Apr 6, 2011

Q & A - Is Our Long-Distance Relationship Doomed?

Q. Dear Alannah,

I need another person's opinion!  I'm in my first relationship with a guy who is two years older than me.  We started dating in September 2010 and things were fine and dandy for the first 4 months of our relationship.  I was very busy with school because it was my last year of undergrad, so basically, he was always the one coming down after work to see me once or twice a week.  At first, I was careful not to open my heart too much to him because 1) I wanted to play it safe, and 2) my lack of free time to spend with him prevented it from happening as well.  However, he surprised me some time in November when he said out of nowhere, "I think I love you," as he was leaving.  I was shocked and felt really bad because at that point, I could not say the same back to him.  After that incident though, I let down the walls around my heart and took more time out for him. Since then, my affections for him have grown a lot.

The problem came about 4 months into the relationship when he told me that he would be leaving at the beginning of February for Korea to teach English for 6 months.  I was completely alright with the idea of him being across the globe from me (I'm in Toronto) because I had complete faith in him.  However, the things that have transpired since he got his acceptance into the teaching abroad program has planted a lot of doubts in my mind.  He said a lot about how he'd keep up with this relationship while he was in Korea and such, but his words and his actions contradict each other.  In most cases, whenever it comes down to himself vs. the relationship, he'd always puts himself first.  I'm not saying that everything he does has to be for the relationship first and foremost.  However, from my point-of-view, it seems like I'm the one putting more effort into this relationship than he is.  For example, in order for us to Skype, I basically have to be online whenever I can because he can't give me a set time for when we can Skype on a weekly basis.  I've made it clear to him that I'm frustrated and unhappy with some of the things that he's been doing, but his actions haven't changed.  He just gets defensive about his actions and never tries to console me or make me happy. (I've tried to be objective, but I think my explanation has taken on a subjective view at this point.)  He's told me that this long distance deal has been an ordeal for him as well, but when I ask him if he still wants in on this, he says yes.  The only problem that I have with his "yes" is that I know, from what he's told me, that he has trouble breaking up with girls.

I was unhappy over this for about 3-4 weeks and most of my friends have advised me to just end the relationship.  I'm reluctant to end it now because I'm afraid I might regret the decision later on.  I still miss him even though I am unhappy.  Also, I realize that I tend not to tell others about the good things that have happened.  Right now, I've been doing what you've suggested to others and trying to find happiness in other aspects of my life, and it's been working to an extent.  It still affects me though when we have a less than ideal Skypeing session.  My question to you is, what do you think I should do?  Should I stick to what I'm doing right now and wait for him to come back after 6 more months of teaching and travelling?

Sincerely,

Gina
 
A. Dear Gina,

Sorry to hear about your current situation!  Long-distance relationships can suck, and it sucks even more when it feels unequal and like the other person isn't putting in their fair share of effort to make things work.  I'm glad to hear you've been taking my advice given to others and focusing on other aspects of your life that make you happy, but this current problem in your relationship definitely needs to be taken care of.

It looks like you've been doing what you can to try to improve your relationship, you've spoken with your boyfriend about the problem numerous times, and he still isn't delivering on his end to try to make the relationship work, and hasn't been supportive or understanding, either.  At this point, there are only 2 things left you can do:

1) Continue to try to get him to step up and do his part, and hope that he'll finally stop being selfish and put in his fair share of the effort (unlikely), all the while feeling unhappy and suffering as you wait another 6 months until he gets back,

or

2) take a break from the relationship so you can focus on yourself and making yourself happy, and talking to him again once he gets back to see if it's possible to pick up where you left off.

The second option may seem like the scarier of the two, but it may also be the most liberating one.  If you decide to stay, all you can do is wait around for him to put in more effort, which seems like the more excruciating and painful of the two choices.  If you decide to break things off "for now", you can (both) explore what other options are out there, and the relationship won't be hanging over you like an albatross that is dragging you down; relationships are supposed to improve your life and make you happier, and they take two people to work, and right now, yours isn't meeting either of those criteria.

If you decide to go with option 2, it doesn't necessarily mean it's a permanent end for you two, either; taking a break may help your boyfriend realize what he's missing without you in his life, and could help give him the kick in the butt needed to step up and put in the effort needed to make things work.  On the other hand, it could also result in a permanent break-up, with him confessing that he's been feeling this way for awhile (something you've considered for yourself, given that you know his track record with ex-girlfriends).  Regardless of that, staying in the relationship as it is at the moment isn't bringing you any happiness, either, so something needs to be done that can potentially result in both of you being happy, whether it's staying together or being apart.

If you're not completely ready to break it off yet, you could have another talk with your boyfriend and let him know that you're close to that point where you're ready to throw in the towel if he doesn't step up; basically, give him an ultimatum - if he doesn't put in the effort, you're out.  Giving ultimatums isn't fun, but it's sometimes needed to give a person a wake-up call.  There is a very real possibility that once you talk to your boyfriend and tell him this is how you've been feeling and that you're ready to leave if he doesn't step up, the possibility of losing you will get him off his lazy behind and motivate him to put in the needed effort to make things work.  If you do decide to have this talk with him, though, don't do it counting on that to happen; expect that the conversation could go either way.

Good luck, and I hope this helps.  Let me know if you have any questions, and keep me updated!

Alannah

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