Dear Thelma: Our long-distance relationship is tested during MCO

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Dear Thelma,

I feel lonely. I miss someone but I don't think he misses me. We are unstable now, since we have been in an on-off, on-off relationship since early 2020. We met online in July 2019, to be exact. So I've known him for more than a year now. We dated twice.

The truth is, it is a hardgoing relationship. At first, he was always available, always called me and we always talked; it was all sweet. Even my friends said I was glowing during that time. Everything was smooth until he finally got laid off after MCO last March.

That was when he got grumpy and avoidant. Maybe he was stressed. I felt so frustrated because I didn't get to spend more time with him. We are in a long-distance relationship. It's exhausting, really.

I don't know whether I should break it or not. If I break it, I'll be lonely. But if we resume, we'll be feeling awful. We still love each other but we are always apart. What am I supposed to do?

I'm also pursuing my PhD, which is so hard amid the pandemic. The pandemic separated me from my family and my partner, and caused my studies to be bumpier than ever. I've never been lonelier.


Dear Jenny,

There's a pandemic raging and on top of that, you are away from home and immersed in a course of study that is nicknamed Permanent Head Damage. Under these conditions, it's no wonder you are stressed.

You don't know if you should stay with this man or not. At the start, the online dating was fun and you had two good dates. For the rest, it's been difficult. He's grumpy, he doesn't want to talk and you are exhausted.

What I see is an awful lot of pain for just two dates. Is this agony worth it, or would you be better off saying goodbye and looking for a partner who lives near you? Or, seeing you're deep in study, dating lightly and leaving Love and Romance for when you're a Dr?

I suspect that you're hanging on to this relationship although it only causes you pain, because you've had too much upheaval in your life recently. Frankly, I'd say drop this one and move on. However, you need not do this alone.

As you are at university, you will have access to free counselling. This situation is ideally suited for that. Contact the department, and have a nice, long, confidential conversation that focusses on your needs and wishes. Talk through your fears, your options, and come to a decision that works for you.

In addition, I suggest you focus on destressing as well. A PhD is intense, and the pandemic will be creating extra hurdles. Thankfully, I see schools making all kinds of accommodations.

Do your best work. However, remind yourself daily that this last year and the one to come, are wild and weird. They cannot be compared to life as normal. Be sensible and create workable goals and standards.

In addition, guard your health. That means eating properly (at least one plate heaped with veg and fruit, in addition to your proteins and starches), sleeping 7 to 8 hours at night and going for a daily 15 to 20 minute walk. Also, make regular time for activities that make you happy: drawing, dancing, praying - whatever gives you joy.

Does that look a lot? If you tell yourself you are too busy, consider how much you spend on scrolling social media and worrying about your relationship. If you could take that time and invest it in your health, you'll feel better and give your energy levels a boost.

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