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Love Letters

Ex-college athletes need a time out

Q. To summarize: My relationship with my girlfriend started toward the end of her freshman year of college. I was a junior at the time. We did not go to the same university but our schools were close. We were both athletes and shared a lot in common. She got me through all the rough spots and was incredibly supportive from my graduation to finding my first job.

Fast forward from last May to present and I’ve seen her a few times since graduating, but not as many as I would like. She has been struggling — she doesn’t have many friends and she is having a hard time doing well in school. I can’t see her often. She admitted to me that she feels depressed but can’t give any reason as to why. She thinks “she’s crazy” and has gone to a therapist to talk about it.

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I love her with all my heart and I want to help her. We talk all the time, but lately she has become more distant and disinterested. We recently had a conversation that alarmed me. She doesn’t know about the future; she doesn’t know how we can live together. She admitted to me that she loves me but not the way it was when things were simpler. I paid for an air ticket about a month ago for her to come see me over a weekend. She said it would be a “turning point in our relationship.” We ended up having a great weekend, but I could still feel that she was off, a bit different. I think the medication she’s on might be affecting her behavior. I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster; she seems fine one week and then the next I feel she would just like to break up with me. I love this girl so much. I don’t want to lose her.

MR. LONELY, PENNSYLVANIA

A. I believe that you love her, but this relationship isn’t good for either of you. She’s dealing with depression and you’re walking on eggshells waiting to be dumped. And on top of it all, this is a long-distance relationship.

You can’t go on like this, questioning everything she says, waiting for good moods, and decoding the status of your relationship over the phone. You need to be good to yourself, especially as you start this new, post-college life.

My advice is to talk to her about whether this relationship is too complicated to continue at the moment. If she needs to focus on her education and therapy, you don’t want to be in the way. It doesn’t mean that you’ll disappear from each other’s lives forever, but perhaps the pressure will be less intense.

You don’t want to lose her, but you also don’t really have her — at least not how you want her. You’re trying to get back to the past, but that’s just not possible. Do you really want to hang on to what you have right now? It seems to me that it’s time for both of you to work on yourselves without owing each other anything.

MEREDITH

Column is edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com.

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