I moved to a different country (Country A) for my first job out of university. I’d visited before and loved everything about it, and was feeling pretty sick of my home country (Country B) at that point. However, I was also always confident that I would eventually move back to my home country to be near my family and friends from childhood/university.
While still living in Country A, I started dating an amazing man. We started the relationship very casually: I was up front about my long-term desire to move back to Country B, and he was equally up front about never wanting to leave Country A. However, we fell very much in love and stayed together for two years. I could write 1,000 words about how amazing this man is. The short version is that, you know how a lot of people say they knew their partner was “the one” because their partner felt like home? That’s how I felt (feel?) about him.
While I was falling in love with Country A and this man, some family problems made me realize how hard it was to be away from my family and closest friends. Last November, I was offered an amazing job back in Country B. It was the hardest decision I have made in my life; in the end, I took the job and moved back to Country B because I couldn’t shake the feeling that I want to be there in the long term, and staying in Country A was just prolonging the inevitable. My then-boyfriend and I broke up. In a series of very painful conversations, he made it clear that he supported my decision but would never follow me to my home country.
I’ve been in Country B for five months now. I like being close to my family and friends (my social calendar hasn’t been this packed in years!). A lot of relationships important to me have been strengthened. But I miss Country B, and I miss my ex SO MUCH. Every part of my daily life feels like he should be there, and I can’t imagine a future without him. We still text every day (trying to do the “friends” thing, though we’ve both been pulling back a bit). We’ve had a few “feelingsbomb” conversations where we talked about how much we care for and miss each other, but he reiterated that he is not moving for me.
Captain, how do you get over someone who could have been the love of your life if not for geography? I feel like I had one inner voice screaming at me to go home to my family when I was living in Country A, and now I have an inner voice screaming at me to go to my “home” with this man. I feel like I’m being torn in half.
I Don’t Believe In The One But What If He Was It? (she/her)
Hi I Don’t Believe In The One,
There’s no easy answer here, but if you truly want to move on from this person and commit to your life in Country B, here’s the hard necessary stuff that will help:
End contact or take a long break from being in contact with your ex. You’re not friends and you won’t be friends as long as this big wave of longing flows between you. This “texting every day” routine is keeping your hopes and your feelings alive, the phone is the umbilical cord feeding the relationship.
Remind yourself: He had the opportunity to move to be with you, and he chose not to. He could end this separation any time he wants to, but he isn’t choosing to do that. I think you still hope that he will change his mind and come be with you. Every day he doesn’t do that he is re-affirming his choice.
Remind yourself: You had the opportunity to stay and be with him, but you chose not to. You could end this separation any time you want to, but so far you’ve chosen not to do that. If this were really the right long-term relationship for both of you, wouldn’t one of you have made the decision to stay or move so that you could be together? Is moving back and being with him what you really want to do? If so, do that! If not, throw yourself into life where you are and let go of him.
It’s one of the saddest truths that you can love someone and still not be able to build a happy life with them. You’ve both made the hard choices and had the hard conversations. Now it’s time to grieve what might have been and let distance and time do their work. This will heal if you let it.
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51 thoughts on “#1106: Breaking up because: Geography”
This sux. I’ve been there.
Captain is right – you two need some (electronic) space. Please take it.
Echoing to take the space you need and really love the life you are choosing for yourself.
I had a break up with a love because his career choice would cut out my ability to have a career that I wanted. I loved him dearly but I chose a different, more independent life. You meet other people. You have other relationships. Let yourself do that growing and healing and embrace the choice to be with your family. Give yourself the gift of letting yourself build the life you’ve chosen.
I had a relationship with truly the most wonderful man who was incredibly kind and always kept life interesting. His career was flourishing with epic opportunities, including a big move to another country. It became apparent that if I had followed him, or if he had given up these opportunities, we would not be the most authentic version of ourselves. The things that I admired most about him were the reason he had to take on these challenges and changes, but I would have lived in the shadow of that and have had to adapt my career to follow his. It was hard, and we tried to be friends right after which made it harder. The space really helps and allows you to focus on being your best self.
