Am I being fair?
October 2, 2006 12:03 AM   Subscribe

Is this long distance relationship fair to her?

** Sorry for all of the backstory, but I feel it's necessary to understand the situation. **

I've been dating this great girl for the past 6 months. We are both 22, and started dating back in early April during college. Come mid May, I graduated from the college that she and I go to. We both knew this when we got into the relationship, but I don't think that both of us fully understood what that meant.

I was on an out of state internship, then started graduate school 200 miles away. So for the past 5 months, we've been in a long distance relationship.

Over the summer, she had some trouble with her "girly parts" and was prescribed birth control pills. It's caused her a slight weight gain (causing her to feel self conscience), and made her more emotional than normal.

The friends she hangs around with all have boyfriends, and are always around them. She pretends like it doesn't affect her, but it does. She lets it show through during some of her more emotional times.

This is the first serious relationship she's been in. I don't think she realized how hard this would be on her/us. I love her dearly, and I want her to be happy. I can accept it if that means she doesn't need to be with me. I do ask her if she's still happy, and she says yes, but I don't think she has the confidence to say otherwise, if it were the case.

I've read alot of the other similar posts on LDRs on AskMeFi, but I felt this unique enough to ask a seperate question. We do not, currently have a "way-out" or date upon which the long distance will end, and I no that's the big "no-no" of LDRs.

Am I being unfair by keeping her in this relationship? I'm not forcing her to stay with me, but she doesn't know anything else. This is college, and I'm worried about holding her back from other experiences with a 200 mile leash on her.

I've seen how quickly the "dump her" option is given as the solution in a thread like this, so please provide a little more explantion on why, if that is your answer. (I apologize if that's an outlandish request to you.)
posted by coreb to Human Relations (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You're not "keeping her" anywhere. It's up to her. What do you feel? What do you want?

Also, I don't understand -- why do you think she's so terribly upset about being with you long-distance, other than that she sometimes is bummed her friends all have local bfs? Is she giving you other signs that she wants out?
posted by salvia at 12:09 AM on October 2, 2006

Best answer: Well, why are you staying in the relationship? Is it because you love her and want to be with her, or is it because you like her well enough and you have a nice comfortable groove going? That is, are you in it because you really want to be, or just because of inertia?

If you actively want to be with her, and honestly foresee that you guys might stick together for a few years, that's great -- stay with her, try to ride out the difficulty that is inherent in any LDR. She can always decide not to be with you, if she would rather be free to date in college.

If you're with her because of inertia, or because you haven't found anyone better yet but you feel like you would probably dump her if someone better came along, or if only she wasn't in such an emotional weak point right now, then you're being unfair to her. You should end it honorably, freeing both of you to be in the places you actually are, rather than having part of your mind far away.

And two bonus pieces of advice for her: if all her friends are coupley, she should seek some new friends, join a club, etc. She's got a world of opportunities in college that won't be there when she gets out of college, she should take advantage of them even if she's still in a relationship with you. And if she's having bad side-effects from BCP, she should be in touch with her gynecologist to be sure that there aren't better options for her.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:23 AM on October 2, 2006

Like salvia said, you are not holding her back. She's in this relationship as well and she has a say in whether she wants to be in it or not.

I would say this is probably just an adjustment period, but you say it's been 5 months...maybe it takes her longer to adjust to change?

She has to learn to be strong and know that even though you're apart, you still care about her and are there for her.

It might feel awkward for her to be around her friends and their boyfriends because she wishes you were there, but like I said before she has to learn to be comfortable with the distance and independent, so when you guys do see each other it's a positive and happy time.
posted by wilde at 12:33 AM on October 2, 2006

Best answer: I really really hate it when the man I'm with gets all noble and makes decisions about what I want/need. So stay with her or don't, depending on how you feel about her, but don't be so arrogant or dominating that you decide what's best for her.
posted by b33j at 1:54 AM on October 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Agreed with most everyone here. Don't break up with her if you think it's "the right thing for her". If you want to be in the relationship, and she wants to be in the relationship, then stick with it.

Having said that - you were only together a month before you went long distance? Ouch.
posted by antifuse at 3:29 AM on October 2, 2006

Am I being unfair by keeping her in this relationship?

Shouldn't you be asking HER this question?

And shouldn't you be phrasing it a bit different? As in, is this what "I" want?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:51 AM on October 2, 2006

Don't think for her. You're in this relationship for your benefit. Have enough respect in her to believe the same of her, and that if the relationship isn't fair to her, she'll make her own decision. After all, if she ever thinks of breaking it off with you, do you think she would consider whether that would be fair to you? No, she would consider whether the relationship is working for her, not for you ("it's not you, it's me"), and make a decision based on that. Do the same on your side, don't try to think for her as well.
posted by splice at 5:11 AM on October 2, 2006

Best answer: Dump her.

