Have you ever successfully fought for a relationship that you knew was worth saving? How did it work out?
April 28, 2011 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Have you ever successfully fought for a relationship that you knew was worth saving? How did it work out?

The love of my life seems ready to end our relationship. It started as a close distance relationship, but switched to distance for reasons we can’t easily change and will remain a LDR for a long time, though there is an end date eventually. The thought of not being in each other’s lives hurts more than I can fathom, but I don’t know if I can sway her or if I should. I know she loves me and ending the relationship saddens her too. We are both approaching our thirties and have been together for almost 2 years. That's not a huge amount of time, but I could see us together for much longer. I feel like I should do everything in my power to fight for what we have, and want to hear from others who have tried.
posted by newlyminted to Human Relations (24 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I was in a relationship that seemed doomed. 29 years difference in our ages. I fought to save things a few times and kept at it. Now we have been married for some 28 years and have had two wonderful children. If you believe something worth saving, having, then fight for it.
posted by Postroad at 7:52 AM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

everything in my power to fight for what we have is a noble-sounding but extremely vague notion. There might be things you can do that would be helpful. There are certainly things you could do that would only make the situation worse. A lot depends on her reasons for wanting to end it, and whether you can address those reasons in a meaningful way.

In any case, sadness and dread are not great reasons to keep an otherwise dying relationship on life support.
posted by jon1270 at 7:58 AM on April 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

Long distance relationships rarely work because of the extraordinary and tiring amount of effort required to keep them going. Without having your partner there spooning in bed with you, or rising blearily to breakfast with a joke, or vegging out in your arms watching a movie on TV, neither one of you are getting all of the constant reinforcing signals and pleasures of love. So you need to consciously and aggressively work for it.

I guess what I'm saying is that long distance relationships are always "fighting for something you know is worth saving"...as frustrating as that is.

That said, it does require the efforts of two people, and it's possible that she's just not into expending that kind of energy, or sees it as a mountain she's helpless to climb; or that she wants the comforts of an "in person" relationship. You should try to figure out what the deal is, and talk to her openly and honestly about what you want and what you're willing to do, and see if she is up for it.

If not -- 'approaching your thirties' means you have a long time left to find the right relationship; don't worry; grieve, come to terms with its ending, and then move on.
posted by felix at 8:00 AM on April 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think it depends on what your issues are. Is it just the distance, or do you have other serious problems?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:01 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

My partner and I went through a make-it-or-break-it time about that far into our relationship, and at about your age, too. We decided to put a lot of work into the relationship, and we did. For us, that included doing couples therapy and also making sure to set aside time to just do fun stuff together (so we didn't forget in the middle of all the hard work that we were together because we liked each other). What followed was a very rough year, during which we both had to face some hard truths about our behavior and expectations. We sometimes reminded ourselves that if we were really in it for the long haul, a rough year here and there was going to fade into relative insignificance. That turned out to be true; we'll have our 18th anniversary in a couple of months, and though we've had other times that were hard to varying degrees, overall we are both very happy and have a good relationship.

I also know a very happily married couple who had a commuter marriage, Florida/Michigan, for more than a decade before finding a way to live together.

YMMV, of course. But, yeah, sometimes struggling through the rough spots is worth it, if both people are willing to do the work necessary, whether that's learning how to be a healthy person in a healthy relationship, or bearing the cost and strain of maintaining two households and doing a lot of traveling.
posted by not that girl at 8:05 AM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

On the other hand, being sad about a breakup, like your partner is, doesn't necessarily mean it's the wrong thing to do. And if by "fight for the relationship," you mean something other than "the two of us making a commitment together to try to make this work"--if the "fight" is only on your part, and means something like, "convince her not to break up with me," then probably you need to let her go.
posted by not that girl at 8:07 AM on April 28, 2011 [7 favorites]

She has told you that she can't be in a long-distance relationship. You have no choice but to believe her about that. Your choice, then, is whether you would rather break up or move to where she lives. I know you said you can't do that "easily," but if you can do it at all, you're choosing not to, and therefore you're choosing to end the relationship. The way you "fight for" this relationship is not by badgering her to change her feelings, it's by changing your circumstances. If she's not worth moving for, then you're choosing to break up. And it's okay to choose that, even if you love her.
posted by decathecting at 8:22 AM on April 28, 2011 [14 favorites]

