She Travels-He Waits
Q: I have been seeing my girlfriend, a musician, for six months. It seems like we were destined for each other to the extent that she finished up with her ex-boyfriend of 4 years (also a musician) to be with me. They did have issues and had been on a break for a bit but got back together before she realized she couldn't stop thinking of me. Now she's taking a job which is essential for her career: touring with a show around the country. She doesn't know if things can work with us and if it would be fair on me her being away all the time. She says she was in the exact same situation with her ex, which is what culminated in them splitting. She will be back for a day or two most weekends and the show is only eight months long. I have suggested cooling things off and seeing her every time she is back and to just see what happens. She has agreed. I am a believer if it's meant to be, the bond will grow when we are apart and we will make it work. If not we will go our own ways. Do you think it can work? If so, what should we discuss about it? -- Robert, 26
Dr. Susan: Sure, it can work, but no, it's not "meant to be." Not at all. If a relationship is going to survive and thrive while the partners are apart for long periods of time, they both have to be mature, patient, and very committed. When I was writing Loving in Flow about super happy marriages, I interviewed one couple, married for a very long time, who had to get through a period such as yours early in their relationship. They were already married at the time. She was a professional dancer who spent a lot of time doing shows that kept her out late, in a highly stimulating environment, around people who found her attractive, and she admitted that the temptations to stray were great. Since she was gone so much, her husband also had to figure out how to cope without her.
If you and your girlfriend want to make a go of this, consider how you're going to keep in touch during the week. Will you touch base every day by phone? Or does that not fit your plan to "cool it"? Also, find out in more detail why her previous long relationship wasn't able to survive the pressures. How will you maintain your commitment to being faithful when she's gone so much? Do you have strong intimacy and companionship needs that will be frustrated? Does she? You say the show is only eight months long, but it's not the last show she'll be involved with. While in some ways it makes sense to just "see what happens," in my experience, what does happen is that daily life and other potential partners get in the way of building a bond when the two of you aren't in close and frequent proximity. Without the commitment, which neither of you are ready to make, this is going to be quite a challenge. Of course, you have nothing to lose by trying, and you both may learn more about what you really need and want.
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.