get away together – go camping, stay in an airbnb, borrow a friends place who’s away, whatever it is, you have to be out of both of your territory. This is time where you are totally focused on deepening your understanding and love of each other – no homework, no work, no cell phones, no computer, no movies.

With respect to communicating this change to her, I recommend that you don’t approach it from the perspective that seeing her for too long, too often is the problem. The next time you’re together (this way she can feel that you aren’t pulling away from her), tell her that you think it would be more romantic for you as a couple if you vary the ways you spend time together, and tell her you have a plan. When she asks what it is, tell her that it’s a surprise and she’ll have to wait.

Here’s one way to execute the plan: at the end of the weekend, ask her if she’s busy on say, Wednesday or Thursday. If she’s not, tell her to meet you on video skype with her supper in hand at 6:30pm (or whatever) If she doesn’t have video skype, now would be a good time to bust out the camera you bought for her computer. Minimal communication until then.

Then, that night, you sit and have dinner together. Have some tea lights set out, and treat it like you are out to dinner. Ask her about her day, ask her questions to get her to tell you how she’s feeling, her deeper thoughts, her hopes, fears… whatever. Share yours. After dinner, ask her if she’d like to move the conversation to the couch, blah blah. Go as far as she’s comfortable, making it fun and cute. But end it by 8:30pm. And before you go, ask her for your weekend date. Tell her first that you have so much to do for school that you don’t have a lot of time for the weekend, but you want to make sure you see her, then make the plan for the one night, one day date. I’m sure you get the feeling I’m trying to put across here: absence makes the heart grow fonder.

The point is, there is nothing wrong with her wanting to see you… the problem is that you can’t resist it or you feel obligated to oblige her, and you resent that. You need to resist it. You feel what it feels like to put your purpose first, and her a close second. Both of you will feel more stable and secure in the relationship, I guarantee it. For more on long distance date ideas, check out this post and for more about the long distance dynamic in general, check out this article.

I’d love to hear how it goes!

– Lisa



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