Should I let my girlfriend go to London?
August 17, 2010 10:08 AM   Subscribe

I moved across the country to live with my girlfriend. Now she wants to go abroad for a year, and I don’t want her to go. Are either or both of us being selfish/unreasonable?

Long time lurker, first time poster. Sorry it's relationshippy.

My girlfriend and I are in our late 20s and have been together for about four years. She finished her third year of med school, decided to take a year off, and applied for several health policy programs abroad. She didn't tell me about any of this until after the applications were in. She was accepted to a masters program at LSE from Sept-July, and she seems set on going. She feels like it's her last chance to live in a foreign country and study something academic and interesting.

We were long-distance for a few years while I was in law school. I graduated last year, looked for jobs in her city and moved across the country to live with her in a city which I don’t particularly like and where I have no friends. We've been living together for a year now and it's generally great. We’re reasonably serious and I feel like we’ve just started to build a life together. I’m kind of bewildered that she’s so willing to pick up and leave me here, for what I consider to be pretty fluffy reasons. I understand that it’s fun to study abroad, but it’s one thing to do it in your junior year of college, when it’s easy to uproot, and another to do it in your late 20s after your boyfriend goes to some trouble to move in with you.

A few factors that may or may not be relevant:

- I studied abroad in college, and it was a really fun time. This was long before we were dating, but she keeps saying that now she wants a turn to go abroad.

- After law school I had an opportunity to take some paid time off to do pretty much anything I wanted. I considered going abroad, but my girlfriend put the kibosh on that idea. At that time, we’d been long distance for two years and it was very, very important to her that I move in with her.

- We just signed a lease for another year. Right now we split rent 50/50. If she goes, I’ll either have to pay all of it, or she’ll chip in a few hundred a month while also paying rent at LSE – either way, it’s going to cost one or both of us a lot of money.

- If she doesn’t go, she needs to find a job soon for visa purposes. Her best alternative at this point is probably to find a research position at the med school, which she doesn’t think would be very interesting or fun. I asked her to look for other alternatives months ago, but she’s refused to do so.

We’ve been talking this over for months and neither of us have changed our minds. I’ll be honest – I’d like for all of you to say that she’s being unreasonable so that I could point to the voice of mefi (which we both respect) to support my position. But barring that, I’d like to hear whether you think I’m being selfish/unreasonable, and generally I’d appreciate any and all advice on how to resolve this bummer of a situation.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (68 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hard decisions about relationships are often resolved with a compromise. You compromised heavily on where you live, and earlier agreed to not go abroad. Now she wants to go do the thing that she didn't want you to do, and wants you to make another major compromise, leaving you alone in a city where you never actually wanted to live in the first place.

Knee-jerk reaction: Relationship compromises aren't a bookkeeping matter where everything has to be carefully balanced. But when one person makes big sacrifices and compromises at the other's behest, they have a right to expect a certain amount of reciprocation like "I just hauled myself across the country for you, can you please stick around?"
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:15 AM on August 17, 2010 [10 favorites]

I don't think either of you are being selfish or unreasonable- I completely understand your point-of-view. And I think it was unfair of her to not tell you about any of this before now (particularly in regards to signing the lease). That said, if you don't "let" her go, she could just break up with you and go anyway, or she could not go and resent you forever, so if you don't want your relationship to fall apart, it might be a better idea to work with her on making her dream happen. And while she's gone, why don't you look into following a dream of your own, like moving to a city you'd prefer over the one you currently live in? The lease is a problem, but only a minor one.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:18 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'll be honest:

Taking a year off med school + secretly plotting to spend almost a year away from you = possible late-20s-life crisis

It's possible that she's rethinking everything in her life right now, that she finally got all of the things she thought she wanted (on the road to becoming a doctor, long-term boyfriend finally moves to be with her, "settled life") and realized maybe it wasn't actually what she needed, and she's trying to figure out what that is.
posted by scarykarrey at 10:18 AM on August 17, 2010 [11 favorites]

She's being unreasonable.

Why in the world would she not tell you, her long-term boyfriend, about the application process until after it was over?

She has a right to study abroad even after you've moved to her city ... but for her to leave you in the dark about this and (possibly) saddle you with part of the bill for it (in the form of rent) is astoundingly flaky.

Sorry I don't have some magic solution, but I just have to chime in that she's being unreasonable; you're not.

What do you want to happen?
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:20 AM on August 17, 2010 [12 favorites]

It seems as if she is putting her priorities first, and you aren't putting your own priorities first. Thats not a judgment call, I'm just saying that you both are looking at this relationship through different specs.

I think you seriously need to have a sit-down with her and tell her that if she is putting her wants ahead of your wants, then you will start doing the same...or that she needs to make you as high a priority as you made her.

Good luck and welcome.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:20 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

I’m kind of bewildered that she’s so willing to pick up and leave me here, for what I consider to be pretty fluffy reasons.

It's not "fluffy" for her to want to study abroad. It's also not fluffy to recognize that you are not ready to settle down the way your boyfriend is.

I considered going abroad, but my girlfriend put the kibosh on that idea.

You are an adult and responsible for your choices. You chose not to go abroad, and as you said, you think it's fluffy to do so after one's junior undergrad year anyway, so don't blame her for your not going abroad after law school.

- We just signed a lease for another year. Right now we split rent 50/50. If she goes, I’ll either have to pay all of it, or she’ll chip in a few hundred a month while also paying rent at LSE – either way, it’s going to cost one or both of us a lot of money.

Now this seems fluffy --- why did she sign a lease if she had already decided to go away? It doesn't have to cost you, though. If she does leave, you can get another roommate.
posted by headnsouth at 10:21 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

She really, really should have discussed these things with you, even if she was just prospecting around. Not cool.

She really, really, REALLY should have done so given that you moved in with her after her wheedling.

I wouldn't necessarily consider her reasons for going "fluffy," but she expected you to have an adult relationship and then didn't live up to her end of the bargain.