I’ve been doing the long-distance thing for a long time, and frequent email and/or texting are a lot of how we’ve kept that connection alive. Based on that experience, I agree with the Captain that since you have broken up with this person because long distance doesn’t work for you, you should take a serious break from the texts.
Pick an amount of time–I will arbitrarily suggest four months–and tell him that you love him, but since neither of you is moving, you need a four-month break to move on with your life, and hope it will help your ex do the same. I wouldn’t block instantly after sending that, because this isn’t the standard “don’t contact me” situation. In this case, it would be reasonable for him to reply with “OK, I’ll miss you” or even “if you change your mind and want to call sooner, I’m here,” so maybe give a few hours for him to reply before you block him, but don’t get into a long discussion of whether this is a good idea, or whether the length of time you’ve picked is appropriate.
“It’s one of the saddest truths that you can love someone and still not be able to build a happy life with them.”
And. You can love someone else. I don’t believe in The One (as in, there only being one in the world). Imagine how many unfulfilled people there would be.
Yea, its more like he was A One. Even that’s a little debatable considering how it isn’t working out. But even if that were true, there are definitely more “The One”s out there for OP.
The Captain often points out that Perfect except for [huge glaring incompatibility] is not perfect at all.
Your ex would be perfect if he wanted to live with you more than he wants to stay home. But he doesn’t. That’s pretty huge.
So yeah, break off contact for a while, the Captain is right.
Jedi hugs if you want them.
I feel like a lot of times, when people talk about getting over a breakup, there’s an underlying assumption that the breakup probably happened because someone Was A Jerk. Sometimes that’s the case…but a lot of breakups are more about a single point of dealbreaker-level incompatibility than the entire relationship being wrong. That’s what’s happening here–each of you has decided which country you’re going to live in, those aren’t the same country, therefore the two of you aren’t compatible as a couple, no matter how good everything else is.
I think all you can do in a case like this is remind yourself of why you’re making the right choice for you, and lean on that for security. You chose to move back to B for solid, important reasons–reasons that haven’t gone away since then. Being with this person was not enough to make it feasible for you to live in A forever, and going back probably wouldn’t change that. This person is not willing to move to B, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. That’s your solid ground here: you made the best choice you could, given the options you had available.
I think the Captain’s advice about cutting down on contact until your heart recovers a little is a good idea. Right now, you’re functionally in an indefinite LDR that you’re refusing to call by that name. I think it might help to cut that cord for a couple months and focus your time and energy on building yourself a happy and fulfilling life in A. When you’re feeling more settled and your romantic feelings for your ex have faded, that’s a good time to reach out and see if you can have a real friendship with each other again.
I think that your first paragraph is really useful to bear in mind. People feel guilty about breakups, and it can be easier to deal if the other person is a jerk, and people also feel societal pressure to stay in relationships that aren’t working for them because the other person hasn’t done anything bad, so it isn’t fair to break up with them. But often the reality is that lives or personalities aren’t compatible and no-one is the bad guy. I think that when someone is a jerk and that ends the relationship it can be good to acknowledge it, but when they’re not that doesn’t mean the reason to leave is less important. Two nice people here have incompatible and insurmountable desires in life that are unlikely to change, certainly not for now. So the best thing is to accept that and take the steps necessary to move on. It’s going to hurt, and that’s really hard, but it sounds like it’s necessary.
You have done the right thing…I lived in a Country A for a while and met women from my Country B who were stuck in Country A even after being divorced because they had kids and they couldn’t leave Country A if they wanted to see their kids on a daily basis.
I don’t see how that’s exactly relevant here… Presumably those women made the choice to get married & have kids knowing there was some risk that if the marriage didn’t work out, they’d be in that situation. I also have met some people in the situation you describe, as well as people who have lasting international marriages/relationships. Lots of people (myself included) make the decision to start a family in a country that’s not their home. Just the possibility that maybe it won’t work out isn’t reason in itself to not bother trying. The relevant thing is to think through the different options and figure out what your dealbreakers are. If the prospect of being “stuck” in a country post-divorce is unacceptable then perhaps you come to the conclusion that the risk of marriage & starting a family there is too high, but not everyone comes down on the same side of that risk-reward evaluation.
