I'm so glad all our friends are happy; let's break up
March 22, 2013 6:28 AM   Subscribe

BreakupFilter: I've been dating a woman for about five months now, and whilst she's lovely I'm starting to think that maybe I've been hit by a limerence bomb... As it starts to fade, is it time for me to walk away?

Said lady - let's call her Jane - is a very sweet person. We share a lot of interests and for the first time in my life I feel like I'm dating someone who's a potential playmate too (we're both artists, but of different enough disciplines that we spark each other's creativity rather than sapping it). We laugh a lot together, the sex is great, and generally we get along like a house on fire. Both of us have used the Three Little Words - although I remember thinking the first time I said it that I was maybe jumping the gun. Jane's about 8 years older than me, but that's not a problem for either of us.

The only slight snag in our relationship is that there's some distance involved - a couple of hundred miles. We see each other fairly regularly though - typically for four or five days in every fortnight; sometimes she visits me but mostly I visit her.

We'd kept things fairly quiet at first, but we're now openly talking to people about the fact that we're together (though we're not yelling about it to all and sundry; we're both quite private in that regard). We've gotten lots of comments about how sweet we are as a couple, and how our friends "couldn't think of a better match" or "always hoped you two would get together," that sort of thing.

Recently, though, I've been feeling like things have been fading. Doubtless this is limerence starting to give way to reality, but it's left me feeling a lot more disconnected when we're apart, and a lot more absent-minded. Where before I never needed a reminder to contact Jane at the beginning and end of the day, now I've set myself calendar reminders so that I don't miss sending those messages. I'm starting to wonder whether we can actually last, given the distance and this disconnectedness (which goes away completely when we're together; that's amazing. But being together all the time just isn't an option, and won't be for some time).

So a bit of me has been wondering whether it would be fairer for both of us if we called it a day now, rather than waiting until it had gotten bitter and painful. There have been a couple of times when Jane hasn't felt like I was working hard enough to keep in touch with her, and that's deeply upset her. She's talked about wanting to know that we have a future together - we've talked about our mutual desires to see the world and find a place near the sea. And a part of me would love to be able to commit to that dream, but at the same time I feel that 5 months long-distance is almost no time at all to be making judgements like that.

I honestly don't know how to make this decision. And I know that doing it will be devastating - all breakups suck, I know that all too well, but Jane has had a long-standing conviction that she's not worthy of love, and sees the ending of any of her relationships as proof of that. I know it's not my job to handle that for her, but I can't help but feel bad for thinking about taking a course of action that's going to convince her of that even further. Now that our friends are saying how wonderful we are together I wonder if they're seeing something that I can't; maybe I just need to open my eyes to how good this thing can be and stop worrying so much.

I know that I care deeply about her - in fact I'd go so far as to say that I definitely love her... I'm just not sure that I love her enough, and I don't know how to make that distinction. Can you help me, hive mind?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you aren't certain, then don't waste her time. Let her know what you're thinking so she can make a decision about you.
posted by discopolo at 6:38 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Jane has had a long-standing conviction that she's not worthy of love, and sees the ending of any of her relationships as proof of that."

That jumped out at me as being a bit.. manipulative? Maybe I'm reading that too cynically.
posted by irishcoffee at 6:44 AM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

You're not wasting her time and don't guilt yourself into a forced response - 5 months of dating does not equal reciprocal certainty.

Have a pressure-free conversation about the distance issue, and see what both of your expectations are about going forward.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:46 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

It doesn't sound like the issue is actually the relationship - you say things are amazing when you are together - but more the fact that now the initial rush is over, you're pulling your head out of the limerence cloud and things are becoming normalised. I... don't think that's a reason to break up; I think it's a reason to have a heart to heart with Jane and tell her that you can't sustain, long distance, the amount of focus this relationship is demanding and that 5 months is too soon for you to feel comfortable making long term plans. In other words, if a handful of aspects are not working for you, I'm baffled as to why you'd dump her rather than giving you both a chance to improve them.

Caveat: If Jane wants to have children, the eight years makes this a different story and if you're not sure, yes you should bail.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:51 AM on March 22, 2013 [14 favorites]

Dating is supposed to be fun. You have both had fun. You have realized that, at this time in your life, you are not ready to move closer to her and living so far apart is a pain.

If you loved her, you would find a way to be closer to her. Imagine yourself free of her. You aren't friends, you aren't lovers, how do you feel? Imagine bumping into her and she is pregnant and happy with her husband, how do you feel?

You owe her honesty, not forever. Don't drag this on any longer than you have, it will only hurt worse in the end. If you are straight forward and sensitive to her feelings, you may be able to turn this into a friendship. Not a friendship with benefits- that would just be cruel, and you are a better person than that.
posted by myselfasme at 6:53 AM on March 22, 2013

I hope you don't mind me asking, but - how old are you?

It makes a difference to my advice in this kind of situation.
posted by Salamander at 7:07 AM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

What's jumping out at me is that when you're together, it's amazing.

I wouldn't be so quick to end the relationship, because amazing is a pretty wonderful thing to have.

But I do think it's a good idea for you and Jane to have a "state of the state" discussion where you can see how she feels about maintaining the status quo and taking future plan discussions off the table for now. If she wants something closer and permanent and you're not there yet, you have your answer.

But again, it seems like you have something special and if she's as great as you say, then I'm sure she'll be open and receptive to a "where are we going" talk.
posted by kinetic at 7:10 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think calls to end it right this second are jumping the gun a bit. It sounds like you're happy with your in-person relationship, but unhappy with how the two of you are handling the long-distance aspect. Is that true? Is the distance (and specific problems related to the distance) the real reason you're uncertain about this, or is it an excuse you're using to avoid thinking about something else? Imagine that she lived three blocks away from you and you could see each other every day - does that make you excited and happy or is there an inexplicable sense of dread? (would that hypotheical dread be about something unchangeable or just "dreading having to work through problem X that is currently avoidable"?