What to do about it? That's something a lot more personal between the two of you that I'm wussing out on because I have to go to lunch.
posted by Madamina at 10:22 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

She's being about 70% unreasonable, in the sense that she appears to have planned this suddenly (just signed a new lease?) and without talking to you about it before applying. She's not interested in alternatives and September is *two weeks away.* She also applied different rules to your desire to go abroad than she will allow you to do with hers.

In any case, unreasonable or not, my immediate thought is that she's looking for an easy, non-confrontational (regarding the real issue) ticket out of your relationship. I could be wrong, but that's my honest intuition. And come on, "her last chance to live in a foreign country" when she'll have a medical degree? It sounds like bullshit to me, and I'll add that the doctors I know do more living abroad than members of any other profession. I'd be asking more questions about "us," and fewer about this specific event.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:26 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

Just a couple of comments. Studying abroad and completing a Masters are two very different beasts. It's not easy moving from North America (presumably) to the UK: there's a tremendous amount of cultural difference, the academic systems are completely different (this requires a lot of adjustment), and Londoners aren't really known for being incredibly warm and friendly when you first meet them.

That being said, London's a great city to live in and you are both likely reaching the end of the time where you *can* go and do something like this. Can you go with her, maybe even to study? Is it possible to break the lease? Or even sublet the apartment (which should be fairly easy to do in a college town)? I know you have your career to think about but once she finishes med school, she'll be working long and hard for years. I can see why she'd want to do this (and, of course, I can see why you'd like her not to). I'd try to go with her.
posted by lumiere at 10:27 AM on August 17, 2010

Now this seems fluffy --- why did she sign a lease if she had already decided to go away? It doesn't have to cost you, though. If she does leave, you can get another roommate.

Does not sound like a super-fun idea if he's living in a one-bedroom apartment.

My take on things is that she wants to break up with you but doesn't want to say it out loud. She went through what must be a time-consuming and expensive process to apply to study abroad programs without WITHOUT TELLING HER LONG-TERM LIVE-IN BOYFRIEND. That's not what people in committed relationships do. If I were you I'd cut my losses, break the lease (and split the expenses 50/50) and move on. If she comes back in a year you can re-evaluate. It would certainly not be the first time a couple took a break and got back together.
posted by kate blank at 10:27 AM on August 17, 2010 [21 favorites]

And I should add, of course, that I'm sorry. Ending a relationship is difficult and you have my sympathies.
posted by kate blank at 10:29 AM on August 17, 2010

You both have some valid arguments, but this:

She didn't tell me about any of this until after the applications were in.

is a huge red flag to me. She made plans to completely uproot both of your lives, and didn't bother to mention it to you? To be honest, it sounds to me like she wants out of the relationship but doesn't have the courage to actually end things.

On preview, seconding what kate blank said.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:30 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

You wanted to go abroad a couple years ago but didn't. You don't like where you live now and feel like you don't have any friends. Could you find someone to take over your lease and just go with her?
posted by heliotrope at 10:31 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing that wanting to study abroad is not "fluffy" (of itself). However, being secretive about her plans, and leaving you holding the bag on a long-term lease is NOT cool. It sounds like there is a pattern in the relationship - she is the taker, and you are the giver.

I agree you have to sit down and talk to her. "Studying abroad? Cool. Not letting me know your plans, and sticking me with a lease I can't afford on my own? NOT cool. Can we work as a couple on communication and openness? And can we work out a way that I can afford the apartment or break the lease?"

If she insists that she has EVERY RIGHT to leave you out of her plans and stick you with the lease, and OMG why are you being so demanding - that's a red flag. A healthy relationship can't sustain one person doing all the giving and the other person doing all the taking, long-term. She deserves her opportunities to study abroad, and YOU deserve not to have her dump everything in your lap at the last minute.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:31 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

She's being unreasonable, and might be trying to end your relationship.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:31 AM on August 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

Now this seems fluffy --- why did she sign a lease if she had already decided to go away? It doesn't have to cost you, though. If she does leave, you can get another roommate.
Sorry to nitpick, just want to point out there if they're living in a one bedroom, another roommate isn't necessarily an option. Plus, when you're late 20s and used to living with a SO or alone, it's tough to go back to random roommate territory.

Anyway, I'm with Dee Xtrovert - this sounds like a way for her to get out of the relationship gradually by the typical long distance drift, or even to keep you on retainer while she gets out and sees her options in case she decides she wants you after all.
posted by coupdefoudre at 10:33 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think her reasons for going abroad are particularly "fluffy", but I do think that she is being a selfish and definitely should have discussed this with you beforehand.

But she didn't.

I also think that she will end up going to London regardless of what MeFi says or what you say (or she'll stay and resent you. I don't see her staying and being happy about staying), so I think you have to decide what you are going to do about that fact. No, it's not ideal, but perhaps this is your time to get out and make friends, learn to enjoy the city, and generally try to make the best of it. Or perhaps this is a time to decide if you want to be in a relationship with this person. Or both.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:39 AM on August 17, 2010

I don't think she's trying to end the relationship so much as she's realizing that she's reaching the end of the time in which she can do things like go abroad like this. It's not fluffy; she's just not self aware. To be fair, she was probably racing so hard towards a goal that she didn't stop to ever ask herself, Is there something else I want to do? scarreykarey's answer has a lot of truth to it I think.

I would just ask her why she didn't tell you until the applications were in. Her reason is what's important here. She might say, I thought you would say no, I was scared to tell you, I didn't think I'd get in - find out what it is.

You have a right to be bewildered, but please don't call her reasons "fluffy". That's going to be a big stickler in your conversations, especially this:

We didn't discuss it very thoroughly because I was pretty sure I'd convince her to stay.

I don't want to say "sucks to be you" but you had a chance and you passed on it. I think there's a disconnect and there's also something you're not telling us.

