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Long Distance Breakup & (Hopefully) A Repair


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Hello everyone,


I hope that you read this long post, and I hope that you have some suggestions for me. I want to make it work, but I need as much advice as I can get.


I had been dating this girl for nearly two years. She's in the military, and I am getting my doctorate. She's 20, and I'm 25. It's a long distance (11 hours) relationship, and the distance began in May 2016. She ended it. Her reason was that she couldn't do it anymore - that she couldn't keep up in the military and maintain a relationship (among other things, I'm sure).


I know that she needs space. I tried. Given the situation, she made a reasonable decision, even if I don’t think it’s the best one. If we can make it work together, some things must change. But it seems that the wrong things are changing. I do believe that the things that need to be changed can in fact change, because I know that she loves me. I hope that she is willing to be open to the possibility that our relationship isn’t completely finished. I truly love her with all my heart. I do feel like she didn't give the situation enough time, enough time for us to work on it, after we talked about trying to work it out a couple of weeks ago. But I was acting stupid and controlling; I wanted everything too fast; I didn’t give her what she needed. I know she loves me, and she wouldn’t do anything to hurt me.


She visited a couple of weeks ago. I knew that she was thinking about breaking up with me, but she didn’t know how to go about it. I could feel it, deep inside. I had considered it, too, but I gave up on the thought. I knew we had been having a very hard time communicating with each other, on top of the stress from our situations. When she was here, she told someone on the phone, “I’m with friends." That’s when I knew it. I’ve never been so hurt by such a simple statement. It crushed me inside. How could she tell someone that she was with friends when we had decided that we were going to be together, and when we were actually together?


When we talked about possibly ending the relationship when she visited, she was firm in her opinion that she didn’t want to continue. Until I said that I'm struggling to hold everything together (I haven't found a way to schedule everything yet). Then it seemed that she simply felt bad, and wanted to support me through the hard time, despite wanting to end the relationship. That made everything worse for me; that made me doubt whether she felt the same way that I do.


We talked about how we both thought that it wasn’t going to work, but that we both wanted it. She said that she wanted to continue, but that she thought it wasn’t going to work. I said the same. But I didn’t feel like she was being truthful with me, that she actually wanted to continue, especially after I said that I was struggling to hold everything together.


I don’t think she understood what that does to a person. If she didn’t and still doesn’t feel like I do, then why not say so? Although it would be painful, too, I don’t think she understands that saying that “I want to make it work, I’m in love with you, but it can’t” is so much more painful than “I don’t want you anymore" or "I don't feel the same way.” And if she found someone else, is currently interested in someone else, or just wants to explore the possibilities, that is also so much less painful than saying “I want to make it work, but it can’t.” At least the two less painful options provide completely legitimate, satisfactory explanations for wanting to part ways.


It is true that I wasn’t making her happy anymore, and she wasn’t making me all that happy either. I am sort of unhappy with her or without her (I'm overburdened). Even though she won’t say it (because she always tries to stay positive), I know that she is too. She’s having a very difficult time, and she tends to mask her feelings with positivity. In order for our relationship to actually work, we both have to be in a place where we are happy with ourselves, where we can deal with each other’s problems, where we can communicate about each other’s goals, successes, doubts, joys, and failures. Neither of us have been there for a while, unfortunately.


However, when we’re together, there is nothing better in the world. I really do want to make it work with her. Despite the distance, despite the problems that we are going through, I know that we could make it work, if we both want it to. It won’t be easy, by any means. True love, as they say, is not easy. It takes time, patience, consideration, and a willingness to sometimes fail. For me, she is worth fighting for. People go through all sorts of ups and downs in their relationships, and I honestly hope that this is one of those downs. I hope with all my heart that this isn’t the end of our relationship. Even now, after such a devastating blow, when I think of her, I can’t help but be overcome with happiness.


I’ve never felt about a person the way I feel about her, before or after any breakup, and that is the honest to God truth. Even the breakup isn’t as painful as I thought it would be. Why? I know you're thinking, “that’s because you don’t feel the way that you think you do about her." But you're wrong. The breakup isn’t as painful as I thought it would be because I truly respect her decision. The pain that I feel isn’t simply for me: it’s not simply a self-pity pain, like it has been in the past. It is a pain for us. I feel her pain, and I want that to go away for her. I know that I have hurt her time and again, and that I’ve made many mistakes in our relationship (and she has too). More than I desire being in a relationship with her, I want her to be happy; I want her to love life; I want her to be satisfied with her relationship (with whoever that may be, in the end). It is obvious that I want to be the one that does that for her; I want to be the one who makes her feel that way. Regardless of the pain that I feel, the pain that she feels matters more to me than my own, and her happiness is so much more important than my being with her. Above all, I want her to be happy, with or without me as her partner. I want her to want me, of course, but that is far subordinate to what I desire most.


