I am madly in love with a man who has dumped me. Our biggest issue was the distance between his home county (Down), and mine (Limerick). However, I would have moved to be closer to him if he had only been willing to give it a chance.
On a personal level we had slight differences but none that caused any arguments, we rarely argued and for such distance, we saw each other often. Sexually it was an amazing relationship, our chemistry could not be denied. I have consistently dreamt of him and hate the thought of sleeping as I get upset that it is all only a dream.
We have had very brief text conversations, but I can’t help but get mixed signals/messages with some of the stuff he says. I no longer know what to do. It has been five months since he called it day but I believe he is the love of my life.
I will never tell anyone how long they get to grieve a relationship, or pretend that there’s a set time in which you have to heal. Heartbreak is painful, and complicated, and as unique as the relationship it stems from.
But as you may have guessed from my opening, I will sometimes tell people that it’s time to start the process of grieving a relationship, and for you, that time has come.
I’ve been in long-distance relationships, as I’m sure many of our readers have. These relationships sometimes do not last – which is not to say they aren’t deeply meaningful; they absolutely are.
An ending is not a failure, and we need to stop reducing relationships to such binary terms. Long-distance relationships are hard, and require ongoing conversations about how to navigate communication and sexuality and visions of the future in a way most of us are never taught.
How do you stay emotionally, physically and sexually connected when you can’t touch each other? How do you balance saving for a life together when you have to spend so much to see each other? How do you reach across a conflict for each other when you literally can’t for reach each other? How do you continue prioritising your relationship when many of the people in your life sadly, mistakenly think you’re wasting your time on a person so far away? These are just some of the challenges that long-distance relationships pose, the questions that need to be answered, the obstacles that need to be overcome.
But this can be done, if both partners are willing to do the work.
This person is not now, nor was he ever willing to do the work.
How do I know he wasn't willing to do the work? Because he told you, and you told me. You told me that your relationship was between Co Down and Co Limerick, but unfortunately that 320km is a mere fraction of some trans-Atlantic or trans-global relationships. That distance wasn't the reason your relationship ended - it was his lack of desire to keep it going. You also told me that you would have been willing to move your entire life for this man, but he wasn't willing to give the relationship a chance. You told me that even though you rarely fought, visited regularly and had amazing sexual chemistry, he wasn't willing to do the work.
There’s a pattern there, of you doing all the work and him pushing you away. And now it’s been five months, and you’re still here, working hard to keep this pattern going, all by yourself.
This relationship wasn’t equal. This relationship is over. This relationship is no longer an ongoing relationship; it’s a relationship that you must stop investing in and waiting for.
It’s time to stop. It’s time to grieve.
Grieving is about shifting your mindset, about accepting that the relationship is over rather than hoping it will somehow reignite. You need to take the steps to do this. Stop giving yourself false hope by pretending there are “mixed messages” here. There aren’t. He didn’t try that hard to be with you then, he isn’t with you now, and he has not been for five months. That’s not a mixed message, it’s clear and simple.
Embrace the time you had together, appreciate it, but you must actively think about it in the past tense. When you start thinking of him, analysing his text messages, one more time, imagining ways to get him back, fantasising about a reunion – stop yourself. Practice saying “That relationship is over. I’m letting you go.” And begin to let him go.
This won’t be easy. Grieving mindfully requires effort. But you put effort into your relationship with this man – now it’s time to do it for yourself.
Your dreams about him will stop eventually. And when you start dreaming of the future, dream bigger. Dream better. When you dream of “The Love Of Your Life”, dream of someone who chooses that role and cherishes it, who asks you to fill that role in their life. Dream of an equal partnership where both of you do the work, together. Don’t settle for someone who doesn’t make this your reality.
Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in sexuality studies from San Francisco State University. She is researching a PhD in gendered and sexual citizenship at the Open University and Oxford
If you have a problem or query you would like her to answer, you can submit it anonymously at irishtimes.com/dearroe