Posted on Friday, October 9th, 2015 at 12:25 am.
Having a relationship over a geographic distance is quite common these days, but is usually not easy. There are many factors that affect the quality and long-term success of these kinds of relationships. It sounds like the fact that this relationship will be long distance for some period of time is pretty much a given. It’s what you have to work with so approach it with confidence and optimism. Why not? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking a positive attitude toward the situation.
The two of you have several things going in your favor. For one, it sounds like you have a solid, loving, healthy relationship and that you are both committed to one another and to the relationship. Second, you have healthy and self-enhancing reasons for needing to be apart. You have similar goals—to pursue higher education and become the professionals you want to be—and the educational portion of your journey will be time-limited, even though it make take place over a couple of years. At some point you will both be done and can decide where you want to start your lives together.
If one of you finishes your degree before the other, you have the option of joining your partner in their location for the duration of their education, perhaps pursuing work experience or simply being together for a time to enjoy and grow the relationship. It also helps if you both have similar ideas about where you might want to live when you are both ready to settle into your professional careers.
The risks of being in a long distance relationship are obvious: You miss the daily presence and face-to-face contact of being with each other. You can’t do things together except during visits when you travel to one another’s homes or meet somewhere else for vacation. One of the things people report missing most is, of course, physical touch, cuddling and sexual intimacy with one another.
Fortunately, there are even more ways to connect and span the distance than there used to be even 10 or 20 years ago. I’m sure you are both comfortable and familiar with technology that allows you to connect. Email, texting, IM-ing, Skype and even the good old telephone can help you stay connected on a daily basis. I encourage you to set “dates” for longer and more intimate conversations—preferably with Skype, where you also have visual contact, or by telephone. Texting can’t trump the quality of voice-to-voice communication. Naturally, traveling to be together at a frequency that you can afford within your budget is also key to keeping some natural quality and flow to your togetherness– and it doesn’t have to be 50/50. If one of you has a more flexible schedule or more financial resources this is the time to be unselfish about how you share those resources.
There are many reasons why long distance relationships fail. Many people have intimacy needs that just cannot be adequately met over a distance for a longer period of separation and may realize this sometime after the move. Occasionally, one partner may happen to meet another person who is very interesting to them and much more available. They may decide to pursue that relationship instead yours. Other times long distance relationships suffer from miscommunication problems. Text, email and other technological forms of communication often can’t communicate humor or nuances of emotional tone, often leading to misunderstandings.
There is no way of saying for sure if your particular relationship will survive and remain healthy, but the more the two of you can communicate about these things before you move, the better chance you having of going the distance.
Posted on Thursday, October 8th, 2015 at 3:24 pm.
Dr. Beth, I am in a relationship with someone I love a great deal. We are both motivated people who want to have professional careers. We have been attending the same college, are living together, and both of us are very committed to the relationship. The problem is that my boyfriend has been accepted into graduate school in one state and I am applying for graduate schools in other states that are more appropriate for getting the training I need for my profession. This means we are very likely going to be living in different states and having a long distance relationship, possibly for at least a couple of years. I’m wondering if a long-distance relationship can survive and stay healthy.
Posted on Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 at 1:47 am.
You are posing an excellent question and one that does not have an easy answer. There is a hereditary component to alcoholism, addiction and many mental illnesses. Of course, not everyone who develops depression, an anxiety disorder of other psychological problem has a history of mental illness in their family. Still, the percentage of individuals likely to develop these kinds of problems is definitely higher when there is a family history.
Few people really take this into account when planning to have a family, but it is an important thing to keep in mind. Couples in which one member’s family has a history of mental illness and the other spouse’s family does not have less of a chance of encountering these issues with their biological children than couples where both families have such histories. So part of the answer depends on whether your partner also has this family history.
There is no way of guessing whether one or more of your children will suffer from a serious or disabling mental condition. Children may seem healthy and function well in childhood, but carry a genetic vulnerability or predisposition to depression, bipolar illness, or other conditions. Many of these problems do not manifest until adulthood and sometimes emerge in response to an extraordinary stressor or trauma in the person’s life.
Despite the unpredictability of whether your child is individually vulnerable, there are some things you can do to influence the likelihood of these problems manifesting in your child. Good prenatal care and infant care are very important both for the healthy physical and psychological development of the child. A loving and well-educated approach to parenting the child throughout their young life also gives your child an advantage in dealing with an illness should it arise later in life.
