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cthulette's avatar

How can I help my long-distance boyfriend destress?

Asked by cthulette (157 points ) May 1st, 2012

My boyfriend and I live about two hours away from each other, so since I’m a student and he has a job, we see each other every other week or so. We get along perfectly when we’re together and I have absolutely no doubts about the relationship (we’re moving in together in September), but when we’re apart, things get stressful. We’re both less secure when we’re away from each other and more stressed in general about our lives.

He worries a lot about debt, and gets stressed out about his credit card debt, so he calls me to vent. I often feel guilty when he does, because I know he (completely willingly; I try to talk him out of it) spends a lot of money seeing me.

I don’t know how to comfort him or just listen to him when we’re talking on the phone. Because I can’t hug him or distract him with something fun as if we were together, I feel like I need to fix his problems (which is impossible and not what he wants). It’s gotten to the point that I’ve started to mildly dread talking on the phone with him.

Summary: My long distance boyfriend gets stressed and needs to vent, but I don’t know how to listen and provide comfort and support for him when we’re talking on the phone, so I panic and get emotional, and things spiral from there.

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19 Answers

tedd's avatar

I had a long distance relationship not that long ago with almost the exact same scenario. Honestly the biggest thing to do in his shoes (which I was) is just get a bunch of hobbies. I played a lot of video games, watched shows, tried to hang out with friends… It sucks, but it’s all you can do really. Maybe tell him to suck it up, and just plow through it til September rolls around.

SpatzieLover's avatar

It sounds to me like he needs to be told by you that you are not his therapist. If he really has this many worries and the concerns are encompassing his thoughts, he should talk to a professional.

His worries are not yours. Be objective when he begins venting. Let him know you can not take this on.

Trillian's avatar

Start charging. I’d want at least $300 an hour to listen to someone whine about the same thing over and over.

cthulette's avatar

I know he just wants someone to hear him out, not someone to solve his problems. I just don’t know how to be a good listener on the phone.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@cthulette Then it’s not your strong suit. Let him know that you can’t be his therapist. Therapists are paid to listen. You are not.

When you talk to your boyfriend when you haven’t seen him in days, you should be looking forward to getting the call. You both should be happy to catch up with one another.

Right now, you are in a pattern that needs breaking. He thinks you are the person to vent to. That’s not a good start to a relationship that you both plan to move forward with.

cthulette's avatar

@SpatzieLover How can I let him know that I’m not a good person to vent to about financial problems (I can cope better with other things, but finances in general stress me out, without the added tension of his venting) without seeming like I don’t care or don’t want to listen? I don’t want him to feel like he can’t talk to me about these things because I don’t want any part of our communication to be closed off.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Do you two use a web-cam? It’s the main way the SO and I (another long-distance relationship for now) communicate when we aren’t together. Our agreement is, when one of us wants to vent, they state so on the front end. It means that the other one can basically tune out. If one of us wants help in problem-solving, then the other person listens.

It does sound as if he needs help though. At minimum, some sort of financial advice. There are several books that address getting out of debt. Maybe another Jelly can recommend one.

@tedd‘s “Take up a hobby” suggestion might help. It doesn’t fix the problem, but it might help him de-stress.

cthulette's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer We Skype sometimes, but that’s hard for us because he lives in the country, so his internet connection isn’t very good and he can stream only a limited amount. I really like the idea of stating intentions to vent first.

His financial situation isn’t actually that bad (nothing compared to the student loans I’ll be facing). Just some basic credit card debt plus other expenses (like the safety deposit for our lease), but he says he feels like he will never get out of debt, which is obviously not true. He just wants it to happen instantly.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@cthulette Since you state that you’re both moving in together, then it’s time to communicate finances prior to that move. You’ll need to outright tell him how the financial venting makes you feel (it sounds to me like this is adding stress onto you…which isn’t fair).

I agree with @Pied_Pfeffer‘s advice on a financial advisor. I’d further that by saying it’d be wise for you both to get financial advice prior to moving in together. If you can’t handle this type of money venting now, imagine what it’ll be like when he decides to bring up his concerns just before you go to bed, or when you’re both out grocery shopping-etc. This is a number one concern in most relationships. It’s best to address it now, before things snowball.

CWOTUS's avatar

I have two words for you:

Phone sex.

SpatzieLover's avatar

That’s what I was thinking @CWOTUS when I wrote my first response. They should be enjoying their phone time together

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Ah, so you will be entering this relationship with debt as well. In that case, this becomes a challenge for both of you, even if you keep financial responsibilities separate.

@SpatzieLover‘s advice to address it as soon as possible is valuable. Getting out of debt usually takes a long time and a lot of planning. Having a plan, which includes a budget, as well as many other factors, will help you two set goals and tasks. By adhering to them, it is the path to the light at the end of the debt tunnel. That is going to be the best way to de-stress this situation for both of you.

There are plenty of couple financial counselling services. Some may even be free. It’s time to start doing a little research. For a start, there is plenty of information posted on the internet.

marinelife's avatar

You need to set some boundaries. Say, listen Joe, I can’t look forward tro talking to you if you are just going to vent about your worries. I can’t really take your worries on from a distance. Let’s make finances off-limits as a topic.

YARNLADY's avatar

@marinelife has is a great answer. I once needed similar advice, and visited a counselor. She helped me develop a few phrases to use. I actually wrote down the phrases, and when he called, I kept my mouth shut except for the comforting words I had written down.

Having something to focus on helped me a great deal.

Rock2's avatar

You will get over it. Get married before you move in together.

Ayesha's avatar

Dress up for him before he calls you and start telling him what you’re wearing. Then the two words @CWOTUS said.

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