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I (F29) have been seeing a kind-hearted man (M28) for three-and-half years. We’ve lived in two different countries together and have been living 10,000 miles away from each other for the last five months (LDR times). I’m in Asia for work, and he’s in Europe but due to move out and join me in a few months. I’ve gone from feeling codependent toward him to feeling indifferent and maybe falling out of love. He’s sweet, political and book-smart, but when I saw him recently, I was reminded of annoying habits and wasn’t attracted to him. I expressed that I was feeling uncertain and confused. He says he feels deep confidence and optimism about us. Friends say I should stick it out because we have something special, and maybe I’ve just switched on my ‘independent mode’ too much — but how do I know if I just don’t love him anymore? And should he really move 10,000 miles over to be with me before I work this out? Any advice greatly appreciated, as I’m going a bit bananas! —Fxxx
Hey there Fxxx,
When I first read your question, I was leaning toward “this is not your problem.” You clearly communicated your indifference to the kindhearted man. So, if he chooses to move anyway with certain expectations in mind, and those expectations go unfulfilled, then that’s on him. But, then, I found myself wondering if my response would be so callous if the genders were flipped.
And honestly? It wouldn’t. If you were a straight man writing to me, I would advise you to do everything in your power to make it perfectly clear that your girlfriend should not make this move on behalf of the relationship. I would advise you that hurting her feelings now across the many miles that separate you would be better than hurting them in close proximity months down the line.
I would have more empathy for the girlfriend because I feel like women are more given to these massive leaps of faith in the name of love. But this feeling isn’t really grounded in anything and is unfair — everyone deserves a baseline of compassion regardless of their gender. So, as an extra layer of protection against my biases shading my advice to you, I turned your question over to my Facebook where many of my friends and fans were adamant that you should not let this man make the move for you. That you should go with your gut on this one. That maybe you’re not in a place in your life for this relationship to be your priority any longer — and that’s OK. You don’t owe a relationship more time just because you’ve already put so much time into it. So many relationships continue long after they’re emotionally over because people don’t want to hurt people they love, and their guilt keeps them trapped. But you are actually doing the best thing possible by letting someone you no longer love go. This allows them to heal. It allows for a healthier end to things. And, most important, it frees them to find someone to love who will love them in return. So, if you’re looking for permission to leave and live your life — here it is, Fxxx. Assure your friends that will not be the last or only person you can have something special with.
I know your question is: How can you tell if you don’t love this kind-hearted man anymore? But I don’t think whether you love him any longer is all that relevant to your decision to stay or leave. You can love someone and still find that you can’t be in a relationship with them. You can love someone and still decide they shouldn’t be in your life. You can love someone and know it’s not the big, heart-bursting love you’re really after. It’s sad to think about how often love comes up short. But that’s what’s really real, Fxxx.
Before I end this letter, I should note that on my Facebook there were other views on what you should do. Some people felt like, given the length of your relationship and how common it is for your life to radically change at 29, that you could let him move but not live with you and be clear that there are no promises that the relationship would resume once he’s nearby. A third camp of responders believe that just because your feelings have changed, doesn’t mean the relationship must end, but that it needs to change to better accommodate what you need in a partnership now. So, if you and he are willing to do the work of redefining your relationship, then maybe his move to be with you isn’t a bad idea after all.
Good luck — Minda