If she's like me, then an LDR is just not an option. If you're like my ex, then you're making the choice to be distant and then putting the onus on me to "stay" in the relationship. You have to decide what you want: to be with her, or to be where you are. You're going to have to sacrifice something either way.
posted by prefpara at 8:30 AM on April 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you really want the relationship, move. Why would you put you and her through years of LDR misery? It's sometimes possible to save a relationship, but you can only change yourself.
posted by sninctown at 8:35 AM on April 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you for the replies. She has not said she 'can't' be in a long-distance relationship, but we both acknowledge how very hard it is to be apart and that the duration makes it worse. We will be talking more, and if her heart is not fully in it, then I have no intention of prolonging things just to avoid the agony of a breakup. If she feels the same way I do about having a future together though, I think it would be worth working through what might be a rough patch on a longer road. It helps to hear what others have been through, your decisions and what happened either way.

Also, the reasons for being apart are academic and 'not easily changed' may have understated the fact that we cannot relocate currently without serious consequences for our futures.
posted by newlyminted at 8:41 AM on April 28, 2011

Not being with the love of your life is a serious consequence for your future.

I don't mean to be harsh, but don't make this about her and her feelings. This is about your choices. If you've chosen to be in school somewhere far away, then you've decided that this school is more important than being with her. Maybe it is, but if so, it's not fair for you to pretend this is about whether her heart is "fully in it." Yours isn't.
posted by prefpara at 8:46 AM on April 28, 2011 [18 favorites]

This works by somebody moving.

Relationships cannot be "saved" or "fought" for. You cannot will this to continue without deciding what concrete steps need to be taken and then taking those steps. Really, really wanting it means nothing.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:03 AM on April 28, 2011 [14 favorites]

In what way could you possibly "fight" for your relationship if the problem is that long distance is too hard and you are not willing to move closer to one another? Not trying to be snarky but if that's the problem then there seems to be only one solution and if neither of you are willing to apply that solution then I think there's the answer.
posted by like_neon at 9:06 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I see your points. We both made decisions about schools at an earlier stage in the relationship before it became clear how serious it was. Our options were in different cities, and we both moved. She does not want me to quit school, and neither of us can transfer. It's not a cut and dry situation and there may not be a solution. I'm interested in hearing all experiences, whether they relate to distance specifically or overcoming a period of uncertainty or a challenge. Fight may convey too narrow of an experience. Relationships are not all ups, so clearly some people find ways to work through downs. Even if they don't apply directly to this situation, I'd like to hear how people approached their own relationships and what happened.
posted by newlyminted at 9:40 AM on April 28, 2011

Best answer: The love of my life seems ready to end our relationship.

Ask her if she wants to work with you to keep the relationship going. If yes, brainstorm as a couple, perhaps with a relationship counselor's help, about practical solutions to your differences. (I know you live in different places, but I'll bet you can find someone who can work with you both remotely.) However, if she tells you that she is indeed ready to end the relationship, one-sidedly continuing to "work" on the situation is not love! It's about what you want. If you love her, lovingly embrace her choices. And yes, this is insanely hard.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:39 AM on April 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: How long is the distance, and how long is the time period? And how realistic is the reuniting?

I married my husband after two years together (I was 24 when we married), six months of which was long distance, and after the wedding we promptly moved to two different states while I finished school. We literally drove halfway back from the honeymoon and then had a tearful parting in a McDonald's parking lot. Married long distance almost two years. I didn't actually think it was that bad, but we saw each other at least once a month, often twice a month, and we knew there was a firm end date when I'd be done with school and we'd be in the same place.

But if you're both getting Ph.D.s and entering the job market and more interested in taking the best jobs available to each of you than to trying to solve the "two-body problem" so common to academia, well, not the same situation. (And wanting to pursue your academic future more than this relationship is not a wrong answer, I don't mean to make it sound that way ... just that we knew our work could happen in the same city so we had a firm end date, which you may or may not have.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:44 AM on April 28, 2011

I think it depends on the circumstances.

It's hard to know from your description, because it sounds from your writing that there is no underlying problem bringing about the end of the relationship, just that your girlfriend is putting some kind of sell-by date due to the complexities of the LDR thing.