Well, either that or start respecting her as an independent human being who is responsible for her own choices.

On a more personal note, whenever I get the feeling that it's vitally important for me to take care of someone else, I sit down and take a careful look at if what I really want is for someone else to be taking care of me like that. 9 times out of 10 I'm just projecting my own unease onto the poor helpless target of my magnaminous self.

As you say, this is college and you're being held down from other experiences by a 200 mile leash.
posted by tkolar at 5:37 AM on October 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think that you're a nice guy looking for a graceful way out of this relationship.

As best as you can do it, I think that you should call it quits.
posted by bim at 6:27 AM on October 2, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you all for the answers. I appreciate all of them, and will try to respond to every question.

As to what I want and feel, I want to stay with her. I already knew this, so it's a non-issue for me. (I can hear the exclamations of "Well then stay with her, dummy!" from your side of the monitor.) But after hearing her cry about how her friends don't want to hang around her (which isn't the case, she's jealous that they can be with their boyfriends, which is understandable), it raises enough doubt in my mind to if this relationship is fair to her.

I didn't realize I was coming across as "overly-noble", but after re-reading my post, I agree. I do need to have my ego kept inline.

I would never make the decision to end the relationship without her, because it's her decision too. This question will be asked the next time we're face to face. She doesn't like to talk about the "serious stuff" (looking at the current state of our relationship), and I talked with her the last time about something "serious" (the are you still happy question). I don't want it to become a habit of mine everytime I see her in person.

I do respect her as another independent person. And I'm not looking for a way out, contrary to what my post may indicate. I think I read too many posts about relationships on here, so I can't remember which post the quote came from or who said it. But the girl stated something like
I didn't realize I could get out of the relationship if I was unhappy. I knew that if he abused me, or cheated on me, etc. that I could. But no one ever told me that I could leave simply if I was unhappy.
I worry that my g/f may be the same, but maybe that is showing some disrespect for her.

I'm not worried about "a leash being on me". I've done what I wanted, gone out with friends for drinks, and all that junk, since I've been here. So I don't feel held down, I worry that she may feel like she is, though. But again, that's something I should ask her.

After reading many of these comments, I realize that I may be "throwing out the baby with the bath water" (or however that saying goes).

Hopefully I've covered all the responses, and please keep them coming if you have something else to say about this. Thanks.
posted by coreb at 7:47 AM on October 2, 2006

Best answer: So, I was in your girlfriend's situation about four years ago, except that Mr. Wonderful was in South Korea teaching English while I was in my second year as an undergrad. We planned to resume dating in real life when he came home to the states the following year.

I was an insecure girl who wanted to be with this guy at the cost of being the only girl in my group who neither had a boyfriend present or the option of casually dating boys at my school. Worse scenarios exist, of course, but in retrospect I wish I'd had the self-confidence and guts to break up with a wonderful guy so I could have a wonderful year at school.

When everything fell through with me and Mr. Wonderful, I was absolutely devastated, since everyone in an LDR knows how abstractly perfect your SO is when you never see them in real life. So you need to know how voluble your options of resuming a real relationship are, and how soon. Is she going to graduate college in May and join you wherever you are? Or does she have several years of college left? If it's the latter, then maybe you should reconsider an LDR.

And don't feel bad for wondering if you should break up with her. Yes, she's perfectly capable of making her own decisions, but we all make shit decisions when we're in love, especially when we're young and insecure as well as in love. I was like her once, and I think back on my second year of college as a time when I dearly loved someone who was nevertheless too far away to make me as happy as I could have been. I stayed home on weekends to wait for his phone calls and refused to date lesser boys because he was far away enough to be perfect. You're not an ass if you're worried she's making the wrong decision based on her love for you, you're just unselfish. And she loves you enough to want to stay with you, even if it's not the best option for her at the moment. It's not that she's stupid, she's just stupidly in love, which is why you're worried, right?

This really falls down on whether or not you guys have a reasonable plan to reunite and be a normal couple in the somewhat near future. If you do, then by all means, send her sweet emails and flowers and invest in a frequent flyer plan. If not, let her go now.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:11 AM on October 2, 2006

I Nth everything said above about respecting her own ability to do what's right for her. If you perceive her as too weak and/or incompetent to handle her own affairs and make her own decisions then I'd suggest you do what's best for both of you: break it off so you can find someone you have respect for. As a nice side effect - though it's not your responsibility - she can find someone who respects her as an adult.

