LDR breakup logistics?
June 9, 2016 5:42 AM   Subscribe

I think it's time for me to breakup with my long distance GF. The "if I should" questions aside, when should I do this, and should I do it in person?

We've been together for about a year, the latter half in a Long Distance Relationship. While I subscribe to the "leave them better than you found them" belief, I'm having a difficult time figuring out when and how.

We are traveling together to attend a wedding next week, and making a little vacation out of the trip. Breakup before the wedding/vacation? Most everything is non-refundable, plus I don't think the timing of this would be good form. Also, I wanted to use this experience to help in assessing my own feelings and to finalize my decision to either work on the relationship or end it.

Our one year anniversary is coming up in three weeks. This is pretty significant to her and she wants to celebrate it. Better to breakup sooner than later?

What about the logistics of an LDR breakup? Under any other circumstances, I would do The Right Thing™ and do it in person. However since this is an LDR, that means I would either have to do it on the vacation or buy a roundtrip ticket to fly in for it. Should I just eat the expense, fly in to breakup, and immediately turn around to fly home? Make a weekend of it, but save the talk for the end of the visit? Breakup over Skype? The phone?

Here's the 'if I should' part:
She's terrible with money, and lives beyond her means. While she makes almost double my salary, she's asked me to loan her several hundred dollars three times now. Previously.

Other Men. In addition to the sting when she meets up with guy friends on business travel and they get a little too close in FB pictures, she had a previous thing with her current boss and something in my gut is screaming that shit isn't right. Previously.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total)
Breakup before the wedding/vacation? Most everything is non-refundable, plus I don't think the timing of this would be good form.

White-knuckling/faking your way through said vacation in order to break up at the end of it is far, far worse form. Reverse the positions: you've been excited to see your partner, you go to a wedding and on vacation together, all romantic and nice. They're acting a bit weird during the whole thing. On the last day you see each other they break up with you. Sucks, right? Better to make someone sad now than to make them sad and feel like a fool for being lied to.

I'm very much in favour of doing this sort of thing in person. Since you're long distance, unless the cost of the ticket is relatively easy for you to come up with, a Skype call seems closest to in-person to me.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:50 AM on June 9, 2016 [20 favorites]

I would not (plan to) break up during the vacation, but I would actively attempt some real health of the relationship conversations. Not the "thing X is really bothering me, because I feel (feels) and I really wish you would (action)" kind of problem-solving conversation, you said part of the purpose of this trip for you is to help you decide if you want to work on things or let it go, and that is a "working on things" conversation. But more the casual "how do you feel about us" conversations. If that talk turns into "it's time to break up" then fine. If you leave the end of the trip with things feeling unresolved, that's fine. The only bad situation is if she goes home thinking you're doing great and you'll probably propose at your anniversary dinner. So, you've sowed the seeds. You go home, spend a few days, then skype her on the weekend and say "Yeah, I've been thinking a lot this week, I bet you have too, and it's time to break up."

You don't have to fly out to tell her in person, but you should have had enough real feelings-based conversations in-person, such that the final break-up call isn't totally out of the blue, and you're not trying to explain huge amounts of emotional stuff over a skype call.
posted by aimedwander at 5:59 AM on June 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

And by the way, as the person doing the breaking up, you are taking on financial and logistical responsibility for all unresolved business. If you break up on vacation and would be flying out together, shell out the change fee to get a different flight. If she has unused plane tickets to your town, consider paying her back. If she owes you money and she's not likely to feel guilty enough to want to pay you back immediately, let it go. If there's any material or logistical way in which this breakup will inconvenience her, do your best to fix it. This is true for basically all breakups, that the dumpee should not have to pay to be dumped, but it's LDRs that are more likely to have open plans/issues.
posted by aimedwander at 6:06 AM on June 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Whose friend is getting married, yours or hers, or is it a mutual set of friends? If the couple getting married is close friends or relatives with one of you and the other is invited as a plus-one, I would absolutely break up now, before the wedding. That way if she is the couples' friend she can decide whether she wants you with her then or not, and if you are, she doesn't have to go through the motions if she doesn't want to. You can still go to the wedding if that's what she wants, but she will know what's going on with no sense of being there under false pretenses. If the couple are mutual friends, so you both have to be there regardless of your relationship status, then it would be less awkward to wait till afterwards since you will both be expected to be there, but I would absolutely suggest that you let her know as soon as you see her that you are rethinking things, and if that leads to a breakup over the trip then be ready for it.

It would be ideal if you could do this in person before the wedding. But it is fine to break up by phone or skype. It is even fine, though awful, to break up by IM or email. It is not fine to drag a relationship you're over through multiple lifecycle events that make it seem like you are growing closer, just to avoid awkwardness. If she knew you wrote this, do you think she would still want to celebrate one year with you? Of course not.
posted by Mchelly at 6:08 AM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

The wedding and one year anniversary combination is a natural confluence of two events that quite naturally prompt people to reflect on their own relationships. Aimedwander's advice is spot on: after the wedding, initiate the state-of-the-union conversations. Perhaps you'll choose to work on improving things, perhaps you'll break up a few days or weeks later (but before the anniversary), but either way, the groundwork for the future has been laid.

