May 12, 2009 7:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm graduating. I'm leaving my girlfriend and will be far away from her, and we both don't have the option to be close for the next two years. Hence, it's ending. Any advice for feeling better?

It varies recently... we decided about a week ago that it makes sense to break up when I leave. She's going abroad (the other side of the planet) next semester, and I have a job a few hours from school. She's a sophomore, and we've been dating for a semester, and it's the best we've ever experienced, happy and healthy and fun. I love her, not in the tragic Romeo&J sense, or in the must-marry sense (I hate those sense), but in the this-is-a-person-I-love sense.

But we're going our ways, and it makes sense to go those ways and remember this as a wonderful time instead of hanging on and this possibly becoming one of those strained relationships that flickers out. I think in a year I might look back and say it's the right decision, but it's damn hard to think right now.

I'd like to tell her that, in two years, if she's in the area and would like, we could get tea or something. Is that a bad idea?

I feel okay recently when I'm with her or with friends, but alone I start to feel apocalyptic. I hate that we're already talking about 'our relationship' in the past tense.

Part of asking this is just in the asking, but please, I'd appreciate any words of wisdom in this situation. I know that the rest of my life won't be tragic and terrible, but leaving the best relationship behind as well as lots of other friendships (and constantly being reassured that since I have a high-paying job, I should be happy) is killing me a little.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should take a vacation together. At least a week. Just you and her. Go out with a bang.

Also, honestly, you may find that you can't live without each other. There are good odds that once you're apart, you'll stop being so rational, and realize that there are very few things more important than loving and being loved, and it is easier to move a career than to find someone who really makes your world work.

You're young, and people tell you when you're young that there are plenty of fish in the sea. But I think that first impressions are often correct. My wife and I split up in college, and it took 14 years of bad marriages to realize that we really don't function well without each other.
posted by musofire at 8:09 PM on May 12, 2009 [17 favorites]

I'd like to tell her that, in two years, if she's in the area and would like, we could get tea or something. Is that a bad idea?

Phrased like that, yes it is a bad idea Just tell her you look forward to seeing her when she gets back. She can interpret that in a way that makes sense given your relationship. The specificity of your present suggestion is a little awkward - as anything that tries to strike the right balance between wistfulness and nonchalance will be.

Other than that, you're not going to have time to mope about this excessively. You'll be busy with work, new town, new friends, etc. Get outside and distract yourself.

Also, musofire's vacation suggestion is excellent. At best it'll refine your perspective on one another, at worst it'll be a lot of fun anyway.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:11 PM on May 12, 2009

Can't you still stay in touch? In this modern age of ours, her moving to the other side of the planet doesn't mean she has to fall out of your life completely. I'm still in touch with my high school boyfriend, even though we live hundreds of miles away -- we hang out when we're in the same town, and correspond (albeit infrequently) when we're not. I would think it weird if you were in the same place and you didn't have a cup of tea, especially considering that this breakup is about as smooth as they go. ( I know it's tough, but she hasn't thrown anything at your head, which is a plus.)

She sounds like a good thing. Keep her in your life, even if it's not as a girlfriend.
posted by coppermoss at 8:17 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anti-romantic here. I respect Musofire's experience, but it's certainly not the only way love can go. Feeling like there's only one person out there who's right for you is a good way to create bad relationships. You're both young and there ARE other fish in the sea.

In college I felt a lot of angst about relationships, too, wondering with each guy if this was the most compatible person I'd ever find and worrying about moving on. I've been repeatedly surprised to find that something better did come along, sooner than I thought. And in every case, I laugh at the idea that I should've settled with one of those previous boyfriends. pfft.