I don't think she's right but I don't think you're right either.
posted by micawber at 10:41 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

- If she doesn’t go, she needs to find a job soon for visa purposes. Her best alternative at this point is probably to find a research position at the med school, which she doesn’t think would be very interesting or fun. I asked her to look for other alternatives months ago, but she’s refused to do so.

Maybe she thinks the two of you should be married or engaged by now, since you've moved in together and are fairly serious. If she has been expecting something of the sort, with no movement on your end, then she could take that as a sign that she needs to move on. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I've seen it happen. NOTE: this is not me saying you should get engaged and/or married, at all. But maybe there is something else going on underneath the surface, and she's taking your silence on marriage to mean that you're not that interested in moving forward with her, and is thus responding by moving away.
posted by barnone at 10:42 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Overall, I agree with your position (and with what other people have been saying), but two things stand out to me:

Should I LET my girlfriend go to London?
It's not about you "letting" her do anything, right? It's about whether SHE should decide do this. I thought about pointing this out earlier, but what worried me slightly was this too:

I was pretty sure I'd convince her to stay.
Maybe she feels you're trying to control her decisions, whether they're reasonable or not? It's troubling that you were so sure that you could just change her mind like that about a major life decision, even if you did have have (and I agree with you here) considerable justification. Even if she doesn't go, I don't think that solves anything. Something is not being communicated between both of you.
posted by leedly at 10:43 AM on August 17, 2010 [8 favorites]

Also: would it be impossible for you to move with her for a few months? Get rid of your lease somehow and go with her? If you're now a lawyer in a real job it might be impossible, but maybe this is your chance to go abroad too. Think about it.
posted by barnone at 10:44 AM on August 17, 2010

I'd like to add something to my previous answer: I would recommend not focusing on why she wants to study abroad. So you think her reasons are "fluffy" -- but it's still her decision, not yours. The problem isn't that she has less-than-ideal reasons for wanting to study abroad (I mean, really, who knows how good her reasons are?); the problem is that she's been inconsiderate in the way she's gone ahead with her decisions.

As someone else said, I see no relevance to the fact that you decided years ago not to study abroad. People can make different choices and still be in a relationship together that's going just fine. Your relationship doesn't seem to be going just fine, but you have to focus on which factors matter and which ones don't.

Don't complicate things by giving the impression that you just plain don't like the idea of her studying abroad.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:46 AM on August 17, 2010

I'll be the voice of dissent.

Based on your wording, I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't tell you she was applying because she knew how you would react. You're here asking if you should _let_ her go and you tell us the conclusion you want point blank. You don't seem open to the idea and she knew it.

You passed on an opportunity to go abroad after law school and you seem to be carrying some sort of regret that you made this sacrifice for your relationship and now you're asking her to do that same? Who's being selfish here?

Now as to if you should let her go? Not that she needs your permission, but hell yeah! This is an opportunity that isn't going to come around again. If your relationship is strong, it will still be there after a year.

Listen to this old married dude who's wife just went back to med school. When Mrs. Advicepig wanted to quit her job and go back to school, I cheered her on. When Mrs. Advicepig was looking for ways to improve her application, I suggested she go to Namibia and work with an organization we are close to. Our lives are best when we, as individuals and as a couple, are happy. Our lives are richest when we can grab opportunities that come along and ride them for all they are worth.
posted by advicepig at 10:47 AM on August 17, 2010 [16 favorites]

Unfortunately, telling her she's being unreasonable probably isn't going to change her mind
posted by vitabellosi at 10:50 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

ThePinkSuperhero: " if you don't "let" her go, she could just break up with you and go anyway, or she could not go and resent you forever..."

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for your "reasonably serious" girlfriend and you should let her go.

The lease was my big hangup until you mentioned that you knew this was a possibility when you signed the new lease and she's willing to pay the difference in the rent. You took a chance thinking you could convince her not to go...well, she wants to go. Don't be that guy that wants her to stay because you're unhappy about where you're living and don't have any friends. Make friends, try harder or move somewhere else.

It's not up to your girlfriend to make you happy and it's not wrong for her to want to do this. I understand why you don't want her to go but those reasons have nothing to do with what's best for her and everything to do with what's best for you. Let her go with your blessings and go find your own happiness. Good luck to both of you.
posted by victoriab at 10:54 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't think she's being unreasonable. I think you are refusing to accept that she is set on going, and it's a little unreasonable for you to think that it's up to you to "let her" or that there's more chalk marks on your side so she owes it to you not to go.

It sounds like she has made her choice, and whether or not you agree with it you need to decide how to proceed from here.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:55 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Nthing others on the not telling you about applications in progress part being troubling.

My wife made us move across the country to get an MBA, from sunny, warm southern California back to the snow belt. She then left me there for one of the two winters to go "study" in Tokyo. I wasn't thrilled about this arrangement, but she was absolutely open about her thoughts and I with mine. At some point she said (and I think meant) that she wouldn't go if I didn't want her to, and I said (and meant) that while I'd of course prefer she stayed, these kinds of opportunities shouldn't be passed up.

You guys are in this fix because you're not talking. Get down to brass tacks. Forget whether or not she's going - is the way she's going about this because she wants out or because she's just not very considerate? There might be some other factor, but any answers to either of my two previous questions would point to your being just as uninvolved.

Another thing to talk about: will you guys have respective green lights to get involved with other people while she's abroad? Yes or no. Either you're both committed to this thing or you're not, but better to get it out now and talk about it than to have this conversation after the fact.

BTW: the position that it's "her decision" is complete bullshit. She's in a committed long term relationship. You talk about these things w/your SO. If you don't like the answer or don't like the conversation, that's one thing, but to unilaterally do something like go abroad for a year without at least telling your SO about it is flat out wrong.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 10:59 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

I should add to my previous post that I WAS your girlfriend 5 years ago. I was in a committed relationship with a guy who was completely wrong for me, and had even gone as far as buying a house with him. Moving halfway across the country to go to school somewhere else was my escape hatch from the relationship, and within a year we had split.

