I May Not Be With My Long-Distance Partner for 8 More Years!

I May Not Be With My Long-Distance Partner for 8 More Years!

I’m 29 years old and my girlfriend of 5 years is 24. A year ago she moved away to further schooling in the medical field. She’s in the 2nd year of a 4-year program. The long distance has been tough but we’ve made it work thus far. She’s from the same town as me and her intention has always been to move back home once she’s finished. My work makes it completely unfeasible to move in the short term. She made the choice to pursue her dreams through school and I choose to pursue mine through a career and life at home and it’s worked out as planned so far. But there’s always been a knowledge that we would end up here together.

Recently she dropped some news on me that she’s considering a specialty in her field that would be an additional 3 years or possibly 4. There’s an outside chance the specialty could be served back home but odds are strongly against it. The kicker is that I know she is interested in this specialty for reasons outside of love for it. I won’t detail them all but family pressure, a big chip on her shoulder, and financial reasons are all at play.

I’m at odds with how I feel about this newfound bombshell. I want to spend my life with her. But my mind keeps telling me that spending 7-8 years of an 11-12 year relationship in a long distance setting simply isn’t feasible. Adding in the time for her to get situated in a job on her return, I just don’t see the avenue for us to work. I’ll be nearing 40 and she’ll be pushing 35. All our youth and time together would be gone and we’d immediately have to jump into starting a family that we’ve both already discussed. The hurdles seem too much to overcome and frankly they were not something we agreed to.

I feel like her choosing the additional long distance would be essentially choosing her career over love and family. She sees it as me not giving her unwavering support in her goals. My gut tells me that I need to have a frank discussion with her to let her know that once she finishes this round of schooling, building a family needs to come 1st and it needs to happen here. I’ve been blessed with a great job that can support us both while she chooses whatever path she pleases here at home while we live a life together. Am I wrong in approaching it this way?


Dear Joe,

I strive incredibly hard to provide objective, reality-based dating and relationship advice, but I have to admit to having my own biases.

One of them is that I’m anti-long-distance relationships and I wanted to own it before I explain further.

Now, to be fair, every relationship is unique, and many people have started long-distance relationships that ended up in marriage, including my own sister. So I don’t reflexively think that all long-distance relationships are bad, rather, that they introduce much higher degree of difficulty, when relationships are already tricky enough for most people.

In your situation, you met her when she was 19, and, by your own estimates, by the time you are together again full-time, you will be 36 or 37. So I don’t think it’s unfair of you to be skeptical about the strength of your relationship once she’s done with her internship and residency. In fact, it’s very wise.

I know that romantics will say that love should conquer all — if you love her, you’ll wait. I suppose if you believe that there’s just one “soulmate” out there for everybody, you can live your life like it. I don’t believe that, however, and it doesn’t sound like you do, either.

It doesn’t matter who is “right.” It only matters that neither of you is willing to make the necessary compromise to make things work over long-distance for the next 8 years.

You can love your girlfriend deeply (and, after 5 years, I’m sure you do), but if the choices she makes take her away from you, you have to consider your opportunity cost.

You’re giving up nearly a decade on the faith that life (and both of you) will be the exact same people when you get back together. That is, if anything, a big load of wishful thinking.

If your girlfriend doubts it, ask her to remember what she was like when she was 16. Now ask her if, in 8 years, she thinks she’s going to be the same person.

So yes, I think you have to have an adult conversation. Just be careful in how you frame it, lest it skew the direction of the conversation.

You already think she’s choosing work over you.
She already thinks you’re prioritizing your dreams over hers.

You’re both right. But that’s okay. These are the very decisions that determine if couples are compatible. It doesn’t matter who is “right.” It only matters that neither of you is willing to make the necessary compromise to make things work over long-distance for the next 8 years.

The good news is that you will both find new partners wherever you both shall land — and those relationships won’t require anyone to make a huge sacrifice he/she doesn’t want to make.

