By : Lisa McKay
Finally, it’s that time again – reunion time! The next long-awaited visit with your long distance love has arrived! It’s been weeks, maybe months, since you last saw each other. They’re arriving tonight on the 7pm flight … and you’re nervous.
Do you get anxious and tense before reuniting with your long-distance partner? Even if you’ve been dating for ages? Even if you’re married?
During the first few years of my relationship with my husband, Mike, he spent about half his time traveling to different countries for work. He was often away for a month at a time. Sometimes more.
Whenever he was due back, I always started to get wound up about the reunion a couple of days before his arrival. The combination of nerves and excitement usually meant I didn’t sleep well the night before his flight. Driving to the airport to pick him up, my heart would beat faster than normal. While I was standing in the airport and waiting for him to come through the arrivals gate, time would slow down.
In the arrivals lounge of the airport, I used to keep one eye on the gate and one eye on all the stories unfolding around me. Have you ever noticed how people who are picking someone up at the airport are usually happy and excited? They bring balloons and flowers. Little kids squeal with excitement when they see their parents approaching. There is a lot of hugging and kissing.
During those periods of waiting for Mike to step through the gate I’d feel suspended between two different existences–the life I lived alone and the life we lived together. In those pauses–balanced on the precipice of happiness–I felt intensely alive. I was extra-aware of colors, noises, the taste of the coffee I sipped, my own breathing.
In those moments I used to think about stories and what was truly important in life. I felt overwhelmed by how fortunate I was. But, often, I also caught myself fretting and feeling anxious.
I’d find myself worrying that Mike would have changed–that I’d look at him across the dinner table that night and wonder if I knew him at all. I’d worry that we would struggle to find things to talk about while we were driving home. I’d worry that he’d do a double take after hugging me hello and suddenly find himself wondering what on earth he was doing with me.
Few of the worries I entertained during those nervous hours waiting for Mike to emerge in the airport ever came to pass, but I often continued to feel anxious before a long distance reunion long after we were married.
In fact, it wasn’t until the reunion just before the birth of our second child, that I noticed the nerves were finally gone. We’d been separated for 14 weeks and I didn’t feel nervous about reconnecting at all. We were six years into our relationship by then, so maybe I had just had so much practice at separating and reuniting with him that silly worries just seemed more… silly.
Or maybe I was more than 38 weeks and a gazillion years pregnant, the size of a well-fed Shetland pony, and I was so desperate for him to arrive and help care for our energetic toddler that there was no room for nerves.
Maybe a bit of both.
5 Tips To Calm Reunion Nerves
If you tend to feel anxious before reuniting with your long distance love, here are some tips that might help calm your nerves:
1. Tell yourself you’re excited, not nervous
Remember that the way your body responds to excitement is pretty much the same way it responds to fear–with adrenaline. That adrenaline causes your heart beats faster, your breathing speeds up, your palms get sweaty etc. Because the reactions caused by excitement and fear are so similar, whether we feel exhilarated or afraid is often due to the way we are thinking about our situation and interpreting our body’s cues of arousal. In this case, labels matter! While you’re playing the waiting game, remind yourself that you’re excited, not afraid.
2. Take a deep breath
Once our heart rate exceeds a certain level (about 10% above our resting rate) we get “flooded.” Adrenaline and other stress chemicals that pour into our system and make it difficult to think calmly and focus. The higher our heart rate, the more stressed and anxious we will feel. Breathing deeply and slowly sends a “calm down” message to our bodies and helps reverse the stress response.
3. Plan ahead
If you’re afraid of awkward silences, think about a couple of questions you want to ask or things you want to discuss with your partner. Plan what you’re going to do together that first night–maybe go out to a favorite restaurant or do something else fun and relaxing. Having a plan in place (even if you don’t end up doing that) will help you feel more in control and relaxed.
4. Remind yourself why you love them
Think about all the good things you love about him or her, and what they have told you they love about you. Think about your last conversation. Remind yourself that it is unlikely that their feelings about you (or yours about them) will have undergone a radical shift during their journey, no matter how bad that flight was. Recognize your worried thoughts for what they are–don’t try to ignore them or pretend you’re not feeling jittery. But don’t let those thoughts run amok in your mind, either. Acknowledge them, accept that they’re there, and then talk back to them by focusing on thoughts and memories that counteract those worries.
5. Come clean
Tell your partner how you’re feeling, and laugh about it with them if you can. He or she may not feel the same way–Mike always said he never got nervous about seeing me again, just excited–but it will help them to know why you might seem a little jittery and on-edge.