The long-distance is over, but the relationship has changed

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Hi Meredith,

I found the man and the relationship of my dreams, and then I got stuck abroad because of the pandemic. We kept things up via a long-distance relationship, visits, etc., but with my return date out of my control, it felt impossible. I've made it back, finally, but the time apart has taken its toll on both of us.

We're living separately now, and he's agreed to us dating again, but he's so guarded around me now after "having my heart broken so many times." He says he wants to give this a real try now, but it feels like I'm the only one who wants it to work out. Maybe I'm wrong, but his behavior toward me has changed drastically. He's aware of it, and says he's scared he'll always feel like that around me.

How can I help dismantle the walls and show him that there is still a great relationship here between us, without forcing it and pushing him further away?

– Close, but still so far :(

This is not the same relationship you had before the distance. Maybe if you both accept that, it'll take the pressure off.

You were very happy together, got stuck in different places, had a difficult long-distance relationship (during which a heart was broken), and now you're trying to figure out how to be normal again. But years have gone by (I assume), and you're different now. Some good questions for the moment: "Who are we today? What's different about us?"

You can't promise there won't be more challenges, changes, and things that stand in the way of the dreamy relationship you both experienced in the beginning. That's life. But you can say you'd like to be around him again and figure out if you're good company for each other. It can be that simple.

If he wants to try, great. If he can't do that – or be present with you – it's time to move on. That would be sad, but what you're experiencing now sounds like punishment. That's no good for you.

– Meredith

Readers? How do you start this again?