Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My partner recently got a job on the Slope and is on a two-week rotation. It wasn’t ideal but after both of us were laid off for a while during COVID, we were just grateful he found something.
Now the distance is really putting pressure on our relationship. I thought I’d be good at the separation but it’s really hard on me and not just emotionally. When he’s gone, I find I don’t sleep as well. I’m turning to food for comfort and I’ve gained a few pounds. I feel like I can’t go out when he’s not here because the few times I have he asks a million questions about what I did and who I was with and I feel like he doesn’t trust me. Basically I’m just lonely. I don’t even want to watch our shows without him. I just don’t feel like much of anything when he’s not here.
The problem is he loves this job and he loves the schedule. He loves having two weeks off — never mind when he does come home it takes several days for him to acclimate after being on night shift. He enjoys the teamwork aspect of working up there. And he definitely likes the money.
I don’t feel like this is sustainable. Should I put my foot down or just suck it up and deal with it?
There’s a saying, “Once a Sloper, always a Sloper.” That saying is false. Some people go up there and can’t handle the long hours, intense weather, close-quarters camp life and monotonous day-to-day routines, not to mention the mosquitoes! Other people? They love it. They love the break from town, the chance to rack up overtime, the free spike room snacks, the camaraderie of shift work and, of course, the uninterrupted time off. If your partner is falling squarely into that second category, he could be hoping to stay on for the long haul.
The fact is, as long as he’s on the Slope, you’re essentially in a long-distance relationship. Many people make it work. Many people falter. You’ll find success if you can build a healthy independent routine and cultivate hobbies of your own, and find ways to spend the time that capitalize on your solitude and the opportunity to spend time with friends when he’s gone.
And you must spend time with friends. So he asked you questions after you went out? He was probably just dying for a beer and living vicariously through you. Talk to him about what he’s comfortable with and find common ground. You can’t feel guilty about having a life, especially when you’re without him half the time and admittedly lonely.
Oh yeah, go ahead and put your foot down — that will definitely do the trick. Or maybe you just suck it up and deal with it — not exactly a healthy relationship approach, especially for someone already tumbling in a downward spiral.
You said you don’t feel like you can handle this much longer, and maybe that’s simply the truth — you’re just not built for this kind of relationship. The distance. The frustration. The sleepless nights. The tense communication and inquisitions. The adjustments to his comings and goings. The loneliness. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut and do what you feel is best for you.
But before you go dragging up from this relationship, remember: This is a relatively new, and super-seismic, change, and it’s clearly worked a number on you. What if you give this a little more time to actually settle into a routine, try to approach the whole thing as a positive for your relationship and your future together, and then assess? If you love this man, and if you two can manage to communicate a little better when he’s on the Slope and work together on making this arrangement as easy on you both as possible when he’s home and away, then perhaps it won’t feel so overwhelming and painful over time. And if it still does? Then tell him to take his job and shove it.