Someone once told me "you don’t know what true love is until you fall into it." I once thought that was not only the most laughable statement in the world (it is cheesy), but I thought it was also false. I thought that I was truly in love with the women that I’ve been in relationships with, but I knew long before they were over that I was not truly in love with them (and I've been in much longer relationships). But my relationship with her still is (and I'm nearly certain it always be) so much different than that. Of course, I’m attracted to her, and I love her, just as I felt when I was in other relationships. And we fight and bicker just as I did in those other relationships. But it is different. When I see things, I think, “She would like this,” or “She would find this funny”; I wonder, “What would she think of this?” I never did this, and I never do this with anyone. We’ve fought and bickered, but I’ve never once been mad at her in a way that changed how I felt about her. Yes, I have been upset with her, but the “upset” feeling is so much different; it is fleeting, peripheral. People argue, but I always had an unshakable foundation with her. For a long while now, I haven't once desired being in a relationship with anyone else. Other people are attractive, sure, but that desire simply isn’t there. As I said above, I want her to be happy above all else; I want to carry her pain.


I wish I could describe the feeling that I have had for her for so long. Beneath the attraction and love of the old relationships, there was nothing. But with her, there’s this resonating warmth, this feeling that spreads from my stomach into my extremities; this feeling of warmth, elation, and genuine care that I have never felt in any relationship, period; this persistent, loving feeling that is there, no matter the difficulties. Attempting to describe these differences and this feeling has made me realize that if she did feel the same way, then I am such a ing . She couldn’t prove that she felt this way any more than I can. And if my doubts were misplaced, I’d be asking her for what she cannot prove.


You're probably thinking that I'm idealizing the person in my relationship. It's true to an extent, but not entirely. I’m her first real long-term boyfriend. That has to be terrifying for her, since she probably doesn’t know what she wants. There's nothing wrong with that, though. It makes perfect sense. She’s sometimes naïve, but that’s because she’s young. I remember myself at that age ... That will change in time. Most of all, I’m worrying that she’s fundamentally changing. I don’t think people fundamentally change, but I could be wrong; if anything can cause a fundamental change, it’s military service. She’s grown cold; and we just don’t communicate like we used to. We used to talk for hours (literally) on the phone, all the time. But we have neither the time nor the energy for that, and I don’t think she has much desire to anymore.


Even though the thought of losing the person I'm in love with kills me, this is what we both need (I think). If we could somehow make it work, and she feels the way I feel, then it will come together in time. She is still my favorite person and I think she always will be. She’s all the things that I want in a friend, a partner, a companion, a wife, a mother to my children, the person I want to wake up next to every morning. This is assuredly not the emotions talking: I've felt this way for a long time now, and even now, post-breakup, I haven't wavered in that.


The girl is worth struggling over, changing and fighting for. And that isn’t going to change for me.


Do you have any suggestions about how I should proceed? I don't really know what to do...

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A lot of people who post here ask a variation of the question: "How can I get her [or him] back?" The only truthful answer I can give to this question is, "I don't know if you can. But you can get yourself back."


You are clearly devoted and passionate -- perhaps even obsessed. That kind of intensity and loyalty can keep relationships together, but it also makes it REALLY hard to recover after a breakup. You stated a few times in your post that you think this is what you both need. But then you said other things that indicate your unwillingness to let go and your hopes for a future with her. This is natural in the beginning -- you are still reeling, still hurting, still working through the early stages of grief. But if you'll allow me to offer an objective opinion -- even though I'm sure it's not what you want to hear -- you're fighting a pretty serious uphill battle here. Between her age (still finding herself, still discovering the world), the distance, and the military/Ph.D. stress factors, you're facing a LOT.


Every relationship has its time and its season. Being able to change with the seasons is essential to emotional health, as is knowing when and how to move on when the time comes.

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Thank you for the honest reply.


When I talked about this being what we both need, I meant that we needed the time to work on ourselves. I am in pain, surely, but I've been through much worse, and oddly enough, this loss has not pained me (as an individual) all that much. But I do think that it is the right decision to try to work it out.


You are right: each of us are facing a lot. I expect replies such as these, and I am happy to receive them. I want as many objective opinions as I can to aid me in this decision.


