Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Divorced woman is hesitant to risk it again but wants a 'family'
Anywhere: What are your thoughts on a long-distance marriage? I've been dating a man for five years total — with a 20-year break between years three and four. During those 20 years, we moved to different states, each got married, had two kids and then divorced. There are joint-custody situations and young children on both sides that make it nearly impossible to live less than a five-hour drive apart. We see each other at least every other week, and we have a wonderful relationship (easy when you see each other every other week, I suppose). I really do see him as my life partner.
We could continue this long-distance dating thing for the next 12 years (when the youngest turns 18), but I'd really like to be married. Difficult to quantify, but goes something along the lines of: We'd be a family. Our family would always come first, and invitations would be easier as would the holidays — no questions that our "family" should be together — even if it means not seeing one set of relatives one holiday.
But having been through a divorce and not wanting to relive that experience in this lifetime, it seems the deck is stacked against long-term success.
Carolyn: It's easy to reverse a decision to keep dating and not get married — you just get married. Reversing a decision to get married, as you know, isn't quite as much fun.
As for long-distance marriage in general, I have no specific thoughts on that, but I do on this particular long-distance marriage.
You say this is about putting your partnership first. I would take every item you listed — holidays and . . . well, holidays — and talk with the man you're dating about your wanting to be a family.
What you're regarding as family, as you know, isn't a legal unit, but an emotional one. To work as an emotional unit you need his full contribution and commitment. Once you have that, married or not, the other stuff will follow, including invitations and divvying up family visits, etc. You may have to insist on it, and repeat yourselves, and persist through others' resistance, but that's all secondary stuff.
If, on the other hand, you don't have his full agreement on wanting to regard yourselves as family, then no "marriage" will make up for it.
Breakups should be quick, kind and honest but not insulting
D.C.: A question I'm sure has been asked and answered a million times, but never by me: How do I break up with my boyfriend in the least painful way?
Carolyn: Quickly, kindly, unequivocally, respectfully, and stick around for the question-and-answer session, even if he asks for it a day or 12 after the fact.
Don't go into excessive detail, though; you do want to be told you have spinach in your teeth, but you don't want to be told you're too tall/too short/too loud/too cringe-inducing, y'know? Limit your comments to why you didn't work as a couple, not why he doesn't work as a person.