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Concern about a serious relationship

By August 18, 2009 - 8:01am
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I have been in a relationship for almost 4 years now. 3 years of it have been long distance and we are finally living in the same place. I am applying to medical school for next year which will probably entail moving to another city. I was certain that once I moved back here and my boyfriend and I were in the same place, that the long distance would be over. (Wasn't 3 years long enough?!?) He is finally getting comfortable in his job and often speaks of how great it would be to stay put longer and become better at what he does. While I understand how he feels and would agree that it is a good idea, I can't help wondering what will happen when I get accepted to a school in a different city. I am NOT ok with returning to long distance. I love being in the same place and think that we have a great relationship - it is comfortable and we are very compatable. My fear is that he will be ok with it being long distance again so that we can both focus on what we want. I feel like we've been together long enough that we need to stop this living in different cities. I want us to be real parts of each others lives. Is this an irrational fear? I know that my boyfriend loves and cares for me deeply, but he is also passionate about his job (and for good reason). His passion for his job is one reason I admire him so muich, but I wish I knew for sure that he didn't want to return to long distance. He doesn't like the idea necessarily, but he doesn't come out and say it like I do. What does this mean about his feelings for me?

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Hi, Chemie. Thanks so much for your question. It's a big one.

I'm guessing that the issue here, even though you didn't write it out, is this: You want him to leave his job and move to where you are going to school, and you're afraid he won't. Is that it?

It's really complicated, Chemie. And you will make a mistake if you just say "if he loves you enough, he'll move, if he doesn't, he doesn't love me."

Having a good job in today's market, and liking that job and doing well at it, is something to be very grateful for. If he loves his job, that's a simple thing -- he loves his job. If he loves it so much that he doesn't want to leave it, that does NOT mean he loves you less. It just means that he's trying to figure the best way out of a hard position.

If he leaves his job and comes to where you are in school, what if he doesn't get a job there? Or what if he does, but he doesn't like it as much? Or he doesn't thrive in it? How will you feel if he gives up his job now, for you, and then is miserable in the city where you are going to school?

I don't know what line of work he's in or how transferable it is. But medical school is a pursuit that takes loads and loads and loads of focus and hours. And most likely, you would not work in the same city you went to medical school in, right? So actually that would entail two moves for him, one to where you are going to school and one to where you ultimately go to work as a doctor. He may feel like this means his job does not matter near as much as yours does.

Are you willing to give up medical school to stay with him in the city you're in now? No, because it is a key to your future. It sounds like he understands that. But you want him to follow you, and that is equally as hard for him.

Is returning to a long-distance relationship a deal-breaker for you? You say it's NOT okay -- does that mean If he doesn't move for you, the relationship is over?

Your anxiety is not irrational. There is a big fork in the road that is coming, and some decisions will have to be made. That's scary for all of us. But it happens a lot in life, and we just have to do the very best we can each time.

From the way you write about this, I get the idea that you two haven't had a long, serious conversation about all the possibilities yet. Is that true? If so, I think that's the first step. Do it at a time when you're both in a good mood, over lunch on a Saturday, for instance. Don't do it when you're stressed or tired. And be honest. If what you are saying is that he needs to move or the relationship is ended, then you need to be truthful with him. But if you would be willing to return to long distance while you're in med school, with the condition that after med school the two of you will decide where to move together that will be good for both of you, then talk about that, too.

The main thing is, you need to really know the lay of the land here. If he's ok with going back to long distance so that each of you can focus on your work for now, that doesn't seem like a horrible thing. But if you simply can't live with that, then you have to face that fact, too, and be honest about it.

I'm sensing that you wish he would just say, "No, I don't want us to be apart again. I'll come with you," and everything will be fine. But Chemie, it doesn't sound like that's about to happen. Get a good, open dialogue going about this, and try to work on the problem together. Will that work?

August 19, 2009 - 8:14am
(reply to Diane Porter)


Thank you for your reply - it was very helpful! I do agree we need to have a good, open dialogue about this. He is a teacher and is just feeling like he is getting a handle on things and I understand why he would want to stay at his same school with the same grade - he would be able to build on all the work he's put into it. He would much rather do that than start over again. And I do wish he would just say that he doesn't want us to be apart again and that he will come with me. I am applying to schools specifically because they are near here, near family, and in places he's mentioned he'd like to live before. We've already done long-distance for 3 years and if this happened, that would mean at least another four. I really don't want that at all, so much so that I'd almost be willing to go to school in the city where we are now even though I might rather go somewhere else. But should I be doing something like that if he isn't willing to do the same? It is hard for me knowing that if I was in his position, I would be ok with moving for him. When does the time come that long-distance becomes out of the question, or is it ever?

August 19, 2009 - 9:07am
(reply to chemie)

Boy, Chemie, that's a hard question. And you're asking the right person. I've done long-distance a couple of times. It's never easy. And honestly, if a couple is committed to each other AND to their work, I'm not sure it's honestly ever completely out of the question.

Several years ago I had a job I absolutely loved and had worked probably 18 years to get. It was in journalism, and it was at a newspaper that's seen as being one of the best in the country. A few months later, my husband was transferred to another city. He had been with his company for many years and not taking the transfer would mean leaving the company.

Our choices were three: I leave my job, he leaves his job, or we live in separate cities. We had done the long distance thing before and had sworn we wouldn't do it again, because it's just so hard. So I do have huge empathy for you.

It took us days, no, weeks to make our decision. Since we had ruled out living in two cities, it was down to him or me. He was scared to lose his job. I was passionate about mine. We made lists. We had discussions, some that ended in tears, a couple that ended in arguments. We tried to commit first one way, then the other. There seemed to be no good way to make the decision.

Ultimately, we moved with his job. I honestly decided that I would make the transition easier than he would. In retrospect -- and I'm being honest here -- I wish we'd lived in separate cities for a while to see how it would have gone. Because about seven months into his transfer, his job was morphed into one he hated. If we'd had one foot in each world, it might have been easier to figure out, over the next few months, which end was working better.

Your question: Should I be doing something like that if he isn't willing to do the same? -- is a crucial one. I would answer it this way -- if he really, really isn't willing, then I'd say no, you shouldn't either, because the balance in the relationship is off. But if he is willing -- but just not crazy about the idea -- that's different, because it sort of leaves the ball in your court. Do you ask him to uproot again, or do you compromise and live long distance again?

Maybe, like I said, you just talk about the first year. You'll be studying your head off, and he'll be working with his schoolkids. It wouldn't be ideal -- but it would be a way to make it work. During that first year, the two of you could experience your new city on weekends, and he could even explore the schools there, with an eye on vacancies.

I guess what I'm saying is that at this point in your lives, neither of you should talk yourself into a corner. Instead, figure out what's really most important right now, and see if there's a way to talk about making it work.

August 19, 2009 - 9:29am
(reply to Diane Porter)


Thank you so much for your input - it helps to give me a clear head and motivated to have a good conversation about it with my boyfriend.

I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to reply to me!

August 19, 2009 - 10:44am
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