But your insecurity played a role in both of your previous asks. In the December one, you feared something was hinky with the new boss/old flame and in the March one, you worried about uneven prestige and salary matters. Have you come to grips with these matters yet, as an individual as well as within the context of your relationship?

And just so you know, being bad with money is fixable: it's a learned skill, like all the other how-to-adult stuff. 2.5 months ago you were over the moon about this woman, praising her for being "smart, sexy and fun." If your feelings have changed or the LDR just isn't working out, so be it, but be sure you're not breaking up as a way to "solve" your own anxieties.

These issues--the ones that set off alarm bells in your head and/or ping your latent fears and internal standards-- will crop up again in future relationships. However, handled correctly, an LDR is actually built for people who need to work on their own crap. You get the benefits of being on your own and getting to know yourself better and work through your own issues, while also being loved and supported. For your girlfriend, for example, if you lay down concerns/requests about money management--which is a legitimate problem standing in the way of anything long-term and an arena that requires one to attain (or retain) competency--it's more meaningful if she tackles them on her own, neither performing for you nor relying on you as a coach.

Maybe when you have the post wedding conversations, a way to frame this up is to ask what each of you need for the relationship to go long-term. That might bring clarity to whether its possible or desirable for either of you to continue. Good luck and take care.
posted by carmicha at 7:15 AM on June 9, 2016 [12 favorites]

Break up now. You owe her nothing. Break up with her on the phone, I guess.

All of these breakup "rules" about who pays, who does what, "leaving them better than you found them" are quite silly in a relationship between two equals who do not rely upon each other.

That is to say, if you were dating someone much younger you would perhaps use the campsite rule. But you are both adults. You don't have to do anything but honestly express that you want to break up, and, I think, do that as soon as possible.

The person doing the breaking up isn't doing anything "wrong" and does not have to "pay" by shelling out money left and right. At most, if she won't be able to go on this vacation, reimburse her for that. Otherwise, it's her problem and her business, and you should become financially unentangled from her ASAP.

Again, it would be different if you indicated that she were in any way dependent on you or in a position of weakness compared to you, but she's not--she makes twice as much money as you! She can handle herself, both financially and emotionally.

But you do 100% have the responsibility of being completely honest with her. Tell her the truth ASAP and break up now. Being honest with her is your job, and you need to do it as soon as possible.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:08 AM on June 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

Also, I think that breaking up in person being the ONLY RIGHT WAY is a goofy, made-up rule that demonstrates no real understanding of the variations in humanity. In other words, some people are dangerously volatile! Some people would prefer privacy! Some people live across the country from each other! Some people don't have a private place to talk in! Etc.

It's not a real rule, it's a made-up rule, and you should feel free to use your own moral judgment about how wise (and/or wasteful) it would be to fly to her town just to break up with her. I personally think it sounds expensive and unpleasant for everyone, but it's your call.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:12 AM on June 9, 2016 [13 favorites]

Given that you're not sure yet that you want to break up and your trip is so soon, I would definitely wait to talk about things in person. I would tread carefully, avoid getting into a big fight (i.e. keep the focus on your feelings, not on what she's "doing wrong") and definitely avoid talking directly about breaking up, but still talk matter-of-factly about the issues that concern you. Maybe you can work it out together, maybe not - but talking in person is going to be your best shot to resolve that stuff. It will also be a good chance to reconnect and remind yourself of all the things you like about her. Financial issues and jealousy issues can be serious, but can also be overcome with good communication, if you think the relationship has enough positive qualities to be worth fighting for.

If that conversation leads you to feel confident that you should break up, you could do that after the wedding (maaaybe at the tail end of the trip but I think it would be much kinder to do it via skype right after you get home, so she doesn't have to get through a flight while crying or whatever).

Related side note: I'm not sure if this is true for you, but I find it much easier to be a jerk/think my partner is being a jerk by email and skype vs. in person....so that might be a factor. LDRs are hard....so if I were you, I would definitely factor in the likelihood of the LDR part changing soon, when deciding whether to break up. If there's an end to that in sight, it might be worth pushing through to see how it goes when you're together again. If there isn't, but you still want to save the relationship, you could see if there's anything you can do to feel more connected.

Now...if you do decide that you're sure you want to break up before leaving for the trip, my advice would change, because at that point, it's just cruel to lead her on. Break up by skype, and the sooner the better.
posted by randomnity at 9:58 AM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I totally get why people are saying to break up now, but I disagree. Here's what I would do:

Go to the wedding. I'm planning my wedding right now, and believe me, people who have not had a wedding do not understand the amount of stress and rudeness involved with RSVP'ing and then canceling last minute. For that alone, I think you should go to the wedding. But also because explaining to everyone at a wedding that you just broke up is kind of horrible. The wedding is for the bride and groom, do not distract anyone with your own drama.