Aside from that, in a 24 week period you've been physically together 6 weeks with no end to your seperation in sight. You can make your own decisions in life about what's best for you, but from my perspective being slightly older than you I'd say that 6 weeks is an eyeblink and not enough time to decide to commit to an extremely hard-to-progress long-term relationship.
posted by phearlez at 8:20 AM on October 2, 2006

I would never make the decision to end the relationship without her, because it's her decision too.

Disabuse yourself of this notion, because it's completely wrong. You each have completely a independent ability to decide you're done. It's a dual decision to stay together, splitting up is a choice you can make alone.

This is important for you to remember not just so you're not a creepy stalker person ("I don't accept that we're not a couple anymore!") but so that you keep in mind that you shouldn't be making her decision of whether to stay together - you should be making your decision of whether to stay together.
posted by phearlez at 8:26 AM on October 2, 2006

I hate to be belligerent, but I really don't think coreb's concern for his girlfriend's decision-making is in any way patronizing. She's slightly younger, it's her first boyfriend, her body image isn't top notch, and SOs can turn into demi-gods when your only contact with them is self-censored emails and phone calls where they're cute and funny and not scraping their forks against their teeth and exhibiting other annoying habits that make those you love just everyday people.

He's not being overly noble for wanting to make doubly sure this girl is making a rational decision that's in her best interest and not because she's inexperienced and has low self-esteem. We can all get on our high horses and rail on him for second-guessing her judgement, but the fact is, people can do stupid things when they're in love. As a feminist and as a girl who wishes her ex-boyfreind were as considerate as this guy, I can say that we should all be so lucky as to find people who would consider our welfare before their own, even if it means severing ties.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:40 AM on October 2, 2006

I can say that we should all be so lucky as to find people who would consider our welfare before their own, even if it means severing ties.

While I might agree in theory (and while you've rather phrased this to be so broad as to be unassailable), I do have to say that in practice, every guy I've dated or seen in a relationship who's focused on the "Am I being fair to her? I don't want to hurt her!" when considering a break-up has been a bit of an asshole. It's a great thing to consider at other times in the relationship; it seems to be not-so-great when it's your main focus on whether or not to stay together, because it turns you into the self-sacrificing hero who's sparing your poor damsel from hearing about your actual emotional state for fear of damaging hers. It's not generally a great way to keep the lines of communication open in a relationship.
posted by occhiblu at 9:05 AM on October 2, 2006

Also, I might say that her clinginess/lonelines is probably a bad reason to assume she'd be better off without the relationship -- you don't have some sort of ESP into what's best for her, as many of us have pointed out -- but I think it's completely a valid reason to say that you yourself want to get out of this relationship. Make sure, as others have said, you're not projecting that need or desire onto her rather than owning it in yourself.
posted by occhiblu at 9:10 AM on October 2, 2006

Best answer: The gender dynamic of this situation is pretty thorny, since we do have an older man who's looking out for the younger, more inexperienced girl, and lord knows that scenario is just rife with uncomfortable outlets for coreb to act out of a paternal desire to protect his damsel rather than let her save herself.

However, can we put aside the gender politics and think about the core subject matter: He's worried that this girl is going to get hurt. Honestly, hetero dynamics aside, that's pretty much what is going to happen if she's hanging on to this relationship out of insecurity and naivete. Yes yes, she's a rational human being, but that doesn't make her infallible, and thinking about some damage control for her sake isn't a bad idea. In my incredibly similar experience, I refused to break up with my LD boyfriend well beyond the time when it was clear we couldn't be together because I was insecure and he didn't want to break my heart. If coreb's situation is such that they won't get to date until the way distant future, chances are they'll end up breaking up anyways, except now he's waited months or years to end it and it hurts like hell for both parties. This happens a lot, from what I understand, because it's incredibly difficult to hurt someone for the short-term in order for them to come out unscathed in the long term. Believe me, ending a LDR after you've both put all your time and emotions into imagining how happy you'll be once you're together will leave her with an acute loss of closure and that nigging sense of time wasted.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:39 AM on October 2, 2006

That should be niggling. And I apologize if I am speaking as someone for whom this situation hits close to home and heart, but coreb's situation reads so much like mine from years ago and it seems a lot of people are considering this from a theoretical "don't be an patronizing ass" standpoint rather than the very real standpoint of how this could very well hurt the girl in question.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:43 AM on October 2, 2006

Zoomorphic wrote...
...since we do have an older man who's looking out for the younger, more inexperienced girl...