So, what do you think I should do? I've never been in a long distance relationship before this. I said I would give her some space, and I'm wondering how long I should wait to reach out. Of course, that's an impossible question to answer, but I don't want to wait too long (and thus ruin the possibility of repair). Even if I'm not with her, she means very much to me, and we both want to be friends. I don't want our emotions to get in the way of that.

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I'd definitely give her space. Reach out occasionally (maybe every few weeks) if you feel you must, but the less the better. Space only works if there is actual space Do your best to read her -- if you are always doing the initiating, for example, it's a good sign that the relationship is more one-sided than you probably want it to be. Work on yourself, whatever that looks like (managing your overwhelm with therapy, yoga, exercise, meditation or some other form of healthy recreation could be a start). This situation could go either way, so prepare yourself for anything. Try not to spend too much time in an "I can't live without her" or "I'll never love again" place. I know it can sometimes feel that way (I've been there myself), but recovery is possible with the right mindset.


Sorry you are going through something so hard.

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Thanks. That is what I planned on doing. I've been working out for awhile.


I don't feel that "I can't live without her" or "I'll never love again," by any means. I've given this a lot of thought. I do want her in my life, I think she is one of a kind, but if she doesn't want that, I can't change her mind. It's her decision, and I respect it.

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i'd probably feel the same in your shoes...have felt the same in your shoes...will maybe feel the same again. who knows. we're all different. we respond to things differently. we have our own stories...our own paths. no one can tell us how to proceed exactly.


honestly...i think you're rationalizing all this...perhaps denying the true emotional impact of it all. be honest with yourself. what do you really want? you're investing a lot of energy into maintaining a connection with someone who seems to have indicated quite clearly that she doesn't have the desire for the same sort of connection. seems to me she's tried to distance herself, but you haven't fully allowed that to happen...and continue to hold on.


if i were you (and i'm not, obviously), i'd take a step back for myself. i'd let the end be the end (a real end). maybe it's just the end of a chapter. maybe it's the end of this particular story. who knows?! but i think it's worthwhile to actually embrace the endings in life. it makes good practical sense. it's the time when we can let go of accumulated energies that really don't serve us anymore. it's an opportunity for growth. you said this doesn't hurt like you expected it to...but it still hurts. that pain is a catalyst. if you let it, it will help you move forward in ways that you haven't even considered.


life is full of endings. the vibe i get from reading your post is that you're resisting this one...but trying hard to convince yourself that you're not...that you're allowing it to be as it is. i dunno. you know yourself better than i do. what do you think? is it possible that you're resisting it? holding on? clinging a little bit? it's okay if you're doing that. i think everyone does it. i think it's actually to be expected.


like i said, i've been in your shoes before. feels so familiar what you've written...the main substance of it. funny thing when you look back on these endings years later. looking back, i can't imagine my life if those relationships hadn't ended. as much as i hoped for some sort of reconciliation in those days, as much as i loved each of those individuals, i can't see myself going back. i wouldn't go back. i wouldn't trade any of it. i feel so much gratitude for the way things unfolded.


it's pretty neat actually.


your story might be different. certainly, the choices you make are your own. i think so long as you're honest with yourself, authentic, sincere...you own that story. you own your own path. you can't really go wrong when you do that.


good luck to you, my friend. enjoy the ride...

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I don't know, and she never really said. It's one of her guy friends from the military. She's always been a very friendly person with everyone she meets (male and female), and it's something that a skeptical person such as myself has often called into question.


When I asked her about it, she said the following: When she would tell her friends that she was in a relationship, and they saw that we didn't talk all that much (because we are both so busy), they would say, "Why are you in this relationship? Why are you in a relationship with someone you hardly talk to?" She says that, because she didn't want to have to deal with the doubts from her friends, she simply skirted the topic altogether. I think she was embarrassed, more than anything else.


We did talk, but it was always at night before bed (for about an hour or so). That's really the only time we made to talk to each other. No one would see that, and I understand her friend's concerns.


I don't believe she has started seeing someone, but it's possible. If so, as I said above, then why not say so? It's so much easier for both parties.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just to update.


I started no contact on the 12th, with dual intentions. First, to improve my own emotional/physical health. Second, to possibly make her miss me. She's hard to read.


We haven't contacted each other. It's hard, surely. But it's improving. I haven't changed how I feel about her.


If anyone has more input, it is very welcome.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update: I contacted my ex on Christmas (via text), and she said she missed me. I told her the same. For the most part, we talked about trivial things.

She contacted me on New Year's Day and said Happy New Years. I said the same. She said she would talk to me later.


Nothing all that important, but I do miss her lots. I am hopeful for the future with her, but for now I have to act as if I want nothing to do with her. I think. I'll be in NC until (and if) she reaches out.

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