Long-Distance: Extreme Edition

I am in a new-ish relationship with a submariner (five months this month). Unique from his other naval counterparts, his work aboard subs means that he can only communicate very occasionally (he’s on a mission right now and I haven’t heard from him since March 3rd, and don’t know when I’ll hear from him next). When he gets back in May, we’ll only have about 5 days together before I have to leave for a 2 and a half month long contract out of state. We live 3 hours away from each other, otherwise, heavily rely on skype for our day-to-day communications, and have managed to see each other on most weekends since we started our relationship (excluding his deployment time).

To stave off the loneliness during his deployment, he and I both have journals in which we are writing to each other while we can’t be together. We’ll swap when we see each other next. This helps to a point, but mostly I’m losing my mind. He is the only one I want to talk to at the end of the day, and I can’t reach him. In addition, I am in a high-stress, mostly unpredictable, artistic field that will eventually demand that I be flexible enough to travel on a regular basis. So, if he and I manage to stick together, I will be putting him through a similar situation of not being around- the difference being that I’ll be able to communicate.

At first, I saw his away time as a brilliant opportunity to focus on what I’m up to, deal with the productions I’m committed to, work in the other freelance business that I run, but I miss him so terribly that it is a distraction. I can’t unwind with him at the end of the day, or ask him for his marvelous advice about how I should handle some of the things I’m dealing with. I feel abandoned, even though, intellectually, I understand that I have not been. And I can feel myself starting to separate myself from him, an understandable defense mechanism. I suspect that were our relationship more long-standing, this Might be easier, but I just don’t know. And I can only fill my time with so many things to both distract and take care of myself (which, believe me, I do).

So, my question is multifaceted. Firstly, does anyone have any suggestions as to what else I might do to deal with the intense sadness that I live with on a daily basis because I can’t talk to my partner-in-crime (and does anyone have any insight as to whether or not this gets easier?)? Secondly, I’m a really strong person and am patient to a fault, but, realistically, I can only take so much- at what point do I declare this unworkable? Should I hang in for as long as I can, maybe wait through his next mission to see if we can come up with another creative solution to handle his time away? Really, how do you deal with the absence of your significant other without feeling abandoned?

I am not one to let my life be dictated by my circumstances. I care about him a great deal, and he treats me the way I have always wanted to be treated in a relationship (such a rare gift). With both of our jobs requiring travel, sometimes at the drop of a hat, I’m not sure it can work, but I really really want it to. Help?

10 thoughts on “Long-Distance: Extreme Edition

  1. Alyssa says:

    [Hi! I hope I can help. My husband is in the Navy and for the first few years we were dating we were apart more than we were together. I remember I couple times thinking “What if I am waiting around for someone and it doesn’t even work out?!?!? I might be passing up all these other opportunities to meet people as well as not being able to tear myself away from my desk top (no emails on phones then) and hardly left the house! Deployments now are a little easier, but still pretty obnoxious that I sleep with my ringer on the loudest it can go and I’m not sure it can get any closer to my ear canal. One thing I have always turned to from the very beginning is booze. No I’m kidding. I exercise and play sports A LOT. Like all the time. I play on 2 basketball teams and surf like crazy. I would go for a run, go tot he gym, hike….I would do something outside. I set a goal for myself (whether it be buying a cute bathing suit or a fun dress to get dinner in once he came home) and darnit I was going to look amazing it when he got back. The goal actually helped the time go by faster because of the anticipation of having an upcoming deadline. I hung out with a couple of the other girlfriends of my husbands friends because of course they understand what you are going thru, they are living it too, they aren’t sitting there asking awkward questions about the deployment like your other friends might be who think they helping, and these girlfriends can feel when to ask and when not to. It’s just one of those things we can pick up on 🙂 I don’t think you should give up, and I hope you can stick with it to find out if it will work or not. I’m glad I did! I think if I hadn’t I would have thought about it (maybe even still) and the not knowing if it would have worked out would have been worse for me. I think the journal is an amazing idea! I think even adding photos or movie tickets taped in too…times you wish they had been there. But make them feel like they were there-and since you were thinking of them they kinda were there! Also before he leaves I go to a few stores and stock up on a ton of “Miss you,” “Thinking of you,” and “I love you cards.” I write a bunch of fun notes or memories on them, put in a photo I printed and a little squirt of perfume and on the envelopes I will either write specific dates or something like “open when you want to email but the stupid computer doesn’t work,” “Open this when someone is pissing you off,” “Open this when the food sucks,” and so on. My husband is going to be gone a lot this year, but try not to look ahead to the next deployment, just get through this one and worry about the next one later. About the abandonment I kinda lucked out. I don’t feel that way too often and I think because I was raised in a military family and have always been extremely patriotic, so I know he is out there defending my freedoms. It makes me feel very proud. I hope this helps! xx

    • Haliax says:

      [I love the goal setting idea. That’s really fantastic. When I put his halfway package together, I made sure he had a couple of extra notes in there that he could open on either side of the halfway mark if he needed them (definitely spritzed with perfume). One of my friends suggested that I request a series of notes from him so that I could do the same on my end the next time he has to leave. Since this IS my first deployment experience, there’s a lot of learning to do.