Hmm, the original post says they're both 22. Admittedly, age and experience are fairly relative at that age, but I'm not ready to take the poster's belief that he's more mature than she at face value. seems a lot of people are considering this from a theoretical "don't be an patronizing ass"...

I'm not sure why you think it's theoretical. I've paid a heavy price for being a patronizing ass in my own life, and I suspect a lot of other people are speaking from experience as well.

I'm sorry to hear that you were hurt by the outcome of an LDR, but to be brutally frank: that's a mistake you won't make again. I wish there were a way you could pass your life experience on to the woman in question (perhaps the poster will forward a link to this discussion?) so that she could learn from it and make the break if she needs to.
posted by tkolar at 10:24 AM on October 2, 2006

Best answer: The part that catches my eye still is that you feel like you need to make this decision for her. It's sweet, but it's not how equals relate.

I'm not criticizing you, coreb -- "hearing her cry about how her friends don't want to hang around her" and knowing that that "isn't the case, she's jealous that they can be with their boyfriends" -- it's only natural that as a caring person, you hate hearing her sad and wonder if you could help. But really, it's her responsibility, so could you be sympathetic but still encourage her to solve her own problem? "Wow, I hate to hear you sounding so unhappy. What do you think would help you feel less lonely now?" Express sympathy, confidence in her own abilities, and willingness to help if asked, like "I'm sure you'll find a way to feel better. Let me know if there's anything I can do. I hate to hear you so sad." You can be sympathetic without taking the problem onto yourself.

Or maybe you'll decide this is too much for you. Personally, I can't imagine dating someone I didn't think would leave if he wanted to be single -- I'd have trouble respecting him as an equal partner. If all he was doing was complaining I wasn't around, I'd feel like I was carrying the entire weight of our situation. The weight of being apart should be shared by you both.
posted by salvia at 10:51 AM on October 2, 2006

tkolar, i'm tellin' you: if there was a very large chart on which each and every person was ranked according to how likely they were to call out someone as being patronizing, zoomorphic would come out on top. in fact, this attempt to defend her will probably make her stop talking to me for months if not years.

there's nothing patronizing about being worried for someone else's feelings in a relationship. that's just called concern.

I'm sorry to hear that you were hurt by the outcome of an LDR, but to be brutally frank: that's a mistake you won't make again

i'm glad you learned how to stop sounding like a patronizing ass.
posted by soma lkzx at 10:57 AM on October 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 22 and first real relationship? I've been there. She dumped me, and it was really hard. But it was absolutely the right thing for both of us. I was hanging on for the wrong reasons. A lot of the advice given assumes a lot of maturity that I doubt is there in this kind of situation (no offence--maturity only comes with experience, you can't learn it any other way).
The fact that you're thinking things might be better apart. Maybe you should try it that way. People do get back together if they think it's really worth it.
posted by rikschell at 11:07 AM on October 2, 2006

Response by poster: So many good posts...

phearlez: The quote is definitely a case of not meaning what was actually said. I actually meant that I wouldn't make a decision on this without discussing the points brought up here with her. You're right, it's a mutual decision to stay together, but an individual one to break apart. I've had the creepy stalker ex before, so I wouldn't want to ever do that to someone else. And point taken about the eyeblink of time.

zoomorphic and occhiblu: you both make good counter points. I was hoping to hear from someone that was similar to my girlfriend, so I value that perspective, and I think you've pegged my (conscious) intentions best. But I did do the self-sacrificing hero bit in a past relationship that was similar (naive girl, first relationship, but i was turning into an asshole and not wanting to hurt her), although I'm still sure that it was for the best in the situation, despite my later regrets. Maybe I pick them this way? That's something for me to investigate more on my own. So maybe the rest of the posters are hitting on my subconscious intentions.

As for reuniting date: we don't know. I just started in a master's program, and not sure if I want to continue for Ph.D or go to work, (or if i'll even finish this program, on my bad days). Next semester she will go for try #3 for the professional program she wants, but she is also going for the B.S. in the similar, but slightly different program that she is closest to getting a degree in. There's still too much uncertainty in both of our lives to make a decision like that, yet.

No I don't know what's best for her, and I won't pretend to. But I wonder if this relationship is even good for her. That's probably at the core of what I'm asking.

On our age: Yes, we are basically the same age, with a month apart in birthdays. In fact, her 22nd is next week. Still considering her present, at the moment. I'm thinking a web cam so we can actually see each other rather than rely on %!@#$ cell phones. I would say as far as maturity goes, we have places were we are each more mature than the other. She 10x more organized, while I have a childish procrastination habit. I'm more mature relationships-wise (not only with romantic, but relationships of people in general.)

