What If I Want My Long-Distance Relationship to Stay that Way?

Hello. I've been in a long-distance relationship for the past two years. She is a college student two states away, but she is due to graduate soon, and she says she wants to move where I am when she's done with school. The problem is ... I don't want her to. I don't think I'm cut out for that kind of commitment right now, and especially not that much closeness and sharing of space. We've never talked about marriage, but I know I'm nowhere near being ready for that, and I feel like that's what she's going to be expecting before too long. I have been very content with seeing her on weekends maybe every one to two months, sometimes longer. I like my freedom and space the rest of the time. Our current arrangement has been perfect for me. I doubt she's cool with maintaining a long-distance relationship over a longer term, though. What do you think I should do? Break up? —Distant Dude
Dear Distant Dude,

Thank you for your message and for having the courage to reach out. I want to take some time to address your question and concerns about the situation with your girlfriend and hopefully help you get some clarity.

Based on your message, I’m guessing you are still fairly young. You have been satisfied with the relationship as it stands and aren’t interested in taking it to the next level. You asked if you should break up with your girlfriend, and as much as I’d like to be able to offer you a simple answer, I’m going to ask you to consider a few different things which may help guide your decision making process.

You have been happy with a long-distance relationship for quite a while, seemingly content with the amount of contact you have had. Is that because you are not really interested in having a serious relationship and this provides the comfort of having someone without the responsibility that comes with a more serious, and geographically close, relationship? Is it more that you’re not ready to settle down?

The second question is about your girlfriend. You say that you think she’s going to have higher expectations and you’re not ready for the level of commitment you think she is going to ask for soon. If that’s truly the case, then it seems like it is imperative to have a discussion about what both of you want for the future. If you don’t talk about it, the consequences for both of you can be serious and can result in a great deal of harm. Moving to be near each other is a big decision, and you both should know the reasons it is even being discussed. 

As for your question of whether to break up, well, that’s not for me to say. What I would say is that if your heart is not in it, she wants more, and you don’t see a long-term future with this gal, then you are doing both of you a disservice. What I mean is that if you look at this woman and you know you don’t want to make a serious commitment to her, you are occupying space in her life that could be filled by someone who does want to create a future with her. You are also preventing yourself from having the opportunity to meet someone you might be more interested in getting serious with, whether that’s now or five or 20 years down the road.

If you are both interested only in casual dating, then it may be fine to continue on this path. The important thing is that you have an open, honest discussion so that you know where each of you stands.

At the end of the day, if you are simply not ready for that level of commitment, you have a responsibility to yourself and to your girlfriend to be clear about your needs, desires, and expectations. Tell her how you feel, see where she is, and then see where things go from there. In this case, communication is key.

Good luck,
Lisa

Lisa Vallejos
Lisa Vallejos, PhD, LPC, specializes in existential psychology. Her primary focus is helping people to be more present in their lives, more engaged with their existence, and to face the world with courage. Lisa began her career in the mental health field working in residential treatment, community mental health centers, and with adjudicated individuals before moving into private practice. She is in the process of finishing a PhD as well as advanced training in existential-humanistic psychotherapy, and provides clinical training and supervision.
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  • Nolan

    Nolan

    May 2nd, 2014 at 12:55 PM

    You have to tell her exactly what you just wrote on here. You can break it a little more gently but you have to tell her before she leaves school and everything behind supposedly for you. You wouldn’t want someone stringing you along like that and I am pretty sure that she is gonna feel the same way. If you care anything for her at all then you at least owe her the truth.

  • Crissy

    Crissy

    May 2nd, 2014 at 4:33 PM

    You have to do what feels right for you in this moment and not what you think is expected of you. That’s no way for anyone to live and I do not think that this is what she would want if you were open and up front with her. Right now it’s simply a casual thing, but if you are not ready to take the next step then I think that is okay. The problem comes when you do not tell her this and make her believe or let her believe that there could be something more to this relationship then there really is. You do not want to ruin what you have or could have by dangling a carrot in front of her that you are not really willing to give away. Eventually this could become more or you might feel differently but if you don’t right now and the two of you are not at the same place, then I would say that you need to tell her before she makes any kind of big move to be closer to you.

  • Julia dees

    Julia dees

    May 3rd, 2014 at 4:54 AM

    Have you been with someone else already and that’s why this isn’t a comfortable thing for you? Regardless of whether you have or haven’t, the right thing to do is to be honest with her now. You don’t have to revisit the past transgressions of what you have done while she has been so far away, but isn’t there a part of you that knows that you at least owe her this much after all this time together? Granted I know that it is not your typical relationship nor has it ever been but it sounds like that is what she would like to see it become.

  • Rolan

    Rolan

    May 6th, 2014 at 3:44 AM

    You wouldn’t want someone to do this to you would you? I mean, think about if you found out how invested in a relationship you were and the other person was not but yet had to led you to believe that they were. You have to think about this from her point of view not just your own. There are a lot of things at play here and I think that this has just gotten very real for you with the implication that she could be moving closer. It is time to stop playing games but to grow up and figure out what you really wnat or need from all of this. I think that it is time for the two of you to have a very serious conversation about this.

  • claude d

    claude d

    May 6th, 2014 at 3:41 PM

    There is no way that you can continue with this sham that you have been living. Neither one of you are going to get anything out of it so why not just go ahead and end it now?

  • Brock

    Brock

    May 14th, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    I know that there are those reading who are placing the blame on you but I say that at least you know this about yourself… the thing to do now is to do the right thing and not let this go on if you are sure of how you feel. I am pretty sure that if you want it to remain long distance that this probably isn’t the right girl for you. And you may not be ready for that and that is fine, I say that it is great that you at leats understand this about yourself and won’t live a lie all because she wants something that you don’t.

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