What Should I Do if My Long-Distance Relationship Can’t Get Closer?


My boyfriend and I have been dating for 18 months. Because I followed your advice in Why He Disappeared, the relationship has evolved naturally over time. I am 52 and he is a young 66. For the past few months we have been seeing each other five or six nights a week. While we both have baggage, we have been mostly successful at working through it. It is the best relationship I have had for a very long time. He is a very good boyfriend. So far so good, right? Except…

When we started dating, he was “between jobs” as they say. Because he is a mid-level executive, he had enough money in the bank that it didn’t really affect him in the short term, but it was a threat to his long-term financial stability. Since he is very close to retirement, this was a huge source of stress. When the job market started picking up and he began getting lots of calls from recruiters, we agreed he would only look at jobs in the area.

About four weeks ago, he got offered and accepted a job. The position was a perfect fit and the salary is very lucrative. It will allow him to replenish the funds he lost when his 401(k) tanked a few years ago and will leave him set for retirement. Except …. it is 90 miles away! The current plan is he will stay in a hotel Monday through Thursday and be home Friday through Sunday nights. At first, they told him the project would be 1-2 years, but now it looks like it could be up to 5 years. When we first talked about it, I told him we could do anything for a year. Five years is just not possible. He has consistently said our relationship doesn’t need to change – and it’s close enough for me to drive out one night a week. We were more or less living together and now we are back to dating on weekends.

So here is my question: how long do I do this and if I draw a line in the sand, what’s the line? While neither one of us is in a hurry to get married again, I do think moving in together would have been the next logical step. But now everything is up in the air. One good thing is I am a lawyer with my own practice and I could theoretically try to move part of it to the nearby county seat. But when I suggested that, he said it’s early yet and we should wait for a while to see if he likes the job enough to stay there. We agree that we both expect our relationship to continue to be exclusive and I think he can actually see us doing this commuting thing until his project is up. Like most men, he is really good at compartmentalizing. As long as he knows he has me to come home to on Friday night, he is fine. But that’s not the kind of life I want long term. What’s a girl to do? –Annette

Annette,

I’m posting your question, not because I have a good answer for you, but because some questions are completely resistant to good answers.

How boring would it to be read a weekly column that tells every woman that she’s right and that her man is wrong?

And if standing on my soapbox and giving advice for the past 8 years has taught me anything, it’s that most people don’t actually want advice at all. They want validation of what they’re already thinking or doing. Unfortunately, that’s probably why there’s so much conflict on this blog, since there’s absolutely nothing interesting or useful in providing validation. How boring would it to be read a weekly column that tells every woman that she’s right and that her man is wrong?

Your situation is not really about right and wrong, though.

Your situation is about assessing your own needs, and, frankly, that’s not something that anyone else in the world can do for you.

In public policy terms, it’s cost-benefit analysis. What do you gain from him taking this job vs. what do you lose from him taking this job?

But unlike straightforward cost-benefit analysis about your own feelings, you have to factor in one other important variable: HIS needs and feelings. After all, he’s part of this couple. He matters, too.

If I put myself in his shoes, he had almost no choice but to accept that job. You think he WANTS to commute 90 miles to work? You think he WANTS to stay in a hotel four nights a week? Of course not.

He’s doing this because he’s insecure about his financial situation, and there aren’t tons of lucrative jobs for 66-year-olds in this economy.

He knows for a fact that he’s going to be a part of his future. He doesn’t know that you’re going to be. So he has to take care of #1 first, which means taking a job to provide for his long-term security. Can’t really argue with that thought process.

Only time will tell if his job lasts or if your relationship lasts. But it seems to me that he’s doing his best.

Needless to say, he doesn’t want to lose you, which is why he wants to remain exclusive and give you as much time as possible given the circumstances. Only time will tell if his job lasts or if your relationship lasts. But it seems to me that he’s doing his best.

So if he’s being perfectly rational and using impeccable logic, that means there’s nothing he can do differently. All it means is that your fate is entirely up to you!

Not him. Not me. You.

You have two choices: stay with him through these adverse circumstances, because you’d rather have him two days a week than not at all. Or break up with him because while he’s amazing, you’d rather find a guy who is more available to you.

Neither is wrong.

But if I were to weigh in at all, I’d point out that it’s the best relationship you’ve had in a long time, and that you would be able to talk to him every night and see him three nights a week. That’s pretty much what I did with my girlfriend for a few years before she became my wife.

