Going through a long-distance breakup

We chat at 1 p.m.

Dear Meredith,

I was inspired to write to Love Letters after listening to the podcast. The long and short of it is: My boyfriend and I recently broke up. For the third time. He is English, going to medical school in England. I live in the US, doing research here. We fell in love while getting degrees abroad. Then he lived with me here for a few years. Eventually he had to go back to England, and so the began the international long-distance. For a long while, we had it down – the time difference, the sexting, booking flights, taking time off of work, letters, long phone calls, etc. Things went sour when he got into his dream school, and I did not get the scholarship I would need to be able to get my next degree near him.

The challenges were real. He was busy, I was depressed. His future was full of promise but my path forward was falling away before my eyes. We fought often, mostly due to the angst of separation, but also due to the fact that we were suddenly in two very different places in our lives, literally and figuratively. We loved each other still, and every time we were together it was undeniable. This was how I learned that there are situations when love is not enough. Love could not help me with the practicalities of becoming an international student. Love could not pay off my student loans.

I still believe that if we were in the same place, both moving forward in our lives, we would be together. While he was no angel in the end, I can't help but feel like my failures broke us.

I'm hoping you have advice for those who deal with long-distance break ups (which have a horrible quality of feeling like that person is still everywhere, somehow); and particularly breakups where two people are still in love, but when love is not enough to keep you together. I cannot imagine moving on, and have no desire to. Where do I go from here?

– Not enough


Unfortunately, I have no magic fix for this. Breakups are miserable, and that's just how it is.

Yours is unique; the end of a long-distance relationship does involve a special kind of pain. But the aftermath is about universal grief. You'll feel like the person is everywhere, and you'll need lots of time.

My advice is to remember that every difficult breakup involves "if onlys." If only you'd been able to move. If only you were living there now. That might make you feel like the end of the relationship is your fault, but that's not the case. Sometimes long-distance relationships work because circumstances eventually fall into place, but usually it's about people making big sacrifices. There were probably dozens of moments when you both decided to prioritize your own professional or social lives, even if it meant maintaining distance. That's OK, but it's on both of you. You broke up three times. This isn't about one scholarship.

You have no desire to move on, and that's fine – for now. You can be bummed out, watch TV, and call friends to share your woes. But when you get bored of that, try to do some daydreaming about what might come next.

– Meredith

Readers? Are long-distance breakups worse than others?