Reader question #61: My long distance girlfriend avoids me whenever I make it to town for a visit. Should I take this personally?

What's semaphore for "Let's break up?"

Dear Captain Awkward,

I started dating a woman late last year, but shortly afterward economic circumstances forced me to move to a town a couple hours away. We’ve been doing the long distance thing ever since, and it’s been going quite splendidly, actually. She tells me that she loves me and misses me and all that, but when the rare opportunity comes up for me to travel to my former city and visit her, she usually says she’s too busy. Which is fine, I respect that. But on a recent Saturday I had an opportunity to see her for a couple hours in the late morning, and she said she’d love to but would have to see about it. When I asked again a couple days later, she said she’d be busy the whole day. I accepted this and moved on.

The problem was that when that Saturday rolled around, she showed up on Twitter at about noon saying she’d just woken up. Again, I don’t care about that on its own. I understand that it’s none of my business if she wants to sleep till noon. But should it at least bother me that a) she’d rather sleep than see me, and b) she felt the need to lie about that? I’m just not certain how personally I should be taking this. Thanks for any advice you have to give.

This must be the week to talk about long distance relationships that aren’t actually relationships.

Taking the most generous possible view of your girlfriend’s behavior, like a view from space with the earth looking remote and blue and peaceful below us:  She has a very busy life (is she a filmmaker, by any chance?) and needs a lot of notice to schedule time to hang out with you when you visit, and is sort of setting a boundary about that by not making herself immediately available. Has she said this before in those words, like, “I want to see you but my schedule is very packed and inflexible and when you come at the last minute it stresses me out, so I need a ton of notice? ” Or, “I’m working nights all week, and while Sunday morning is *technically* free, that’s my one chance to catch up on sleep”?

No?  Even if she has fully articulated her needs about scheduling, how is that working for you?  You use words like “fine” and “splendidly!” but…um…really?  It’s going well and all your needs are being met?  All of them?  The ones you have “down there”?  When was the last time she visited you where you live?  What’s your plan for living in the same place eventually?

Moving down to the surface of the earth, I’d say, yeah, you can take this one pretty personally.  Despite her protestations of love, you are penpals who are never in the same place at the same time, and when you make the time to visit, she finds a way to not be in the same room with you.  This is what we call a red flag.

Time to ask your girlfriend penpal what’s up, and be prepared to let go of this one.

4 thoughts on “Reader question #61: My long distance girlfriend avoids me whenever I make it to town for a visit. Should I take this personally?

  1. i’ve never tried a LD relationship. i don’t think i have anything helpful to say [and i wish i did!] i mostly just stopped to say: Captain, your graphic choices are awesome!

    1. Thanks! I’ve been slacking on finding images for posts, but it’s something I want to do more consistently.

  2. I’ve been in your position before with friends, where I was told they’d be working (or whatever) and Facebook showed them actually in our hometown or something. I think with friends, you can’t take that sort of thing too personally– either way she was busy, you know? And I don’t expect a friend to give me an hour-by-hour rundown or her weekend to justify that she’s busy, and sometimes “working” or “busy” is just the quickest answer.

    But that’s with friends. Your relationship with a friend can wax and wane, and that’s fine. But speaking as someone in a long-distance relationship, yeah, this is a red flag from someone you are dating. I would *love* to have more weekends where I just stay at home and scratch three books off my reading list, or catch up on a hobby, or call people who aren’t close friends with my boyfriend. But people who really want to be in their long-distance relationships take all the opportunities they can get to be together or they give you a good, honest reason why not. I think most (probably all, but you never know) people in long distance relationships hope they’ll eventually live in the same city. And a relationship serious enough where eventually, someone moves is a relationship serious enough that you have to feel comfortable saying “sorry, I’m overworked and exhausted. How about next weekend?” If she feels like saying “no thanks” is too awkward, maybe you’re not close enough for a long distance relationship.

    Bottom line, I think people in distance relationships that work say “no thanks” rarely and, when they do, give the real reason even if it sounds awkward.

  3. Sadly, when interpreting mixed signals, it’s usually best to go with what people are doing, not what they’re saying. And this girl may be saying nice things, but she’s treating you like crap. Just end it.

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