Q. I have been in a long-distance relationship for more than two years. I live in Boston while she lives four hours away. We met in Boston, which is where we both grew up and eventually would like to settle. We are both in our mid-20s and like to consider that we have a lot of life experience and are mature young adults with good heads. When we first started dating, we were unsure of our future because she would be leaving for grad school in just a few months. We decided to just see what happens and then realized that we didn’t care about the distance; we are in love and would make it work.
We have discussed settling down together, marriage and children. I am confident that she is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with and she also feels the same way. We would aim to see each other at least two weekends of the month. It was working — things seemed to be going just fine. The plan was that after she graduated (two years), she would come back home. As in life, things didn’t go as planned, and due to her career she must stay now for an additional two years after graduation. A bummer, but again, we are madly in love and said we will make it work.
Sounds great, right? This past weekend she said she wanted a break. I would say our relationship was having some issues — to me it was nothing major and she never voiced any major issues to me either. I have been having some trust issues (no fault of hers) and her job is extremely challenging and emotionally draining. I have noticed a slight difference in her. She says that it’s a “break” and not a breakup and that we are in a relationship but need time separately to figure out our own issues and then come together stronger. I need to work on my jealousy/trust issues while she is unclear on what she needs to work on but always says it has to do with her being emotionally drained and figuring out how to handle that and our relationship. She says she does not want to see new people and believes that this will make us a stronger couple and we will be back together. She assures me that she is in love with me and only sees me in her future. I, on the other hand, am not so sure.
We have decided to limit communication. I am going to start seeing a therapist for some of my past unresolved experiences. I believe that I get so emotionally dependent on her (and previous girlfriends) that it can be overwhelming for her. She is a very independent woman. I am independent in some ways, but emotionally I am not.
I need to know how to handle this. I go to sleep in pain and wake up in pain. I have no energy and no desire to do the things I enjoy. I find myself zoned out all the time. I have never felt like this. I fear that without a lot of communication that she is going to forget about me and move on. How do I handle this? What should I expect? What can I do to protect myself? I need some advice.
Hit by a ton of bricks,
A. I’m not a fan of breaks, HBATOB. You’re already four hours away from each other. If she can’t handle being in a relationship right now, that’s fine, but she can’t tie you up and keep you waiting around.
I’m thrilled that you’re going to therapy (obviously). Just know that you shouldn’t be punishing yourself too much for being emotionally dependent. Long-distance relationships are a challenge. Jealousy happens. You’re looking at another two years of this and you’re feeling a bit . . . exhausted? Miserable? Neglected? Makes sense.
My advice: Talk to the therapist, spend time with friends (they’re essential when battling fear of loss and dependency), and please explain to your girlfriend that ambiguous breaks don’t fix relationships. If she doesn’t want to be in an active relationship with you, she has to call this what it is — a breakup. If she wants this forever, you have to work on it and grow together.
You’re in a horrible purgatory waiting for her to set her terms. That’s just not fair. In mature relationships we work on ourselves and our partnerships at the same time. I don’t believe in hitting the pause button, at least not in this case.
This isn’t a break. It is a breakup. It sounds like the real reason is that you sound like half a man. Stop being so dependent on women and stop being so dependent on therapists. Oh, and she already has a new BF, and I promise you he is more of a man than you are.
Break = Breakup. Gotta deal with your issues and you have to deal with reality. “Long distance relationships” that don’t have an end point aren’t real relationships. Anyone can get themselves up for a couple of weekends of month, you are working through the ups and downs of life together. I normally eschew the therapy thing, but you’re a candidate, dude.
Breaks do not work. They complicate already messy situations. This needs to be a breakup. She has a lot going on and you have a lot to work on. Break up for real. Go to therapy, figure your own stuff out.
You guys see each other only two weekends of the month and she needs more time away from you? I’m sorry, but I think it’s over.
The distance plus the amount of time you have to spend apart are just too much. She probably means it when she says she loves you but the whole thing is probably just too draining for her.
I think your girlfriend, realizing how emotionally fragile you are, is trying to take baby steps with this breakup. First a break without seeing new people. In three months, you two are still dating but are free to see other people. Three more months and it becomes a clean breakup.
Bricks: The thing about getting hit by them is that the mortar that holds them together is usually crumbling and the whole wall is teetering precariously, only you’re too focused on a leaky faucet or a slow drain to notice.
SALLYColumn and reader comments are edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.
com. She chats online on Wednesdays at 1 p.m.