Join our conversation (36 Comments).
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  1. 1

    As someone in a current long term long distance relationship with a marine merchant and a medical student myself, I’ll just ask the OP to consider, before making a decision, the fallowing:

    1) You will ask her to sacrifice her carrer and plans for yo urs, but what if she’d ask you the same: leave your job and move with her there.   Would you be willing? It’s not fair to    demand things from others that you aren’t willing to provide.

    2) Just because she’d be willing to SACRIFICE her years of HARD work and study doesn’t mean she wants a family right away or until her early 30s. The majority of female doctors choose to marry and have children in their 30s- early 40s, regardeless of town.

    3) It may sound menial, but when you study medicine, you realise money are important and you do want do be independent finnancialy from family and lover.

    4) If she does move with her job to your town, but she won’t have as much free time as you (doctors have hectic hours) would you be satisfied? Because many couples I know, that live in togheter have more fights because she is always busy and never free for him to spend his free time with. She can be isolated in the study/hospital just as well as being across country

    1. 1.1

      It’s pretty clear she values what she’s doing above a relationship with the OP, so I’d say SHE’s the one making unilateral decisions.


      The OP should move on – his GF has shown him the type of person she is – puts her desires ABOVE the “team”.

      1. 1.1.1
        In Not Of

        Could be that it’s a calling and not putting her desires above his. Thank God there have been people throughout history who answered their calling. Yah, she will probably have to give up the relationship. But the undetone in your comment is that she’s somehow wrong or bad.   Neither one of them are. They are going in different directions as happens to so many young people in life.

        1. Joek

          This isn’t about “people who’ve answered their calling”. Why do you insist on making it some sort of oppression on his part, as if he wants to keep her form some “calling”?


          “Recently she dropped some news on me that she’s considering a specialty in her field that would be an additional 3 years or possibly 4. There’s an outside chance the specialty could be served back home but odds are strongly against it.”


          Sounds to me like she’s already made the decision, and he’s in a no-win position. She’s talking about changing the agreement.


          This is like “oh, how about about green walls in the kids room instead of blue” re-negotiation, it’s more along the lines of “I’ve decided I don’t want kids afterall” kind of change.

      2. 1.1.2

        Well, he already said that there was no possibility of him moving to where she was (or at least closer to her).   Compromise is a two way street.   Maybe if he met her half way, she would have been willing to reciprocate.   Maybe it’s his lack of bending in the past (on smaller stuff, even) that makes her unyielding to compromise on a major life goal for hers?   Should could be the more reasonable one that’s had “enough”.

      3. 1.1.3

        And he does not value what he’s doing above a relationship with her?   Why can’t he move?   Because he does not want to?   Why is that any different than her not moving?   I understand that initially she agreed to move to him but in all relationships things change and being part of the team involves thinking about the team. You accuse her of not doing that but what about him?   He makes no mention of his work, or if he could find a job where she is?   And unless he’s also a doctor or earning a six figure income the chance is high that she is going to be the primary bread winner in the relationship so common sense says follow the primary bread winner no?

        I do think the couple is not compatible and I think a large part of that is that he wants a woman that she’s not.    I noticed a few digs at her as well and I’m not sure what that’s about. So her motive to go into the speciality is financial. Okay and?   What’s wrong with that?

        My fiancé and I were long distance and he is moving to me next month. Why? Because I make a lot more money and it only makes financial sense.   You should have heard his male coworkers, his Dad how come she’s not coming here?   If this writer wants to be on a team then find a job in her city and go move there. Otherwise move on.

    2. 1.2

      Tottaly agree Elena.

      Just one thing to add: you guys have to consider that giving up your dreams can affect your relationship in the future.

      It’s probable that if she decides to give up her career for you, she blames you (even unconsciously) for the rest of your life, ruining her happiness and your family’s hapiness.

      I think if anyone is willing to sacrifice, no one should be forced to do it. I  personally think that you should never tell her to give up her dreams to be with you.

      I wish you guys good luck and remember that you can choose between the girl and career too, remember everything you guys have and put yourself in her shoes.