Seconded. The particulars of countries, individuals, and the ever-changing legal and political landscape means there is never a one size fits all answer to questions like “should I Relationship with someone from another country.” Even attempting to offer blanket advice is a bit side-eye worthy tbh.
I think it’s relevant to the LW, who is sure she doesn’t want to live long-term in Country A and is trying to come to terms with that decision. Or at least I find “What are some of the worst-case scenarios if I made the Other Decision (which I know wasn’t right for me but I am I still struggling with)?” to be helpful in quieting the voice that wants all possible versions of my life simultaneously.
What a tough spot! One angle that you might want to consider: If one of you were to move from your home country to be with the other, perhaps the sacrifice would eventually drive you apart. If you were to move to Country A, the potential for resentment towards your beau might grow over time, as being away from your family and home country is a huge sacrifice on your part. And the same thing for him – would you want to live with the sense that you caused his sacrifice? Yes, love and being together is a big reward and incentive. But with such strong feelings that you each have about wanting to be “home”, I’m not sure that love is enough to overcome that underlying desire. I wish you luck and eventual peace with whatever decision you make.
Speaking as someone in a similar situation who has made the decision to move to be with someone, let me second this. I’ve done it twice – or, rather, once that I did it, once that I’m planning on in another couple of years. The first time I moved with a man to a place that was supremely Wrong for me: I have grown up near the coast my whole life, I love the ocean and go sailing every chance I get, and politically I’m very well-suited to my home region. I moved to a landlocked state that’s about 100x more conservative than (queer, polyamorous, pagan leftist) I could handle. I managed almost 2 years there and then came home. It wasn’t that I didn’t love him, but I couldn’t be happy there, and there was definitely a growing element of resentment because of how unhappy I’d been there. We tried to do long-distance after I came home, but couldn’t make it work.
The person I’m with now has family in another state and is really unhappy living here. We are staying a couple more years for personal reasons, but after that we’ll be moving up north. But I’m willing to do it, because while I’ll miss my home area, I’ll still be on the coast, I still like it up there (have visited a few times to make sure of it) and I’ll be close enough to drive down on the occasional weekend. So while it’s not what I would have chosen if left to my own devices, I accept it willingly and am okay with doing it in order to be together. And that really does make all the difference. If you’d stayed for him, or if he moved to be with you…it would always be a little bit grudgingly so, I think, and that is relationship poison in the long run.
Yep. I made the opposite choice that LW did, BUT (and this is a huge but), I’m not close with my family, and the place where I grew up is very conservative, pretty anti-education, and very Christian. I’m decidedly none of those things. I had a way better chance of getting a good career-track job out where we moved to, too.
And now, I can’t imagine moving back “home”. This is my home! For LW, it’s clear that it wasn’t, and that’s okay, too.
I also made the opposite choice (albeit on an intra-country level), and while I don’t regret it, I would still move back in a heartbeat if that were an option. My spouse knows and understands this and is even open to moving should circumstances change to make that possible, but I know it still makes him sad that this will never be home to me the way it is to him, and it makes me sad that I can’t shake the feeling for his sake no matter how hard I try to make the best of things. There is no right or good answer in situations like these. There is only what sacrifices you will ultimately have an easier time living with.
I also made the opposite choice. I chose the guy and moved from a place that made me very happy to one that made me not miserable, necessarily, but a lot less happy. As you say, it will never be “home” like it is for my spouse.
So I could have easily written this letter but opposite: “How can I get over the place I left?” And the answer is roughly the same. Accept that I made a choice. Find ways to be happy. Stop randomly browsing apartments in the city I chose to leave. Enjoy the consequences of the choice I made.
Yes yes yes to this.
I lived away from my home country for many years – and after I’d been there for about 5 years and someone asked me if I would stay there forever, it became super clear to me that for me Country A could never be a true long term option. During that time a few of my expat friends married residents of Country A and the decision of staying or leaving was not an easy decision for couples. In some cases an inability to resolve that contributed to divorce, in other case a “permanent” move away from Country A was made – but only under the condition it would be for a period of 5-10 years. And in some cases a more permanent move was made – but I can truly say, that for a lot of these couples it hasn’t been easy.