From a practical perspective, it seems to make a lot of sense to take a break now. In all probability if you try to keep it going, you'll just have to break up long-distance with more drama. It's great that you can amicably part now. Do that. Then, if you find yourselves in the same town later, ask her out and see what happens. If it works out, it will make for a nice meet-cute story like Musofire's.
posted by parkerjackson at 8:20 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you're being smart. Let the serious relationship go but stay in touch and keep the friendship part alive. Yes there will be hurt feelings on occasion and maybe a touch of jealousy as you become not-the-most-important-thing in each others lives. But if you like each other that much and get along well you can become great friends and maybe some day the stars will align again - who knows?
posted by fshgrl at 9:21 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Let go, keep in touch, and see how you both feel when she's back from the other side of the world. A few hours is not so terrible, and maybe you can give long distance a try if it makes sense at all at that point in your lives. There's also no reason to not keep in touch at all for the next two years, unless it makes things easier for both of you.
posted by MadamM at 9:43 PM on May 12, 2009

I understand how you feel. I just graduated and had to move apart from my significant other. It's a very difficult situation and entirely understandable that you would be upset. While it's wonderful that you have a high paying job out of school (I am not so fortunate) you have every right to grieve over this relationship a bit.

Try to keep yourself busy with friends if you can, but remember that it's only natural to feel a little sad. There is a lot of change going on in your life right now, and even if it is change for the better, it can still be a little disheartening.
posted by Buttons at 9:44 PM on May 12, 2009

I used to be a study abroad advisor, and I used to have a tons of conversations about endings. Not just because many students chose to end their relationships when going abroad, but also, because people didn't realize that they'd probably have a relationship abroad, it would probably be one year at most, and therefore be ending a relationship at the end of the year when they came back. And they would be so very tempted to flights of fancy around - hey, why not just follow him/her to Italy? Finish out my degree there?

For many, the best step was for them to come home - to finish their degree, and to experience the adventures waiting for them at home. But they didn't know how to transition gracefully.

Anyway, this lovely poet, Nikki Giovanni once said something that stayed with me. It was about how one of the things that life lets you learn is how to say goodbye to people, with dignity. Study abroad can (not always, but it can) teach you how to do so, because study abroad is like most wonderful relationships: it's bright, brief and gone. You get to say: she's great, but she's got to go back to Germany. In a way, it's like an Indiana Jones movie, where you have this wonderful adventure with another adventuresome sort for a short period of time. And then you go on to have another different adventure, with different people, and you imagine that they are also having another adventure, with other people, and you're happy for them. You get to shrug at friends who ask why you aren't saying together and say: It's not that there's anything wrong with either one of us, she's great, but she's going east to find the missing ark and I'm going west to look for the holy grail. That's how it is with adventurers. That's how adventurers roll.

Anyway, some of the best students I know made a point of not trying to end their relationship prematurely, but with respect and affection. Some things I can remember them doing is:

1. Saying, "we have 30 more days together, so until June 5, we're in a relationship", so no 'fading out/disappearing' on each other.
2. Instead of saying "what i liked most was" they would say "What I have always liked about our relationship is".
3.They would ask each other what they were looking forward to most in the next year. One student who said she emailed the guy she used to date who went back to his country something like: Is it amazing? (I can't remember what it was. Something he was looking forward to) He emailed back: Yes! With a photo of himself in front/next to it. She said it was kind of nice knowing that he was safely launched off into the next part of his life.
4. They would share what they wished for each other as they moved forward to their next adventure.
5. There was a sense of respect for the time they spent together. Sort of like they were adventurers who were each moving on to their next adventure.
6. They thanked each other for being with each other.
7. One couple I knew shared their observations about how the person was different, or had grown since they first met.
8. When they had in inevitable pangs of 'ending', they would channel that into taking a moment to tell the person one thing they've always liked about them.
9. They helped each other pack.
10. They got each other something for the next part of their lives.
11. A couple of friends I remember did this "Five Favorite Things". When one felt a little maudlin and shaky - they'd turn the other and say "the five favorite restaurants we've even together at are..." In a way, the other person knew that the first person was feeling shaky, but they channeled it into a neat conversation about some experience they had.
12. Several folks seemed to decide earlier the actual parting. Like - oh, I'll go with them to the airport and say goodbye there.
13. Packing something like a starbuck's card or something, in the person's stuff that the person found later. Or something from the place they studied abroad in. Not super sappy - something they would smile or laugh about.