      Thank you So much for your input and your encouragement! It’s really helpful!

  2. Katie @ Domestiphobia says:

    [Hey, you. Air Force wife here.

    I will start this by saying that in my nearly 8 years of marriage, 10 years in this relationship, I’ve never had to go through something quite as difficult as you’re going through now. No communication for a month is a long, long time. Even more endless, I’m sure, when your relationship is fresh and all of those flutterby feelings are oh so palatable.

    Here’s the thing: The military NEEDS people like you. Women (and men) who are independent, intelligent, articulate, and self-sufficient. YOU are the kind of person who makes an incredible partner to someone who, more often than not, has to put his career ahead of his relationship. You recognize your sadness. You recognize your fear. You even recognize that your defense mechanism is just that — a way to cope with the intense loneliness and sense of abandonment that comes with taking on someone with this particular type of job.

    So your questions:

    1) Exactly what you’re doing. Recognizing your feelings, seeking help, and coping. That’s really all you CAN do. It’s harder because you’re not a spouse, but depending on the group of people he works with, ask for the contact information of the other partners of the people he works with — it sounds like a clique, I know, but the best support in this intensely unique situation will come from others who understand exactly what you’re going through.

    That doesn’t mean dropping your other friends or your life. In fact, too many military partners completely forsake those things they’re passionate about, thinking it’s what’s “best” for supporting their significant others. But the truth is that’s about the worst thing you could do. Keep your identity. Keep your plans. It’s what he’s fallen in love with you for already, isn’t it? (I wrote more about this here: http://www.domestiphobia.net/2013/01/15/good-news-you-can-stop-trying-so-hard-it-turns-out-the-worst-military-wives-might-just-be-the-best-wives/)

    2) If it’s unworkable, it’s unworkable. Declare it when he gets back. (NOT when he’s gone. That would be very cruel.) If he’s career military, this is something he likely plans on doing for a long time. If you think you’ll resent it beyond any ability to cope, it’s probably best to just admit that now. The other reason I say to wait until he gets back, is because there — that moment you see him again — it’s unlike anything anyone in any other kind of relationship will ever know or possibly be able to comprehend. You haven’t felt it yet because this is your first deployment, but when you do, you’ll know what I mean. It’s relief. It’s intense happiness. It’s pure joy.

    You have a unique opportunity to be in a relationship in which you both can support each others’ need to be away for extended periods of time. Don’t drop that until you get a chance to talk it out with him. In the meantime, there are other ways (like the spouse groups I mentioned) to get support. I wrote this as well, and even though I addressed it to “spouses,” it really applies to anyone in a relationship with someone in the military. I hope it helps: http://www.domestiphobia.net/2012/09/26/an-open-letter-to-the-spouses-of-deployed-active-duty-military/

    • Alyssa says:

      [It’s like you went to my heart and wrote what I’m feeling. I love a Navy officer who is stationed 5000 miles away from me. He’s been in my heart for 8 years now and today marks a year since I have last seen him. A year ago he left my arms and went back to work. I love what the woman above me wrote because she’s right…the homecoming is like no other. And it’s those few moments that keep me hoping and praying it will all work out. I’m not sure what will happen in my situation. I wish I could fast forward to the future to see if we end up “happily ever after.” The good news is we can communicate via email, skype, text, but the 16 hour time difference is…well a struggle. I so want things to work out, as I’m sure you do with your love. The only thing I can offer is that as long as you’re trying and he’s trying and there is love, anything is possible. I say give it a go and try to remain strong! And it’s ok to cry sometimes out of frustration. No matter what ends up happening I believe there is a divine power that works everything out for our best interests.

    • Haliax says:

      [Katie- I have too great a sense of integrity to make the decision to leave or stay before he gets back. It would be premature and, as you say, very cruel- royally unfair.