Thank you to all posters, and I'm still listening.
posted by coreb at 11:09 AM on October 2, 2006

Best answer: I think salvia's advice is great. Part of what I'm labelling "asshole" behavior is the tendency to assume that you know how to solve the problem for her -- not to any way say that you're an asshole; I know these feelings are coming from a good place. But if she's trying to put the responsibility for these problems on you, and you're taking the responsibility by assuming that your unilateral action (in whatever direction) can solve them, then you're preventing her from learning, growing, and gaining maturity.

She has the resources she needs to solve her problems. Maybe she needs to dump you, more likely she just needs to learn how to have fun on her own (which should give her a better, stronger base for deciding whether your relationship is working for her, and for working through solutions to fix it if it's not).

But your swooping in with any action to immediately "solve" her problem will do nothing other than make her more dependent on you. Again, I know the desire to want to fix this is coming from a good place, but you need to pay attention to the process as well as the result.
posted by occhiblu at 11:46 AM on October 2, 2006

Best answer: hi just jumping in quick to say: damn, dude where were all the guys like you twenty years ago?


salvia really hit the nail on the head here:

..."could you be sympathetic but still encourage her to solve her own problem?"

dude regardless of whether or not you are being 'unfair' by keeping her tied down, and/or whether or not you guys break up? you (or someone) really needs to figure out how to help this girl empower herself.

and this is the important bit that answers the question so I think you can probably just ignore the rest of this blather: even if that empowerment gives her the impetus she needs to leave. lord knows there were plenty of guys I dated just long enough when I was that age. Took the lesson, took my lumps, got wiser, moved on, bla bla.

You say you love her. so do you believe that, deep down? or are you just justifying? And if you DO believe it, does she believe it? And how to go about showing her how strongly you believe... when you've got stress and distance playing against you?

your angst here is in no way unusual for people in your current life situation. sometimes even regardless of age or experience. you've got sooooo much stuff going on with decisions about school / career path, etc... that it only adds to the swirl of stress and stacks the deck in favour of splitting.

the uncertainty in your futures is a complicator, but honestly I (and many before me) don't really think that's the core of your issue here. This sounds as if it is more about both her sense of self-worth and your perception of that.

honestly only you can be the judge of how well she'd take this, but (speaking as a formerly insecure, indecisive, codependent female with low self-esteem) I sure as hell wish I'd had something like this thread printed out and shoved under my nose a time or two when I was in my early 20s.

and, for my final .02 to make a round buck-fifty: Real relationships that are true and strong and happily-ever-after are Bloody. Hard. Work. it would seem very few of us in this day and age have the fortitude to cope. That's not a judgement of you in any way, coreb, merely an observation.

and yea, if you want to help lessen the impact of the long distance deal, get a webcam, that's a bang-up idea.

good luck.
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:36 PM on October 2, 2006

Best answer: If you want to know how she feels, just talk to her. I know, I know, easier said (or thought) than done, but it seems you're creating a whole extra dimension to this that might not exist. You're both going through a very tough transition in life right now, with all the accompanying stress. It may be a hard conversation, but get her to tell you how she's feeling, instead of you just guessing because you aren't there. It's easy to imagine how perfect your partner is from far away, but it's just as easy to work yourself into a tizzy with worry.

You sound like a very nice man, coreb, someone most women would love to have by their side. It's a hard task you've set before yourself, being the "perfect first boyfriend", but sometimes even the perfect ones have to have hard conversations.
posted by somethingotherthan at 9:19 PM on October 2, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the latest bit of advice, everyone. I doubt this thread will get any more comments, so I'll try to wrap it up.

salivia: that is pretty good advice. and as later added by lonefrontranger, she needs to be empowered more than anything.
Me fixing the problem for her won't help her grow, as occhiblu said.

somethingotherthan: I know that I need to talk to her about it. And I will this weekend. But I had to work out what I wanted to say to her because I don't think I completely understood what I was feeling.
I appreciate the compliments. I know what I need to do, which is a combination of the last three posts. I don't think I'll show her this thread, though, because another friend pointed out that my g/f wouldn't like the idea that I posed a question about her to a "bunch of strangers on the internet" like this.

Thanks to everyone, I really do appreciate it.
posted by coreb at 6:53 AM on October 3, 2006

good luck, coreb. Let us know how it goes, if you feel like it.

One other thought -- doubt you have time for it by this weekend, but if you're one of those people who looks for answers in books, I recently read a couple books with good advice on how to encourage others to be empowered, since the author's sister was always acting helpless. (They also have tips on fixing other unbalanced patterns in relationships.)
posted by salvia at 10:52 AM on October 3, 2006

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