Intro: Where were we again?
It might be in poor taste to pick up where I left off after nearly a two-year hiatus from Submissive Guide, but I felt that long distance relationships was as appropriate as any to begin with, if not a little ironic. My Dominant and I are on the cusp of a huge change in the dynamics of our relationship—we will finally be living in the same country, rendering us only Slightly Long Distance rather than Five Time Zones Away Long Distance. It’s a slightly daunting, wildly expensive process (and one that will be worth all of the worldly goods I could give up and spend). The transition is something I want to record as part of this series because, likely, there will come a time when you, too, will decide that you’re ready for the bonds of your long distance commitment to shorten and draw you and your Dom closer together. My actual transition has yet to come (I’ll spend this summer moving and resigning myself to the care of my Dom and should officially settle in to my own place by September), so this article serves as a fanatic sayonara to the one aspect of my long distance relationship that I shall never miss: dealing with my partner’s absence.
“I know we’ve never met, but I kind of … miss you?”
By far, the most difficult, draining part of a long distance relationship is knowing that the person you’ve committed yourself to is beyond your reach. If, like me, you began your relationship online, you might feel a little silly when you realize that you’ve been kind of mopey the last few days because you miss your partner.
“I’ve never met this person,” you say to yourself. “I can’t possibly miss them if I’ve never met them.”
Actually, as it turns out, you can. Intellectual and physical stimulus inspire the release of a hormonal cocktail (endorphins, oxytocin or “the cuddle hormone,” most notably) which results in that sudden flush of happiness you feel when something good happens to you. The thing is that your body isn’t actually smart enough to realize when the stimulant is actually sitting in front of you, or when it’s half way across the world.
As an example, let’s ponder chocolate. Chocolate is probably the most notable, non-drug substance that releases endorphins when consumed (this is why many individuals turn to chocolate when they’re upset about something; it’s actually a form of self-medication!). Whether you have the candy bar in your hot little hand, or you’re daydreaming about that bag of Lindt’s white chocolate truffles sitting on your kitchen counter at home doesn’t actually matter to your body. Your brain goes through an elaborate process to imagine the sweet, tangy goodness of the candy in question, and your body is rewarded with a nice, little dose of the exact same chemicals that will be released later, when you actually grab those puppies off the counter and scarf them down. The only difference, as I’ve indicated, is the amount of hormone released.
Roughly the same process happens when you’re talking to a person over the internet. Each time you speak, regardless of whether the person is on Skype, on the phone, or some text-based form of communication, you get that little dose of hormones that reinforces your affection for the person.
There is, however, a problem with this: in its simplest form, love is actually an addiction. The amount of endorphins that are released when you speak to your partner remains roughly the same, but as with anything, your body builds up a tolerance to the stimulant (your partner). What this means is that those endorphins have less of an effect on your mood, which, in turn, actually pushes your body into a state of withdrawal.
To keep things simple: that withdrawal is the cause of you “missing” your partner. In the most cynical sense, you’re not so much missing the person as you are missing the chemical release that person usually stimulates. This is the reason why most long distance relationships don’t last. The individual parties no longer get the reinforcement they need to remain invested in the relationship. Luckily, there are a lot of other squishy, hormonal things that go on in your body which can counteract this withdrawal, and being human and possessing human curiosity means that, eventually, the thrilling phrase, "let's meet" will eventually be uttered, and that tends to give both parties their endorphin fix.
And after you’ve met?
On the same token as above, when you’ve actually met your partner and you’re suddenly confronted with their absence, the casual, kind of mopey feeling can turn into a deep sense of loss. Putting the science of the matter aside, and speaking directly from experience, I was incredibly surprised by how lonely and sad I felt after leaving my partner for the first time. Saying good-bye was difficult, but it’s always been a day or two later, after going to bed and waking up alone, when the absence of my Dom really sinks in.
We were both surprised at how intensely we felt after the first time met. I think we were both under the impression that saying good-bye would be difficult, but once we were back behind our computer screens, we would be able to precede the way we’d been doing for the past year. This was not the case.
Bearing in mind that my Dom and I began exploring the Dominant/submissive dynamic together, and that this was the first, serious relationship for both of us, I expect that suddenly acquiring the physical reinforcement for our relationship, and then being denied that reinforcement less than a week later, made up a good portion of both of our emotions during the first few weeks that I was back at work and school in America. But I anticipate that the participants in any relationship that was started long distance, regardless of whether it’s their first or tenth, will undergo a similar, sweeping sense of sadness when expected to go back to their everyday lives.