At an age-appropriate juncture, it would be wise to talk honestly and non-judgmentally about the family’s history of mental problems just as you might discuss a history of heart disease or diabetes in your family, conditions which also have a hereditary component. The important thing is to let your child know about the existence of this history and to let them know that while they are unlikely to develop such a problem, it is important that if they start to feel like they are having trouble coping or turning to substances to cope, they should pay attention and talk to you about it sooner rather than later because there are treatments that can nip these problems in the bud. This can save you and your child many days, months or years of suffering.
It is not necessary to avoid having children because of having such a family history, but this is a very individual decision. Some people don’t want to take the chance of passing these difficulties along to any offspring they may have biologically. Adoption is also an option for creating a family, but it is just as important to know health and mental health histories of the biological parents of an adopted child as it is for thinking through the decision to have biological children. All in all, having children is always risky, but most people decide it is well worth all that is sacrificed and all that is not known to have the joy of creating a family.
Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2015 at 12:23 am.
Dear Dr. Beth, Depression, alcoholism and other mental problems run in my family. I have aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents that suffer from various mental and substance abuse disorders. Of course, not all of my family members suffer from these problems. My question is this: I want to get married and have children someday. I am really worried that one or more of my children will suffer from one of these illnesses and that makes me afraid to have children. How worried should I be?
Posted on Sunday, October 4th, 2015 at 2:57 am.
This is definitely a tough and very emotional situation. If you have a loving and supportive partner, it’s a lot easier but still not easy. There is not a lot you can do to change how his girls feel about you, other than to be consistent and kind in your way of relating to them. Over time, this may make a difference as they get older, mature, and understand more about life.
In the best of all worlds, the division would be fair and equal and all parties would have an equal voice about what happens during the holidays. It sounds like this is not the best of all worlds, so you will need to adjust your expectations accordingly. I heard a wise saying once: You can choose to be right or you can choose to be happy. While there are certainly times when it is both necessary and appropriate to take a stand on an issue, in this situation you may best be served by putting the larger good of the family ahead of your individual preferences.
While it’s not easy to give up your attachment to a certain tradition–for example, having a special dinner on Christmas Eve with the whole family– that is actually only one of several possible ways to celebrate the holidays. The most successful overall solution to the problem may involve putting your ego needs second to the realities of the current relationship circumstances. Second best is not always just second best after all.
It’s certainly OK to talk about what you want with your partner, but when it comes to negotiating things with the girls’ mother, that should be his responsibility and he can take heat for whatever happens with his ex. It would probably be wise to arrange some time for the girls to hang out with just their father as well as with both of you. After all, the girls already love him and you are still a question mark in their minds. When it comes to negotiating with your own ex-partner, this is your responsibility. Your husband gets to have input, but ultimately you have to take responsibility for your choices and decisions involving your children and your ex.
The holidays are a highly charged time of the year, but you can either make them more charged or focus on the parts of the holiday season that you can make rewarding and pleasant for you and those you love. At this time of year, a combination of healthy self-esteem and healthy humility in the face of forces larger than yourself will lead you to the best possible solutions. And this year’s solutions may look very different than next year’s. Even if what emerges is not what you wanted to happen, there is still plenty of joy to be savored if you hold your needs and expectations with a loose hand and an open heart.
Posted on Thursday, October 1st, 2015 at 1:46 am.
Dear Dr. Beth, I am in a blended marriage and we each have two children. My children are a boy and girl, 12 and 10 years old. His are 2 girls, 13 and 16 years old. His children stay with us on weekends and mine live with us most of the time and spend part of the time with their father. The problem is that the holidays are coming and there always seem to be tangles and arguments about who gets what part of the holiday—which of his girls’ parents gets Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, etc. The worst part, though, is that his kids resent me and don’t really want me to be part of their holidays. They just want to be with their Dad. How do I handle this situation?
Posted on Friday, September 25th, 2015 at 2:11 am.
It sounds like you are going through some significant anxiety related to aging. You are definitely not alone in that. To state the obvious, everyone else in your life and everyone around you are also getting older and getting older at the same pace as you. We give a lot of importance to numbers, especially to numbers like our chronological age and our bank accounts. While numbers are not unimportant, neither are they all they’re cracked up to be. They are not all-determining.
Aging is a tricky thing. You have to recognize the changes that are occurring in your body, your energy, and your interests, but people often give up on activities and pleasures that they really don’t have to give up because of their stereotypes about what it means to get older. I lead a support group for older women here in Loveland and it’s amazing to see how alive and interesting and energetic these women are; most are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. To a fairly great extent you get to influence your experience of aging.
