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I decided not to continue an LDR, but now I'm not so sure.

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zombiess asks:

I have been in a long distance relationship for about 7 months. We were never official, but all the feelings were there between the two of us. Neither of us wanted it to end but we did so anyways, because of money and distance.

Now I regret it, and he's just doing what he thinks is right, not what he wants. We have so much in common and we both agreed when we are with each other it makes it all worth it. HELP! What do I do? How do I move on? He wants me to be the one he runs to, and he wants to be the one I run to. He also still wants to fly me out there and still see me. And we both say the two of us never kissing is hard to deal with. I'm at a loss.

Sam W replies:

Ah -- long distance relationships!

It seems more and more as if, at some point in life, experiencing long-distance with a romantic or sexual partner (or friend, or family member: any kind of person we care about and can be in a relationship with) is inevitable. In fact, our volunteer Joey wrote an article about their experience with LDRs, which you might find helpful and reassuring. I'll include it at the end of my response. I mention it at the offset just in so you aren't feeling as though you're the first person to have misgivings about making choices in an LDR.

Questions about what to do in long-distance relationships are not uncommon and, luckily, not impossible to answer either.

Let's look at your situation. It seems like there were two factors that went into the ending of this relationship: logistical worries about money and distance, and feelings about what "should" happen in an LDR.

I'd first suggest that, outside of your feelings for this guy, that you spend some time asking yourself some questions about what you want from this relationship (and from relationships in general).

Are there things you need in a partnership that aren't possible given the LDR? For instance, you say the thought of never kissing him again is not a pleasant one. If you were to become a couple again, what would be the ideal number of times you would be able to see and kiss each other per month? Per year? Is that ideal possible given budget and distance? If it isn't, are there other aspects of the relationship that you feel compensate for the lack of physical contact?

If, at the end of this soul searching, you decide you want to try again, then it's obviously time for a talk with your partner. If you can, I suggest having this conversation either via a videochat or a phone call. The written word is a great thing, but for a situation like this you are probably each going to want to hear the other person's voice, see their body language, or both.

Ideally, this conversation should be a two person version of the one you had with yourself, with the addition of finding things out from him, about him, you may not know or be sure of. You say he's just doing what he thinks is right: I'd check in with him about that again to be sure that what you think he's doing squares with his own thoughts and feelings.

I think it'd be most productive to first focus on what you both want, taking the limitations and constraints, like money, out of the picture at first, then go back to that after you're both really clear in what each of you ideally wants.

If the talk seems to be leaning in the "let's get back together" direction, you may also want to bring up the topic of exclusivity, since you say you were never "officially" a couple, and I assume that "official," for you might have something to do with that. If it does, would you be okay with seeing other people while continuing your relationship, or do you want to commit to being monogamous? Are you okay with seeing each other without calling it a capital-R relationship, or do you need (and it's okay if you do) to be able to call him partner or boyfriend (or any other title) and call what you have a relationship?

Being very honest, open, and receptive to what the other person is saying will make this talk easier and more productive for you both. If we want to figure out with someone if a given relationship is really right for us, we've got to be real with each other about what we want.

One possible result of this conversation, or of your own soul searching, may be that you decide that staying separated is still the best option. This brings us back to your question about how to move on from a relationship.

First off, as you yourself have already hinted at, breaking things off can sting a lot. For many of us, that sting doesn't go away as soon as we'd like it to.

One of the factors that can make this hurt linger is the belief that if a relationship is truly good and truly loving then it should be able to overcome any obstacle. But, an unpleasant truth of the world and real life is that sometimes perfectly good relationships end because of things like distance. Real-life-love and romantic-movie-or-novel-love are very different things. In reality, our circumstances and limitations tend to impact our relationships, no matter the depth or bigness of our feelings.

That does not automatically mean that the relationship was bad, or that it was a waste of time, or that the people involved are somehow "failures" for not sacrificing everything for their love. It just means that life doesn't always work out the way we'd like it to, and relationships can't exist in a vacuum, but only in the context of our lives. You are allowed to mourn the ending of a relationship, and mourning is an important part of processing loss, but don't be too hard on yourself about your decision or any subsequent emotions.

Beyond this, one of the best ways to move on from a relationship is to keep yourself busy. That may sound cliche, but it does usually work. Ultimately, that's about staying active in your life and learning to live all of it again now that you're outside a relationship. Throw yourself into your work/school, hang out with friends, volunteer, join a book club, start that amazing work of genius that you've always been meaning to write... you catch my drift. Look into doing things you want to do, but didn't have time for when you were in the relationship: find the opportunities in this change, not just the losses. Pick some activities that bring you into circles with people who share common interests.

All this activity can help keep your mind occupied, so that sting I was talking about has a harder time being noticed or feeling quite so sharp all the time. Plus, doing things that interest you puts you in contact with people who have similar passions. Keep at it long enough, and some of these people become your friends, and maybe, one day, one of them will strike you as more-than-a-friend material.

On the other hand, you may decide that you both want to make a go of it. If this is the case, then we're right back to my suggestion to communicate very openly about your expectations for the relationship, and to figure out when and how you plan on seeing each other.

If you go this route, I do want to offer a word of caution about being each others "person to run to."

Being supportive of each other is a great trait to have in a relationship. And, technology makes it much easier to be your partner's shoulder to lean on even when they are far away. However, if you are each other's only line of emotional support, that can potentially strain the relationship. If one or both of you is going through a stressful few weeks, it's going to wear down your patience if you have to constantly offer support. Even in less stressful times, it's better if you can both grumble and vent about everyday annoyances to people besides just each other. Otherwise, after awhile you start feeling as though all you do together is be mutual sounding boards, rather than having fun and exciting experiences together. That can feel like a particularly big bunch of bleck when a relationship is long-distance.

I suggest you both make effort, maybe more than you have before, to have a social and emotional life outside of each other and keep your other connections going, be they friends (both mutual or one's own), family, a faith community, whatever.

Keeping these kinds of ties and other relationships going is great for a few reasons. It means that, should you be feeling frustrated or annoyed by your partner (not in the "This is going to be major issue and we need to talk," way but rather the "Arrrgh, boyfriend is so on my nerves today and I need to vent for a sec," way), you're not finding yourself in the awkward situation of only having him to talk to about your emotions.

Beyond that, forming non-romantic bonds and joining communities makes life more enjoyable. It gives you a chance to share your passions and your interests more widely than you would otherwise. It makes you feel that you are part of a bigger world, not just an island unto yourself. And it means that when times get tough, you have more people to help and support you. It also helps you keep from feeling like the only closeness you have in your life, your long-distance partner, is so out of reach sometimes. Lastly, keeping all these connections strong gives you a better sense of who you are. It helps you define yourself so that being someone's girlfriend is not your only identity, but rather one part of an amazing, complex whole.

I am going to leave you with some resources on handling LDRs and on how to talk with your partner and figure out what type of relationship works for you. Best of luck to you!

written 03 Nov 2013 . updated 21 Jan 2014

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