I write this from a borrowed and very slow laptop at my mother’s house (in the lovely Napier, New Zealand), while my engineer emails me from his hotel in Kuala Belait, Brunei, the day before his first day at a new job and a new life.
This is a situation we knew we’d be in, and that we planned for, but is still far from ideal. He is missing having someone to explore with. I am missing having someone to hang out with. We are missing each other, and missing our life together. And we’re only four days in…
We have done the long distance thing before. Twice in fact. Once while I worked in the Netherlands (in 2009) and he waited for my work portion to be over before travelling to meet me. (Pretty similar to now, I suppose). The other in 2007 where I worked in Palmerston North and he finished his studies in Wellington. (Quite different to now). The three situations were all different, but had one key thing in common: they all kinda sucked.
Sure there were good things. My time in the Netherlands was amazing, and my year in Palmerston North was one of my favourites in many ways. But the relationship side of things: not so hot.
The main issue for us has always been finding a good way to communicate. Skype is good, a good phone line is good. But we’ve never had these reliably available. So we’ve always been making do with scratchy phone lines, dodgy skype connections, and instant messages.
Instant messages would actually be great for me. I type quickly, and am good at tracking multiple conversations. But the engineer is not such a fast typist, nor such a good multi tasker. So he gets frustrated with my overload of messages; I get frustrated with the lack of quick response. I spend the space between messages thinking of more and sending more; he gets more frustrated. It’s a vicious cycle.
What would be great is if at this point I could turn the post around. Transform it into a nifty list of ways to deal with long distance, or with communication struggles. Unfortunately, we haven’t really found anything that works well.
But there is an upside. We both know that we’d rather have this not-so-great communication than not talk to each other at all. And we both know that this will be over at some stage (even if we’re not entirely sure when). And as long as we keep reminding ourselves of this, we both know we’ll get past it.
In the meantime, we’ll sulk a little bit, get a bit annoyed, and find people to commiserate with. We probably won’t drown our sorrows (he’s now in a dry country, I don’t really drink), but we’ll find other ways to treat ourselves. We’ll keep our contact sensible, and both try our best to enjoy the places we’re in now, rather than just waiting and wishing for what the future holds. It won’t be easy, but as experience has shown, we can do it!
Has anyone else out there done the long distance thing? Any tips or tricks? What got you through?