The point is, try to figure out whether your urge to end things is about [her and things she does/wants], or about [you and things you want], or about [external factors like distance]. I think deciding to end the relationship because of a particular problem is really lame, if you've not really sat down with her to talk about that problem, or aren't really interested in finding a solution.
posted by aimedwander at 7:11 AM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Agree with Salamander in that age would play into my response as well too; but assuming agelessness, I will say that long distance relationships are really hard to maintain. Not impossible, but they take work.

That said; relationships require work. Full stop. There is no relationship that doesn't require compromise, negotiations, etc.
posted by dejah420 at 7:17 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

She's talked about wanting to know that we have a future together ... I feel that 5 months long-distance is almost no time at all to be making judgements like that.

Say that. It doesn't have to be limerence or relationship death. It can be "you are great and this is great but at 5 months long-distance I'm not ready to talk seriously about our future together. For now I'm up for enjoying the present, which did I mention is great? Because it's great." And then see if she wants to stay on that same page with you. If not, and she's anxious about next steps to the point of not enjoying where you are now, it could be that you're not a good fit. But have the conversation at least.
posted by headnsouth at 7:30 AM on March 22, 2013 [9 favorites]

Sounds like you love and care for her and the real problem is the distance.

Relationships settle down after awhile. Things aren't new anymore and then they become what they become. This is actually the most important part of a long-term relationship, the transition from new to established. I don't think you should break up with her at this point unless you really don't want to be in a long distance relationship anymore. It's okay to not want to be.

If she wants a deeper commitment than one you're able to give at this point, then that can be a dealbreaker, too. Be clear and honest with her where your head is at about this. It will make things easier going forward for both of you.
posted by inturnaround at 7:32 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

She's talked about wanting to know that we have a future together ... I feel that 5 months long-distance is almost no time at all to be making judgements like that.

This is the basis for a conversation between you, not an ironclad reason to bail.

Hitting the 5- or 6-month mark is often the time when couples start having these discussions, precisely because the initial limerance is dialing down a bit, and it's time for partners to have a slightly more down-to-earth "where do I see this going/where do you see this going" conversation (or, possibly series of conversations). It may indeed be that you each want things that are different enough, or that the long-distance is enough of an issue, that you decide breaking up might be the right decision. But there's nothing in your question that suggests to me that you have come up against a clear deal-breaker or essential lack of compatibility.

That said, this...

Jane has had a long-standing conviction that she's not worthy of love, and sees the ending of any of her relationships as proof of that. I know it's not my job to handle that for her, but I can't help but feel bad for thinking about taking a course of action that's going to convince her of that even further.

...is problematic. What, I wonder, would it take for Jane to feel she's worthy of love? Is she actively engaged in the process of dealing with this issue (i.e., therapy, meditation, etc.) to try to overcome this mindset, or has she essentially decided this is a static condition that will permanently define her? That is, does she believe she has agency and the ability to change, or does she seem to feel somewhat helpless in the face of negative or painful things? As you rightly note, this cannot be something you handle for her, but the way she's handling it can potentially say something important about she may handle other challenges, setbacks, etc. in her personal life and in a relationship.
posted by scody at 8:30 AM on March 22, 2013 [8 favorites]

Five months and the limerence is fading? The first year should be crazy stupid bliss, in my experience; if it's already work and it hasn't been six months, perhaps y'all aren't compatible.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:30 AM on March 22, 2013

I agree with inturnaround, the issue doesn't seem to be the relationship. The problem seems to be that it is a long distance relationship. I think breaking up would be extremely hasty. Instead I think you and she need to sit down (preferably in person) and talk it out. Explain your concerns and explain how you feel. Talk about hopes and expectations and needs. Tell her how you feel it is too early to be talking "long term" relationship stuff, and tell her how you are absolutely loving your time with her and you think she is amazing.

Just TALK. Communicate! Be open and honest with each other.
That is how you are going to be able to figure out where to go next with this relationship.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:38 AM on March 22, 2013

I have a long-standing conviction that I am not worthy of love, that is quite resistant to therapy of all kinds. It comes from never having had a life experience of being loved.

I hope this, in itself, is not a reason to dump someone. How incredibly cruel.

My current relationship is doing a lot to help me with this, because someone actually does love me. While you don't have any responsibility to stay with her or love her or help her with this, the fact that she has this problem is not a reason, on its own, to break up with her.

I would look instead to see how common this type of limerence is for you. How valuable is it to you that your time together is amazing? If this is a rare occurrence, it's probably worth a few hard conversations to see where this will go.
posted by 3491again at 10:05 AM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think you can't know for sure how you feel about her unless you are living near or with her. If that's not an option anytime in the the relatively near future, then it seems it might not be a sustainable relationship since your doubt and the distance will both impede development and cultivation of the relationship.
posted by Dansaman at 11:06 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been on the receiving end of this. I broke up with a guy who I was crazy in love with who sort of really liked being with me and maybe loved me too but not in a crazy-lifetime way. On one hand, I'd say take some more time to sort out how you really feel about everything. On the other hand, it sounds like maybe you already know how you really feel. Like it sounds like at the core you are really happy but not "all in." She probably deserves to be with someone who loves and cherishes her in a no-reservations way, especially if she's as awesome as described. I guess it is for you to figure out whether that person can be you.
posted by mermily at 5:13 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

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