You’re not wrong to be dissatisfied since you feel you had something taken away from you. But understand, he didn’t have a choice.

You do. Use it wisely.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    amy

    It’s not all or nothing. Stay with him with this situation for a certain amount of time, say six months. Then evaluate at six months! Who knows, maybe you’ll like having him only around on weekends, maybe you’ll like the hotel parts. It is too soon to move to a job he doesn’t know he’ll like. But after about 6-8 months, you both may be tired of commuting and then you can see where you’d like to move. You can also tell him you don’t see yourself doing this for five years, but after you both settle in in half a year, you’ll reexamine the situation.

  2. 2
    nathan

    Evan is too generous in his words about the boyfriend. Saying “he didn’t have a choice” just isn’t true. There are always choices, even when it comes to working in a bad economy. What about downsizing your material needs to be with the person you love? What about waiting for another call, since it sounds like he’s been getting a lot of attention lately? Maybe he’s made the right decision, but it wasn’t the only possible decision.

  3. 3
    Maya

    Very nicely said Evan.

  4. 4
    Ruby

    Lots of calls form recruiters don’t necessarily translate into lots of offers. However, maybe Annette wanted the two of them to discuss the situation before he accepted the job? Also, Annette has stated that she is willing to move closer, but her boyfriend isn’t ready until he has really settled into the job. Fair enough. I agree with Amy (#1) that I’d give it another 6 months or so to re-evaluate. Perhaps the job won’t work out and something else local will come up in the meantime. Or he’ll decide he loves the work and he’ll be ready for Annette to move.  

  5. 5
    Saint Stephen


    I seriously don’t get you, nathan. Are you saying that her boyfriend should have ignored a real good bird at hand for others in the bush?

    People make sacrifices for love and sometimes that’s what makes the love becomes even stronger and better.
    The OP should understand that the present circumstance isn’t only tough on her, is tough on her boyfriend too.

    If you leave him what’s the guarantee that you will meet someone else soon enough? You could still be alone for a long long time without meeting someone else – if you end this relationship. Seeing someone you love three times a week is better than not seeing anyone else at all.
    He could quit his present job in six months or one year or decides that you move closer (Hey anything happens).

    You should also consider that given your age, there is a hell of a lot more single women than men. Finding someone wonderful and compatible with you is a blessing – don’t throw it away (if he doesn’t) when trials arise.  

  6. 6
    YourDatingDiva

    With all of the new technology these days, you can always communicate via Skype or Facetime etc. The reality is that the distance may actually make your time together better!  There are scores of relationships and marriages wherein people just want some alone time and they may be sitting in the same room, but they are ignoring one another, or just wish they were alone. Just because your relationship is different than others, does not mean it can’t work. Write your own rules. Now having said that, if you ask yourself these questions with out the “should” and you realize that your absolutely need someone to physically be there 7 days a week, then there is your decision. Like Evan said, this is a question on YOU can answer.

  7. 7
    Goldie

    Agree with Evan on this one completely. I don’t know which industry the BF works in, but, where I work, getting an offer for a high-paying project at 66 that would last till you are 71 is, well, pretty close to winning the lottery. You don’t say no to that. Also, sounds like the BF has a good plan in mind – wait and see whether the job works out, then have Annette move if she’d like. With that in mind, if the job doesn’t work out, he moves back and they can move in together; if it does work out, she moves closer to him and they can again move in together. Either way, works great for both of them, and they can make it happen within the next year.

  8. 8
    Donna

    Evan is right, and I love those last two sentences – that clinches everything.  This lady hasn’t lost anything, and isn’t life always about compromise and accomodation?

  9. 9
    Zann

    EXCELLENT advice, Evan. And probably very helpful to her. As well as others, including me.

  10. 10
    Dawn

    I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost 2 years and we’ve always been long distance.  we see each other on weekends and go on small trips together.  we live 200 miles apart so I’m thinking 90 miles is awesome!!
    is living in the same town the ideal? Yes, but you can  make it work on weekends.  When we see each other there’s always fun and love and laughter.  We will eventually come together but I can’t move yet because I have a teenage daughter who is a high school senior and I wouldn’t dream of moving her.  And he owns his own business so it’s not possible for him to  move here.
    If you love him and he loves you you’ll make it work!

  11. 11
    ValleyForgeLady

    In this economy everyone has to make the best of any real opportunity!   Take your time time to make a major decision.  Evaluate the emotional bond that you have.  Also take advantage of the great technology that exists today to keep people connected.  Also, technology may give you an option for a longer week end.

