Carolyn Hax: Tune into misery you are sensing

Dear Carolyn: I am a divorced father of two college-age children, and my girlfriend is single and childless. I ended a long marriage several years ago to be with my girlfriend, whom I consider the love of my life. However, she lives several hundred miles away.

The long-distance aspect is getting more and more difficult, and I feel we will soon need to “fish or cut bait,” i.e., be together full time or have things come to a sad end. She wants me to move, and it probably makes more sense, as she has a better job, nicer home, etc., but I am torn at the prospect of giving up proximity to my children and other family, friends in the area.

Can you help me make sense of this issue? I am losing sleep and feeling depressed over the whole situation, and still carrying a not insignificant amount of guilt over breaking up my family. – S.

You’re already feeling heavy guilt for choosing your girlfriend over your marriage. Can you project how you’ll feel if you double down, and choose your girlfriend’s “better job, nicer home” over all the other emotional connections you’ve formed over the years?

Your misery is telling you something that you tune out at your peril. The message could be, of course, that your conscience has already absorbed more than it can handle. That’s the simple explanation.

I am a staunch nonbeliever in bean-counting in relationships. For intimacy to develop, grow and flourish, each partner has to give freely, without regard for fairness, and both have to receive gratefully, without tap-tapping their feet for more.

Such balance isn’t something you can just decide unilaterally to have; each of you has to establish your side of the equation, ungrudgingly, on faith, at a pace that feels right. Then, you watch for it to be reciprocated to the point where it feels only natural to entrust yourselves to each other.

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