Permanently moving to a new country is just not for everyone. That doesn’t invalidate the love or wonderful times had with a partner, but for many it’s an incredibly difficult choice. When I was living abroad, I only saw my family once a year for three weeks. That worked at that time in my life. As my parents get older, it’s a choice that really does not feel workable for me.
So yes, if the option of being away from your home country “forever” will never feel right – the chance of it creeping into the relationship may very well be inevitable. The challenges of living abroad and away from family/friends really are what they are. Whether it’s the health of our parents, the weddings of our friends, the chance to meet the babies of friends/families – that is part of it. There will be new friends, potentially new family, and new moments of joy – but those other pieces do remain. And if those are choices that will always haunt you – then you really did make the right choice.
Just adding to the chorus of amens to this one.
My now-husband moved one zillion miles from the only place he’d ever lived to live with me. It took two years of work to (mostly) address my constant, crippling guilt and anxiety over the fact that he gave up an amazing community, proximity to family and friends, a great house, a fulfilling job, and a beautiful city to come be broke and unemployed and grapple with a ridiculously drawn out immigration process in a country without universal healthcare.
The sacrifice for us was worth it, but I do NOT recommend this course of action to other people. It’s infinitely more complex and difficult than I personally could have imagined. And we are eventually planning to move back to his country, which I’m sure will introduce a whole different level of complexity.
All that to say — this stuff is hard, OP. Love really isn’t all you need. “I love you but I’m miserable, homesick, and lonely here” is indeed a recipe for resentment and frustration. Maybe you could work through it with a lot of time and effort, or maybe you couldn’t. But whatever choice you make isn’t going to be easy. I echo LMC’s wish for peace for you.
At this point you are separated geographically. Now, you need to separate electronically. You can’t give Country B a fair shake when you’re focusing on a might-have been. End contact with him for at least six months, and then do your best to invest in where you’re living.
“It’s one of the saddest truths that you can love someone and still not be able to build a happy life with them.”
This. Neither of you is wrong or a bad person. You both made a choice- you to return to your home country and him to stay in his. That’s OK. Let yourself mourn the ending by ceasing contact for a time.
I think what it sounds like is that both of you love your countries more than you love each other. You have to try to make a life you like regardless of relationship and it may just be easier to find someone else who also loves your country.
Piling on to the theme of (kindly) cutting contact with him for a specified period while you settle in to your life where you are now.
There is nothing wrong with deciding that you aren’t willing to move for him, and there is nothing wrong with deciding that you are willing to move for him- but sticking in the middle, taunting yourself with the person who is ALMOST perfect (if only he would just move like you want him to), is almost by definition bad for you. You may find that after you don’t speak for a few weeks or months, you stop missing him so much. You may find that after you don’t speak for a few weeks or months, you would happily chuck the new job to be with him. You may even find that you need to keep not speaking for months or even years because it breaks your heart that you can’t have both of the things you want most in the world. But the only way I can see to get to any of those places is to not speak for a while.
The hardest thing about a break-up like this is that no one did anything wrong. But it might help to look at it like this: at the moment, neither of you feels like being with the other person is more important than where you live while you’re together. Maybe you wouldn’t have worked out anyway, and this is just pushing you to that decision faster.
Yup. She’s just torturing herself and dwelling on what she doesn’t have and what could have been. If she just makes a clean break she might find she finds a lot more happiness in her home.
I think it’s one of the worst things about this ‘one go at life’ thing (depending on beliefs), that sometimes you HAVE to make a choice between two things you desperately want and there is just no way of reconciling the two. The Captain is right, you and he have both decided that your location is your priority, live in that choice and stop torturing yourself with an imagined alternate reality where the two things are compatible.
Also grieve as much as you need to and look after yourself, this stuff stinks xxx
~you and he have both decided that your location is your priority, live in that choice and stop torturing yourself with an imagined alternate reality where the two things are compatible.~
Very well summed-up. A lot of the reason Country A never really felt like home could be because you were in the mindset of waiting to go back to Country B. Now you’re in Country B and trying to build a life, but you can’t fully do that from a mindset of ‘this is what’s waiting for me in Country A’.
