How to get over a relationship that just couldn't be?
December 25, 2012 6:54 AM   Subscribe

How to get over a relationship that just couldn't be?

I've experienced breakups where one person, or both, stopped wanting to be in the relationship because of a lack of love, incompatibility, having grown apart, etc. But what if two people love each other, and are incredibly compatible, but can't be together because of circumstance? At this point in my life, I feel like I have to pursue something that would take me geographically far away from the relationship. In addition, I have severe relationship insecurity/jealousy and anxiety issues that yes, need to be dealt with eventually through therapy. However I simply do not have the emotional fortitude to confront them right now, especially in light of my decision that for once in my entire life, I need to put my future and my dreams ahead of love.

Making things even more difficult is his constant optimism, love, kindness, hope, and willingness to work with me, and help me. And let me say that it is so tempting, when he tells me we can make it work, somehow, someway. He is incredible and I can see a real, very, very long term future with him. But I don't think he understands the painful extent of my insecurity/jealousy even though I have tried to explain it as best as I can.

Whenever I have the resolve to end things and move on, his contagious hope makes me think..."Maybe." But my rational mind knows that if I just end things now, it will hurt for a while, and I can pursue my dreams with everything I have, and have fond memories of this wonderful person. I just don't want to have regrets and I don't want to think of him 5 years from now and wonder "What if?"

At this crossroads, I am torn, and wondering that if I don't choose the relationship, how can I come to peace with my decision?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Therapy can help you. If you're delaying it because you don't have the emotional fortitude for it...that's all the more reason to go now. It can help you develop the tools to handle this problem.
posted by RainyJay at 7:27 AM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wish I could recommend a good biography of a woman who made a similar choice. Unfortunately, we women are not provided many role models for choosing ourselves over our relationships.

You should also consider that if he is unwilling to move, he is already choosing his location over the relationship, so as hopeful as he is, he only is hopeful and motivated up to a limit. It's not just you that is making this decision. Are you unconsciously prioritizing his career/lifestyle as default and assuming the only choice is to give up your dreams or ditch the relationship, because it's the woman's job to compromise for relationships? I'm not criticizing either one of you--it's just so easy to fall into the gender default without thinking about it.

Good luck. This sounds heartbreaking.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:27 AM on December 25, 2012 [18 favorites]

I don't have any biographies, but I recommend reading "The Song of the Lark" by Willa Cather, and "A Gathering Light" by Jennifer Donnelly.

I have to agree that if it's only you making the choice between the relationship and moving away, you should consider what that really says about your relative commitment.
posted by tel3path at 7:42 AM on December 25, 2012

Sometimes relationships end because of other circumstances. At the end of my last relationship, we both loved each other, but we could see our lives were not heading in the same direction and the relationship wouldn't work out in the long run. Now we are best friends, and still love each other, but are not in love with each other.

As far as LDRs go -- it takes a lot, lot, lot of work. It takes having a specific plan for when you will be together again. Sometimes it take one person sacrificing a nice job or closeness to family or something like that for the relationship. If one partner is making a career change or pursuing a graduate degree, taking a job overseas, etc., it either requires that to be temporary or for the other partner to be supportive and plan to move with their partner.

I've been in an LDR where we didn't have a specific timeline, and it put so much strain on the relationship that the relationship went own in flames. We were engaged, now he's not in my life at all. It was a rough time that made it very hard for me to think rationally about love and relationships and although it was a good growing experience for me, I wish I hadn't had to go through it. I'd much rather have the faith in relationship and hope that I had before it than the cynicism that I now have about love and relationships.

It sounds like you've already chosen your career over your relationship. While he is saying he's choosing the relationship, that's not really the case unless he wants to move with you.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:15 AM on December 25, 2012

I just don't want to have regrets and I don't want to think of him 5 years from now and wonder "What if?"
There's really no way to do this, unfortunately. At some point you are going to wonder, regardless of what you choose now, about the other option. I think the best we can strive for is to work towards being better, happier people... so that the "what if" we make up in our minds is not as attractive as the reality we are living in. One way to do that is by not continuing to put off therapy.
posted by sm1tten at 9:22 AM on December 25, 2012

There really isn't a silver bullet to feeling better about this. I have actual personal experience on this topic. I moved to another country to be with someone who, due to immigration issues, could NEVER live in the US. Never.