I'm not saying that you're wrong for each other, or even that that is what her motive is. I'm just saying that her actions seem a little too familiar to me, right down to the submission of applications before telling you about it and the offer to pay for a portion of the housing as a consolation prize to ease your transition to singlehood.
posted by scarykarrey at 11:15 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

She should go and you guys should separate.

Break the lease, sub-let... whatever will work, and find a place to be happy in.
posted by edgeways at 11:20 AM on August 17, 2010

If she doesn’t go, she needs to find a job soon for visa purposes.

Wouldn't this indicate that she already is studying abroad?
posted by electroboy at 11:30 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

To sum up: She's entirely unreasonable, and not acting like a partner, but there's nothing you can do about it.
posted by alternateuniverse at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm kind of with edgeways. Let her go and don't make her feel bad about it. She thinks it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so who are you to stand in her way? But then stop making sacrifices in your own life on the expectation that she'll reciprocate. Make decisions that work for you, and then if they also work for you two as a couple, great. Get agreements from her like "if I move out there, I want to be sure that we'll have time together." In the future, don't use unspoken expectations; instead become more legalistic about expectations and sacrifices. If you didn't discuss your expectations, it's fair to express disappointment, but don't blame her for not keeping them. (Maybe she thinks the two of you are eternal soul mates, so what's 10 months?)

Either go that route, or have a discussion about whether you're ready to make decisions together, make plans together, and plan for the two of you as a couple rather than each of you as individuals. It sounds like either you're not or she's not. That's not the end of the relationship, of course; just that you're not to that point yet, which is fine. But in the meantime, look out for your own interests a bit more or at least be aware that she's not to the point of planning with you yet. Couples therapy would really help with this, if you're up for it.
posted by salvia at 11:48 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

Your best bet is to be supportive and encourage her to go. It benefits you no matter what her true reasons are for going. If she wants to go because she's looking for a way out, then you're the guy who took the high road and perhaps (perhaps) you can still be friends. If she wants to go because it's an opportunity she can't pass up (and she wants to stay with you), then you're the guy she'll be spending every day thinking about and can't wait to come home to at the end of the year.

While she's gone, get out and meet people. There are tons of threads on here about how to do that, such as taking a class, volunteering, going on meetups, etc. I would also suggest cutting your losses on the apartment and moving in somewhere with roommates (like a house with a backyard where you can be social). Living alone is no fun, especially when you're trying to integrate yourself into the community and meet people. Stuff is stuff, so sell what you won't need, downsize to 1 bedroom worth of posessions, and find some cool roommates on Craigslist. If you find the right ones, it's like instant friends, and they will introduce you to their friends and so forth and so on.

Good luck.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 11:51 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

About seven years ago I told my husband (then boyfriend) that I wanted to go to graduate school in another state and that I loved him and wanted him to come with me, but I would understand if he didn't. I also told him that I didn't want him to move for me, because there were no guarantees about how our relationship would go or what life would bring--it needed to be a decision he made for himself. It's unfortunate that the compromises you made for your relationship were not made under those terms, but regardless I think it still applies.

You moved to be with her and chose not to go abroad. Those were some big compromises you made, but you chose to make them. Keeping them on a tally list of who compromised what is not really helping the situation. The point is not that you made decisions differently in the past, the point is what is best for both of you (really it is).

She has obviously decided that what is best for her is to go abroad. As others have mentioned and I think you're coming to realize, you don't actually have any control over whether she goes or not. Rather than fluffy, it sounds like a huge opportunity for her. I agree that she should have communicated with you about the application process before it was over--that was incredibly sketchy behavior in terms of relationship health. However, it sounds like you guys have larger communication issues and that was a symptom.

Given all that, you need to decide if you want to be ok with all of this or not. You need to switch your focus from trying to convince her to stay onto what you want for yourself. Take it for granted that she's going to go and focus on what you want to do with your life. Do you want to wait for her? Do you want to go with her? Do you want to break up and move to a city you actually like? What do you want to do? What would your life look like if she weren't part of your decision making process? Is that what you want?
posted by Kimberly at 11:53 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

I think buckaroo_benzai is completely right here.
posted by the foreground at 12:07 PM on August 17, 2010

I'd agree with those saying that this sounds like a quarter-life crisis.

I started to write a whole response about accepting her decision and how best to move forward, but upon review?

Assuming you've accurately described the situation, you've already made a series of compromises for her sake that drastically changed your life and evidenced your commitment to the relationship. You love this girl and you're willing to change the course of your life to better accomodate her.

Taking a year off from school and studying abroad is a major decision that'll affect both of you, emotionally and financially. Even if you have enough money to visit her regularly, between the distance and the time difference this will be an extremely stressful situation that even a rock-solid relationship would have trouble weathering.

If you haven't already, I'd urge the two of you to sit down and have a serious talk about what it is you each want out of your relationship with each other. And if it turns out that you're in the "building a life together" phase and she's more "you're fun to be in a relationship with but I want my own life" phase, that's a big problem that needs to be addressed.

If she's 100% committed to you and just desperately wants to go on this trip for personal reasons, that's one thing, and it's up to you to decide if you want to support her decision. But if she's feeling restless and like she has to "get away" and her secretive planning was meant to take away your chance to object, then I honestly don't know if things are going to work out between the two of you.

Anecdotally: Your post is reminding me very strongly of a friend of mine -- the LDR aspect, the moving to be with each other, the woman's restless need to get away and the man's feeling of unbalance in the relationship's compromises. They married, stayed together for three largely unhappy years, and then divorced when she told him that his being out of town for a few weeks had made her realize she preferred not to have him around and didn't love him anymore. I have often wished I was good enough friends with him before he got married to tell him to pay attention to the warning signs and get out before it got any worse. Grain of salt, different people, etc. But it seemed worth mentioning.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:23 PM on August 17, 2010

I'm confused about the visa bit. Is she already studying "internationally" (i.e. she's from another country)? Canadian?

