Dear Doctor Amorous,
I’m leaving Leipzig in three months and will be away for at least two years living in the UK. I have a long-term girlfriend here and her job will keep her here long-term, plus she is not EU and would have serious problems trying to move to the UK at this point. The question for me is whether to shift to a long-distance relationship and hope that I can move back here after those two years or that we can both move to a third place, or whether two years is just too long and we should end it now. What do you think? Is there any point to long-distance? We have been together for three years already and it seems like such a pity to lose the relationship just because of practical external issues.
Dear Sad Boy,
This is a tough situation! Long-distance relationships (LDRs) suck. They are notoriously difficult and fail the majority of the time. I have seen couples survive two or three years apart, and I have seen couples crash and burn after only a few months. So let’s think about what makes the difference.
The strongest factor in your favor at this point is that you have already been together for three years. Presumably, you know each other well, you know how to communicate, you know how each of you responds to stress and how best to support each other. If that is true, that puts you in a much stronger position than couples who are just getting together and have to navigate long-distance while also trying to lay the foundation of their relationship.
Before making a decision, I would suggest that you each, individually, ask yourselves the following questions and compare answers only after you have thought these issues through in private:
How exactly would it work? Who would travel where, and when? Who would pay for what? Are there adequate financial resources available to visit frequently? How often would you need to see each other to survive?
How flexible are your schedules? If you are both working 9 to 5, five days a week, you’ll only be able to see each other on weekends or holidays, and to get to the UK from Leipzig will take a good piece off either end of the weekend. You would be paying 300 euros and traveling six to twelve hours for two nights in the same place. That is not sustainable.
What about fidelity? If you are monogamous now, are you going to stay monogamous while apart? If sex is a big part of your relationship, being long-distance and monogamous is going to be a major stressor.
How many other stressors do each of you have in your life?
A long-distance relationship is a bit of a roller-coaster, with constant good-byes and reunions, missing each other and rejoicing in seeing each other again, not to mention the vast amount of time and money an LDR burns up.
If you are both happy in your jobs, well-supported by friends, healthy and financially stable, it is doable. But if either or both of you are also facing other major issues – like illness, family conflict, job stress, or loneliness – I would advise against it.
Finally, be very, very honest with yourselves about how you feel about this relationship. Do you want to still be together in 10 years? Do you want to get married? Is this person of incredibly high value to you, or is it just nice to have somebody rather than nobody? If you are at all unsure about the relationship, it would be unkind to put yourselves through and LDR only to split up partway through.
Basically, LDRs are only manageable if you are both well-resourced and fully committed, and if you have good practical plans in place.
If either of you is a complainer, fragile, needy, dependent, unreliable, or under a lot of stress already, it’s better to part amicably now than drive each other nuts with all the travel and stress and then split up when totally exhausted and exasperated.
Good luck and be smart!