You also may be experiencing the “remember all the good times” effects extra strong (especially when there wasn’t a horrible bad breakup to counteract). You are at a fun event, it would be great if he was at fun event. Even when the breakup is bad, it’s easy to go back to just the fun/good stuff. But if he were actually here and squeezing the toothpaste in the middle and leaving his socks around, you might be back at reality a little more about being together.
You’ve probably thought of many of these already, but I’m going to throw out some ideas for you just in case.
*Are Countries A and B the only options for you both? Or might there be a Country C where you could both be happy instead?
*Could you plan to live in either A or B for a set number of years, and either move to the other A/B country or Country C at that point?
*Is it possible to live in either A or B part time? Or live in A/B full time, but one of you commutes to B/A? (This largely depends on geography – for example, if the countries are France and Italy, it’s a very different situation than if they are Canada and Mali.)
*Could you agree on a long distance relationship, where you live apart in your home countries and visit when you can?
Obviously, there’s a lot we don’t know about your situation, and I have no idea if any of the above ideas are workable. But from your letter, it looks like you’ve settled into a thought pattern where the only options are to live together in one country or the other, or break up. Neither of you wants to move to the other person’s home country, and it’s pretty clear that you also don’t want to break up, so maybe there are other ways of working it out.
When I read your letter, LW, and parse out the words, I see lots of strong happy words used for Country A. You use ‘amazing’ and ‘love’ multiple times. For Country B, those words aren’t there. You use “like” and “strengthened”. For me the tone of the letter says, if it weren’t for family, I’d be in Country A.
So, maybe take a look at that? Is your family pressuring you to be close? Are you listening to their voices or your own voice? What do YOU, LW, really want from life?
If it were me, and yes, I have been here (my ex-husband and I split up over geography), I would be taking a time out to look not just at tomorrow or 10 days from now, but what you want 10 months from now, and then 10 years from now. What do you really want and where do you really want to be?
Jedi Hugs and warm wishes.
LW, jedi hugs if you want them. I can offer another reframing device that might help with the painful moving on part of the Captain’s advice: Intercultural relationships can incredibly challenging. A relationship that worked beautifully in one context might crack and crumble in a different context. This is not to say that the beautiful relationship you had wasn’t real, but that it might not be transplant-able even if he were to move to your country. Your relationship might (almost certainly would) fundamentally change in a new context with an entirely new set of pressures, and neither of you can really know what that will look like. The happy future you imagine might not materialize. All you can know is whether you are up for the challenge, and he is giving you the gift of honesty. Whether he phrases it this way or not, he is not up for the challenge of making a go of it in a new country. In time you might be grateful for the beautiful memories you have of this relationship, grateful for the fact that you have almost exclusively beautiful memories. You won’t have to undergo the agony of (maybe) watching him turn into a different person after he moves to your country; the agony of (maybe) realizing the solid foundation you thought you had is cracking beneath you; the agony of (maybe) confronting the awful truth that moving was a mistake. These are all possible outcomes of him moving to your country. When you think about how happy you would be if he were in your country, remind yourself that it is a fantasy; if he moved it might well end very differently and more painfully than you imagine now.
Also note that Mr. One becomes even more perfect the longer you’re away from him. In local relationships eventually you see the Object of Affection in a bad mood. You see him sick and smelly. You see him make a bad decision and become temperamental over it. You see him put his foot in his mouth. I could go on and on about the unattractive things that make all of us human and not so wonderful.
As an alternative thought, I know some long distance married couples, for example one spouse in London and the other in Paris, or one in NYC and the other in DC. Depending on your distance, travel, and work conditions, would a long term long distance relationship be something you’d be interested in trying?
I know someone who is deliciously happy in a NYC-LA marriage!
I know of a Japanese/American couple (they’re decently popular Youtubers) that lived apart for something like four years. Eventually she came to live with him but only after completely quitting her job (she was in the military).