    Susan

  12. 12
    helene

    Have to say I’m confused. This guy is 66 and looking at taking this job for 5 YEARS?? Just when exactly does he plan to retire.?! I can understand a man of 25 giving priority to work over a relationship – he has his whole life ahead of him – but a man of 66, who has had the good fortune to attract a professional woman 14 years his junior who loves him and who he can relate to??! Just how many chances at love does this guy think he’s going to have? I can imagine that for the OP, the main issue is not simply that she will only see him on weekends, but the fact that he seems OK with that. Women spend all their lives playing second fiddle to a man’s career, but at their stage in life I am sure she is well tired of that. Just when does a man’s partner actually become a priority to him – sounds like not until he’s in a wheelchair and needs someone to wash his hair for him. The next 5 years are going to be the most fit and active years of their joint future – after that he will be 71. Why waste the best years they potentially have left together skyping when they could be making love, having dinner together, doing the things people work all their lives to be able to do? She is a lawyer, so presumably has a reasonable income – would that not be enough? Sorry, but I don’t get it, and I don’t think the OP can get her head round it either… that’s the issue.

      

  13. 13
    Dan

    This is a tough economy and we need to compromise if we want a relationship. 90 miles is nothing, given the circumstances. I know a couple that met, dated and got married all while they lived 160 miles apart. They still live in their respective cities, because she doesn’t want to move to his city, and he’s trying his hardest to relocate with no success. But they recognize this and they make it work. Like EMK says, every couple and every person has their own preferences and solutions. If you don’t want this arrangement, dump him and go back to dating. I doubt that will lead to any great solutions either, as we all know from this blog how hard it is to find a relationship, especially as we get older. It also sounds like you both are okay financially, so you have more options in finding a compromise solution. The way I see it, this is a test of your relationship and a test as to how you respond. Whatever you choose will speak to you about what your priorities and values are.

  14. 14
    Goldie

    @ Helene, the letter says that he wants to retire the sooner the better, but that, right now, between his 401K losses and having been out of work for the past few years, he does not have enough money for retirement. I say it is a very prudent position. It is not about material needs at this point; it’s about being able to support yourself ten years from now versus relying on your children, partner, etc, to support you, because your retirement savings are already gone. I’ve heard horror stories. Oh, and for him to retire because she is a lawyer and has a good income? that’s a little premature, I’d say. She hasn’t yet offered to support him, and it is not up to him to ask, and he probably thinks the same way I do on this matter. From what I’ve read in Annette’s letter, I really respect the guy. Heck, if he wasn’t already taken, I’d probably want to meet him! :) PS. Personally, I don’t plan on retiring. Would love to, but probably won’t be able to.

  15. 15
    Sayanta

    Among Indian people, situations like this are very common. One person will be in the states for a few years doing his or her PhD and have a fiancé back home, who eventually comes to the States. What can I say? The American convenience mentality has filtered down to relationships…hence the divorce rate

  16. 16
    Ruby

    I can understand someone not being ready to retire at 66. Heck, the man could easily live another 20 years, and this is really his last chance to be able to have a very good job with good income, so that he can have a comfortable retirement. 90 miles apart isn’t that far. But still, I would put a time limit on how long I would be willing to wait for a commitment, if that is what Annette wants. In any case, she’d be doing that with any relationship she might be in.

  17. 17
    nathan

    Stephen, my whole point is that the guy has choices. You can think I’m being unrealistic in asking the questions I did, but it’s simply false that he has no choice but to take this job offer. Since we don’t know his total financial situation, it’s hard to tell if his concerns about money are legitimate, or if they are simply an attempt to maintain a high level material lifestyle into his retirement years. People are far too willing in this society to place material comfort over relationships – and I’m talking about all relationships -family, friends, partners, etc. Now, if he’s sincerely in a position where having this job for a few years means the difference between having enough to be financially stable in retirement, and being poor, well then I’d say it makes sense to take the job. But if it’s just about maintaining an upper middle class lifestyle, then frankly, I’d say he’s foolish.
     
    I say all that and, at the same time, agree that the OP could make this work. Or at least could stick things out for a year or two and see what unfolds. She’s a little too fixated on the fact that the job could last 5 years, when the reality is that he hasn’t even started yet.
     