Personal choices, fortune, and circumstances influence how you age, but so do beliefs and attitudes. It’s important to become aware of your own thoughts, assumptions and beliefs about aging. We all have them. We can’t live in this culture and not absorb some of these stereotypes; and these beliefs run deeper into our subconscious minds than we realize. Most of these beliefs involve sentences that start with “I’m getting old, so I can’t…….”.
A useful exercise to combat these stereotypes in our minds is to challenge ourselves to make a list beginning with the words, “I’m getting older, so I can. . . . . .”. It’s actually not that hard once you get the hang of it. Some of my favorites are, “I’m getting older, so I don’t have to be so concerned with what other people think of me.” “I’m getting older, so I can put comfort over fashion and who really cares, anyway?” and another one, “I’m getting older, so I don’t have to run through life at a breakneck speed anymore; I can relax and enjoy the ride.”
Don’t get me wrong. Getting older is not a piece of cake. As the saying goes, “Getting old is not for sissies”. There are definitely losses and hardships along the path and eventually we all meet the end of our personal road. That’s not a welcome idea for most of us to contemplate. However, even the culture around aging is starting to change. Conventional wisdom now holds that 50 is the new 30—so is 60 the new 40? As long as you have your health, 60 can be whatever you make it—perhaps with just a couple of limitations here and there.
You might consider joining the (gasp!) senior center in your local community. There are some amazing people there as well as events and resources. Even better, you will feel like a youngster there and that’s not a bad feeling at all, especially when you’re turning 60.
Posted on Thursday, September 24th, 2015 at 1:40 am.
Dr. Beth, I am a guy who is about to turn 60 later this year and it is freaking me out. I never thought I would be this old. I had a pretty wild younger life and with all the chances I took I figured I would die before I was 40. Well, that obviously didn’t happen. Sixty sounds really old to me and I feel like something bad might happen to me anytime now. Ironically, now that I have made it this far I really don’t want to die. Help.
Posted on Sunday, September 20th, 2015 at 6:04 pm.
I think you may be very close to the center of the target on this one. Of course, there is no way to know for sure, but I have worked with many people, both younger and older, whose discovery of a parent’s affairs has led to their becoming extremely sensitive to issues of trust and honesty. Although it was your mother who was most directly betrayed, in a pretty direct way you were betrayed as well.
The break-up of the marriage was not in any way related to you, yet you have had to bear the brunt of what happened between your mother and your father and this other woman. The family unit broke apart, your mother was emotionally devastated, and you were left with the remains of the destruction–a broken family and the betrayal of your trust in the security of your family unit.
I don’t know if you have ever dealt directly with the emotional and psychological issues around your father’s deceit and the break-up of your family, but these are issues that tend to fester inside of us if we never look them in the face and work them out in our own selves. I would strongly recommend seeing a therapist and doing whatever work is necessary, psychologically and emotionally, to really come to terms with your anger, sadness and the betrayal that you, too, experienced as a result of your father lying.
It is very likely that your extreme suspicious reactions to people are related to this major event in your family’s past. Please understand that I am not suggesting that you should become tolerant of people who lie or not react at all to being at the effect of another person’s dishonesty. You have the right to be concerned, to inquire and to be angry or end a relationship with someone that has lied to you.
However, carrying around the degree of reactivity you describe can really hinder your relationships with others and may sometimes cause you to throw good people out of your life due to misunderstandings and misinterpretations of people and situations. By doing the necessary work to reduce your tendency to overreact, you will be better able to distinguish who is worth trusting (even if they make an error in relating to you) vs. who you really need to purge from your life. This work is emotionally difficult, but well worth the time and effort.
Posted on Sunday, September 20th, 2015 at 4:11 am.
Dr. Beth, There isn’t a whole lot that bothers me or makes me upset, but when I think someone has lied to me—my brother, a friend, or whoever—I practically go off the deep end. I yell and scream at them and usually just cut off the relationship. I’m not sure why I’m so sensitive to lying, but I sometimes wonder if it has to do with my parent’s divorce. When I was 12 my Dad and Mom started fighting all the time and within a few months, Dad moved out. Less than a year later they got a divorce and not long after that, Dad married this new, younger woman. Even though Mom didn’t talk much about it, as I got older I figured out that Dad had been having an affair and Mom had discovered it. I think he had been lying to her about it for years. Do you think this might be why I have such strong reactions to people who lie and why I tend to be suspicious that people are lying to me, even if they aren’t?