Long distance relationship — solo pastimes while we're apart?

Originally Published: January 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 22, 2011
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Oh Alice...

I am a grad student in a two-year Masters program here (first year) who is suffering from great amounts of love-sickness. My boyfriend of 3 years is continuing work on his Masters at our undergrad institution on the west coast. We talk over email and on the phone, and will see each other spring break, but it's so hard!!! I don't suppose you'd have any suggestions for helping pass away the time? Once the semester gets moving and I have work it's easier, but now, having just left his arms, I am missing him like crazy.

It's worse at night, when I'm used to having him next to me. I know the time will go fast, and soon we will be together again, but I'm worried because the potential to sit and brood about how much I miss him is so high. I really love this guy and vice versa. We've talked about it. In fact, I wouldn't be writing you except for he's in class for the moment and I'm just sitting here trying to figure out what to do for this three day weekend.

—Sigh.

Dear Sigh,

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but no one ever told us what to do about the loneliness that can follow. Luckily, the fact that you have been together for three years can lessen the element of doubt that may occur in long distance relationships. Also, as you said, once you become busier as the semester gets underway, it will get easier to be apart. Although every relationship is different, many other couples feel that it's always worse in the beginning, but will ease up as the time passes.  

One way to cheer yourself up may be to think about this period as a time to explore things you haven't had time or inclination to in the last three years. Often in a relationship, we are so busy managing and working on being a couple that we forget what it's like to do things by and for ourselves. Your curiosities, desires, and hobbies can often accidentally fall by the wayside or become neglected as you make a place for another person to be such a big part of your life. Luckily, you live in New York City, which is filled with endless opportunities to fulfill those curiosities while simultaneously taking your mind off of missing him. You could try visiting a museum, seeing a movie or show that your boyfriend would not like, and making new friends as an individual rather than as part of a couple.

If you get hungry (and not just for his companionship), you may want to try a new restaurant, or maybe even take up cooking as a hobby. If cooking isn't exactly your cup of tea, there are lots of other hobbies out there for you to try. Is there a sport you've always wanted to take up? Are you feeling creative and want to take up knitting, crocheting or maybe even pottery? You can use your imagination in all sorts of ways to come up with something interesting and fun to do. The more new things you do, the more you'll have to talk about and share with your boyfriend next time you see him.

As for late at night, how about a stuffed animal? If that feels too silly, try talking to him on the phone before you go to sleep, writing a letter or email to him as your last activity of the day, or writing in a journal. Looking at pictures of the two of you together or reading old emails, cards and letters every once in a while might also make you feel closer to him emotionally, even if he's still physically far, far away. Making sure the lines of communication stay open by talking frequently and always being honest with one another can also play a major role in bridging the distance.

You can make it through this period (there was life before your boyfriend, wasn't there?). Go easy on yourself, utilize the support of good friends, and treat yourself right. If you feel like you can't seem to cheer up anytime soon, feel free to call Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) at Columbia, x4-2878, to set up an appointment with a counselor who can work with you to make sure you feel better. Good luck going the (long) distance!

Alice

April 23, 2004

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Alice, I'm commenting on a really old letter that I happened to come across. Maybe Alice got better since 1994, but it made me so mad in LONG DISTANCE LOVERS that you would advise this girl to just...
Alice, I'm commenting on a really old letter that I happened to come across. Maybe Alice got better since 1994, but it made me so mad in LONG DISTANCE LOVERS that you would advise this girl to just get out and try new things. Do you have any idea how much money I would spend if I just went out on the town to new museums or malls every time I missed my long distance boyfriend?? That's complete bullshit. I've gotten much better advice than that. Send him fun packages, e-mail pictures to each other, plan fun events to do when you are together. She didn't want advice to FORGET about her boyfriend. She wanted to know how to get through the hard times. She does have a life.