Dear Uncle Mat

For the past four months, I have been waiting for the opportunity to break up with my boyfriend. We have been dating for almost four years. The reason I want to break up is because in one year, our careers will take us to very different places. I’ll be moving to another state for med school, and he’ll be acting in another state. Neither of us will have the time for a relationship.  

To add to my pro-breakup list, my sights for a relationship end traditionally with marriage and children, while his sights end with marriage in his 30s and maybe children, even though he does not like kids. My con-breakup list? We’re happy. Or at least he loves me enough and lets me know about it. I like spending time with him, and he likes spending it with me ... but all the while I have the potential breakup situation in my mind.  

We did break up four months ago for the exact above reasons (he initiated) but we got back together because he decided we could make it work, and I was too emotionally spent to fight it. Am I being unfair to him in not telling him my feelings on this? Are my reasons sound enough for a true, never-get-back-together breakup?

— Potentially Single in SC

Dear Wanna Be Single,

You already had what you wanted, but were too exhausted to accept it? These are the riches of the poor. I understand that when he broke up with you it was possibly a horrible shock, and you instinctually fought against it. While you floundered, he rethought things and decided that he either loved you too much, or that as an actor, marrying a doctor is a smart backup plan. Great, but you have already made up your mind. Having a breakup plan is two steps short of already dating someone else. In some cases it’s two steps behind.

Breaking up doesn’t have to be the final blow to a relationship. Your main reason is a life plan, an occupational hazard, so this era of the relationship should end amicably. You should talk now and agree to a breakup that is fair to you both. Split now or wait till it’s mandatory? That’s a hard call, but being open about one another’s expectations, desires, and needs is crucial. Acknowledge the past and accept the future. Remind each other that being friends and spending time together is what you enjoy, and this can last forever. Keep in touch; you never know where you’ll land and who you will be. If you are still anywhere near the age 25, I doubt either of you can honestly know what you will want from your relationship or life in your 30s. You will both change so much over the next decade that you would hardly recognize each other if confronted with the individuals you are today. He might decide he wants to be a baby-making machine, and you could give up medicine to look for a second husband and sell waterfront property to little people with no less than 10 children on a VH1 reality show.

I think compatibility is judged by the quality of the relationship between two people. Shared interests and dreams are a part of that, but no one thing should stop either one of you. He already suggests he is willing to compromise on his dislike of children. This is the spirit of a working and loving relationship: Communicate and be open to compromise.

After four years, it can be difficult to say, “Well, hey, this has a time limit, and we should make the most of it,” but wouldn’t that be for the best? Just focus on the most enjoyable parts of your relationship and know that it isn’t forever. Or at least not a continuous forever as sold on TV, but something more realistic and yours. When it is time to part, remember that he loves you “enough” and you “like spending time with him,” and there is no reason to be mean, bitchy, petty, or spiteful. You will both be much happier if you spend the end of your time together trying to save everything that is great about the relationship you do still have rather than looking for reasons to justify an end, or transition, that has already arrived.

Much love and happiness,

Your Uncle Mat

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