      Thank you for your sound advice- you’ve made me feel like I’m not crazy, and you’ve given me some light at the end of a very dark, very lonely tunnel. It really is a different road, being completely unable to communicate for weeks. I really might not hear from him again until May. But you highlighted something that I really love about being with him- he really does need me. I give him a chance to feel normal after being in a very difficult social environment at work (I don’t know what your husband’s command is like, but my submariner’s is pretty rough). And to be needed is really something that I need from a relationship.

      Thank you for sharing your blog. It’s excellent. And thank you for taking the time to reach out. Your advice is perfect.

  3. Miriana Young says:

    [It seems that all of these great women have given you some fantastic advice!

    I also think that all of these ladies have had the same “is this worth waiting for” feeling and thought process. We’ve all been there.
    My fiancée and I have been together for about four years and he’s been deployed every year of it. He’s a navy diver who’s planning on making this a career.
    I didn’t really mind the deployments because I was also in a job that took up 99% of my life, so with him being gone it wasn’t too hard. Like you, I’d just throw myself into my work.

    I’ve been very lucky to have social media to help us stay connected along with Skype. The way we’d “unwind” is by sending each other Skype messages to watch at a later date. There’s a feature on there so when they(you) are able to leave them messages. Even if it’s a 2 minute “hey, hope everything is ok, blah blah blah” it really helped to know that he was thinking of me even when he only had 5 minutes to talk. Vice versa.

    That might help with the loneliness along with exactly what you’re doing. Staying busy. When we do talk he and create fitness goals for each other and track our progress then declare the “winner”.
    I really have done everything and anything to stay connected with friends, while he’s gone and while he’s here. The friends who don’t really understand dating a military guy don’t understand the dynamic when he comes home and they feel abandoned. The ones with a military man, they completely understand. One think I will warn you about is that don’t let the military wives pressure you. It’s a weird thing to say but I’ve had some weird conversations and arguments with my Fiancée because of their “advice”. Lol

    The main thing I want to ask is how soon does he give you notice about when he’s able to see/talk to you? Also, how flexible is your work?
    You can make those days a “date night” for you guys. It seems like what you’re missing most is the quality time you’d have together. If you’re able to clear your schedule for a few hours and devote them to him. I’m sure he will be very happy about that along with you getting the quality time that you’d need.

    Definitely try to hold off on any relationship ending for when he comes home. It seems like you’re very level headed (thank you, there are some crazies out there) so your judgement is spot on, on recognizing your emotions and things you need to do to not make it worse.

    Honestly, as long as you guys really want to make something like this work. I don’t see why it wouldn’t. Yes, time away sucks but that time together is the best part. The homecomings are wonderful. Even thinking of when my fiancée is home brings a smile to my face. (He’s deployed)
    I don’t think you should be really thinking so far ahead to where you’re asking him if this is his career cause at that point you’re making him “choose”. Just take it one day, week, month at a time. Those conversations will come up without them having to be forced upon.

    Enjoy him when he’s here. Make him feel secure in the relationship when he’s not. I really hope this helped.

    • Haliax says:

      [Miriana, because he’s on a submarine, the ways in which most military couples communicate are not available to us. Before yesterday, I hadn’t heard from him since March 3rd. He only has boat e-mail, and that only occasionally.

      Oh, and we’re long distance even when he’s not away, and I’m not surrounded by military wives because I’m not around the base. 🙂 Should this ever occur, however, I will keep your advice about them in mind.

      My work is demanding, and not always flexible. It depends on what company I’m working for. Sometimes I can finagle time, and sometimes I can’t. For example, I just found out he’s staying on mission, now, until sometime in June, and I will have already left for a gig in Ohio by the time he gets back. I won’t be in town when he gets back.

      And this is his career. He has 8 more years.

    • Miriana Young says:

      [Yeah, Once I read about him being on a Sub I definitely wanted to give you a virtual hug. You’re one tough gal.

      I guess, I would say really think about this and truly see if this is what you want… I can definitely tell you that Homecomings are amazing. That when they’re home it’s truly wonderful and everything seems whole. That the time didn’t seem as long when he’s here. LOL

      I wish there was a way that I could Privately Message you. There’s a reality that needs to be mentioned but if I say it here, I feel like I’ll get a lot of backlash for it.
      Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with.

    • Haliax says:

      [You’ve made me terribly curious. I wish there were a way to privately message, too. If you’re not comfortable sharing it, I understand. Thank you for the advice, all the same.

      I would not be handling his deployment nearly as well were it not for the help I’ve received, very specifically, from this forum. I haven’t felt quite so alone, and I know, based on your collective experiences, that there’s light at the end of a very long tunnel, even if I can’t see it. Thank you -each of you- for being willing to share your experiences with me.

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