Wait, what, we're back together now?!
February 4, 2010 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Getting back together with an ex-girlfriend while living long distance: is this a tenable situation? Have you successfully mended a relationship with "interesting" history under difficult circumstances? (yes, much more inside - it is a relaxnFilter question, folks)

I am 26, male, LA; she is 22, NYC. We dated for about two years, lived together almost all of it. We had a blind date after encountering each other on craigslist. Things were great, limerence in full swing. In the first month after first meeting: We spent nearly every day and night together. We met each other’s parents, more incidentally than planned, when we visited each other’s home town. Dove head first into love and I bought her a promise ring because….

I then left for a two month international research trip. We both felt deeply in love and wanted something symbolic to match our professed devotion to each other. We talked often in my absence, perhaps too much. Jealousies and insecurities were exposed…trust issues developed. We both confessed months later we had limited “interactions” with ex-interests on one occasion during our separation and then cut them out of our lives.

We made it through. I moved into her apartment for convenience/financial considerations. We both wanted it to happen, but there was some mild manipulation on her part. Over the following year we: fought a fair amount as we got to know each other really well, loved each other deeply, helped each other and also hurt each other.

It was an unstable period for both of us – moved to two other apartments, she had three surgeries (about four months of recovery), she went to two colleges and needed lots of guidance/hw help, I was dealing with depression, I was on a struggling grad student salary trying to support both of us, I was struggling with my phd project+finances – took a master’s instead (self-doubt, -loathing), she had family issues….i guess a bunch of shit, all at once and we got into some bad patterns of treating each other poorly in certain ways. we also spoiled the shit out of each other in other ways and had some really good times. we rushed into things but we shouldered all of reality. many mistakes were made but lessons learned...

it was kind of falling apart by last summer. we just weren't on top of our own lives. she got a great $ offer to transfer to another school in NYC. She took it, we broke another lease (for an apt I couldn't afford), but accepted the reality that we should probably break up, work on ourselves.

i worked on taming my swollen debt (much of it hers/ours), figuring out a career direction and addressing my depression. progress has been made, but still working on all of it.

in NYC, she found some more independence, dated around, explored her young life. I was holding on to our relationship and felt guilt, regret, shame...that i ruined everything - invested/sacrificed so much in her/us and that it evaporated. i was often reminded, by her and me, of the things i did/do wrong (the most heinous - having sex with another when we broke up/i "moved out" for a couple weeks in spring)

we pretty much talked every day she was gone. i was basically hanging on to her and our past but trying to be a good friend and restore integrity. i wanted our relationship to survive. she often missed it but still branched out. we reconnected over winter break - hung out a lot, had good chemistry. circled around the possibility of something happening.

cue last night, we had like a marathon phone fight...about i don't know, everything. there was a fight the previous day, her accusing me of lying about something (she set a trap) while I'm maintaining she misheard what i was talking about. there had been hinting about a chance for us in the future, after time, after working on things for ourselves....but it was suddenly made explicit and effective immediately. this (coincidentally?) happened just after I went on a date with a new girl i met (the first!) last week. the fights had at least tangential (or much more) reference to the date girl.

The resolution of the fight (after hours of intensity)....oddly was peaceful, felt unusual for how we normally ended fights. It ended with talk of ground rules for what we could/couldn't do and if we wanted a relationship now. I mean, I do, I guess....that's what I had been holding out for. So I asked her, she accepted.

willing to air more specifics about the possible difficulties if need be (i.e.- her friends/family and my friends/family would be kind of be like WTF? so we are working on the realtionship privately, even though all know we are still a big part of each other's life)

TL;DR - Getting back together with an ex-girlfriend while living long distance: is this a tenable situation? She has two years of school left

Have you successfully mended a relationship with "interesting" history under difficult circumstances? How?

Can a healthy relationship emerge from the ashes of a failed first flight? Should/can either of us trust the other?
posted by Gaeacon to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, it's not. By the sound of it, you're both still learning how to be adults in relationships. I don't think this is at all worth the opportunity cost of missing out on people who live on your respective sides of the continent.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:50 PM on February 4, 2010

The prognosis doesn't look good to me. You couldn't manage two months apart when things were going great without fighting and cheating on one another. Now there are way deeper issues and you want to try to make it long-distance for two years? I just doubt it's going to work, but hey, go ahead and try.
posted by amro at 2:51 PM on February 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

The general rule with an ex is: There's a reason they're your ex.

