Adapted from a recent online discussion.
I moved cross-country almost a year ago to be part of my kids’ lives. I’m divorced, and my ex, who will be working abroad next year, has custody.
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Before I moved out, I had been with a guy for nearly three years — living together for two — but we kept things pretty casual: no labels, no discussion of the future. I’m sure a lot of this was due to my own issues with my divorce and being away from my kids.
When I moved, it seemed like a natural separation point, but I still kept in touch and saw him occasionally (all initiated by me). I figured he might start seeing others, but didn’t ask.
On my last visit, I saw in a slideshow that he’d taken some pictures of another woman. Again, I didn’t ask and he didn’t talk about it.
It made me realize I still want to be with him. I’m at a loss whether (or how!) to say anything because I’m committed to staying out here until summer 2014 at least and I’ve already been here for so long without having brought it up earlier. I’d LIKE to say something, but worry that I’m selfishly hoping for a declaration of love and fear that I won’t get it. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
— Long-Distance … Something
DEAR LONG-DISTANCE … SOMETHING: Do you actually want to be with him, or is this just the first time you’ve realized you can’t take him for granted?
That’s something you need to clear up before you start lobbying to get back into his life. Start with why, when you had him at your side, you welcomed that “natural separation point.” What was fresh in your mind and heart then that has apparently receded now? Which feeling is more credible — the one you had then, or have now?
If and when you are sure your motives are pure, speaking up a year late about something you won’t be able to give until a year from now still isn’t a good way to get exactly what you want. You want him, yes, and you want a declaration of love, but you’ll be better served by setting abstract goals — oriented not on what you get from him, but what you give to him.
Consider, for example, what you can accomplish just by saying you miss him. First, you’re telling someone you love that you love him. That’s an end unto itself.
And, it opens the door to an apology, which I suggest you then provide: “I’m sorry I never really talked with you about my leaving, or about our future.” And, you’re making it clear where you stand, which is a gift all of us can give to those close to us. It’s also a gift to ourselves, in helping to pre-empt “If I’d only told him how I felt … “ and other nagging what-ifs.
Finally, you’re giving him a chance to say what he feels — be it that he wants to commit to you, or that you’re too late, or that he needs time to figure out what he wants. Any of these answers, even the painful ones, are a better outcome than keeping those hopes and fears to yourself.