My boyfriend, “Ryan” and I had been dating for ten months but ultimately had to SORT OF end things because we were both moving to faraway places for our careers and neither of us was particularly keen on doing long-distance. However, I say SORT OF because our communications with each other are pretty much the same as before, even using our nicknames for each other from the relationship.
Before we left each other, we agreed that this wouldn’t be a long-distance relationship and we’d be taking a “break,” although there are no plans for getting back together. We may end up in the same place in two to three years, but that’s a long time away and nothing is confirmed; I don’t like to dwell on maybes.
Ryan says he’s someone who lets go very easily, and I believe it. He’s also someone who enjoys…a good old romp. I can’t stop him from seeing other people, but should I confront him about the way we’re communicating, especially if he’s going to be sleeping with other people? There’s a large time difference between us now, and whenever he’s unresponsive, my mind goes into overdrive and I assume he’s with someone else. To be clear, it’s been about a month since we left each other.
Finally, he’s someone who dislikes uncomfortable conversations (who doesn’t, to be fair) but I’m all about open communication. This is no doubt a question and conversation that would make him uncomfortable, and I’ve held off on talking about this with him only because I don’t want him to be avoidant (both now and in the future). Should I just let it go and gradually stop communicating with him? This approach would work only in the sense that I’m very good at letting time deal with things. Lastly, I’m someone who has her head on straight and am very independent. I’m not a crazy ex, but I am a chronic over-thinker, which has always been my downfall. — Over-Thinker
The honest, open conversation you need to have is with yourself. What is it that you actually want here? What is it you don’t want? If a long-distance relationship is something you DON’T want and now, after a month of communicating with Ryan, you have learned that the boundary between “we’re in a relationship” and “we’re just friends” is very unclear, then you need to stop communicating for a while.
If the thought of that is heartbreaking and you decide that what you want even less than a long-distance relationship with Ryan is no relationship at all, then that’s how you start a conversation with him. He may want or not want the same things as you, but at least you will have clarity and can form or break boundaries that are actually consistent with your needs.
Maybe you need some perspective here. It can be easy to lose sight of the larger picture when we’re inside of it and feeling all the feelings. I’m outside your picture feeling none of the feelings but familiar with what those feelings are. This is how I see it from where I sit: If you continue communicating with Ryan as you are, with no break, you are essentially in a long-distance relationship. You will continue to feel some possession of Ryan’s time and be tortured by the thought of where he is and who he’s with when he’s not communicating with you.
You may feel pressure or desire to fill your own time with someone else to distract you from these feelings. There may be some temptation to make him feel the same jealousy you feel. This isn’t a given, of course, and it’s not necessarily how others in your boat would react, but your feelings over the past month, articulated very well in your letter above, suggest that this is how things would play out.
The alternative is that you for real break up. None of this ambiguous “we’re on a break” stuff that keeps you feeling possessive of each other (or you at least feeling possessive of Ryan). There’s a clear-cut boundary – you both know it, see it, feel it, and, hopefully, respect it. You stop communication, at least temporarily (three months to start and then see how you feel, testing the waters with a few texts or short phone calls). You see what it is to really be without each other, how it feels to be apart not just in body but in communication, too. You let yourself grieve the ending, the loss of this important relationship, and you begin to move on. If it’s true that you both can let go easily, that you don’t like to dwell on “maybes,” that you’re able to let “time deal with things,” then let time do its thing. Let the time and distance do its thing.
The thing with time and distance is that it gives answers we sometimes may not expect. There may be heartache in those answers – especially if you realize you want something that is no longer available to you. But time and distance also heals, and with the healing comes clarity – a “knowing” that sure beats the ambiguity of the moment you’re currently in. So, the tl;dr version: There is no “sort of” ending things. You either end things or you don’t. What is it you want to do here? If you know what you want, say it and pursue it. If you don’t know what you want, time and distance will tell you.