Q: Dear Meredith,
I have been in a long-distance relationship for more than two years. I live in Boston while she lives 4 hours away. We met in Boston, which is where we both grew up and eventually would like to settle. We are both in our mid-20s and like to consider that we have a lot of life experience and are mature young adults with good heads. When we first started dating, we were unsure of our future because she would be leaving for grad school in just a few months. We decided to just see what happens and then realized that we didn't care about the distance; we are in love and would make it work.
We have discussed settling down together, marriage, and children. I am confident that she is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with and she also feels the same way. We would aim to see each other at least 2 weekends of the month. It was working -- things seemed to be going just fine. The plan was that after she graduated (2 years), she would come back home. As in life, things didn’t go as planned, and due to her career she must stay now for an additional two years after graduation. A bummer, but again, we are madly in love and said we will make it work.
Sounds great, right? This past weekend she said she wanted a break. I would say our relationship was having some issues -- to me it was nothing major and she never voiced any major issues to me either. I have been having some trust issues (no fault of hers) and her job is extremely challenging and emotionally draining. I have noticed a slight difference in her. She says that it's a "break" and not a break-up and that we are in a relationship but need time separately to figure out our own issues and then come together stronger. I need to work on my jealousy/trust issues while she is unclear on what she needs to work on but always says it has to do with her being emotionally drained and figuring out how to handle that and our relationship. She says she does not want to see new people and believes that this will make us a stronger couple and we will be back together. She assures me that she is in love with me and only sees me in her future. I, on the other hand, am not so sure.
We have decided to limit communication. I am going to start seeing a therapist for some of my past unresolved experiences. I believe that I get so emotionally dependent on her (and previous girlfriends) that it can be overwhelming for her. She is a very independent woman. I am independent in some ways, but emotionally I am not.
I need to know how to handle this. I go to sleep in pain and wake up in pain. I have no energy and no desire to do the things I enjoy. I find myself zoned out all the time. I have never felt like this. I fear that without a lot of communication that she is going to forget about me and move on. How do I handle this? What should I expect? What can I do to protect myself? I need some advice.
– Hit by a ton of bricks, Boston
A: I'm not a fan of breaks, HBATOB. You're already four hours away from each other. If she can't handle being in a relationship right now, that's fine, but she can't tie you up and keep you waiting around.
I'm thrilled that you're going to therapy (obviously). Just know that you shouldn't be punishing yourself too much for being emotionally dependent. Long-distance relationships are a challenge. Jealousy happens. You're looking at another two years of this and you're feeling a bit ... exhausted? Miserable? Neglected? Makes sense.
My advice: Talk to the therapist, spend time with friends (they're essential when battling fear of loss and dependency), and please explain to your girlfriend that ambiguous breaks don't fix relationships. If she doesn't want to be in an active relationship with you, she has to call this what it is -- a breakup. If she wants this forever, you have to work on it and grow together.
You're in a horrible purgatory waiting for her to set her terms. That's just not fair. In mature relationships we work on ourselves and our partnerships at the same time. I don't believe in hitting the pause button, at least not in this case.
Readers? He seems so confident about their future ... but isn't. Should he be so confident? Do you believe in breaks? Should they be taking one? Should they be attempting another two years of long distance? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.