I know a number of couples doing this, often between continents (it’s pretty common in my field to be long distance for a period of years). I wouldn’t recommend it as a long term solution. Even when a couple is actively trying to be together (by getting jobs in the same place) or it’s a temporary thing, it puts a big stress on the relationship, and there’s a high rate of failure. The people I’ve seen do it successfully over a long term period tend to be fairly independent – they’re actually quite happy living as a single person, with an occasional cool vacation with the other person, and don’t particularly want to live day in and day out with someone. Also – you shouldn’t do this if you want or have kids, and you either have to be really good at being mostly celibate, or okay with an open relationship. Money is often an issue – you need a pretty good salary to be able to afford regular international travel, not to mention ample vacation time, and you’re maintaining totally separate households so there’s less money than if you weren’t long distance.
I think it depends a lot on circumstances as well as personalities as to whether that is a goer. It particularly gets a lot more difficult if a couple want to have children and raise them together, because you can’t do that when one of you is away a lot of the time AND home is two separate places as opposed to a home you both have as your primary base, but one person sometimes has to leave it. My own LTR suits me brilliantly, but because I’m older, don’t have and never wanted kids, and enjoy my own space. It would not suit me if I were younger and wanting children and someone to eat breakfast with on a routine basis.
LW, may I recommend the fabulous collection of Dear Sugar columns, Tiny Beautiful Things, and most especially the piece inside entitled The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us.
Not only does it show how to make room for the wake of your sister life’s ship, the one you didn’t board, but contains a suggestion to read Tomas Transtromer’s poem The Blue House. Here’s the link: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-blue-house/
We all have lives that we didn’t lead, loves we didn’t stay with, pain incurred from one choice that we’d feel in a different heart if we’d made another. Pain doesn’t mean, always, that you did something wrong or that someone wronged you. It’s just the Angel of Life showing up with a bill and saying sorry, but this is owed.
There isn’t just ‘one’ person for us. You guys are torturing yourselves and each other. I’d be doing it too so not judging! So sorry and cap is right. Take a break and work on healing and reality and not banging heads against walls. Really I’m sorry though. It sounds miserable.
I have been on both sides of this where I made 2 different decisions. I dated someone from another country. We loved each other. He was so kind and so sweet and I truly loved him. But I could not move half way around the world to be with him. We stayed in touch after his visa expired and wrote letters and talked every week (back in the days of having to buy an international calling card). He surprised me by visiting here… but at the end of the day, I just knew I’d never leave here and he would never leave there. I have such fond memories of him. He could have been The One. But he was not.
Then I met my husband. Despite living my entire life in the mountains and living my absolute dream life at the time. I ended moving away to a place without mountains—same country though—to be close to his family. That place was awful for me and in some ways I felt so more alone than I ever had in my life. It was very conservative, no mountains, couldn’t do the things I loved most, people were so different from me, but not in a good way. I was homesick. Eventually we moved to another area where there are not mountains but I fit in better. We will be married 15 years this summer. I miss the mountains everyday. Yet, we have built a beautiful life together and I am grateful to have gone through the hard times with him to be where we are now. So now when I think about how I could have moved away to a different country all those years ago, I don’t feel sad. I feel glad this isis the choice I made. As wonderful as he was, there was a reason I wasn’t willing to leave. Whatever that reason was—who knows why, my gut told me to stay. And as fond as those memories are, I’m not wishing for them to be anything more now. Because I have a wonderful life. And I want to trust that you will too. With or without him. This stuff is messy and hard and it’s easy to second guess yourself. But one of my favorite quotes is by Goethe,”Just trust yourself. Then you will know how to live.”
I’m really sorry. This must be so heartbreaking.
I hope it will help to remember this: the fact that you met one person who felt like “the one” means that there is a high statistical likelihood of there being more such people out there. Now you know that your heart can love this deeply, and that you can feel profound connection. That means it will happen again.
Let yourself grieve, and feel the sorrow of letting go. And, someday, the time will come when you find yourself loving somebody else, just as wonderful. And you’ll be able to look back on your first love with fond remembrance.
LW, if choosing between a great love and living near your friends and family is something you don’t want to have to do, you need to free yourself up to meet someone who won’t put you in that position. There are people who live or want to live in your area who can inspire those feelings in you if that’s what you want.
