Being away from your partner is what makes long-distance so hard on a day-to-day basis. Finding ways to cope with being away from each other is a huge part of making the distance work. (4/6. Link to the intro and other parts here.)
The Big Sad
This phrase refers to the gaping emptiness you feel anytime you let yourself be sad about being apart for a second too long. It spreads rapidly from the middle of your chest outward, like a dim flame burning a hole through paper. It physically makes you clutch your chest, wrap your arms around yourself, curl up knees to chest, and hits worst at night.
Coping with the distance is all keeping the Big Sad from taking total control and finding means of support. It’s not just important to keep yourself from crying 24/7 (been there), but the Big Sad can take over in other ways, like making you easily irritable and frustrated. And quickly, those can surface in your relationships (and not just with your partner). Here’s some ways I’ve dealt with the Big Sad. Note that not all attempts are successful. (In fact, sometimes they accidentally trigger the Big Sad instead. Oops.)
Let your partner have some of your stuff and steal some of their stuff. Having Jas’ things kept at my house really brings a sense of her into my spaces even when she’s gone. This has been pretty easy for us because both Jas and I always overpack and are then forced to leave things behind in order to fit the food we want to bring back home. We tell each other to donate the stuff we leave behind, but neither of us ever do.
Even before Jas and I met in person, I mailed Jas an old high school track hoodie of mine for her to have and wear. In high school, it was a big deal for girls to wear their boyfriends’ sports hoodies because the sweatshirts had the players’ last names on the back. As a lesbian, I never took part in the tradition until sending one of my own to Jas in 2015. She’s worn and washed it so often in the past four years that the lettering of my own last name has since fallen off.
When I left Jas in 2016, she let me take a high school sweatshirt of hers with me. The hoodie’s arms are a little too short for comfort, so I rarely wear it. But the hoodie lays waded up next to my pillow every single night. Even now, three years later. Even when I’m not sleeping in my own bed, the sweatshirt gets stuffed into an overnight bag and makes the trip with me.
Jas and I like to take instant photos and pictures with throwaway cameras. With both string up the photos in our bedrooms, which I find brings more comfort than looking through photo albums on my phone. When I do nothing but scroll through my camera roll photos with Jas, it just makes me more sad and achy. Having the physical pictures as a glancing-reminder is less likely to accidentally induce the Big Sad. With the throwaway cameras, I develop the film at home and use the physical photos as more things to send her in snail mail form, one photo at a time.
You need to get a hobby. This is not a sarcastic joke, this is the actual pearl of my wisdom, so take notes. Not only are hobbies a good way to have a sense of fulfillment (or at least that’s how it works on Sims), but they also work wonders at distracting from the Big Sad.
Being alone is the hardest for me when I’m away from Jas because it gets me thinking about how much I miss her, and how when we’re together that I’m never alone. But it’s hard because I actually value my alone time very much as an introvert. So, I choose to be alone constantly, and yet that only triggers the Big Sad. So instead of wallowing, I have really tried to push myself to enjoy my alone time by taking up a number of hobbies, stay distracted from the Big Sad type of lonely, and continue to learn and improve myself.
I really don’t take this section lightly. Since dating Jas, I have taken up or delved back into the following hobbies: Blogging, reading, bullet journaling, coloring, crocheting, gardening, Duolingo, writing that isn’t blogging, video editing, photo editing, taking photos, graphic design, puzzles, drawing, scrapbooking, gif making, biking, yoga, etc. While this is not exactly how Jas copes, I for one love rotating my hobbies and becoming obsessed with perfecting my skills and levelling up in abilities.
I do truly give this hobby advice to people, but now that I’m actually typing this out, probably try to like, have a healthy relationship with your hobbies and just let yourself relax too. I’ve never had a proper bad addiction in my life, so I will likely be sticking to my hobbies in a way that borders on an unhealthy obsession, but I don’t necessarily recommend my exact approach.
Prepping for a Goodbye
Without a doubt, saying goodbye is the hardest part of LDRs and the days afterward can be some of the most difficult. Just about everything triggers the Big Sad. Therefore, here is a few of things Jas and I have done leading up to our goodbye that both triggered the Big Sad but almost in a good way.
Notes on Phones
Most times we’ve visited each other, Jas leaves a few notes in my phone’s Notes app that I don’t discover until weeks or even months later. Sometimes it’s just an “I love you beautiful” or a more detailed note reminding me of what we did that day. Both kinds of notes make me smile and cry.
Jas also takes my phone and loads up the camera roll with ridiculous selfies when I’m not paying attention. Sometimes she’ll do this with Snapchat too, and save handfuls of captioned selfies to my memories. I cherish both types of breaking and entering.
Upon leaving Jas most recently, I waited for her to leave for a shift at work and then broke out a pad of sticky notes, filling them up with reasons why I loved her. I stuck them to places all around her bedroom, most of them hidden. I am still unsure if she’s uncovered them all yet, but the hidden messages kept popping up for her at least for a few weeks after I left.
Find a Support System
I don’t really have a strong one, but I feel like this is good advice to give. Most people I know IRL or online don’t really have the same LDR hardships as me, so I find it hard to talk to others about the difficulty my LDR causes. For one, if a friend has never experienced being in an LDR, I feel like talking about missing my girlfriend constantly can get old and tiresome. Although this isn’t necessarily true, I’m not very good at taking my own advice when it comes to leaning on others for support. It’s something I’m still working at and something you should do within reason.
Alternatively, if I know someone who is in an LDR, and that couple has a better situation than mine (same country, little time difference, no visa struggles, less money spent on seeing each other, less time apart, etc), I end up getting too jealous to find much support in them, and usually I just end up annoyed when they’re trying to find support from me if their situation is (seemingly) a lot easier than mine. Especially if the struggles they complain about are situations that I would actually trade all my dad caps for because of how much easier it seems to me.
I think finding people who are in a very similar situation as yours is going to be the best option if you really want to discuss, in detail, what you’re going through. Although, this may not always be possible or easy. That being said, if you are in an LDR, I strongly encourage you to comment on this post, explain your situation and how people can contact you. (Or in a Twitter reply if that’s how you got referred to this blog).
I also received several messages about all of your LDRs in the last couple weeks because of this series, which is great! I still appreciate and encourage these messages, as you have all been very kind, respectful, and honest.
Feel Your Feelings
Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to let the Big Sad in. I, personally, only take this advice when I’m on my period and cry at least eight times per day already and use that as my excuse, but zoning out and using distractions can only get you so far. You need to cry about it at times. I recommend letting the Big Sad take over with a good shower cry (to hide the tears, redness, and loud sobs) or right before bed (to tire you out and induce a good night’s sleep).
Finding ways to cope is not easy. Give yourself time and patience to find things that work for you. Keep in mind that what works for you isn’t necessarily going to work for your partner. Jas and I cope with the Big Sad very differently. (I have 800 hobbies and Jas suppresses every bad feeling with her super(negative) BPD powers.) Maybe you never fully “cope” with the Big Sad. In reality, I go to bed at 10 most nights just to avoid getting too sad without her. Not to be too much of a downer but, the Big Sad is just part of the LDR life. Coping with it is learning how to find support from others and within yourself.
If you have any questions you can always message me on Twitter @koalatygirl or send an anonymous question to my Curious Cat. Let me know what you found helpful in this post and what else you have questions about! Up next: LDR post focusing on long-distance activities.