If your girlfriend wants to end it because she's not in love with you (anymore), because she met someone else, or because of something you did which has destroyed her trust in you, there is pretty much nothing you can do to make her stay. The ball just isn't in your court there, sorry.

If it's a sell-by date issue, the best way to keep her invested would probably be to work on making it not a long distance thing anymore. Can you find a way to see each other more often? Or do something that reminds her you're worth waiting for? Take a trip together? Firm up plans for the future?
posted by Sara C. at 11:04 AM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I cancelled a PhD to stay in the same city as the guy I'd been seeing for two months. We've been together about seven years now, married two. Like you, I had arranged school before we started dating, and he broke up with me to encourage me to go to school (in another country). I decided that he was worth the risk, so I cancelled my plans and stayed. I don't regret it one tiny bit.
posted by ukdanae at 12:12 PM on April 28, 2011

My husband, then boyfriend, lost his job and there weren't any jobs that would make him happy and fulfilled where we lived. And so he had to move and I realized he was the most important thing in my life. period. And I knew I would be absolutely miserable without him. So I took the bar exam again, quit my job, and moved 3,000 miles to a place where I knew no one. Everyone (my family, my former employer, some of my friends) thought I was crazy. But it was the best decision I ever made.
posted by bananafish at 12:31 PM on April 28, 2011

I did spent two years in an LDR, with a few thousand miles between us. We had lived together for a few years and I needed to change locale, desperately. I had the move planned for three years - it was no surprise. He seemed on board and there were benefits for him in the new place as well. I moved there while he stayed behind to finish school. Two years passed and he moved to my location, into a house with me. I thought things would be peachy.

I broke up with him four months later. The thing is, people change during two years apart. The picture in your head of the person they were, or the person they have become, is not accurate, and the change may not be for the better. Your perspective changes, too. I am now kind of sorry I boxed up that part of my life and shelved it for two years.

I learned it's better to end things cleanly when life takes you different directions. Holding on to something and forcing it to work can be a response born of fear of the unknown - fear of being alone. In my case it ended up being a messy situation and we were both just fooling ourselves. So ... YMMV.
posted by griselda at 12:48 PM on April 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

After two years, my partner and I did long distance (separate countries) for four years. We're now in the same country and still going strong.

It sucks, it is hard and most people fail or give up. But it can be done. Saying that, we almost didn't make it past the first year.

I take exception to some of comments here saying that you do not love your partner if you're even contemplating being apart. It's a partnership and both sides need to be considered equally. Compromise is a healthy part of every relationship, while sacrifice rarely is.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:46 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

My college girlfriend was a year younger than I am, and was planning on going abroad for a year after college. So that was going to be one year of moderate long distance (3 hr drive), followed by a year of very long distance. During the first year, I sensed, as you say you do now, that she was getting ready to break it off. I somehow managed to preemptively convince her not to. At the time, I felt like I won. But I didn't really. Knowing that someone wanted to end the relationship and decided not to can make things very difficult for both parties. Our relationship felt like it was on life support until she finally broke up with me for real before leaving the country.

So, in my experience, it's a bad idea to try to talk someone out of breaking up with you, because it's pretty hard to go back to what it was like before your partner made that decision.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:18 PM on April 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

My husband and I dated about eight months and then did two and a half years of long distance. When I say long distance, I don't mean "we took turns driving six hours each way to see each other every few weeks," I mean "we took turns taking three flights each way to see each other every few months." What made our LDR successful was the fact that neither of us ever wavered. We knew it was going to be really, really hard, and there were lots of tears and sleepless nights, but even through the worst parts we both knew it would be worth it in the end.

I'm sorry to say this, but you can't "know" that the relationship is worth saving unless she feels the same way. If one person is no longer committed to the other, then there isn't any relationship left to save. And you'd both need to agree on what you're signing up for. If she can't do an LDR, and you can't move closer to her, there simply isn't a future for this relationship. I really feel for you, this is a difficult situation to be in.
posted by keep it under cover at 2:53 PM on April 28, 2011

Ragged Richard: At the time, I felt like I won. But I didn't really. Knowing that someone wanted to end the relationship and decided not to can make things very difficult for both parties.

This was very much my experience (though it doesn't necessarily apply to your situation.) I fought for, and won, a relationship with someone amazing... who didn't feel all that strongly about being with me.

So look with clear eyes and be certain that you want what you might win.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:51 PM on April 28, 2011

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