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.

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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  1. 61

    [email protected]

    If both of you always  put your work first over your relationship, then I feel sorry for both of you.   To me, that is the same has having a glorified roommate.   Not a life partner.    

    [email protected]

    I  HAVE put myself in the shoes of the man.   I think he’s got an awesome deal at Annette’s expense. He gets to go take whatever job suits him and  have weekend girlfriend.   Why commit?    Not only that, he got to  enjoy her for a year and a half while he searched for employment without any talk of commitment.    Amazing.   This is what you are asking her to accept.   Really?   yes, apparently so.  

    And he’s willing to be away from this ‘amazing’ woman for 5 years?      Hmm.   It’s just not adding up.
    This man is  NOT being reasonable.   He said he likes the relationship just the way it is… that it exists whenever it is convenient for him.   No commitment.   No investment.   His words and actions line up  precisely.        It is spelled


  2. 62

    I have to say I agree with Ray. This man does have choices – one of his choices being he could propose to her! They could become a proper couple. They could start taking longterm decisions about where they want to live and about   financial matters TOGETHER. Exactly how long does it take to know someone is right for you (or not right for you)  when you’re 66???!!!  He has a lifetime of experience behind him. This is no time for shilly shallying around and saying “nothing has to change”….that’s the behaviour of a 22 year old! “Nothing has to change”…. yet everything is about to change. He’s going to be absent for over 50% of the time, for an indefinate time period. That’s a HUGE change to any relationship dynamic. If he was serious about her, he’d be very worried that this change in dynamic could mean he loses her to another man. If he was serious about her, he’d be keen to lock this thing down, marry the woman and minimise that risk. So either he’s really not that serious about her, or he’s just a bit dim-witted.   Or terminally indecisive. Whether the job was a good offer, his only offer or whatever, does not change the fact that in terms of the impact this will have on their relationship, he has chosen to handle it all in a way that does not inspire confidence. Even if his choice in taking the job makes sense, as some assert, his handling of the impact on the relationship makes NO sense, if he is serious about this woman. She has been left doubting his commitment, as have we. If he was really serious, he would have made sure that it was 100% apparent.

  3. 63

    I’m shocked at some of the comments here.. particularly this Ray person – who I can’t figure out is a man or woman. I mean.. seriously? Having a career makes you a bad partner? Meeting financial obligations and saving for retirement makes you a bad partner? Gosh.. I guess I should break up with my boyfriend who goes to work every day and sometimes even cancels dates to work late, pays for his own apartment and car, and even helps his parents out. He is such a worse partner than the unemployed guy living on food stamps who can’t afford to buy anything nice for himself or me.. but gosh darn it, he’s at home waiting for whenever I need him! And since I can’t have a normal career because I’ll be a bad partner, we might as well just live in a cardboard box now! Our love will keep us warm through the cold northeast winter nights.. because that’s what everyone here is suggesting.  

    I would expect this kind of advice from my eastern european grandmother who grew up in a village with a family is stronger than everything mentality.. but I’m shocked that american women and men expect a guy to give up a lucrative job opportunity for someone he’s been dating it seems several months when he’s already made it obvious that he’s so committed to her.  

  4. 64

    @ Ray
    Um, how do I explain this? This man had a life of his own for 64 years before he met Annette. Which to me is a guarantee that there are people in his life whom he feels responsible for, either in terms of supporting them financially, or in terms of making sure they won’t have to support him financially as he gets older. This is what he has to put, as you say, “over his new relationship”. It’s a grown-up thing. You wouldn’t understand. Because, if you seriously expect him to throw his close relatives under the bus just so random people on the Internet would stop accusing him of adultery that he isn’t committing, and agree that he’s a proper life partner… then I assume you’re not an adult and haven’t been responsible for anyone in your life yet. Also, thanks for feeling sorry for me, but please don’t. Or at least keep it to yourself.
    Another thing. Note how Annette doesn’t offer to quit her job, or cut down on her hours, in order to move in with him and follow him to his new place of work. Neither does she offer to support him financially so he wouldn’t have to work again. You know why? because she has responsibilities too. Wouldn’t it be great if we all lived in a vacuum with just ourselves and our significant other to think about… sorry, no such luck.
    This whole “if you loved me, you’d…” (do some wild and crazy thing to ruin your life) approach just blows my mind. If we imagine that this is our own dad for example, turning down a job that he has desperately needed for the past few years, because he feels he has to prove his love to his new GF… puts things in a different light, doesn’t it?

