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


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

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

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.