Writer and broadcaster

Should I break off my long distance relationship? The Guardian.

Dear Annalisa

My boyfriend and I have been together for more than five years and met while I was working abroad. Ever since then we have been in a long-distance relationship and live 1,500 miles apart. I am self-employed and am often sent to work in the country where he lives. He comes over regularly so we see each other every five to 10 days or so, which until now has suited us very well.

However, recently I have started to question this set-up. On the surface it seems we have the perfect relationship – we are never bored with each other, and count down the days before we can be together again. We have our own space and plenty of time to devote to the activities we enjoy. Yet I am constantly faced with questions from well-meaning friends and family about how sustainable our relationship is and maybe that has planted seeds of doubt in my mind. This, coupled with the fact that I often do miss my partner and think about the things we would enjoy as a couple if we lived together, make me wonder whether the relationship is viable.

I am in my mid-30s and enjoying a great career. I am not interested in starting a family now or in the near future.

My boyfriend lives in a remote town in Europe. I feel as if I would be making a huge sacrifice and taking a massive step backwards if I were to move there. I am happy with my lifestyle, have a job I love, friends and family close by and a wonderful home.

I love my boyfriend very much and cannot contemplate being with anyone else, but I am reluctant to give up what I have to live somewhere very isolated that offers me few opportunities. Every time I spend more than a few days where he lives, I begin to feel stifled and depressed.

My boyfriend is also unwilling to entertain the possibility of coming to live here because he has a secure, well-paid job where he is. The language barrier is also a problem for him.

We have looked into moving together to a different city in the country where he lives, but each time I suggest an alternative solution he seems unwilling to consider it and cites his job and the convenience of living close to work and family as a reason not to move.

We are due to marry next year but I feel that perhaps we are being naive in thinking that this can last in the long-term.

Should I just count my blessings or admit we have no future and try to find someone closer to home?

I wonder why you’ve written to me? Because obviously I can’t offer you a teleporter or a solution that you haven’t, actually, already thought of. I can’t make fabulous new jobs in the little remote town where your boyfriend lives.

What I think you want is permission for me to say: it’s OK to leave this relationship, which you say is the best you’ve had so far, because it’s not working for you. And it is. It is OK to leave. People leave relationships because they grow tired of each other, or the situation they find themselves in has changed to a point that makes it unsustainable.

When I am really struggling with emotional situations, I look at the practicalities. You don’t want to go and live there. He doesn’t want to come and live with you. Of course you can carry on as you are, indefinitely. But in terms of living together, unless there is a sudden and committed change of heart, one of you will massively compromise and the next stage of your relationship will start on a bedrock of resentment. Not a good idea.

You say you don’t want children “in the near future”, but might you want them in the far future? I think that’s an important consideration, too.

Perhaps the time to do something is not right now. Not yet. Perhaps see how you react to this answer and see if it makes you feel defensive or liberated. I think you are being incredibly sensible to think this through, and not just think that love will fix everything and you’ll be OK. I would be loth for you to give up what you have – which seems a lot – to go and live in a town that has only one thing going for it: your boyfriend. This will put such a pressure on your relationship. And ditto if he comes to you.

Perhaps a compromise might be for one, or both, of you to take a chunk of time out and live with the other and see what your relationship is like beyond the few weeks you currently spend with each other at a time. Relationships end for all sorts of reasons.

I think you might be looking at the distance between you and thinking if you could fix that it would all be OK, but I wonder if it’s more than that and the distance has become the focus? You shouldn’t throw away a good relationship just because of distance, but if you can’t live together because neither of you will compromise (with or without good reason), then the distance is no longer the issue but the commitment to each other is. That’s OK, but you need to admit it to each other.

I’d be really interested to hear from others who have been in similar situations to hear what they did and how it turned out.

This article first appeared in The Guardian Family section on 27 January 2017.