Letter Writer, my heart goes out to you. I know that feeling of longing, and how consuming it can be, and how in the back of your mind it seems it HAS to work out, because of true love. I made a similar choice, and just want you to know that your feelings are REAL. But it’s also true that you can love again if you choose. I did. All the hugs if you want them.
I also had an inter-country relationship many years ago and if I’d been honest with myself and him then about our situation, I would have saved both of us a lot of grief, time and money.
Over the years of reading this column I have seen many letters from miserable people being strung along by someone who can not decide what they’re going to do, people who move but are then miserable and take it out on the other partner, or vice versa.
So I admire that you have both been upfront about not wanting to move. This gives you both a clean break.
I realise it completely sucks and it may do for awhile. But you know you’re own mind and that is a real gift.
I’m in an international marriage, and it’s hard. Before getting serious about my husband, I had to honestly look at whether I would be willing to leave my country if circumstances change–immigration laws, his family needing help, etc. That’s because neither of us was comfortable making a lifetime commitment otherwise–laws can change, people get sick, and if one partner doesn’t have room for that in their possibilities, you can’t actually commit to stay with your partner under all the probable circumstances.
It sounds like even if you decide that *you* could move back to ex’s country, he is not willing to make that sort of commitment (if LW could never vote here because laws change, we would move. If LW’s parents needed LW as a caregiver, moving would be one of the things we consider as a couple). So maybe that will help you move on, as well–knowing that even if *you* change your mind, his intransigence on moving is a serious impediment to making a real commitment.
This is a slightly different situation, but still with long distance. I met A online about 7 or 8 years ago. We hit it off immediately. When we visited each other in our home countries, we had strong chemistry and there was an obvious attraction. But for many years, we went back and forth on whether to actually commit to each other, mainly because of the distance and thinking about Future Commitments is really hard when you’re baby 20-somethings. In the end I put my foot down and said if we weren’t willing to commit we had to stop even entertaining the idea, because it was becoming damaging **for me personally** (I’m a Future Planner and A very much is Not) to continue to entertain this idea. I felt like I was being strung along and I NEEDED to draw a line under it for my own health.
It relaxed our relationship CONSIDERABLY. We were able to remain close friends, and keep things lighthearted. I got drunk one night and realised I was still in love with them, but I also decided that was *my* issue to handle and I was not going to dump that on their lap. A few months ago, A brought up the subject again. They had decided, basically, “fuck the distance, I want to be with you and nothing is going to stop that”. So we are now together. All those things we thought stood in our way, like the distance, like the seriousness of the commitment, like uprooting and moving countries for one another, just melted away. Basically, we both enthusiastically consented to the relationship, how it works now, and a shared plan for how we will navigate the challenges that come our way in the future.
I share this as a *contrast* to your story. At the end of the day, we make our relationship work because… it isn’t work. It’s a shame we don’t live together right now, or even on the same continent, but that isn’t causing me mental or physical pain. We both have long term projects that are keeping us tied to different countries right now, so we have time to test run the relationship for several years. We have active social lives outside of one another. And at the end of the day, we’re BOTH willing to make the sacrifice of moving to different countries for each other. Heck, one possible plan is to move to a country NEITHER of us are citizens of. They are sacrifices that, to me, don’t feel like sacrifices.
If there is One Person for everyone out there (which, eh, I don’t think there is, but then I look at my parents and well….. #ishipit), you know they are the One Person because any obstacles to your relationship melt away. Yes, moving countries is a pain in the ass (I’ve done it), and navigating a new culture is a pain in the ass, but those things are not insurmountable. People do them. People survive them. And people survive breakups and go on to find new, amazing people who are on the same page as them about their expectations and dreams for the future. Those expectations don’t have to be The Exact Same. But usually, in long-term long-lasting relationships, they tally more or less equally. The differences tend to be “I want two kids and my partner wants three,” not, “I want no kids and my partner wants four”. It’s when the broad strokes differ that issues can arise, because the broad strokes reveal when you are not actually as compatible long term as you FEEL you are right now.