      If doesn’t work, good luck and move on 🙂


    3. 1.3

      Well, I think the biggest issue is this. They had a plan. She said she would move back home once she was done with this round of schooling. He has already waited 5 years and been patient and sacrificing.  Now she is adding something they never agreed on. So I think it is fair for him to want to say no to her.

  2. 2

    I think you’re being a bit unfair to the OP:

    The possibility of him moving was never on the table.   He supported her move under the understanding that she would return home after the 4 years.   That *was* her dream but now it has changed.   She’s young, it happens and she’s not wrong.   But that doesn’t mean he’s wrong either, for wanting to stick to the original bargain.

    You don’t need to study medicine to understand that money is important :P.   I understand that money is important and I don’t have a career remotely related to science, let alone medicine.   Being a doctor alone will enable her to be financially independent.   Of course, she’d be more well-off if she pursues her specialty but only she can decide if that is worth it at the cost of her relationship.


    1. 2.1

      I didn’t mean it that other careers aren’t preoccupied with finances, it is just until you get to become a doctor and earn nicely, you invest a lot: TIME and MONEY. You don’t go into the medical field if you aren’t willing to make sacrifices and put a lot of work. It’s a stress full and competitive and sometime isolating-towards non-medical people environment. A doctor needs support and understanding from family and friends, either wise he’s going to crack… And I didn’t meant to be hard on the OP or that he doesn’t have a right to want to stick to the original deal, I meant for him to understand that :

      1) Understanding: When you work hard to obtain something you aren’t willing to let it go so easily so try to put yourself in the other persons shoes.

      2) Realistic Expectations: Just because she moves back home, doesn’t mean she’ll be in wifey/mommy mode immediately And should be fully aware that a doctor will never be a Stepford wife or sacrifice her career.

      But yeah, if no consensus is found, they should break up.

  3. 3

    This is a tough one.   It seems to me that both partners are prioritizing career over relationship, the only difference being that OP’s gf is fine with being long distance for 8 years.

    I’ll admit that this sounds like a scary amount of time to me.   Young as they are, 4 years is doable but 8?   You almost begin to wonder what the point of a relationship is when you don’t see your partner (long term) for almost a decade.   The bigger risk for change is definitely on her end.   She’s in a new town, meeting new people, studying, opening herself up to new experiences.   I sincerely doubt that at the end of her 8 year stint, she will quietly want to come home, settle down and have children.   I could very well be wrong but it’s one heck of a risk to take.

    1. 3.1

      Well put Skaramouche (and we often don’t agree!).

      Him moving wasn’t on the table originally – they struck a deal of her moving for 4 years (which is tough enough). Now she wants to change that deal (and sounds like she’s already made the decision to). 8 years is definitely a no-go (for all the reasons you mentioned, and more).


      The OP needs to have a frank conversation that this wasn’t the plan, and that 8 years apart is just silly – what kind of relationship is that? (Yes, it *can* and *does* happen, by why *choose* that path when there are so many challenges?).


      THey’ll just grow apart and she’ll end up falling for someone in the new town.

      1. 3.1.1

        Well, I don’t like long-distance relationships either. But maybe too much is being made of “the original plan,” which already would have been too long to suit me. If a plan isn’t working, the rational person scraps it.

        Unless the guy is in prison, why can’t he move? The fact is that he could. He might lose an awful lot, but he could. So could she. As Evan said, both of them are prioritizing career over the relationship, which to me says that the relationship isn’t important enough to either of them.

        Maybe the OP should start seeing other people if he wants a relationship with somebody who will put him first.

  4. 4

    Both has to move on.

    You know why? The sacrifice is just too much and someone is gonna seriously resent someone else – a recipe for disaster.   It does not sound like she is in the ‘having a family and making babies’ track anymore (at least no time soon) until at minimum, she is in her 30s. Add to that the difficulty of the distance for so long – both of you will change soo much in that time. Shucks, she is already changing (changed her mind and now wants to pursue a specialty).   This is the classic example where love is not enough.