We were so in love, we were so compatible...and it didn't work.

You are not an Island. Leaving your whole life behind for love is extremely hard and in my experience had a way of highlighting the other things in my life that I loved and would lose access family, my friends, the cities and places I was connected to, and ultimately the vision of my own life I had. It also puts immense pressure on the relationship to now satisfy all the other things you lost in favor of it, which no one person can do.

All these years later, I can say that the relationship was not as perfect as I thought it was. It sounds like you still have some road to travel in terms of your romantic relationships. You may discover in time that the relationship was perfect for this more broken version of yourself and, once addressed, you will see the cracks. I don't say this to downplay how good your connection can still be good! It just may not be balanced and, once you address what's happening for you internally, it might look a little different.

Connections have time limits and not all of them can last a lifetime. Sometimes it's practical circumstances that pull you apart and sometimes it's something more cruel and devastating. Be grateful for the time you get and trust that more love is waiting for you in your future. I still hold my person very close to my heart and always will, but I see now that choosing myself was the way to go. My world would have been so much smaller if I'd gone the other way.
posted by amycup at 11:34 AM on December 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

"I don't want to have regrets," you say. But choosing between two incompatible, but both positive, alternatives is likely to produce some regrets. Going off to Doctors Without Borders means you can't be at home with your lovely sweetheart. Staying at home with your lovely sweetheart means you can't be off at Doctors Without Borders. You're going to miss out on something important either way, hence regrets.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:11 PM on December 25, 2012

I have severe relationship insecurity/jealousy and anxiety issues that yes, need to be dealt with eventually through therapy. However I simply do not have the emotional fortitude to confront them right now…

It is now that you are most affected by your insecurity. How do you expect it to transform you if you don't face it directly? This idea that you can ask your boyfriend to understand (and presumably forgive) your insecurity — this idea that you can postpone confronting yourself until you have the "emotional fortitude" — is deciding that you will understand tomorrow what can only be understood in the moment. It means that you will never understand it.

I think you know that the answer to your question is simply to face your insecurity.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:31 PM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Everything in life, indeed even your life itself, has limits and endings, finite time to allocate to infinite wishes and possibilities. You will always have the capacity to wonder and regret things, no "right choice" can alleviate that burden. All you can do is try not to let the habits of wondering and regret, or of the avoidance of hard choices, suck up too much time themselves.
posted by ead at 2:12 PM on December 25, 2012 [9 favorites]

I was the partner being left behind when my then boyfriend made this choice. We did end up getting back together and are now married. HOWEVER, that year 3000 miles apart was *hard*. We had a lot going for us - a reasonably firm end date and the means to visit every few months - and it was still very very hard. We were also fortunate that neither of us is particularly insecure or jealous. If you are thinking of trying the long distance relationship, you will absolutely *have* to work on these issues otherwise you will be completely miserable wondering what your partner is doing and you will likely make them miserable too.

As for looking back in five years and wondering what could have been, I think if you focus too much on that you will never make any choices at all. The best you can do is make the best choice you have on the information you have right now and hope for the best. No-one can guarantee making the best choices but making none at all will lead nowhere.
posted by *becca* at 4:02 AM on December 26, 2012

I'm ignoring your asked question, and instead addressing an embedded issue I see here.

From what you've shared, it sounds like he might like to hear what your future and dreams are.

Have you (clearly) shared them with him? Has he shown a willingness to support you in them?

If you have (and he has), why end it now?

Perhaps you might focus on the issues you mention, and tell him why you are feeling the mentioned insecurity, jealousy and anxiety. It may be that through that conversation you can discover the level of his willingness to be sensitive to your feelings.

It sounds like he's a great guy for you. Tell him your feelings and desires (remember though, He Is Not Your Therapist), and see if he has any thoughts about them. He may have reasonable ideas as to how to make it work. He may be willing to wait. He may be willing to let you go.

But you must be willing to clue him in, fully, first.
posted by drfu at 12:07 AM on January 2, 2013

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