Ask yourself, LW, the kind of questions I have spent the last few years asking myself. What is YOUR ultimate future? If you could choose anywhere to live, a place where your heart would sing, where would it be? And note: is that place a specific country/city, or is something more abstract like “close to my family”? What would you enthusiastically consent to? With the right person, what sacrifices or compromises would not be deal breakers? Because right now, it sounds like you have a good job, with a good Team LW. I know you miss him, and the country, but the country itself will always be there. You can go back. But deep down I get the sense from your letter that you are in a place where you can thrive.
It’s so, so easy to get sucked into the narrative of “if onlys” and “what could have beens” and “oh god i was already secretly fantasizing about our wedding how do i fill that space”. So, like other commenters have mentioned, spend time away from these thought patterns. Focus on what’s happening around your Right Now. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “this person is The One (if not for this one teeny tiny flaw about them that i can change hopefully)” but… By definition if that person has a flaw you hope you can change, they are not The One for you. That flaw is an incompatibility. The best way is to take a break from that person. Let yourself live a life without them in it (or at least, with them as one of many emotional contacts).Try it on. See how it feels. Five months along is still not that far from the breakup. Throw yourself into that social calender. Let yourself be sad in your private time, and with people you trust. But remember, you both made choices that are true to your own selves. It’s okay that those don’t align. You have the capacity for great love, and there is a person (people!!) out there who can be their true self AND be a good long term partner for you.
I am sending you love, LW, and the promise that in a few years, this break up will become part of your history, a part of of your own story, and that it will not hurt forever. You are clearly resilient. You can survive this. Be true to yourself and your happiness. Good luck.
I’ve been there too; it wasn’t necessary for me to stop talking to my former boyfriend, but it was necessary for me to find someone new (I, er, hadn’t formally decided to break up when I met someone new, but I did before I really started seeing them). My messy transition aside, try to go out and do the things it takes to find someone new. It can definitely happen, and happen naturally, but only if you’re meeting people, probably people doing the things you like to do. Got an hobbies or events to throw yourself into?
If it feels awful and just UNDOABLE to not speak for [amount of time] then can you set a date with your ex? Put a Skype chat in the calendar for [x] months from now, and agree that you won’t contact each other til then, unless it’s to reschedule that date. Feeling like someone you love is Gone Forever is very difficult and could be preventing you from taking the (very necessary) step to cut off contact for now.
I’ve been there, but for what my example is worth: continued contact is not serving you, or him. You can find your way to one another again, or find another love who is even better for the person you will become.
(This is my first time commenting, I hope I can be kind and constructive!)
I think this may be a time for the advice the Captain* recommended many, many letters ago:
2) Fuck around.
3) Do the thing.
And it’s impossible to grieve when you’re texting the ghost of this relationship every day, and hearing “I do still love you! I want this thing to work! Only, I’m a ghost, and dead.” It may be time to stop this metaphorical séance for a while. This is a sad and painful situation but you can recover and adapt. Jedi hugs if you want them ❤
*I seem to remember this is second hand advice but I am at work and unable to Google the original creator right now, apologies!
Been through this. It hurts like fuck.
My ex and I, after several months of “oh yeah we’re totally broken up we just talk everyday” finally limited ourselves to once a week, which I think is what eventually healed us. It wasn’t as Panic inducing as going cold turkey, but it still allowed us to look up and see what was around us in our actual lives. That, along with much later having the “I am really not choosing you” conversation eventually allowed us to have pretty deep occasional friend talks.
Thank you, Captain, for your advice. You put into words all the things I knew but could not bring myself to think yet. It was a terrifying yet comforting post to read. To be reminded that I had very good reasons for making the choice, and that it felt so right at the time, and that underneath all the hurt it is still (probably) the right choice. I’m two days into low-to-no contact with The Man, and I’m starting to see some glimmers of light on the other side.
And thank you commenters, for your support, and especially your stories. I feel like part of what makes it hard is that I hear so many stories about “true love conquers distance!” and “you know when it’s the right one!” that I felt alone in having to decide between geography and love. To know that other people have made my choice, and survived and thrived, has been helpful beyond words. Your kind words and Jedi hugs have made me feel much stronger; thank you again. 🙂
The story of my life, except I dragged each relationship out, squeezing out any last drop of passion until there was nothing else. I’m not proud of it. Now, I’m still single at 55. Don’t do what I did reader. Let him go and move on.
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