“Several months ago, I got an amazing work opportunity in another state, so my boyfriend and I went long distance. We said we’d make it work, but about a week ago, he called me up and said he couldn’t see a way forward and we had to break up. I have been a disaster ever since! After all, we’d been together for more than three years, and I was talking about marriage and children with this man. I can’t imagine my life without him, and I’m questioning if it’s worth staying here. Should I move back?”
As with many things in the relationship world, there’s no easy answer here, especially if you don’t know exactly why he broke up with you.
For starters, it’s totally reasonable to want to find a way to make it work, and if you guys can get on the same page, that’s great. If you truly want to move back, I support that. If your boyfriend would consider moving to you, that’s even better! Or maybe there’s a different issue associated with the move that you just need to work out (his hatred of video chat, say?), and resolving that problem is all you need to do. Talk through the logistics and start executing a plan.
But if he’s unwilling to have that discussion, then you need to listen to him and acknowledge that he wants out.
After all (and tough love here), it’s possible he’s using your move as a way to wiggle out of a relationship that he’s been lukewarm on for a while. Or that, by having some time and space away from you, he’s realized he wants to date other people.
Or maybe he’s trying to give you the space he thinks you need, without holding you back. Hey, some people really aren’t cut out for long distance, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to pursue your dreams, right?
Regardless, you won’t know until you ask. So call him up, and if he keeps telling you no—in no uncertain terms—respect that. But, let’s say he’s willing to reconcile if you move back home. The first thing I want you to do is think through your ability to honor that without resentment. If you choose to move back, you need to make sure you’re doing it for your happiness, not just for your boyfriend. Before this moment and this breakup, you wanted this job and you chose to leave (bravo to you), which is why you’re in a new city with an exciting career opportunity. If you go back, he’s the trigger that made you give it all up. Would you hold that against him? Would you bring it up during fights?
There’s also the possibility that you could stay put, break up for now but get back together later. I’ve interviewed hundreds of daters and couples, many of whom went through breakups—and many of whom got back together, once they had the time to forge their own path and figure out their priorities.
I don’t know how he’ll respond, of course. But I do know two things. 1) If it’s meant to be, you and your ex will find a way, and you won’t have to feel like you’ve given something up. 2) Breakups can be the best thing to ever happen to people. In losing partners, we get the chance to rediscover ourselves—and sometimes, choose the relationship a second time, but under the right circumstances.
Jenna Birch is author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a dating and relationship-building guide for modern women. To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.