Should we break up or try to make this work?
June 6, 2015 7:19 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are having trouble deciding whether to work on things or split up. We don't have any huge problems with our relationship...except one. His career demands that he spend a significant amount of time far away from where I live. We are having a hard time determining if this is worth working on or if we should both try to move on despite being deeply in love.

I am unwilling to move from where I live because of my child (who has special needs) and his school situation, and because I'm co-parenting. This will be at least 3 years that we will be apart, possibly more. There will be visits and some larger chunks of time off, but the thing is...there's no guarantee that after that time he won't have to then go do something else far away for another indeterminate amount of time. So what do we do? How do we decide if this is worth pursuing? What should we be doing to decide? I don't have any good rubric for making this decision and would appreciate any input you could provide.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You've left out some key details, like how old you both are and whether you want more children, all of which would provide insights into your timeline. Setting that aside, I think the only way forward is through; there are other options besides break up or stay together, including being non-exclusive. It's impossible to know now whether this will be intolerable, sub-optimal but manageable, or totally worth it. Another option you don't mention is to agree to try for some period of time, preferably including time together in both his location and your's, and revisit it in, say, six months.
posted by carmicha at 7:41 PM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

This sounds suspiciously like your boyfriend is either military or academic. If the former, drop me a MeMail and I can provide a wealth of more personalized experience (I've been on both your side and his).
posted by Etrigan at 7:48 PM on June 6, 2015

We are in our early 30s. I would be fine either having another kid or not, and he does want a child.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:05 PM on June 6, 2015

How long have you been together, and have you as a couple done long distance before? (Academic researcher married to man she started with long-distance. Most of my friends are academic researchers and have done stints long distance, too.) The trickiest things I've found with long distance are that you can find the partner you have has drifted quite a way from the partner you remember, and also it gets really weird adjusting back and forth between sharing your household and not. Daily telephone or better still video chat supplemented with e-mail helps with the first thing. Nothing I've found helps with the second, except recognizing it, and it may be less an issue if nobody in the relationship is a control freak (researchers, or maybe just my friends, tend to be control freaks, so I have no experience with the non-control-freak relationship.)
A few couples thrive on long distance, because they experience both the freedom of living alone and the delight of limerence when they do get to be together. A lot of couples find it really, really hard, and just fight through it or throw in the towel.
posted by gingerest at 9:50 PM on June 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is not a decision we can make. Sorry. Each relationship is different and you have to weigh whether or not this is worth it. I suggest enlisting the help of a few close family/friends who know you both and the relationship.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:29 PM on June 6, 2015

You have your family, he has his career. Is there a shared life in there that doesn't require someone to give up a really important part of themselves? Or will your relationship always have to fit between the cracks of your independent lives?
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:40 PM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Jeez. Between the time I was born, and eight years old - when my dad left the service - I saw him probably maybe a total of 11 months. Dad was in Vietnam. Then Pago Pago, Diego Garcia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Antarctica, Nome... Seabees go where Seabees are told to go, when Seabees are told to go.

My parents are still married, and much of their cohort is not. What makes my parents last when so many others did not ? Hell if I know - from my perspective, my parents don't actually like each other much. But they must like each other enough to do 44 years together.

Point is - yeah, situations like yours can totally work. Absolutely. They can also totally fail. I don't have enough info from your question to tell about you. From my experience, it is more a matter of want than anything else, though. If you want to, and he wants to, then well, it doesn't really matter where he goes or for how long.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:56 PM on June 6, 2015

We are having a hard time determining if this is worth working on or if we should both try to move on despite being deeply in love.

There is nothing to work on. The situation is the situation. Either you accept without resentment the fact that you have a partner who is away a good deal of the time (and you'd hardly be alone in that) or you decide this relationship isn't for you. If you're a needy person, if you are not emotionally self-sufficient, if you don't have a good friendship network to fall back on, then the relationship may not offer enough for you.

However, if you do decide to move forward, and he wants to have a child at some point with you, that is a totally different conversation. You can make all of the above work but not be OK with solo parenting (or like a lot of military families, you can make it work.)

This is really a decision only you yourself can make.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:00 AM on June 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

I met a woman last year who only sees her husband for a couple of months a year. She lives in Australia and owns her own business, he lives in the US and works for a big car company. Once a year she takes a few months off to visit him. They catch up and travel together, and then she returns to Australia. She said that it works perfectly for them. They enjoy every moment that they do get to spend together, but are both very busy doing their own thing the rest of the time. However, she had spent years working for a big company and had spent most of those years on business trips, which she loved, so I think that says something about her personality and her approach to the situation. She and her husband also don't have kids and don't plan on having any.

I personally wouldn't be able to cope with that kind of arrangement without there being an end date to it. Especially if we were going to have a child together, because I don't think that it's fair on the parent doing the majority of the parenting or on the child who doesn't get to spend time with their father because his career is more important than them*.

*I'm pretty much estranged from my father and this is for the best. But if I had a dad who I didn't see just because he was working somewhere else, I'd be pretty sad about it. I'd really wonder why he couldn't find a job that allowed him to spend more time at home.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 6:07 AM on June 7, 2015

Once upon a time, I was a high-school student planning a "summer fling" before I went away to college. I met a nice boy, I kissed him, I went away . . . and then we kept talking (or chatting, really; these were the halcyon days of ICQ), and eventually it became clear that despite my attempts at nonconformity, we were in a relationship. It remained long-distance until I graduated from college four years later. We've done one more year of long-distance since then, which was hard but survivable.

So, yes, these things can work. But the bigger moral, to me, is that whether you say you're in a long-distance relationship matters a lot less than whether you act like you're in a relationship. Try it for a while, and see whether you still feel close to each other.
posted by yarntheory at 7:40 AM on June 7, 2015

While it is not a decision anyone on the internet can make for you, I am struck by the very fact that you are asking this question despite being deeply in love. That's where I would start digging if I were you.
posted by kariebookish at 7:53 AM on June 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Well, the situation sounds like it is something that cannot be fixed. You are completely stationary no matter what because of your child. He will always be moving around one way or another, so this will be an issue for him no matter what. I guess what I'm thinking is, can you two settle for the sort of relationship that the lady in Australia has? Do you want a man who will physically be there all the time or can you live with him not being around that much? Can you perhaps have a polyamorous relationship and be each other's secondaries (I know, that sounds bad) while you and/or he have a primary that lives closer? Because if you can adapt to the situation not being a traditional relationship, maybe you can keep it going.

However, if he wants kids, he is gonna have to change something about his life because all this goes out the window.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:25 AM on June 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is nothing to work on. The situation is the situation
Relationships, like houses, always have something to work on. But there's not a lot of point to working on it if you're breaking up anyway.
posted by gingerest at 7:30 PM on June 7, 2015

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