What makes a relationship bad?
For 3 years I had been seeing a guy on the west coast. On the surface it doesn’t seem unusual, there are plenty of single guys on the west coast. But you see I live on the east coast, so this clearly had an impact on how much time we were physically together. One benefit was our careers were similar so we would coordinate our travel to be in the same cities, but on average it only happened about every other month.
However with today’s advanced technology — text, instant messenger, and video calls; we were never out of touch. Sitting at our desks, 2500 miles apart, we were always in constant communication. I knew his agenda for the day, as he knew mine. We would try our best to coordinate our busy and free times to optimize our available time together. To make matters even better, at least once every week we made sure we planned a date night. This meant we would cook the same meal together, drink the same wine and then watch the same movie or game on TV; all while on a video call. A bit unconventional but we made it work for us.
All in all the distance didn’t seem to have adverse effects on us, but actually forced us to communicate which made us stronger. We couldn’t take for granted the other person was going to be there each day. We had to communicate our schedule, and make arrangements and compromises to make time for each other. It was our commitment to making the relationship work. Of course any long distance relationship has it inconveniences. If I had a bad day and needed his arms around me, I had to settle for a video call while he listened but only held me with his eyes.
My best girlfriend however was struggling to understand how our relationship could possibly work. At first she was supportive, but as months turned into years she became more vocal about how rarely seeing him could possibly be enough for me. Don’t you want to crawl into bed with him every night? Of course I would, but our lives are complicated. She would continue pressing — well you need to figure something out. You can’t stay in this dating mode from coast to coast forever. What happens if it doesn’t work out, then you’ve wasted 3 years with him?
It just wasn’t as simple as she made it seem. He had a consulting business on the west coast. I had kids with shared custody and a job on the east. Plus we both had been married twice before. Did I really want the next step? I mean that involves shared finances and living spaces. I had cats and kids and he had dogs. Was I really ready to involve my kids in this relationship? And who moves? It was just complicated!
I tried my best to explain this to her and that I was happy with the arrangement. At least for now until my youngest graduated from high school in 4 years. She still insisted that he should move here and then we could move back to California later if we wanted. But I would never ask him to give up his home and tennis league. Sure he could manage his business from here even though most of his accounts were in the west, but Southern Cal was his life. He had never lived anywhere else.
Every time I saw her she would insist if we were as good as I claimed it was time for us to take the next step. As best as I could I held my ground, I was happy and he seemed to be happy too. But she wouldn’t let it go; continually nagging that it couldn’t work.
Eventually, I started doubting my relationship too. Were we as happy as I thought or just content? I began to question when he was late calling. During a particularly busy week I would wonder if he was truly busy or looking for a reason not to spend time with me? Naturally me looking for problems, started to cause real problems between us. Tension built. We stated to snap at each other when in the past we would have been much more understanding.
Finally, I mentioned the issues to my friend. To my astonishment she was delighted with the news. She knew it! She just couldn’t believe it lasted as long as it did. She kept going on and on about how she knew all along it couldn’t work. There was no way a relationship could work across 2500 miles when you only saw each other every other month. If someone she were dating wouldn’t spend at least 75% of his time with her, then they weren’t dedicated to the relationship so she would call it off.
I was shocked at her rational. Being in someone’s physical presence didn’t mean you were committed. It takes more than just showing up to mean you love someone. I had experienced one of those marriages. They are horrible and very lonely. Love comes from sharing, compassion, understanding, communication, support and caring. It comes from dedication and commitment and a true wanting to spend quality time with each other. But what hurt the most is that she wasn’t concerned if I was upset or hurting over the problems, only reveling in an “I told you so” manner.
This all came about during a very tough time in my life. I had just taken a new job in a city 2 hours away which meant a commute, plus I was away from my family during the week. To make the commute a bit easier, I decided to put our home on the market and move 30 minutes closer to my new job and around the corner from my mother. It took us months to pack the house because I only had the weekends. In all of this she never stopped by or offered to help with anything, instead she was pouting because I was moving 30 minutes away.
Her attitude made me really start to reflect on some things that had happened between us. She was always around in times of emergencies, like when my son had a motorcycle accident and when my brother’s wife suddenly died. However she also became upset with me because I wouldn’t go with her to an engagement party on the same night of the funeral; all because she didn’t want to go alone. Also she was very wounded when I didn’t buy the summer concert series of 10 tickets because of my new job, like we had done the prior 2 years. I tried explaining I only had the weekends with my kids and didn’t feel right about spending 10 of those summer weekend days at a concert instead of with them.
I began to realize it was always about what she needed and wanted, without caring what was best for me. If she didn’t get her way she because angry and pouted, like over the concert tickets and engagement party. But she also was pouting over me taking a new job, which caused me to move. And her way of dealing with it was avoiding me when I needed her assistance the most in helping pack my house. We had been very close for many years, but in analyzing everything that had happened it didn’t seem the relationship was very balanced.
I also came to believe she was secretly bitter that my long distance relationship was functioning just fine. Her feelings were really about her relationships not working, because she continued to churn through local guys,. So she was determined mine wouldn’t either.
Once I began to realize how she was sabotaging my relationship, I could sort through the facts and doubts. Our strength came from our bond and compassion and love for each other. Although he was 2500 miles away, he was always very present and supportive in every aspect of my life. And above all he made me happy.
I never confronted her about her feelings. In looking back I don’t think it would have made a difference. Plus it would have been a stressful situation within itself. The truth was the friendship was unbalanced and unhealthy for me. I just hadn’t noticed it over the years when things would happen in small isolated instances. Time and distance made it easy to just let the friendship fall apart. Besides she was still pouting over me moving 30 minutes away anyway.
Even now there are times that I do sometimes miss her. She was my best friend for several years and we shared a lot of fun times together. But I still know it was the right decision. Any relationship with a friend, family member, co-worker or lover; should be supportive and nurturing on both sides. When they are out of balance, someone is picking up undue stress from the other draining side. Just be honest to yourself when evaluating them. As long as it is fulfilling you and you are nurturing them, then let it progress. Keep in mind just because it’s an unconventional relationship does that it mean it is a bad one. Equally if it appears to be “normal” that doesn’t automatically mean it is good.
I’m also happy to report my relationship with my west coast beau is now 6 years strong.
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