Nobody's mentioned here that it might not be so easy for the poster to go with her legally and/or financially for several months. Just wanted to point that out.

I don't know for sure if it's a stealth breakup or not, but her not letting you know about this until the thing was done is so incredibly not cool or a good sign. I suspect one way or the other this may signal the end of the relationship, though, because she's not compromising and she's dead set on doing it. (I don't think I'd count on her paying the rent from long distance either.)

Oh well, I guess the upside to this is that you can move back to where you like...well, assuming you deal with the lease issue.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:49 PM on August 17, 2010

It sounds to me like she's having doubts about the life she's created for herself, including your involvement in it. Maybe she doesn't know yet that she wants to break up, but wants to see how it feels to be alone and in a new, exciting experience that doesn't include you.

Let her go. Decide for yourself how much you're willing to put up with to continue the (now long-distance) relationship. Decide for yourself when you've had enough. You might find that within a few weeks of being abroad, she'll realize that she hadn't appreciated all you two had together. Or, like I did when something similar happened to me, she'll realize that the relationship doesn't line up with her life goals, and she just needed a change of scenery in order to let herself realize that and fess up to it.

Either way, her way of dealing with it hasn't been fair to you, and you are right to feel upset. But that doesn't change the fact that you really have to let her go. All you can control is how much you're willing to put up with.
posted by np312 at 12:53 PM on August 17, 2010

When you talk with her, just focus on what's happening now. I don't want to diminish your having moved across the country to be with her -- but do yourself a favor and leave that aside for now. You moved to be with her; you've had a good year together; now a new situation exists. I sorry that sounds so cold.

She really wants to go to a different country to study, and feels that now is the best/only time. And she's not reluctant to go alone. She planned it without telling you about any of it, and now her mind is made up. You're hurt, and also sad that she doesn't seem to factor your feelings and wishes into her decision-making.

You can't argue her out of wanting to leave. All you can do is decide what you want, based on the situation as it is now. However, it's a good idea to tell her you feel bad because of her actions, because it's real.

What are your options? Go with her? Break up with her now? Let it ride, and see how you both feel as time passes?

I was in your shoes at one time, and I'm very sorry for your disappointment and pain.
posted by wryly at 12:54 PM on August 17, 2010

One thing I haven't noticed is the timing involved in the applications (and I agree that her applying without telling you was really not good).

This is a speculation-based rough sketch, but I assume you moved in or around June of last year. You've been talking about this "for months," which I take to mean more than two. If it's been three, that means it came up in mid-May. If that's when she got an offer, unless some organizations process applications really, really fast, it seems she was applying early this year, if not earlier.

Assuming that's reasonably accurate, you weren't there very long before she was acting on thoughts of going to another country, which doesn't strike me as considerate.

Also, I wonder if she was struck by a bolt from the blue, if the thoughts to go overseas were burbling around in her head for some time before she applied (which would mean the wheels were turning to some extent that much sooner after you arrived... maybe before?).
posted by ambient2 at 1:17 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

And just in case it's not obvious (since some other replies seem to be suggesting it) -- DO NOT GO WITH HER. Do not even bring it up. She obviously wants to do this by herself. And you know what? Study abroads are something that you should do alone. It's a time for her to discover herself (I know mine was). Let her do it. She's either going to decide she wants to stay with you, or she's going to decide to leave. By all means let her know how you feel, but support her and respect her decision.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 1:18 PM on August 17, 2010

There's definitely some very "uncool" things about this. And the majority of it is in the fault of your girlfriend. While I'm a big fan of giving people "space" in a relationship, I think considering that you basically relocated your life for her and now she wants to just go spend a year living in another country is....yes....pretty bewildering. At the very least, her actions speak louder then her words. And they basically say that this relationship is not at top of her list when it comes to important things in her life. Unfortunately, my gut is telling me that she has perhaps lost interest in this relationship but hasn't figured out how to end things. What's even worse is that now there are financial obligations. I would imagine that if she signed a lease...she has some sort of legal obligation to pay half the rent for the term of the lease. No matter what happens, don't let her off the hook on that. She shouldn't have signed the lease if she didn't want to follow through. It's her responsibility to pay her share of the rent or find you an acceptable roommate who will pay half the rent. This is tough place to be, and I feel your frustration. At the end of the day, if she's not willing to treat you with the same respect you've treated her may be time to move on. You guys have been together long enough to know if both of you are each other's "one". Hope all this helps.
posted by ljs30 at 1:24 PM on August 17, 2010

1. Encourage her to go. It is an amazing opportunity and you do not want to be responsible for "holding her back" even if it is ultimately her choice. This is rock and hard-place territory, and you have to be the bigger person, regardless of history (don't play that game).

2. Tell her that with her leaving, you would like to return to your former city. Find a way to break the lease. It might cost some cash, or effort to find new tenants, but that is small fish to a year of struggling with both her absence and possible money issues.

3. Communicate about all of this openly. Do not admonish, or hold court using your past decisions as justification etc. That avenue will not end well. Stick to the present and logistics of your situation.
posted by purephase at 1:30 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not letting you know before the applications were in is the sort of thing I would do when I was in a relationship that I wanted to leave.

But she did warn you before you signed your most current lease, and you ignored the warning because you "thought you'd convince her."

This is a red flag that maybe she feels a bit controlled or smothered. Maybe I'm reading between the lines here, but these are a few red flags to me:
- Being so sure you could convince her to stay that you signed a lease despite her warning she might leave
- Calling wanted to study abroad "fluffy"--issuing judgement on her desire for independence and exploration
- Having no friends in your current city. It's one thing if that was the case when you first moved, but are you saying this is still the situation? If so, why do you have no friends if you've been living there for a year? That would indicate to me that maybe you spend all of your time absorbed on her rather than trying to expand your social circle and find lives and interests separate from one another (important to any relationship).