  5. 65

    What I find so interesting about this conversation is how it bucks a lot of what is usually spoken of on this blog. The OP’s boyfriend is taking what could be considered a step back from commitment, and the majority of people agree with his decision. In fact, the repeated theme is that he’s “be responsible” for his “own life,” which is curious given that most of the talk on this blog is about commitment and marriage. Some of Ray’s comments are extreme and judgmental, but I also wonder why some of you all are so willing to defend without reservation the boyfriend’s decision.
    The way I see it, Annette’s concerns are not unreasonable, and neither are her boyfriend’s financial concerns. But somehow, instead of acting together as a couple, they seem to be on different tracts. And a lot of folks here are simply siding with fiscal responsibility, which is so damned American (God forbid if someone needs support in their elder years!) that it makes my stomach churn. I fully believe that people can have quality relationships where less time is spent together, where a lot of independence is maintained, even separate residences kept. However, that only works when the couple acts as a couple. And here, it seems like decisions were made, and then attempts to deal with it have come afterwards. Until they come together as a couple and make some decisions that both feel good with, things are going to be tenuous at best.

  6. 66

    I’m not defending him without reservation, as I don’t know him. However, some pretty wild accusations have been made on this thread, based on a very short letter. He’s using her, he’s looking for some action on the side, he wants a weekend f-buddy, he’s just not that into her…. gimme a damn break. The man accepted a job, not robbed a bank. He may or may not have ulterior motives that we do not know about, but the fact remains that, given what we know about his decision, it makes perfect logical sense.
    Being self-sufficient is not an American thing. I’ve tried to be that as much as I could for pretty much all my adult life, so have my parents, and we only came to America at ages 29 and 58, respectively. Also, he may be responsible for other people – children, parents – how can we know? We’ve never met him. Personally, if my SO is financially responsible for someone else, I’d be very very alarmed if he were to throw them under the bus for my sake — because, if that’s what he does to his close family, what will he do to me when things get tough? If we want to talk commitment, IMO a man that cannot stay committed to the responsibilities that he had prior to meeting me, isn’t going to stay committed to me either.
    Annette’s guy seems responsible and a problem-solver. He seems to have a clear idea about how he wants to take care of their relationship and everything else in his life, and seems to be able to adjust this plan to unexpected circumstances (job turned out to be a 5 yr contract instead of 1 etc). Again, based on the letter, I see nothing wrong with the guy, certainly no foundation for the bum rap he’s been getting on this thread.

  7. 67

    Yes, I could be accused of sounding extreme.   Maybe that is what it takes to shake some people into looking at this situation objectively.  

    Another poster said it better than me…   “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.”

    … and yea, I don’t have too many nice things to say  for men  who cavalierly take from women  emotionally so they can move up the career ladder.
    The word  ‘user’ and ‘parasite’ come to mind.   And  you know what?    There is always some convenient reason why commitment or reciprocation isn’t right now… or it is his way… right now… but that’s how it will always be for men like that.  

    They are very good at finding women who will just keep giving to their sorry butts.   And there are people who will keep telling women to keep doing that… why?   Cause women are supposed to be ‘naturally’ giving.   Women are supposed to get some intrinsic benefit from it and feel fulfilled by nothing more than giving to their man no matter what he does.  


  8. 68
    Evan Marc Katz

    You’re starting to embarrass yourself, Ray. There’s nothing remotely in the OP’s email that suggests that this guy was anything less than amazing to her.

    “User”? “Parasite”?

    Seriously, my friend, take a Xanax and chill.

    If you find nefarious motives in benign situations, you’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt. No man wants to date the woman who thinks the worst of men.