     

  18. 18
    Daphne

    I think that Evan is correct and that the gentleman had no choice but to take this job. Suggesting that he scale back his material needs was silly- people need to live, and I suggest you watch very old people at a local market spending their $2 on food every morning. There doesn’t seem to be any reason this couple can’t survive as a relationship, especially in context of the terrible state of our economy.
     

  19. 19
    Helen

    Comedian Steve Harvey wrote a book “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” that points out that unless a man is satisfied with his work situation, he won’t have emotional energy to devote to a woman. He must have peace with his work first. My own experiences with family and friends confirm this truth.

    So in this scenario, it is in Annette’s best interest to let her boyfriend take this job. Any move she makes to block it might result in his growing dissatisfaction, which will ultimately harm the relationship.

    I would advise as Evan did even if gender roles were reversed. While reading Annette’s letter, I was shocked to read that the bf found a job at the age of 66. That is nothing short of a miracle in today’s economy – both because of ageism and the shortage of job openings. Of course he should treasure the offer.

    It doesn’t mean I’m unsympathetic to Annette. It is a bummer to carry on a long-distance relationship. We went through just a 2-month stretch of that in our own marriage, which was heartbreaking at times. I agree with Amy’s point, to reevaluate in a few months if weekends and one-night trips are enough, or whether she should move, and how healthy the relationship is at that point.

  20. 20
    iamtubeprofiles

    I believed that long distance relationship can last if you really love each other. The most important thing in LDR is constant communication for you to know every day routine of your partner. Email, chat ,cellphone are the best way to communicate.

  21. 21
    Gem

    The point is, he already accepted the job so that’s the reality.
     
    She states it “could” be up to 5 years but possibly not.
     
    At this point the best option for her is to continue the relationship and as others have said, reevaluate in 6 months/ 1 yr., and see how they are feeling. To chuck it now, for this reason, when there are so many unknowns, is just silly to me.
     
    It’s not a perfect situation, but she may find, that it’s workable and they can still be very happy!

  22. 22
    Ray

    There is no such thing as a ‘young 66′.  He’s 14 years older than you.  You are letting this man suck whatever is left of your youth so that he can have a relationship and his career goals met. 

    I also disagree that he had no choice.  He chose his career first.  Period. He had plenty of other choices he could have made… less ‘lucrative’ ones of course.  It is only because of the fact he is a man that Evan or anyone else thinks this is ok.

    Now he has you as his weekend f-buddy.  Sounds like an awesome deal to me.  FOR HIM.
        
    My advice would be to continue seeing him, but tell him you are not going to be exclusive without a commitment that demonstrates his ability to take your goals and needs into account as well.  With all his ‘hard work’, I doubt he’ll have time to pursue lots of other women… and you will be liberated to find someone closer to home.  

        

  23. 23
    Dana

    @Saint Stephen gives typical male advice “at your age” fear based stuff.  

    She shouldn’t have been dating a 66 yr old in the first place.  He treated her well when it was convenient for him…mostly because she is alot younger. Now he’s back on his feet and wants to keep his ‘options’ open.   She should be doing the same thing.  Dating other men.

    Things won’t change until women make men make hard choices.  Keep Mr. Career comes first” around until you find another man.    You can bet he’s doing the same thing… which is exactly why he doesn’t want you to move there.  He wants to explore his dating options there and doesn’t want to tell you that. 

  24. 24
    JB

    Women that are 52 shouldn’t be dating 66 yr. old men for a myriad of reasons let alone try and be in long distance relationship with one. I’m curious as to why she doesn’t date men in her own proper age range….say 48-60. Because she’s the younger one in this scenario and because she’s a woman. Who do you think would have more options if they both put up profiles on Match today? She’s acting like HE’S the last man on the planet and it’s either HIM or spending the rest of her life alone.

  25. 25
    Goldie

    What’s with the suggestions that she shouldn’t date him because he’s too old for her? or that she must be desperate to date someone that’s 14 years older? She likes this guy. She says it’s the best relationship she’s had in a long time. She wants to be with him, not with some random options from Match. And guess what? She doesn’t have to justify her choice to any of us. What are you guys, her mother? You haven’t even seen any of them, and you know whom she should and shouldn’t date? Odd. 
     
    @ Nathan, I would agree about the cost-cutting part, if not for his age… as people get into their late 60s and 70s (and older), they run into a whole new category of expenses. Medical bills, prescription drugs, long-term care. That can be a lot of money, and there’s really no good way to cut costs on those.