I would take a good hard look at how much time you two spend together, and whether there have been any other indications that she has wanted to try new things separate from you and whether you have supported these attempts (or sought out new things on your own). I could be totally off-base her, but it's worth thinking about.
posted by schroedinger at 1:35 PM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


a) Propose marriage and boost that relationship up her list of priorities.
b) Split up.

You can't stop her going abroad, but you can balance the appeal of the new and interesting people she'll meet at LSE with a ring on her finger and a tangible future together. The lease is just money, it's not major. The trust/secrecy thing is big. All a calculated risk, at best.
posted by dickasso at 1:39 PM on August 17, 2010

There's nothing I have to say that isn't what everyone's already said. But as someone who upped and abruptly moved out of a ten-year relationship where he'd made sacrifices on my behalf, her behavior speaks volumes. Might I add that I didn't love him any more, and that I told him repeatedly that we were through... he just didn't hear me.

Leaving you to clean up a bit of a mess is uncool, for sure. The fact that she went through a lengthy process of applying to grad school abroad is very telling. I know that towards the end of my relationship, I (subconsciously, perhaps) made pretty big plans to do things after graduation - without including him in any of it. In hindsight, I felt like I was pushing him, testing the relationship to see exactly how much I could get away with, and how much it would take for him to break it off so I wouldn't be saddled with the guilt of doing so.

To preserve your sanity, let her go. If you insist she stay, and lay out before her all the sacrifices you've made to be with her, she'll end up resenting you. Let her know though, that this is something that may cause irreparable damage to your relationship, and she needs to be willing to deal with the consequences of that, whatever they may be. Meaning, you move on. Sublet the apartment, get another roommate, tell her you'd like a break (as hard as that may be). If she really is committed to this relationship, these "consequences" should be a huge factor in evaluating her decision to move.

The hardest thing for you to do will be to move on, but please believe me when I say that if she decides to move despite your misgivings and reasoning as to why she shouldn't... then she's moving on with her life, whether or not you are a part of it.
posted by Everydayville at 1:46 PM on August 17, 2010

If you want to point to the voice of Mefi as an arbitration method, you should have gotten her to write her take on the situation. From the way you phrase things, it seems obvious that she's the one in the wrong here. However, from her perspective things could be totally different. She brought up the applications when she knew she had been accepted and before signing a lease with you. There are plenty of reasons someone might wait to talk about a BIG thing in their lives before it was a sure thing. Maybe she wasn't sure whether she wanted to do it and sent the applications on a whim. Maybe she was so set on it in her heart that she knew it would be a major heartbreak if she didn't get in and didn't want to add being ashamed about it on top of it all. Maybe she just needs some freedom and alone time to think about the direction of her life and where she really wants to go.

Also, calling someone's career and academic path "fluffy" is incredibly insulting. If that's been your stated stance for some time, it's no wonder that she would wait to tell you about it. It's dismissive and doesn't take her intellectual and emotional growth seriously.

Maybe you should have her write her version of this AskMe. See what she feels the progression was and how she feels about you "letting" her go abroad. What is her question about the situation? Does she even have one? Open an honest dialogue and don't judge her for what she writes and don't dismiss her desires as "fluffy."
posted by stoneweaver at 3:04 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Kiddo, she had to choose beween London and you. Guess which one she chose?

Ponder the meaning.

You have no business or right to even think about "letting" her go. If she is that importart to you, you will go to London, too. Otherwise, you are staying for something you value more than her.
posted by justcorbly at 3:34 PM on August 17, 2010

Just anecdotally, I moved across the country for my husband. I left my friends, quit my job, took the bar exam over. If he had then applied to a grad program abroad without telling me and then left me in a city where I had no friends or connections, I would have been absolutely furious.

So that's just my two cents, but yeah I think she's being selfish.
posted by bananafish at 5:09 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

If she is that important to you, you will go to London, too.


I was one thing to move across the country to live with her, which was something they planned and talked over together. But she decided to study abroad without speaking with him at all, and made the decision independent of him and his interests. I think it's a little extreme to expect him to pack up and move because she's decided she wants to be in London for a while.

And with regards to her agency -- if she wanted him to come along, she would have asked, but it doesn't seem like that's what's going on here.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 5:17 PM on August 17, 2010

I feel like you're asking us what she's thinking. Did you tell her yet that you think it's unreasonable? Do you have a job you can't leave? Financial burdens? Have you fully expressed how hurt you are and how much this will hurt your feelings about the relationship, how frustrating and confusing this is?
posted by anniecat at 5:29 PM on August 17, 2010

You know, if you get what you want, if you're able to talk her out of this, if you convince her that you have the power to not let her go, do you think you're also going to be able to talk her into being happy about not doing what she wants? Not going to happen. More than that, it'll breed resentment and almost certainly the end of the relationship.

In your position, I'd be furious. I think setting all this up without telling you was a really crap move on her part. But dude, you're keeping score of who makes the bigger sacrifices (and of course the tally is in your favor, we have no way of knowing her side) and acting like that gives you the right to make her decisions. That can't take you anywhere you want to be, ever.

I'm kind of with the crowd who think this is her way of breaking up with you. That, I'd definitely call her on. And start thinking about how you want to live your life without putting her wishes at the top of the priority list because it looks like she's doing just that already.
posted by lemniskate at 7:11 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with those who've said that relationships aren't about score-keeping. However, that would be a more salient point if the OP moved to the girlfriend's city a decade ago. He just moved a year ago, and application timelines being what they are, she must've started applying not long after he moved.

OP: Does your girlfriend see your angle of things at all (i.e. can she understand how it would be shitty to pass up study abroad and instead move to a SO's city only to have the SO make study abroad plans soon after)?

Regardless of whether this is her attempt at ending the relationship, I think her actions were selfish and inconsiderate, and hiding the applications from you was a big red flag.

I don't think you can keep her from going, nor do I think you should try, since she'll just resent you if she stays.