  9. 69

    [email protected]

    I’ve suggested that Annette and other readers make men show with their actions that they are committed to them.   This man is not.   We’ll have to agree to disagree about the ‘he has no choice’.   There is no such thing as ‘no choice.   Just about everything in life is a choice (except death and taxes… ha ha).

    I don’t  necessarily think he has nefarious motives.   I’m sure  this man (and others like him) don’t feel they are using women.   Especially when our culture makes it so very convenient and even encourages men (based on  a few of the posts here) to put their work over everything else in their life.    I happen to believe that IS being a  ‘user’ and an emotional parasite, for sure… especially when there is no attendent commitment or promise of any.  

    But to each his/her own.      

    and you mention men  not wanting to date a woman who thinks the worst of men.   That’s absolutely fine with me.   I have no interest in  ‘dating’ a man who  expects something for nothing.   I have better things to do with my time.    

    But while I’m posting.. I do see something else missing from Annette’s original post.   She says she’s in no rush to get ‘married’, but she does seem to be looking for a  commitment of some kind from this man.      He has expressed that he’s ok with their relationship just  the way it is.   Seems like there is a big disconnect in their relationship goals.   That  shouldn’t take a year and a half to figure out either.

    I’ve got some Gotu Kola and Ginsing in my  cabinet… should I recommend  you take some  to help you develop some ‘clear thinker’ traits?    and I’m saying that with a smile on my face… I sense you like having me around as a foil for your arguments.   That’s fine.  

    … and the opposite is true of me… I think the BEST of men. I know they can do better than this guy is doing… and what lots of guys do that ‘passes’ as a relationship.

    To think otherwise is more demeaning and condescending to men than calling this one out as a user and parasite. I don’t know the guy. Maybe in other areas of his life he’s wonderful. But in this one area, I think he is a user… He enjoyed her while it was convenient and he still is. Perhaps you could coach Annette on getting relationship expectations cleared up sooner if her eventual desire IS marriage/commitment. Perhaps asking her some pointed questions on what commitment means to her. I agree that the after the fact decision doesn’t work so well. In that situation, you could hardly blame the guy for just hanging out as long as she’ll let him.

    As for me… I’m a buyer. Not a renter. And I don’t accept long-term lease agreements, lease to own, or rent to own when it comes to relationships either.

    1. 69.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Dear Dana,

      The guy spent 5-6 nights a week with her during the course of their relationship. If that doesn’t say committed, caring and effort, I don’t know what does. 5-6 nights a week isn’t “convenient” or “using”, it’s love. Your ability to put her needs over his own remains your blind spot.

      You also seem to forget that I’m a coach for women. That’s right. My job is to help women understand and connect with men. And I wouldn’t be giving her the advice I gave her – which, by the way DIDN’T tell her to stay with him – if I didn’t feel that it was in her best interests.

      Your advice to her: LEAVE! He’s a USER! A PARASITE! He DOESN’T LOVE YOU! He’ll NEVER COMMIT! is based on some warped idea of how people should cater to you. You know how I know this? Because I’m a good guy. I have a good barometer of right/wrong and fair/unfair. I saw my wife 2-3 times a week (not 5-6) before proposing to her. If I had my way, I would have waited 2-3 years before proposing to her (alas, her age and our desire to have kids sped things up). So for you to suggest that a guy who is dedicated for 5-6 nights a week is somehow a selfish player is FALSE. For you to suggest that he should give up this job at age 66 because of his girlfriend is FALSE. For you to suggest that love means putting her needs first BEFORE there’s a marriage is FALSE. For you to suggest that he should be SURE about marriage while his career’s in transition is FALSE.

      In short, your advice is based on how you WANT things to be for YOUR interests to be met.

      My advice is based on how things ARE.

      YOU can dump a man like the OP’s boyfriend and you will probably find that just about every man on the planet leaves you disappointed. It’s safe solitude, Ray, and it’s predictable from women who’ve been hurt before. You raise the bar so high that no one can jump it. Elegant. It protects you from ever emotionally investing in someone and puts the blame on men continually for not being good enough. Thing is: there are lots of good men out there. Just like the OPs boyfriend. Read the comments from the latest post about Boyfriend vs. Husband if you want to hear more stories of great guys that would probably leave you disappointed.

