Dear Wendy: “Am I Sacrificing Too Much For My Boyfriend?”

My boyfriend and I have been together for seven months. He lives in Germany and I live in America. We started out as pen pals over a year ago, then instantly found chemistry and fell in love. He recently came to visit me in July and our connection only grew stronger. We talk comfortably about marriage and kids and even that we’d like to build our own house. I’m making many sacrifices for our relationship, including quitting school and working two jobs to make enough money to move and then giving up my family and relocating myself to Germany to be with him. I’ve given up my friends and spending time with anyone so I can work hard toward what we both decided on. He goes to school full time and the only time we get to spend together is over Skype for maybe an hour per week. However, he goes out with his friends once or twice every week and stays out all night. He didn’t tell his parents about me being his girlfriend until August and his ex-girlfriend comes over to spend time with his mom frequently. I really feel like I’m the only one sacrificing everything for our relationship. I know he’s the one, but I don’t know how to tell him how I feel about this situation. Please help! — Long-Distance Lovesick

I’m so happy you wrote to me because it means you aren’t too lovesick yet that you don’t notice a few red flags, and I only hope you read my words to you carefully and take the message to heart. What you’re experiencing right now isn’t love — at least, it isn’t a mutual love. If it were, you wouldn’t feel like you were the only one making sacrifices. If it were mutual love, your boyfriend would be working just as hard as you are to finance trips to see you or to help fly you out to see him. He’d not only tell his mother all about you, he’d want to introduce you to her as soon as possible, and have you meet his friends, too. If your boyfriend loved you — if he really, truly cared about you — he’s be sick that you quit school and gave up your whole social life for him. He would never want to be responsible for you giving up things that bring you joy. And if he were, if circumstances meant you had to make some big sacrifices to be together, you better believe he’d be making as many as you. Instead of staying out with his friends all night, he’d spend time with you on Skype and save his money for plane fare.

But, he isn’t doing those things, is he? And you don’t know how to tell him how you feel because you’re afraid of angering him or losing him. That’s not love! But, even if it were love — even if you felt absolutely confident in your boyfriend’s commitment to you — what are your plans once you move to Germany? Where do you plan to live? How will you earn money? What if you decide you aren’t happy there? Will you be able to afford a plane ticket back? If you’re working two jobs now and giving up your social life to save enough money to move, will you have that same luxury when you get to Germany and decide you want to come home? What if you just want to come back for a visit? You know the economy is in the crapper in Germany, right? Do you really think you’re going to find enough work to support yourself and afford airfare home?

I’m worried about you, LDL. I’m sure your family and friends are worried about you. Please, please think long and hard about the decisions you’re making right now. If something about your situation seems “off,” there’s probably good reason. Read the letter below to see one way things could turn out for you if you continue with your plan to move.

A few months ago I reconnected with my best friend after we had a falling out two years ago. While out for coffee she informed me that she was moving across the planet to be with her boyfriend who she met about nine months prior. He constantly traveled to the US for business. He sounded very charismatic and successful and I was happy for her. However, I got a small inkling of worry when he called for about a half an hour straight while we were having coffee until she picked up the phone, at which point she got up from the table to talk to him. On another instance, when my boyfriend and I were helping her pack up her things, she picked up the phone and he freaked out when he heard my boyfriend’s voice in the background even after she explained he was my boyfriend.

Now she’s halfway across the world and her boyfriend’s deleted her Facebook account. She knew he had some trust issues so she gave him her password when he asked for it. He then deleted her account saying he doesn’t trust her on there. She says the fight got very ugly and she considered coming home but would like to stay and continue to work on things. She thinks it may have to do with his past relationships but he absolutely refuses to talk about them. He says he won’t talk about any past relationships “out of respect for her.” However, I worry about her ability to come home financially. She just graduated from a five-year design program and has no job there. He supported her business idea to design from home and fronted her the money to start-up. She wouldn’t have her own funds to come home if she wanted to. I worry that his idea to start her own business was just a ploy to gain control.

I’m pretty sure these are indicators for even more extreme behavior in the future. I have bad vibes about the whole situation and am not sure how to respond to her emails seeking advice. She doesn’t have her own phone over there yet. I want to be completely honest with her but I worry that he might read the emails. I even considered talking to her parents. I’m not sure what to do. — Faraway Friend

Your fear that your friend’s controlling boyfriend would read her emails is probably right, so anything you write to her should be innocuous and free of any accusatory or threatening language. However, you shouldn’t not email her just because you’re afraid the boyfriend is reading your messages. You might be one of the few lifelines your friend has to her old life, so it’s important that you keep that lifeline intact. Even short messages about your own life with simple questions about hers (“What’s new?” “What did you do this weekend?”) will be enough to keep the lines of communication open without being too threatening to her boyfriend. And she can decide for herself how to answer your open-ended questions and how much info to share with you. It’s important to read between the lines in her emails and respect wherever she is in acknowledging and accepting how screwed up her situation is. The last thing you want to do is offend her or put her in a defensive position where she’s actually sticking up for her loser boyfriend. That will only serve to alienate you and potentially cut you off as a lifeline to her, so tread carefully!

And, absolutely, you should reach out to her parents. For all you know, they may think all is fine and well with their daughter. Or, they may be frantic to get any information about her whereabouts and well-being. Your insight may very well be the missing link they’ve been searching for. If they have financial resources to help get their daughter home, they could team up with you, someone whom their daughter trusts, and together you all probably have a much better chance of helping your friend than if you worked – and worried — individually.

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