Lastly, no one knows how have next adventure really will unfold. I don't know how you're going to feel about your well paying job, but it's clear that you value good friends and a good girlfriend - maybe that's what this part of your life taught you. Which means you'll hopefully prioritize making those things a part of your life as you move forward - meeting those new friends fate has scheduled you to meet, regardless of how the job goes.
posted by anitanita at 12:43 AM on May 13, 2009 [38 favorites]

Nthing taking a trip together. Many moons ago in your same situation I did that and it was a great trip and a great memory.

Other than that... dude, this sucks, I feel for you. Somebody once told me, when I was in this situation "Better to have loved and lost my friend.", to which I responded "Go fuck yourself."
posted by gwpcasey at 4:44 AM on May 13, 2009

Unless you feel that both of you will have the need to be involved with other people, it may not be necessary to split apart. My fiancee and I have alternatively lived 25 miles, 1 mile, 1,000 miles, and now around 300 miles apart. Is it fun being so far apart at times? No. But with the ease of communication and a dedication to visit with each other, there's no reason that you two have to split. Monthly, one of us drives between 4 to 5 hrs each way, just to spend a couple days together.

Your relationship won't be the same as it is now, when on a moment's notice you can be with each other, but you can chat daily on the phone, write romantic letters to each other, and look forward and count the days until you're together again.

It seems that one ground for this break up is the fear that your relationship will whither and die. While you're both the best judges of your relationship, unless you feel this has an extremely great chance of happening, don't let what could be a temporary divide ruin what could be a lifelong happiness.
posted by Atreides at 6:10 AM on May 13, 2009

I think you are being pretty smart to take a break. You are young, but more important to me is that you have only been dating for one semester, which is what--three or four months? In my experience, you can't make the sorts of decisions and sacrifices required for a successful long distance relationship until after about a year. I'm sure others have made it work, but I would need the stability of at least a year together before I could consider this.

That said, I encourage you to handle your breakup with dignity and respect, so that you do leave the door open for a future relationship when you're both in the same place (or at least closer than around the world). It's hard to do, and I don't know that I could have done it at 21. But you sound like a great guy, and your girlfriend sounds like a great person, so who knows what's possible?

One thing I've learned since college--for some reason, college gives relationships a sense of urgency I've never experienced anywhere else. I think this is why so many people end up (yours truly included) end up in long distance relationships that should have ended when the parties moved apart. Despite the feeling that you'll never see each other again...it's actually pretty easy to keep in touch with people, and it's really easy to find one another again, whether for a visit or a relationship. You're right that the rest of your life won't be terrible and tragic, so maybe just think of this as a break in which you both can date other people and rekindle your friendship (or more) down the line.

One other thing--everyone's telling you that you should be happy to give up a relationship and other friendships for a high paying job. Don't take that to heart. Give the job a real chance, but if you're not happy after six months or so, quit and get yourself in a situation where you have meaningful friendships. Money is seriously not everything.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:40 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with Altreides. I am in a long distance relationship, and I feel that with technology today, the long distance relationship has changed. Between phone calls, texts, and IM, my boyfriend and I are in contact all throughout the day. We also found an airline with a good frequent flier program and nonstop flights between our two cities. It can be done! Don't let a great thing go! Yes, it could whither and die after a little while of long distance. Or, it could end up being a long-lasting, meaningful relationship.
posted by shannonigans at 6:55 AM on May 13, 2009

Met a great girl 20 years ago...1 month before she was moving 3000 miles away and I was was to start a job that required 80-100 hr. work weeks. In a bizarre display of maturity, particularly for me at that age, we agreed that when "it" ended we would no longer keep in contact. We had a whirlwind romance for a month, and then...poof she moved. I never saw her or heard from her again. I still remember her name and can conjure up all the warm and fuzzy feelings I had. But in the end, it was nothing different from going on a long, great vacation and looking back at "paradise" from the airplane and saying to yourself that it was wonderful.

Now this was in the day before Skype, email, texting, etc... It was just clear at the time that the relationship was not going to survive on the phone.
posted by teg4rvn at 7:35 AM on May 13, 2009

I'm in support of going on a trip with just the two of you. I had a similar situation a few years ago, and that week-long trip we took will always be one of my fondest memories.
posted by nameless.k at 8:25 AM on May 13, 2009

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