      Annette, on the other hand, has a self-described great relationship with a great guy who doesn’t want to lose the job and his girlfriend. For anyone to suggest that he should pass it up for her, leaving himself jobless and insecure about his retirement is staggeringly unempathetic.

      Contrast that to my empathy for her in my answer, and you can see why you do what you do professionally and I do what I do. Enjoy your Ginseng. It may increase your memory, but it’s not doing very much to make you into a woman who actually understands men.

  10. 70

    I happen to find a lot of the comments on here fairly unempathetic towards Annette. That’s why I’m asking questions about the boyfriend’s priorities. He might be totally right on in taking the job, but since we don’t have a full picture, a lot of what people are saying is speculation. Especially these ideas that he’ll be destitute, or that he’s going to throw his family’s needs under the bus to be with this woman. We don’t even know if the guy has any family in need of his support.  
    Goldie, where in any of my comments did I say “self-sufficiency” is a negative thing? Over and over in different ways, I have tried to speak of a need to balance financial issues with demonstrating care and commitment towards someone. The point I was making in #67 is that Americans aren’t terribly kind to elders. We’d rather people continue to prove they’re “worth something” to society by working near to the grave, than offer some support if needed, or to simply offer the respect and willingness to listen that many other societies naturally give to their elders. Frankly, if her boyfriend chose to earn less and live with less at 66 – after what probably has been a long and prosperous career – I would think people would be supportive.

  11. 71

    I think the fact that they were already in a relationship and he proved himself makes a difference,   If he were far away, you had never met or had any prior experience with him, I could see declining to get involved.   One of the things about online dating is we have access to a great number of people and many of them are pretty far away. The OP already knows her BF; when you are trying to know someone, particularly if you want a long-term relationship with them, then geography matters.   In this case, the relationship was already established, which I think makes the difference.   

  12. 72

    It never seizes to amaze me how polarized the American culture is. It’s like everyone always thinks they others are “wrong” when it is a sheer matter of preference with a lot of things.
    As someone who happened to date well educated men in very good jobs, many times I was still in school and the men foot the bill and had no qualms with it. It was how they were raised. At this point, I do want someone who is financially stable and two people struggling is pointless. I have about 70k in undergrad and grad school loans so yes, I want someone who is financially set while I work to pay off MY OWN DEBT. I believe a man is a leader, protector, and provider. That’s ,mu spiritual and cultural views and I am not “wrong.”  
    I have met women who believe it should go 50/50 and they are not necessarily “wrong” either. Simply put, find someone who thinks the same as you and has the same values and you would be ok.
    Men I have dated haven’t complained about footing the bill and that doesn’t mean every now and again I cannot surprise him by taking him out, buying his favorite cologne, and I am an excellent cook and will do so every weekend for my man. I will also offer lots of love, support and affection that is often appreciated. I am not fond of the feminist agenda and I get super annoyed when men try to lump all women in this category.  
    If I made 200k/yr I doubt I would date a man that earned less than 100k. First of all, I like my men older and even more ambitious than I am. Can an ambitious person earn less than 100k, off course, I am earning less than 1/2 of that and I have very lofty plans of business ownership in my future. I have met very nice guys but they don’t desire to “take over the world” like I do so we are not compatible; I won’t find him diligent enough and he might think I am too over zealous.
    I like to be courted and that’s that. When we are married, I will not “hoard” my money and let him pay for everything when I am positioned to contribute; I will be looking to build businesses together with him and add to his value. I need someone as driven if not more than me that we can build our empire together. That’s how I see it and many men agree with me and they are who I will date anyway. No point in trying to change someone’s mind; if a man doesn’t think he should be a provider, then I will happily move forward with someone else that shares my values and ideologies. Simple.