(My sister broke up with her boyfriend right before a non-refundable vacation they both still went on. He ended up getting dunk and begging outside her hotel room door to come back to him. Would not recommend this.)

Your anniversary, on the other hand, is a private special moment between the two of you. For that reason I agree you should pull the plug before it happens.

So, the wedding is next week and the anniversary is in three weeks = break up sometime after the wedding.

Don't be overly gushy at the wedding, obviously. People are stressed and busy at weddings, it shouldn't be too hard to get through it with minimal gushiness.
posted by quincunx at 10:01 AM on June 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

I am also in a ldr and would hate to go through all the excitement of waiting for him to visit, him turning up and dumping me. I would rather he did it online.
posted by intensitymultiply at 10:02 AM on June 9, 2016 [13 favorites]

Now...if you do decide that you're sure you want to break up before leaving for the trip, my advice would change, because at that point, it's just cruel to lead her on. Break up by skype, and the sooner the better.

Wait, I want to modify this comment because for some reason I was assuming one of you wouldn't be going to the wedding if you weren't together (i.e. it's one of your friends, or hers, getting married, but not a mutual friend). If you both have to come regardless, it's so much more kind to just wait until after the wedding so neither of you has to endure going to a wedding with your very recent ex. You don't have to fake any romantic feelings if you have none left, and can be honest about having second thoughts about the future, just try not to break up immediately before the wedding if you both need to be there. Doubly so if it's totally out of the blue for her. But again, that's only if you both are good enough friends with the bride/groom to both come to the wedding regardless, which I suspect isn't the case for a 1-year relationship.
posted by randomnity at 10:09 AM on June 9, 2016

I broke up with my long distance partner before a weekend we planned together. I knew it had to happen and was not open to negotiation and I didn't want him to be trapped in my town afterward.
If I were in his position (or your partners) if we got to the end of the weekend and then I got broken up with I would feel two ways:
1. Pissed that I spent all kinds of money and time to get there, participate in whatever activities, eat whatever food for a trip not based on honesty
2. Betrayed that someone pretended to love me all weekend and like a fool for feeling like everything was ok
If your mind is made up already, spare everyone the song and dance and expense. To me this sounds like a very sad weekend.
posted by rubster at 11:44 AM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Break up now. Perhaps offer to foot the bill so she can go to the wedding with a friend, since it's non-refundable, anyway.

(We had some friends who were obviously on the verge of a break-up white knuckle it through our wedding ceremony and reception and I'd much rather one of them had sent their regrets. Maybe it was because ours was a very small wedding, but I found it much more distracting than the recently single relatives who went stag.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:16 PM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I am of the opinion/belief that as soon as one party knows the relationship is over it's their duty as a decent person to break up immediately.

Break up via phone, skype, email whatever avenue (other than in person) carries the most seriousness for you two.

If it's within your means to support her going with a friend or for you to refund her sunk expenses, that would be a generous and compassionate thing to do (but certainly not required)
posted by French Fry at 12:21 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Everyone's preference as to how to be dumped is different. Some insist on in person, some insist on LDR's getting an exception to that. Some would want you to make it through the trip so as to not screw up a wedding/already paid tickets, others would want it done the second the love is gone so they don't feel lied to about being loved on that trip. Whatever your future ex would prefer, I don't know, but you're probably going to get it wrong anyway.

As for LDR breakups: on the one hand, they never get to see you again and say goodbye one last time if you do it on the phone. (Plusses and minusses to that one.) On the other hand, you didn't spend tons of money on a romantic trip to get dumped in person on and then have no easy way of escape. I've had the first happen to me and frankly, it's fine, you can live with it. I am, however, having flashbacks to the poor girl I knew who flew out to see a guy and then he broke up with her and she was still stuck there with no easy way to leave.

My judgment call on this one: do not break up before the wedding if you are still not 100% sure you want out and you are using that time to think it over. It's okay not to do it at that time if you're not really sure. However, if you're pretty sure you want out after that, break up before the anniversary, over the phone.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:51 PM on June 9, 2016

I was in a very similar situation, though it was semi-long distance. We broke up before the wedding (though admittedly it was not quite so planned). I sent a short email to the couple informing them that my ex would not be coming, and then I avoided discussing the breakup as much as possible during the festivities. People would ask where Ex was, I would say "We're no longer together" and then immediately change the subject.

I think the "break up in person" rule was created during a time when most relationships existed within reasonable distance and there were not so many technologies geared towards keeping people in contact with one another. In your soon-to-be-ex's position I would far prefer to be broken up before the wedding and then spend that time recuperating with friends than go on wedding and vacation that either would seem like a giant sham afterwards or be fraught with tension during.
posted by schroedinger at 8:54 PM on June 9, 2016

Break up now! Do it by phone, I guess.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:05 AM on June 10, 2016

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