As far as what happens when she (presumably) leaves, I think that comes down to what she's saying now. Is she telling you that she won't be in London for long, she'll really miss you but it's only nine months, you guys can Skype and visit X times, etc? Or is she just saying "I want to go" and that's that? Big difference. If it's the former, I think things can work out between you guys if you can address the red flags above. If it's the latter, she probably isn't going to make the effort needed to sustain your relationship.

It sounds like a difficult situation regardless and I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by whitelily at 8:17 PM on August 17, 2010

I'd dump her. She is selfish, childish and can't deal with her own needs or this relationship. You invested too much in moving to be with her, consider it an expensive lesson.

Do you want to be married to this instability and unreliability? Where will she want to go when you have a baby?

Besides, she is most likely dumping you anyway.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 1:56 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. And if they don't, they never were. -Kahlil Gibran
posted by TrinsicWS at 3:40 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just as several of the answers above, I'd worry about the love vs. visa issue. Woman, late twenties, in the country where work-based immigration is severely restricted? I would be mighty panicked about my future (what does she want, long term? Career - check; how about a family of her own?). In fact, in order to move to the States purely career path, it makes much more sense to return to Europe, try to secure a position in a multinational, and be transferred by the company. Looking for one year placement that you suggested and putting one's life on a bet that the employer will go through with employment-based visa process in less than a year, and then repeating the same bet twice over 6 years, with shaky, unpredictable economy?

Any chance she is the high-achiever, "ethical hero" type that internally refuses to mix business and love and believes that marriage proposal should come from you without her nagging? Just saying.
posted by Jurate at 4:06 AM on August 18, 2010

I don't understand the idea that study abroad is an automatic good thing. Study is study. 'Abroad' just adds a foreign cultural element, making it like travel. Why is that a right? To me the idea that one should just run across the world for a year wherever and whenever one feels like it is pure decadence, and totally unfair to the partner. We all enjoy travel, but in this case it seems like a strategy to delay 'real life,' and more specifically delay committing to a life with you. I agree that she most likely wants to end the relationship.
posted by gonna get a dog at 6:09 AM on August 18, 2010

If she is that important to you, you will go to London, too.


I was one thing to move across the country to live with her, which was something they planned and talked over together. But she decided to study abroad without speaking with him at all, and made the decision independent of him and his interests. I think it's a little extreme to expect him to pack up and move because she's decided she wants to be in London for a while.

Couldn't agree more. The guy's got every reason to be angry and dissapointed. She clearly values her ability to do what she chooses more than this relationship. If the relationship was foremost in her mind, she would not have made this decision. The fact that she has is telling the guy where he stands in her life, and that's somewhere down the line. That's the reality this guy should ponder.

She's selfish and all that, and it is certainly extreme and unwarranted to expect him to go to London. But, if he wants this relationship to continue (I question the wisdom of that) London is his only option. That's how you sustain a relationship with selfish and egocentric people: You do what they want.
posted by justcorbly at 6:15 AM on August 18, 2010

Okay, another opinion here, from someone who has been in a place somewhat similar to you two.

I'm not going to give you any ammunition to say "see, told you so" to her. The fact is, as others have already mentioned, that's not what relationships are about. They are about good communication, sharing goals, finding acceptable compromises when you don't share goals, and they are really not about some sort of score-keeping. That leads to pain and bitterness and eventual separation if that's your basis for interaction.

To me it sounds like you both screwed up in that you both were not honest with each other. I also feel like it's hard to get a sense of how you've really communicated to her because this question is so much from your point of view. As some others have said, it would have been good to have had her perspective too.

But, seriously, it doesn't really matter what has happened before, what crosses you've borne, but what you are willing to do now for her...for the relationship. You both have to be straight with each other, identify the things you each want to do in your lives and decide what the deal-breakers are. You have to approach each other with compassion and real openness about what you want and what you're willing to give. Anything else is pointless, if you care about the relationship. And if you don't, just end it.

As far as the rent thing, maybe that's her screw-up, and maybe she needs to help you deal with that. But the relationship is not about that...that's logistical and will have to be dealt with no matter what. It may be about integrity for her, sure. But the relationship is about you two knowing what you both want from it and knowing how to communicate that to each other effectively. Posting a "did she fuck up or what?" post on AskMeFi will not get you there. You must talk to her, and she's got to talk to you, and you both have to do it in an adult way. That's step one. If you're not willing to do that, again, just end it.

Sorry if I sound impatient with you or judgmental. In fact, I'm recalling my own past mistakes and thinking about myself when I say these things. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes.

Sincerely, good luck with this.
posted by dubitable at 7:53 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Will people PLEASE stop being so hostile about the girlfriend. We have NO idea of her side of the story and I assume that the OP has been in a 4-year relationship with her for a reason. So get off your friggin' judgmental high horses and stop making her the villain because you have no idea if this story even has one.
posted by victoriab at 10:00 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, Paul the Octopus...please listen with skepticism to the people who are convinced that your girlfriend is breaking up with you. There are any number of reasons why she didn't talk with you before she applied and many of them don't involve dumping you. True, it would have been better for her to discuss it with you but she didn't. You can find out the reason for this by talking to her...not listening to us.
posted by victoriab at 10:06 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Even in the title of your post is a troubling word "let" ... I don't care if you are in a relationship, the sacrifices you made to be there with her now, or whatever. The underlying notion that she somehow needs your permission to do with her own life what she sees fit is troubling and sexist.

Did you ever stop to think maybe she didn't tell you about applying to this program in London for the simple reason that it might be embarrassing or ego-damaging if she *didn't* get in? Sometimes high achievers keep things close to their vest for these reasons.

I also don't see this is necessarily a threat to your relationship in general. People in relationships should have the freedom to explore what they need to explore, and be who they want to be. Those 'once in a lifetime' opportunities are just that ... something that is rare and treated with respect. I'm sorry that you seemingly passed up your 'once in a lifetime' opportunity, but denying hers seems a childish tit-for-tat.