How to cope
I don’t want to say that bracing yourself will make your emotions easier to deal with, or make parting from your Dom easier, but understanding that you will feel intense emotions might help you prepare to accommodate for them. This is by no means a foolproof plan. I still cry every time my Dom and I say good-bye, and I still spend several days afterwards moping and being a sad-kitty, but the following has helped me transition back into Long Distance Mode after a getaway with my Dom:
- Lingering at the airport does not help. I’m a nervous traveler and like to get to places like airports and bus stations hours early so I can make sure that I have time to scope out the building, figure out where I’m supposed to go, use the restroom, etc. My Dom, on the other hand, lives in some strange time dimension parallel to the rest of the world, but approximately 5-15 minutes behind. I have both spent hours lingering and waiting for boarding, and minutes rushing wildly through the airport trying to get to the plane before it takes off without me. As sad as I am to leave my Dom, and disappointed as I am that our goodbyes couldn’t have been longer it is MUCH easier to have a quick goodbye and be on the journey home.
- Likewise, giving yourself “a few days” to recuperate is by no means as effective as it sounds. Last summer, I spent two months with my partner, and then gave myself a week and a half before the school year started so I could get over jet-lag, the mysterious cold I always seem to get after flying, and give myself time to put my clothes back in my closet before I had to go to work. That was the theory anyway. In reality, I spent approximately twelve days laying on my living room floor, staring up at the ceiling, waiting for my heart to catch up with the rest of my body. It was not my most graceful of times. Don’t overwhelm yourself with tasks when you get back, or after your Dom leaves, but make sure you have plans with friends and family, or that you get back to work and school sooner rather than later.
- Be open about missing each other. I still tell my Dom almost every day that I miss her. Some days are better than others, but even on the days when we spend hours on Skype, or chatting at each other, I still miss her physical presence, and the little, daily tasks of submission that I performed for her (like making a cup of tea for her, having her put my collar around my neck in the morning, etc.). Sharing that emotion with her, and having it repeated back is cathartic in a lot of ways. It assures me that I’m not alone in how I feel, and keeps a line of communication open between us.
- Do try to make plans to see each other again as soon as you can both manage. For many people, money isn’t going to be as big a factor in when you see your Dom as it is for me. Plane tickets are expensive, and while I currently have an excellent work schedule that gives me a lot of vacation time at once, the idea of waiting a whole twelve months to see my Dom again isn’t one that I relish. Even so, establishing a return date, or a date for when my Dom can visit me has always given me something to look forward to, which takes some of the sting out of missing her. Sometimes establishing a date before you leave each other is next to impossible, but if you can manage to do so, it helps to know that there are only X days between saying good-bye and saying hello.
- In the meantime, don’t feel ashamed. Missing someone is perfectly normal, and isn’t exclusive to long distance relationships. Even people who live a few minutes from each other can miss the people they’re in relationships with. Understand that, as a Sub, part of your relationship is dependent on many little, physical characteristics that simply cannot transfer completely over the internet or the phone. These ways of communication help, but once you’ve stepped into the physical realm with a person, there are simply things that you will be unable to recreate online. Accept that as part of the bitter-sweet nature of your relationship, and understand that missing those aspects does not make you a needy or bratty sub. It makes you a good, committed sub. There are probably aspects of your physical relationship that your Dom misses as well, so turn it into an exercise. Write your Dom an e-mail expressing the characteristics of your physical relationship that mean something to you, and about the characteristics you miss. Describe to him or her how you would serve and submit if you were there to do so. Ask your Dominant to write you a letter of ilk in response
- It does get easier. I don’t want to say the emotion fades, but just like your tolerance to stimuli builds over time, your tolerance to lack of stimuli seems to do the same. Your relationship will shift to accommodate the new emotions that govern it. The dynamic between you and your Dom might change as well, ever so slightly. Rules and rituals that have stood for months may fall away during your time together, and be replaced with new ones. Some of them will carry over, some of them will stay special and for the moments when you’re both with each other.
The Important Part
Missing someone when you aren’t with him or her is a part of being in a relationship with them. Understanding that, by committing yourself to another individual in any relationship, you share a portion of yourself with that person is important in understanding the basic nature of love and commitment. As a partner in a long distance relationship, you must be aware that the gift often means not seeing that portion of your own being for a length of time. This is the challenge. This is why many long distance relationships don’t last. Understanding the hows and whys of missing someone is a big part of being able to cope with what you’re feeling after you’ve said goodbye; being prepared for dealing with those emotions when they come up will help your relationship make it to the next hello.
I’m sure that there are a lot of topics on long distance relationships that I could have covered but which didn’t occur to me. A lot of my future writing for this series is going to deal with the transition from long distance to a more traditional distance, because that’s what I will be undergoing, however I am up for any suggestions you might have for topics of similar nature.
Are there any challenges that you and your Dom seem to be facing due to distance? Are there any aspects you’d like me to cover which I have neglected to? Give me a shout in the comments below.
Until then, Kallista
As usual, I’ve referenced a lot of information picked up by various reading throughout the last few years, and conversations with My Mother the Psych. Major. If you want to read more on the hormones that drive love, and the theory that love can be viewed as an addition, a great place to start is this article: Love Can be an Addiction and perhaps this short little blurb: Oxytocin, Love Hormone Fuels Romance which should both give you some good points of reference in how to proceed in your own research.