Is it them, or is it you? Long Distance Relationship Breakdown
What turns you off? What puts you in a bad mood?
Is it them, or is it you?
I love talking about the sweet and romantic moments in a long-distance relationship, but in order to sustain one, we need to be realistic and talk about both the good and the not-so-good times. In my personal opinion, I think people struggle to self-reflect and or pick apart a situation to see where the other person was at fault and where they are also at fault.
So let’s do a little exercise that can help you on your self-reflection journey. Let’s find out, was it them or is it really you?
* I want to clarify that this is based on personal opinion and may not be suited for everyone
Let’s take this scenario and break it down:
You're about to meet with your long-distance partner after a very long time. You both missed each other greatly and have been planning your time together for months.
The time has finally arrived.
You run into each other's arms and embrace for the first time in months. It's a truly special moment.
From this point, a few days go by and you're enjoying each other's company and the activities you scheduled. Until the end of the 4th day, you're both exhausted from all your activities, and you start to argue. Unlike the phone where you're shielded by each others’ reactions, to a certain degree, in person you see the full extent of each other's emotions. You find that overwhelming. In return, you don't know how to deal with emotions that on the phone didn't come across as intense. The first moment of doubt creeps into your mind.
But maybe this is only a one-time moment. You haven't seen each other in a long time and it's only normal that the first argument in person would be a lot, right?
So you both make up and continue the trip until the end of day 6. You end up in another argument. The moment is intense again and you're not sure how to deal with it. You find yourself responding differently than how you normally would on the phone. Maybe you become angry, maybe you become quiet. Either way, you find yourself stressed about the situation and what it has developed into.
Now that we have some contexts to this scenario, let’s get into the details of the second argument:
You replay Day 6 in your head. It was a 3-hour drive home from the beach that you had both visited that day. Even though you guys had fun in the sun, you had forgotten to pack a hat and were left baking for several hours with no shade and you felt sunburnt.
Your partner was not only exhausted because they were out all day but they were also tired from the 3-hour drive back home that they had to do by themselves since you felt uncomfortable driving in a place you’d never been before. In the last 30 minutes of the drive home, you bring up the topic of the future. You don’t really want to live in a country that is this hot. You prefer mild to cool temperatures and couldn’t imagine staying in this heat for more than a small vacation period. Your partner is use to this weather and has grown up in this climate since they was born. Your partner starts asking you, why you don’t like the weather and the type of compromise you’d be willing to make because they enjoy the warmth and are not a fan of cool or mild temperatures.
With an annoyed expression, you point to your sunburnt skin and say ‘Do you not see what happens when I’m exposed to the sun? I’d hate for my skin to be like this permanently.’ Feelings of similar agitation from the previous argument start to bother you but you don’t say anything about that.
Your partner starts reacting to your energy and says ‘well if you had been smart enough to bring a hat and or an umbrella for shade, this would have never happened. Can you not see how you are blaming the sun for your lack of preparation?’
This angers you further, as you thought that your partner would be more compassionate and understanding to your current pains.
On the other hand, your partner is frustrated that you are blaming the weather for your own simple mistake and that they have to do this drive alone without any help. Of course, you don’t know that the response that they are giving you is stemming not only from the argument but also their frustrations of having to do the 3-hour drive alone.
Now the reactions to this argument may seem a little extreme but we have to remember that when you see your significant other again after a long period of time, it is common to cram in a bunch of activities that you want to do together, and the time spent may seem more exhausting than relaxing. Additionally, being out all day in the sun is tiring for those that are not used to it and even for those that do spend a lot of time outdoors, driving 3 hours by yourself after a long day, can be very challenging.
There are several things that each person should have done differently but the main point that I am going to focus on today is the lack of empathy we feel after we are exhausted.
Previous studies conducted illustrate that sleep loss has negative effects on one’s ability to process emotional information. In this scenario, the driver felt like the passenger was judging their country/environment based on one bad experience that could have been avoided. This judgment then impacted where the passenger seemed willing to live with the driver in the future.
While this can be seen as a fair analysis of the situation, the driver did not handle it well because they had an underlying frustration that they were not willing to voice out. Therefore, how they responded to the passenger, adding words such as “if you were smart enough” had more detrimental effects than positive.
On the other hand, the passenger should have been able to recognize from the beginning that a 3-hour drive by yourself after a long day would be exhausting. If the passenger took a moment to realize that they had contributed to their own physical pain and that it could have been different if they had been prepared properly or had gone to buy what they needed afterwards, this could have been a more enjoyable day.
However, because both parties were tired individually, it became much harder to have a compassionate conversation instead of a blown-up argument. Additionally, the passenger had already experienced an argument with the driver 2 days prior and brushed off their feelings as a one-time moment. This can be seen as the passenger’s underlying frustrations that they were not voice to the driver before the next argument.
Now that we have set the scene and explained the scenario, in part 2 of this blog we will do a deep dive into both the driver and the passenger. We will further explore the story and analyze how an argument can have three sides: your side, their side, and the truth!
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