Andrei Milosevic is an international student, traveler, and writer. Over the past few years, he has been studying international business and providing advice and insight into international calling. In his free time he kayaks and Skypes with his best friend back home in Serbia.
I was eighteen when my parents got divorced. I was eating breakfast with my family one February morning when my mom announced she was moving out. The announcement was as sudden as it was unexpected. It took my entire family by surprise—including my father, who hadn’t even realized that his marriage was in jeopardy.
When my mother moved out a few weeks later into an apartment across town, my father fell into a deep depression. He wandered around the house like a zombie. He watched a lot of TV. He started drinking—not excessively, but more than he had when my mom still lived with us. When he talked about my mom, or the divorce, it was clear that he blamed himself.
The situation was complicated by my dad’s relationship to religion. My dad is an old-school Catholic. The church’s stance on divorce is pretty clear—my brothers and I grew up listening to my dad tell us that marriage was for life. For a long time, my father refused to entertain the thought of going on dates with other women.
Then, three or four years after the divorce, he met a woman named Lauren at a church function. Lauren’s daughter had gone to school with my brothers and I. My dad insisted that he and Lauren were ‘just friends’ when he introduced her to my brothers and I, but it wasn’t long before they were dating. My brothers and I were happy that our dad was finally moving on, but there was one catch—Lauren didn’t live in our hometown. In fact, she didn’t even live in the United States.
While Lauren’s daughter lived a few miles away from us (with Lauren’s ex-husband), Lauren lived and worked in Columbia. She came back to the United States for two or three times a year. When she did come back to the States, she usually stayed for three or four weeks. My dad met her during one of these extended visits home.
It bothered me and my brothers that our dad’s first relationship after the divorce was a long-distance relationship. Having been in a few long-distance relationships myself, I know that they can be really difficult. In my experience, jumping headfirst into a long-distance relationship without taking the time to really get to know the other person is a great way to set yourself up for disappointment. Lauren had only been in the States for a couple of weeks, after all—how well could she and my dad really know each other?
When Lauren went back to Columbia, my dad and her did all the normal things that people in long-distance relationships do to make it work. They bought international calling cards. They sent each other e-mails. They made plans to visit each other. All the while, my brothers and I watched carefully, waiting for the other shoe to drop—absolutely sure that, when dad and Lauren inevitably broke up, it would be the three of us who’d be picking up the pieces.
What we came to realize was that there were pros and cons to our dad’s long-distance relationship with Lauren. The cons of jumping into a long-distance relationship post-divorce were obvious. For one thing, the relationship didn’t seem sustainable. Nothing on earth was going to convince my dad to move to Columbia, and Lauren had no intention of moving back to the United States. We were also worried that a bad breakup would tear my dad apart and trigger another bout of depression. Lastly, we worried that the distance might cause my dad and Lauren to over-idealize one another. It’s very easy to build someone into something they’re not when you don’t share a living space with them or deal with their annoying habits on a daily basis.
While my brothers and I were happy to see my dad happy, it took us awhile to fully appreciate the positive benefits of our dad’s new, long-distance relationship. First, it was an easy, stress-free way for him to transition back into the dating game. Second, it provided him with a level of emotional support that had been absent from his life in the wake of my mom’s departure. Lastly, it made him happy. He spent a lot of time on the phone or writing e-mails on his computer, but at least he wasn’t wallowing in his grief anymore.
Lauren and my dad dated for about two years before they broke up. The break-up was mutual, and very friendly. They both sort of realized what my brothers and I had worried about all along—neither of them was planning on moving to be with the other person, so there wasn’t much point in continuing their relationship.
Dad took it really well, handling it much better than he’d handled the divorce. My dad and Lauren are both dating other people now, but they remain friends and pen-pals to this day, and we still see Lauren whenever she’s in town.
All in all, I’m glad my dad dated Lauren—even if the relationship was long-distance. It made it easier for him to adjust to life without my mom. It taught him that my mom wasn’t the only woman in the world; that he was capable of being compatible with other people. For a long period of time after my parents got divorced, my dad was visibly hurting. Lauren helped him heal and, for that, I’ll always be grateful.