We are doing the long distance relationship thing because we love each other, no one else compares and the small amount of time we do get to spend together makes up for the time we are apart. I have visited four times now — two times with my daughter and two times alone, but when I have to leave him, the pain and overwhelming emotions I feel are almost unbearable. I would ideally like to move there but don’t think I can unless I win full custody of my daughter. I just got back from seeing him yesterday and I feel like my heart is broken. I only get to see him around every four months or so and it’s sooo hard. Please help me with any advice you may have! — Mom in an LDR
I’ve written a lot about LDRs, especially how I believe they can work (my marriage is proof!). But, because you are a single mother, you aren’t — and never will be — in a relationship with just one other person. You and your daughter — and to an extent, her father — are a packaged deal. What’s best for you and your relationship with this man may not be what’s best for your daughter, and as a mother you have decide whose needs are most important. Can you be happy if you don’t pursue a relationship that brings you immense joy? And if not, can you still be a great mother to your daughter if you sacrifice a relationship so that your daughter can stay close to her father?
Let’s say you are awarded full custody and you’re able to move to San Diego with your daughter to be with your boyfriend and close to your remaining family. How often will your daughter get to see her father? Will you be willing to give up summers with her so she can spend them with her dad? What about major holidays and other school breaks? You also need to take into consideration that if you were to eventually marry your boyfriend, you’d be a military spouse, which carries a whole other bag of issues to deal with. You will have to be prepared to move frequently — perhaps even halfway across the world. How would you manage visitation between your daughter and her dad then?
These aren’t impossible hurdles. People cross them all the time and are able to live happy lives. Divorced or separated parents live far away from each other and their kids shuttle between them, sometimes going months and months without seeing one parent. It happens. It could happen for you. It could “work.” But you have to do some soul-searching and decide whether the gains — a potentially happy relationship/ marriage — would be worth the sacrifices.
You also need to have some serious conversations with your boyfriend about where you both see this relationship going. Would you move you and your daughter to San Diego without some kind of commitment from him? Are you prepared to make a commitment to each other after only seeing one another a handful of times? How does he feel about potentially being your daughter’s stepfather? What if you move there and he is deployed right away or given orders to move to a different base? Would you stay in SD? Move with him? Move back to Canada?
There are a lot of practical questions and issues here that you need to very thoughtfully consider. It can be easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of a long distance romance, particularly if you’re on the heels of a bad breakup or a nasty custody battle. There may be a factor of this long distance relationship feeling like an escape from the stresses at home. So you need to be very aware that by planning some kind of future with this person, you are adding stress to your life, not avoiding the stress you already have or trading that stress for a different stress. You are adding more to your plate to deal with.
Is this guy worth it? Is the relationship worth carting your daughter away from her dad and then potentially moving her from place to place? Only you can answer that. And my bet is you don’t know enough yet about your new boyfriend — or what your custody situation will be — to answer that question completely. So in the meantime, continue seeing your boyfriend when you can and begin having these important discussions with him. Talk with your lawyer about what kind of custody agreement you would need in place to live the life of a military spouse to a man who isn’t your daughter’s father. And, maybe most importantly, talk with your daughter about her feelings. Does she like your new boyfriend? Does she like the family you have in San Diego? Does she like traveling and seeing new places? And what’s in it for her if you pursue this relationship and move her away from her dad? If you want to avoid at least some potential drama, you need think about how to sell this idea to her should it become a reality. But make no bones about it, there will be drama. And it may be too much for you, your daughter, and your boyfriend to deal with. Prepare yourself, as much as you can, for this not working out. That way, if it does, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and more ready to handle the inevitable challenges. Good luck.
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