  5. 5

    About the long-distance issue, I think that starting a relationship by being long-distance is totally unwise (note: I consider long-distance any distance that does not allow the couple to comfortably meet once/twice per week), however my experience has shown that it can work when the beginning of the relationship takes place locally and when the long-distance is temporary, either because one partner leaves temporarily or because one partner can relocate in a reasonable time frame. This was my and my husband’s situation – meeting in my state and spending a few months long-distance with monthly visits, until he relocated to my state for good. From the start I was ready to pack up and relocate to his state if the relationship was going to turn into a marriage, so it was never going to last for years.

    Regarding the Letter Writer’s situation, 2 more years of training + 3-4 additional years of specialization = 5-6 years of long-distance in addition to the 2 already served = past what I would consider a reasonable time frame. To me, reasonable is 1 year; up to 2 years if really needed AND partners live close enough to meet every other month at least.

    Given that the initial deal was 4 years, which was already long to begin with, and that the Letter Writer had made it clear that he was staying put, they have two options: either she sticks to the initial deal and come back home in two years, or he breaks up with her and find a local partner. She is still at the stage of life of pursuing her education and figuring out who she wants to be, while he is at the stage of life of settling down. They might not be compatible.

  6. 6

    I have to wonder, is their relationship so phenomenal that it’s worth sacrificing opportunities to meet people closer to them, who might have more compatible long term goals?   I once dated someone who I really liked, but think we made the right decision to amicably let go of each other when he got transferred to an out-of-state job.   Shortly thereafter, I met my boyfriend, who is just ten minutes away from me within the same town, and has more compatible long term goals.   No, proximity isn’t the only reason I’m with him, but it sure helps!   We love being able to see each other often, or pop over to the other one’s place whenever one of us wants company.   One thing that really won me over was when I sent him a text one time while I was having a stressful day.   He immediately came over to my apartment to talk to me and comfort me.   It would have been harder to do that with a long distance relationship.   I suppose we could have done that by telephone, but nothing could truly replicate the way he looked into my eyes and hugged me.   I’m not sure how to replicate and build that kind of connection with 8 years of long distance.

    And hey, I met these guys in my mid-30s, while living in a suburban town that doesn’t have a lot of single people in it.   If I could meet someone closer even with the odds against me, surely they could at their ages!

  7. 7

    Dump her and find a girl in your home town that adores you! Work really is not more important than home and family. work should be a means to support that, not the reason for existence.

  8. 8

    Interesting that the OP sees this as a negative. I’d see this as a huge positive – she is doing what she loves, in a career that pays really well and therefore sets a great ground for a family structure. If the OP wants to his GF to be a mother only then he needs to be Mr. Big, and make substantially more, that means A LOT of money.   And maybe he needs to choose someone less ambitious.   There are plenty of women to whom family would come first but that is unfair to ask of someone who is on track to be, let’s say, a surgeon.

    If I were the GF and the BF brought this up I’d break up with him…she is building a great future for BOTH of them and the family.   It’s weird to think that a woman who is putting a lot of time into building a great future, to live out her dreams and professional goals is seen as a liability.

    Then men get angry that women are stay-at-home mothers and get a lot of money with the divorce. It’s like women can’t win. You have to be successful but not too successful and when you are a stay at home mom you can’t expect to get some of the man’s financial rewards because you were not “really working”…



    1. 8.1

      That’s why I’d never be a stay at home mom without a clear understanding about what this means for my financial standing should we get divorced. There is not enough value in our society to respect stay at home parents of either gender.

  9. 9

    Why don’t you give up everything you’ve worked for and move to be near her?   I think LW needs to move on – if neither is willing to sacrifice to be together, the relationship won’t work.

    Honestly, my sense is that the GF wants to break up but doesn’t know how.   She moved away and discovered the big world away from her hometown.   Her goals and dreams are not unreasonable for someone in medical school and she’d be crazy not to think about a great, high paying specialty given the time and investment it takes to study medicine.   Yea, they agreed on 4 years, but that was before she had full information about what her future options might be.   Simply put, she outgrew her hometown and if LW isn’t willing to follow her, he had lost her.

    1. 9.1

      Well put L.


      I wouldn’t be surprised if she was getting lots of new attention, and that’s opened her eyes.

