My partner gave me an ultimatum: if I move, she isn’t interested in doing long distance.
(@luizstockler / giphy)
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Happy Tuesday, lovers.
We’re on the brink of a new school year. Although this one looks a bit different than previous years, fall semester has historically been a time when both high school and college couples find themselves in the tumultuous throes of attempting a long-distance relationship.
As someone who has done over two years of long-distance dating, I have lots of opinions about that kind of relationship dynamic. So I was really eager to dig into this question which was submitted for the column:
"It’s always been my dream to move to New York after college. Now that I’m approaching graduation, I’m starting to think about it seriously. However, my partner and I have been together since high school, and she’s giving me an ultimatum: if I move, she isn’t interested in doing long distance. We’ve done long distance before, and she says it was the hardest year of her life and doesn’t want to do it again, especially because she doesn’t plan to move out of Florida any time soon. We kind of pushed it to the side and everything’s fine now, but there is going to be a point whether we like it or not when I need to cross that bridge and I gotta be honest with you, I don’t know how it’s gonna play out. Thoughts?"
This question stood out to me, not only because of my personal experience with it but also because I’d bet a lot of other people can relate.
Long-distance relationships are hard; distance without an end in sight is even harder. But distance with a partner who isn’t that into it can be crushing.
I have to say, I empathize with each side of this situation, as I have been on both of them. It’s fair for your girlfriend to know that distance isn’t for her after trying it for a year — it’s certainly not for everybody.
But I’d look at her framing it as an ultimatum as a red flag; making you choose between your relationship and your dream, with no room for compromise, is manipulative, and I’d pay attention to where else in your relationship this dynamic is playing out. With this in mind, when making your decision, I’d encourage you to be really conscious about if you’re making the best choice for yourself or if you’re just picking what’s going to make her happy.
It’s OK to change your plans around for a relationship, but only if they’re willing to make some compromises, too. In this situation, it doesn’t sound like she is. I personally would hope that someone I’d been with for that long would at least be willing to try it again and feel it out the second time around before automatically dismissing the option.
It makes me wonder what parts of long-distance are the most challenging for her. There are ways to work through almost all of those hard parts, whether it be countdowns until the next time you can see each other, movie nights over Facetime or check-ins throughout the day so you still feel connected to each other’s lives.
Usually, the lack of physical connection and intimacy is the part that people have the most trouble with, according to a 2018 study on long-distance relationships. As we’ve seen crop up during quarantine, there are options for that as well, like phone sex or these funky touch bracelets. But if the distance is going to span at least a couple of years, opening up the relationship a bit might help you meet those needs in the time apart.
If that all seems out of the question, keep in mind that staying here doesn’t ensure that your relationship will last, as hard as that might be to hear. I’m sure being together for so long has built a strong love between the two of you, but life throws plenty of unexpected obstacles no matter what city you’re living in.
Conversely, it’s a real possibility that you might stay here in hopes of her one day changing her mind, but before you know it, you’re too enmeshed in a career and life to make the move in the no less-strings-attached way you can right now.
I think you need to ask yourself, “If I never go, will I regret it?”
Taking a leap of faith and making your move to New York would be a lot less scary than finding yourself a few years down the road stuck in a city that you never really planned to be in, living a life you did not intentionally choose.
Plus, there’s always the chance that you move away and take a break from the relationship for a bit and then find your way back to each other when the timing is better. And if you don’t, then that’s OK, too; it just shows how your relationship can handle that test of distance and time.
So I hope you find the courage within yourself to follow your dreams, as cheesy as that sounds. I know making that decision, especially if it’s not the one your partner wants to hear, can be nerve-racking, but you also owe it to yourself to go after what calls to you. The person you’re meant to be with would understand that.
Morgan is an online writer at Rowdy Magazine and a fourth-year journalism and women’s studies student at UF. You can usually find her at a local coffee shop, petting her latest foster cat or on social media @morgangoldwich.