Don't waste your time.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:54 PM on February 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

Maybe it is possible for a couple to reconnect after a break-up while they are long-distance, but I'm not sure the two of you can do that.

posted by too bad you're not me at 2:58 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

an a healthy relationship emerge from the ashes of a failed first flight? Should/can either of us trust the other?

You're a day removed from a "marathon fight." You fought your way back into relationship that was filled with fighting the first time. I think it sounds pretty obvious from both your long-term and 24-hour history where this relationship is headed; a rocky road at best. Is that something you want?
posted by Hiker at 2:59 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oops, strike that random "if"!
posted by too bad you're not me at 2:59 PM on February 4, 2010

I think you guys keep breaking up and seeing other people for a reason, and that reason is "you're not good for each other and you know that, but inertia is a powerful force."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:01 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you're describing this situation at all accurately, then I'm going to have to agree with Admiral Haddock. You need to leave this relationship behind you and move on to the next stage of your lives.

As I'm sure you know, having lived through it quite recently, the transition from college to "adult" life is a big one -- we spend a lot of time figuring out the people we want to be, the careers we want to pursue, the friendship circles we want to foster and yes....the kinds of relationships we want to be in. It's extremely difficult for romantic relationships to survive that period under the best of circumstances, and these are not the best circumstances at all. You're already unhappy, there have been incidences of manipulation and deceit, and there's a gigantic physical distance. Your age difference is also quite a significant one under these circumstances -- you're probably in a very different stage of your life then her, a few years out of school and well into your mid-twenties. You could probably force this relationship to work for a few months, maybe a year or maybe even two if you're really tenacious, but they won't be good years and you'll look back on them and wonder what the hell you were thinking.

Mr. Narrative went through a situation much like this one just before I met him -- if he hadn't made the decision that I'm encouraging you to make now, to let this girl go and move on, then he wouldn't be married to me today.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 3:03 PM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've tried this. Great college relationship, apart for 8 months, together for 3 weeks, I proposed, she accepted, apart for my last semester in college, she sleeps with someone who was not me, we try to patch things up long-distance, things get fighty, we break up, entertain thoughts of getting back together, I finally break it up for good.

Things don't look good for this relationship of yours. You describe her setting traps for you. Regardless of whether she's doing this or not, the fact that you're perceiving things as such is bad news bears.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:03 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not all relationships are meant to last forever; most of them don't, and you make no compelling case for this one. It doesn't sound like you're all that great for each other, and I think if you would cold-turkey the drama for a few weeks it would be easier for you to realize that. Don't be with someone just because you've been with them. Just learn from this one, be grateful to her for what you guys have taught each other and the good times, and turn around and face forward and go on with your lives.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:21 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you successfully mended a relationship with "interesting" history under difficult circumstances?

I think sometimes a relationship seems interesting because it's difficult, when in fact there is very little substance there. Granted, a couple in their early (or even mid) twenties is not going to be calm and contented like a middle-aged pair. But this sounds a lot like the type of roller-coaster relationship that becomes addictive. The constant back and forth gives you the illusion that you are going someplace.

If you were living in the same town, I would say, sure, try dating again if you need to prove to yourselves that it's not going to work.
posted by BibiRose at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

Long distance only ever works if you have a solid relationship ahead of time, and even then it's extremely hard. Two years and beginning on rocky grounds most likely isn't going to work.
posted by biochemist at 8:15 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: That kind of calm feeling after a big fight is natural but it doesn't mean much. It's just the feeling of coming up for air. You got close to the edge and you pulled back - and that's the giddy feeling of having survived, but if these issues are recurrent in your relationship they will absolutely spring up again.

I've said this before but feel compelled to say it again: how are you guys broken up when you 'pretty much talked every day'. Let go, give it some space. Impose a no-contact rule for a month (or at least a couple of weeks!). If you still want to be together you'll both be there at the end of it.
posted by freya_lamb at 6:07 AM on February 5, 2010

Response by poster: I like the fresh way that some of you framed the situation, and I wasn't expecting much in the way of reassurance. I thank you all for your responses.

Inertia certainly is a powerful force.

Does anyone have a success story out there?
posted by Gaeacon at 4:01 PM on February 5, 2010

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