      1. 9.1.1

        I’m sure she is getting new attention.   OP is completely unrealistic to expect her to stick to a plan to go back to her hometown after gaining new experiences and meeting new people – at 24.   It would be very strange for her to hang on to him for four years, never mind 8.   The whole plan sounds untenable from the beginning and the GF’s change is no surprise either.

        Anyway, if OP was serious about her, he would have figured out a way to follow her.   Since he didn’t do that, he stagnated while she outgrew the relationship.

  10. 10

    Interesting that he sees the situation like “I will keep my job and support her, she will be fine”. Yes, for now maybe…. how about later? Relying on a man’s job at the cost of one’s own career is one hell of a risk- what if they break up? Very few relationships are lifelong…

    I wouldn’t want a ldr at all, so I understand this guy, but I still wonder why he does not list the reasons he cannot move with her… nor how far the distance is. Maybe he is afraid we would see his reasons as less valid if he laid them out?

    1. 10.1

      Even if their relationship is lifelong, it’s still a risk to only rely on one person’s career.   Who knows, he could get laid off tomorrow (in this day and age I’ve seen that happen often, even to the best of people, for reasons not of their own making).   Then what, with no backup income to fall back on?   In the end I just don’t see how viable this is unless one of them is willing to move–but it also feels unfair to ask either one to completely give up all they’ve worked for.   So I really think they should both move on and look for someone closer to them.

  11. 11
    Dina Strange

    I feel you guys need to break up. Long distance relationships for years are extremely hard.

  12. 12

    Joe I’m not sure you understand what it means to be married to a doctor especially a specialist.   There will never be an end to it.   Once she finishes med school she has to do residency then fellowship then set up her practice or go into academia.   There may be a few years of research in between depending on how good and ambitious she is. You will not be a top priority for a very long time if ever.   The patients often come first.   Ironically, this is what most doctors wives had to accept for a long time, moving with their partner, supporting him so he can continue the grueling training, making many sacrifices for the sake of his career and responsibility to patients, and only recently has it been the woman in this career position. There are days when my husband doesn’t see me until right before he goes to bed. You sound wholly unprepared to be married to a doctor and the sacrifices it takes to do it right, so I would break up with her now so that she has the freedom to find the right guy that would be able to support her the way she needs and you can find someone better suited for you. Going into this both your goals are totally unrealistic and I think you are both beginning to realize this.   She needs to make a decision so she can match in the best program after medical school that she can and that is not your hometown.   If you make her go back there despite all the painful training she’s gone through she will forever resent you guaranteed.

  13. 13

    As to the long distance, it can work if there is a clear exit date when you will be back together and that period is short and if there is a firm commitment like an engagement. Open ended LDRs almost never work.   My husband and I were in a LDR but we were committed before he left, got engaged 10 months into our relationship and were back in the same city at the 12 month mark.

  14. 14

    I am a veteran of a 7 year long distance relationship that ended in marriage and shortly thereafter divorce.   There are too many things that you do not discover about your partner when the relationship is long distance.

    Ironically, I’ve recently embarked on another LD relationship – despite having sworn them off for years.   My new boyfriend and I met online and dated normally for 2 months (exclusive after 4 weeks) until he had to take a temporary job in another state.   He has been a model boyfriend since day 1.   I’ve explained to him that if we are still dating next summer (close to one year), I will need us to come up with a plan to reunite in the same city.   For me, everything is on the table – I’d leave my job/city to be with this man if all continues to go well for another 7-8 months.

    I certainly cannot recommend long term long distance, especially to a couple that is so young (as I was).

    1. 14.1

      It’s too bad that your marriage ended in divorce.   Did you see the signs early on?

      I’m in a LDR right now.   We met online and we live on the opposite end of the world from each other.   It’s not ideal, and unlike you I won’t move to be with him.   He says he’d leave his job for me but he’s admitted that it’s not a job he’d leave easily.   I know him well enough that he doesn’t budge unless he’s forced to.

      He has been a very caring boyfriend from the get go.   We’ve been together nearly a year and we’ve spent a month and a half together during this time.