  13. 73
    Karl R

    Ray said: (#52)
    “Good for Karl!   He’s a rare exception… I’m glad he’s not as shallow as the other gentlemen who seem to prefer youth/beauty over every other quality in a woman.”
    Do you also believe that my wife is sucking whatever is left of my youth? That she’s a “user” and a “parasite”?
    You quickly jump to the conclusion that I’m with my wife because I prefer other qualities over youth and beauty, but you seem utterly resistant to the idea that Annette could make the same choice.
    amy said: (#1)
    “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!”
    This is the best advice on the whole thread.
    Neither one of them is in a hurry to get married again. That gives them the luxury of time. Evaluating periodically is a great way to see whether your relationship is growing or stagnating.
    If the relationship is stagnating in six months, Annette can decide to push for a stronger commitment … or bail if that’s clearly not going to happen.

  14. 74

    EMK 72 and Karl 76
    The voices of reason.   I love it.
    I don’t think the lady’s predicament is  so bad  and the man seems  reasonable enough to me. What strikes me, unless I’m reading this wrong, is that they love each other?
    If it were me, I would wait it out and make the best of the love.
    God, woman, he may even be saving money to propose to you!!!!!!

  15. 75

    I am in a long distance relation with a man 27-years-older than me for about 5-years now. I can proudly tell you that we both love one another way too much. As for me, I can’t see my life anymore without him in it. We are both married….   We meet once a year only for a few days. It is a little hard, especially for me cose i need to talk to him all the time in order to breathe….   but our love is very strong and mature. My suggestion to you is that: if you really feel like he is the right one for you then you’ll have to wait and see how things will develop.  

  16. 76

    Forgot to tell you that we are living in different continents….but we are always together because we love and enjoy a lot each others company. Although he is much older than me, although I know we’ll never marry together…this doesn’t prevent me to love him. I have lost my mind and my heart for him. I foolishly love him and will love him till my last breath. We adore one another. This is a real love.  

  17. 77

    As in John Dean Badilla from Southgate correct?

  18. 78

    I’m in a comparable situation to the OP, in that my partner and I lived in the same town for the first year or so of our relationship. It was nice, and we’d spend most nights together – though we might or might not have been doing the same things socially – but I guess we saw as much of each other as if we had been living together.

    Then he was offered a job 300 miles away – an offer he really couldn’t refuse – and as I own a property in that general area of the country, albeit 70 miles away, I moved as well. This wasn’t a problem, as it was a move I’d been contemplating for a while and it was only my relationship with him which was keeping me in the town where we met.

    To begin with, I really hated the distance and it was very difficult… but a few months later, we’re into a groove and it feels fine, in a way I’d never have predicted at the outset. Like the OP, I love my partner more than anyone I’ve come across in years and was prepared to work through the difficult stage. For me, the key is having a full life of my own apart from the relationship so I’m not looking to him to provide something he can’t give; and having plenty of communication by various methods. Each of us knows exactly what’s going on in each other’s lives, from the silly and trivial to the important stuff, and I feel the connection deepening with time.

    So my advice to Annette is to hang on in there, and not worry about five years time. Life has a way of dealing us bouncers and who knows what will happen in that time.


  19. 79

    The last paragraph worries me that many seem to ignore. She suggested an option for her to be closer to him and he says wait. She made it clear she was looking forward to living together before this opportunity arose for him. She made it clear at the end statement that he seems okay with the idea of a weekend setup but that she wouldn’t want to do this long term. So to me this sounds like his happiness vs her happiness if this goes on for too long. Now because my end game is marriage I don’t normally like the idea of harping about increasing quality time to more than 2-3x a week during the pre engagement phase simply because your only boyfriend and girlfriend. But when you talk engagement and marriage living together (unless you have away jobs) the n that itself will increase nights you see each other. now she did mention marrriags isn’t on the table yet but she wants to live together as the next step.  Well he shut that down temporarily. He said wait on what she was willing to do to be closer to him. She has to respect that but I think she should have a reasonable timeline. Maybe a year of this long distance thing? Then it’s time to talk honey. by then they would be together about 3 years. He would have a feel about how he likes the job. That should be the time she should say how she feels about wanting to live together and ask how he feels. If he still on some wait without giving her a time and if she is really not okay with it by then? Well the decision makes more sense for her to let mr man go because by that time he is getting what he wants and she is not.

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