Be an adult, and be a good lover. You want what's best for your lover? You want to see her thrive and enjoy life? Then support her in all she does. Then support yourself. You don't like the city you've moved to? Then leave, especially if she is not going to be there anymore to tie you there.

If you're pointing this thread out to her to read, she can tally this up in her column. She has my support in her freedom to achieve all the she wants to (and with reasonable respect due to the choices and sacrifices you've made so far). Don't stand in the way of her route to success! When she's achieved her goals, or has an adventure on the way to attempting her goals, if you've been supportive and encouraging, that will come flowing back to you both as happy and healthy rewards in life.
posted by kuppajava at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, Paul the Octopus...please listen with skepticism to the people who are convinced that your girlfriend is breaking up with you. There are any number of reasons why she didn't talk with you before she applied and many of them don't involve dumping you.

I don't think most of us are trying to say that this is her weird, secret way of dumping him. It's not that straightforward. It's some weird grey area where she might not be planning to officially break up, but she's acting like someone who's not very interested in being in a relationship with him.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:20 AM on August 18, 2010

My ex went through the same thing with his just-turned wife. He paid for her trip, the phone bills, some loans, etc.
She ended up leaving him saying that she "changed" while out there. She then got married to some dude she met out there a couple of months later.
My ex ended up with her debt.

So, just sayin...
posted by KogeLiz at 11:58 AM on August 18, 2010

Jaltcoh: "I don't think most of us are trying to say that this is her weird, secret way of dumping him. It's not that straightforward. It's some weird grey area where she might not be planning to officially break up, but she's acting like someone who's not very interested in being in a relationship with him."

I do think that's exactly what most people are saying based on these comments:

"Besides, she is most likely dumping you anyway"
"I'm kind of with the crowd who think this is her way of breaking up with you."
"It sounds to me like she's having doubts about the life she's created for herself, including your involvement in it."
"My take on things is that she wants to break up with you but doesn't want to say it out loud."

And I totally disagree that the only reading of this situation is that she's not interested in being in this relationship. Yes, that is ONE way to interpret it but certainly not the only way. The only facts we have from the OP are:

1. She applied without telling him. We have NO idea why she didn't talk to him about it and the OP hasn't made any suggestion to explain this behavior.
2. She told him when she got the offer and told him she wanted to go
3. They discussed this when they signed the lease and she offered to pay the difference in rent for the 9 months she was gone
4. OP accepted this and signed the lease THINKING he could change her mind
5. He hasn't been successful in getting her to abandon her dream of going overseas for 9 months and now he wants us to support his assertion that she's being unreasonable.

Well, I'm not sure anyone is being unreasonable but I know that people are reading way more into the information than is actually there. If she had written the post and framed it as "is my boyfriend being controlling and unreasonable for not letting me pursue my lifelong dream?" than I'm sure everyone would be on HER side. They'd be ranting that she needed to DTMFA...and I'm sure words like manipulation and emotional abuse would get trotted out. Anyway, I'd think that was a crappy response too and would say so.
posted by victoriab at 12:50 PM on August 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

VictoriaB: The problem is that we only have the OP's side of the story here, as always with AskMetafilter questions. I've often wished that we could get posters' SO's on here to give their version but it usually doesn't happen.

Therefore, we don't know if the OP's girlfriend acted the way she did because 1) she was afraid of the OP's controlling ways and felt compelled to keep her plans secret, 2) she is conflict-avoidant or the two of them don't communicate well, or 3) this is her way of dumping the OP.

Without other information, I am inclined to surmise "2" and respond that while her plans to study abroad are wonderful and she should do it, her way of handling the situation was sneaky and uncool. And that is what the OP and his GF need to discuss.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:45 PM on August 18, 2010

2. Tell her that with her leaving, you would like to return to your former city. Find a way to break the lease. It might cost some cash, or effort to find new tenants, but that is small fish to a year of struggling with both her absence and possible money issues.

2nded, sort of. You don't have to say what your plans are, but now is a good time to reevaluate what you want to do and where you want to be, and a great chance for internships, volunteering, or other temporary situations. You don't need have it all figured out in the next two weeks, but she needs to know that there's a good chance you're going to get out of the lease.

This leads you to the next step in how the two of you will handle her year abroad: Don't take any responsibility for her stuff. Once she's not paying half your rent, it can go in storage, or shipped it to London or back to her folks. You are not going to haul it around for her. But definitely have it packed up and have a plan for it before she leaves.

This doesn't mean your relationship is over. She gets to do what she wants with her life, but being independent is means being independent. She doesn't get to load you up with unexpected burdens. You're going to go back to a long-distance relationship or you're going to break up. Either one means that you need to go back to having your own separate space, both physically and emotionally. Your relationship now is not one where your futures are so intertwined. Last year, when you moved in with her, it was. This year, when she planned to go abroad without discussing it with you, it's not. This doesn't sound like it's what you want, and I'm sorry.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:19 AM on August 19, 2010

Let her go but do not go with her. If she wants to prove that she can be on her own in a different country, she can't do that with you there. At the same time, she applied without telling you. She's not 100 percent committed to this relationship. You're annoyed that you moved to a new city to be with her when she now wants to go abroad. How annoying will it be if you move to a new country to be with her and she dumps you?

I don't know a whole lot about medical school but my sister studied abroad as a fourth year med student. Fourth year is also when you apply for residencies. Your GF could have waited until after finishing med school to do this LSE program. She could have waited until after med school to screw around and backpack abroad. She might have even been able to apply to do part of her residency abroad. Yet she chose to get away right when you started to get close.

My future husband moved to be with me when he finished undergrad. We had only been together for six months but I wouldn't have dreamed of applying for grad school abroad right after he moved for me because that's a shitty thing to do. I think she's being inconsiderate but I also think she needs to go to London, for both of you.
posted by kat518 at 7:34 PM on August 22, 2010

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