      I am a sucker, I keep hoping to hear success stories of people that were able to come through it together, but those stories are far and few between.

  15. 15

    This long distance situation is not feasible b/c there is no plan for them to be together by a certain date.   The girl in medical school has already scrapped their original agreement by her unilateral decision to stay another 4 years away from her boyfriend.   To keep from the inevitable painful, acrimonious break up that is coming, it’s best to walk away now amicably.   You may love each other, but your lives are on different paths.   She could have chosen a specialty that she could complete near him, but she did not.   That tells him everything he needs to know.   Cut it off now before you both waste precious time and while there is no resentment built up.   I had a LDR with a guy who was going to move to DC to be with me, and then he was planning to work in Dubai for 4 years.   I couldn’t wait 6 years to be with him, and who knows what other decision he might have made to stay overseas instead of being with me?   I’m glad we broke up, and I have had my freedom.

  16. 16

    To me it boils down to this:   they both of dreams and had an agreement.   Sometimes things change for all kinds of a reasons.   However, rather then go to him and renogotiate – saying this is what I’d like to do how can we make it work – she says this is what I want and you can take it out leave it.   She’s not looking to work it out, she’s looking to get out.

  17. 17

    Dear Joe:

    Please let go!   You are a very understanding and most patient man.   However, I feel that it is definitely time to put your cards on the table with your fiance.   She has actually made up her mind as to what she wants in her future.   You do not appear to be in her thought patterns at this time.   You will find a mate in your town who is ready to start a family with you.   Open your eyes.   Years are passing you by as other people marry and start families.   I am sure that you have noticed this.    Your life, as it is now, reminds me of someone who was in a similar situation 20 years ago.    Unfortunately, the woman married someone else in her field, had children and is still married to that man.   The man who was left alone is still, to this day, alone and childless.   Joe, go on and live your life.    8 years is way   too long to wait for something that may never be!   Good Luck and God Bless!

  18. 18

    Marie has great points, this will be just a stepping stone for her and more to come.

    Women are used to being in the supportive spouse position and taking jobs to follow a husband’s career around the country or staying at home. It’s easier for men to be successful with a wife at home to do everything for them. A man’s life really doesn’t have to stop progressing due to a relationship the way a woman’s does. Be it right or wrong it is hard for any career woman to balance their career and being a wife and mother and that’s with a guy that has a basic job. I rarely have heard of a case of two career go-getters being a of to stay together through the build up phase. the build up phase is different for each career and when they don’t coincide someone has to give in. Only once you have the career built and no family to go with it can you say gee maybe I focused on the wrong thing. But I know plenty of women who are miserable being stay at home wives or going back to work years later to jobs well beneath them. I really think the gals that got pregnant in high school and had free day care and education and their kids are almost grown by now may have had it the best.


  19. 19

    I think you need to let her go if having children is important to you.   Even if she agreed to marry you, she has a ready made excuse to not get pregnant.   The kind of career path she is choosing doesn’t seem to work well with pregnancy.

  20. 20

    I’m the OP.

    Just following up to say thanks for all the feedback and support.

    It’s been 4 months since my initial e-mail. Here is an update on where things are at.

    About 2 weeks after I sent in the email for this blog, we had a frank conversation about where this was headed. I told her I was willing to consider moving to the location of her specialty but only if she was willing to move back home to be with me as I didn’t believe in making sacrifices for someone that wasn’t willing to make the same sacrifices for me. She chose the specialty and we ended things that night on amicable terms. No hard feelings, it just wasn’t meant to be. Frankly, I probably tried harder and longer to make it work than I probably should have but that’s just the type of person I am.

    Flash forward to today and I’m currently seeing someone new (totally by chance, I was not expecting to meet someone so quickly but life is funny sometimes) and this one feels more right than my last relationship ever did. We just connect on a deeper level. It’s still new and we’ll see what the future holds but right now, I’m extremely happy.

    1. 20.1

      Thanks for the update Joe, and I’m glad things worked out for you.   I think you both really made the right decision for yourselves and you’ll both be better off.

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