  26. 26
    nathan

    A few comments about age. First off, if they have a good relationship and get along well , the age difference is not really relevant in general. Second, Ray’s point about the “career man” is really important here. If this guy were 40, and making the same decision, odds are there would be some resistance coming from the women here. Considering that they’ve been together 18 months, I would bet some of the discussion would revolve around whether the guy was serious about commitment, and simply using his career to hide from making more definitive steps towards marriage or some other form of serious commitment. Thirdly, I would guess that the OP is wondering about how long she might have with her boyfriend, given that once you reach you’re 70s, it’s more likely that your health could go. It’s easy enough to see this guy working hard for another four or five years, and then maybe fading off quickly once he retires. This isn’t an uncommon scenario. So, whereas 4 or 5 years of partial separation when you’re in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, isn’t that big of a deal, in this situation, those years might be the only time they get. So, I think it’s a bigger gamble for the OP, and it’s important that we take that into consideration.
     
     

  27. 27
    Daphne

    @JB, I was curious about that age difference as well. I am dating a man 9 years older than me (I am 51), and it took him a great deal of persistence to get the first date with me because of that age difference. Once I met him, I was so entranced that I didn’t care about the age difference.
    I don’t think I would even go on a first date w a guy 14 years older though. I would be interested to hear from other women on this btw.

  28. 28
    Nicole

    @Nathan, at 66, this is likely his last opportunity for a good paying job.  

    The fact of the matter is, this isn’t about him wanting to drive Porsches until he is 80.  A healthy 66 year old man should be planning for another 20 years, and he should assume that his medical expenses will go up.  Now if he’s a at a level where this does give him a cushy retirement, why on earth does that make him a bad guy? So what?  I know I work hard and went to school so I can afford certain things so why does that make anyone bad or greedy or selfish?  Like Evan said, the only part of this equation that is guaranteed to him is him.

    And if his health was to suddenly deteriorate, do we think this lady would pay the bills?  It’s really easy to be me, me, me when the wrong choice won’t leave you destitute.  Somehow I think she would not want to financially support a destitute old man who needs his diapers changed. He needs to take his chance to take care of himself.  

    While I personally wouldn’t have a problem with 90 miles, if the guy was 40, his options, his future, and his ability to find other work or to plan for retirement would be much more plentiful.  But in this particular economy, I’d still think he was a fool for passing up a golden opportunity.

    At 66, a guy who has a chance to rebuild his retirement nest egg would be a FOOL not to take it, and he’s being really thoughtful about not having her uproot her professional life until he knows that his is more solid, b/c it sounds like kind of a long term contract which of course could be terminated at any time, no matter what the terms currently are.   
    I’m with Goldie, I was an engineer in an industry that has been DECIMATED over the past few years and the biggest casualties during layoffs were people over 45.  My chronological peers never got touched but the older people got dumped and NO ONE will hire them.  And now I’m in tech, and that too is a young man’s game where the “old” people are young Baby Boomers.  

    If you’ve ever been unemployed, you’d know that being out of work for several years will ruin the best of planners savers, and not b/c they were busy building vacation houses and buying Range Rovers.  If you don’t work for 24 months, having a modest lifestyle just prolongs the amount of time that you can plod along(as long as you don’ have any emergencies), but it doesn’t mean you are set for life. Medical expenses alone force a lot of people into long term poverty. This guy got lucky twice with his relationship and his job, but I hope the OP doesn’t try to make him choose or emotionally blackmail him into a choice that makes his own future dicey.   

  29. 29
    Teresa

    I am 55 and I don’t see myself with someone more than a couple year  older than me.  It’s not so much the age difference it is more about what life stage one is in.  Men over 60 are generally retired or  headed that way.
    Retirement for me is at least 12 -15 years away maybe never depending on finances.  And generally speaking men over 60 tend to be more conservative as far as attitudes toward women and gender roles.

    As for the OP  who knows if this relationship will last?  Take it a day at a time maybe reevaluate in a few months.   

  30. 30
    Selena

    I live and work in an area with a large retiree population. I think a “young” 66 yr. old who is still interested doing in something other than playing golf, sitting on the couch watching CNN all day, and insisting accompanying his wife to the grocery store to price comparison canned goods would be quite a catch.
     
    My guess? Part of the reason you, at 52, find this man attractive is because he doesn’t fit the above retired man mold. You can work with this. If I were you, I would want to try.

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