DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I want to apologize in advance for any bad English, it’s not my native language.
I’m a 25 year old man, and I’m dating a girl about two months.
She is the most interesting girl I’ve ever met. I have limited experience with relationships, but enough to know when the girl worth the “long term investment”.
A month ago she told me she needs to travel to another country to study. She really needs it as a “test to become an adult person”, and she’s planning to go the end of this year. She is 28 years old and she fears she won’t have any more chance. And, as she said, she might never come back. In her field, the odds of finding a job are better outside of our country. If she finds a job there, she might not be coming back.
So, needless to say: I’m terrified! I’m trying to enjoy the moments we are together, but sometimes I think too much in the future. I’m really anxious over this.
Furthermore, I’m feeling that thing we used to call “passion”, that I really hate. I would like to not lose my mind in this and become obsessive.
So, what can I do? I don’t really want to take the easy way, that’s to stop the relationship. I think this is cowardice and I can’t stand to lose those really good moments with her, but I can’t enjoy these moments with this weighing on my mind.
I would like to simply not feel so passionately, to face it calmly, and, if there’s something I can do to change this situation, I would like to know what can I do.
I thought about going with her on the interchange, but I don’t know if this is a “healthy” solution, I would ignore my real objectives to be with her.
I need help.
Time Is Running Out
DEAR TIME IS RUNNING OUT: Be honest with me, TIRO: is it the passion you’re afraid of - the way your heart speeds up at the thought of her, the way that you seem so much happier when she’s around and the way that you find everything about her fascinating - or is it a fear of feeling this way and then losing it?
Because, quite frankly (to steal a line from my Celebrity Dating Advice Patronus, Dan Savage) every relationship is going to end until one doesn’t. And you almost never know which relationship it’s going to be.
In practice, what this means that every relationship you ever have is going to come with the likelihood that it’s going to end with you two breaking up for one reason or another, until you find the one that lasts until death do you part. Now, you can either go into a relationship anticipating the break-up - which, SPOILER ALERT, will make you completely miserable - or you can go in with an optimistic and hopeful heart.
Because, I mean, look at you. You’re twitterpated. You’ve got it bad for this girl, even when it’s just two months in. That can be scary to people – you worry that you’re in too deep, too soon. And to be fair, that’s a reasonable worry. You don’t want to invest too much in a relationship that young… though, that level of intensity isn’t BAD in and of itself. As long as you don’t push too hard for her to match your level of emotion just as quickly or push to commit exclusively too soon, feeling strongly for someone is just fine.
But the course of romance never did run smoothly and all the legendarily passionate love affairs come with complications. I mean, look at you: you’re in a relationship that comes with a known expiration date. That’s going to be tough. In fact, it’s going to be even tougher because the reason for the expiration date is that your girlfriend sounds mature, intelligent and adventurous and is taking advantage of an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I mean, it’s a little hard to fault her for wanting to go on this adventure that could change her entire life.
Now, the fact that she’s going to study abroad doesn’t necessarily mean the end of a relationship, but as I’ve said before: long-distance relationships can be difficult to maintain, especially when there may not be an end in sight.
But here’s the thing: she’s been up front with you about this. Her telling you about her plans to study abroad sounds to me like a way of giving you both a head’s up (“Hey, I’m going to be leaving at the end of the year, so keep that in mind,”) and a way out (“I would understand if you decided you didn’t want to face the difficulty of an international long-distance relationship.”)
And now you have to decide.
The way I see it, you have three choices.
For the first, you can end things now in the name of saving yourself the future heartbreak. Some will tell you that this is the coward’s way out, and that you’re using the end of the upcoming relationship as a way to justify breaking up with her; when what’s really bothering you is the intensity of how you feel about her, the fear of emotional commitment, and the loss at the end.
Which, admittedly is true. But the fact that you love someone doesn’t mean that you necessarily want to subject yourself to the known pain of a rapidly approaching end date. That’s a perfectly valid and legitimate reason to not date someone.
The second is that you can continue to date her, but let the fact that your relationship comes with an expiration date grow to consume your every waking moment and eventually come to define your relationship. You’ll get angry and bitter and clingy. You’ll consider going with her to study abroad and run the risk of growing resentful when the homesickness kicks in.
Or you’ll choose to stay behind and be frustrated and bitter when she flourishes in a foreign country while you still feel as though you’re floundering at home. You’ll fight, but never over the real issue: the way you feel betrayed by the fact that she’s going to leave you.
In short: you’ll spend the rest of the year making yourself and your girlfriend goddamn miserable.
You can take the third option: you learn to appreciate what you have, while you have it, for what it is. You quit borrowing heartache from the future and learn to live in the moment. You cherish every minute you have with her, savor every kiss and embrace and make every second you have with your girlfriend special – even with the understanding that you know when it’s all going to end.
Now, I will grant you: that third option is difficult. It’s incredibly difficult for humans to focus on the moment; our awareness of the future is part of what combines with our opposable thumbs and downloadable porn that puts us on top of the food chain. You can never get rid of that impending sadness that comes with separation from someone you care about.
But just because things are going to end – and all things end – doesn’t mean that you should cheat yourself out of happiness now. She sounds like a special person, the kind of person that will make you a better person for having known her; the kind of person where you would look back on your relationship together as something wonderful and life-changing, even if it didn’t necessarily end the way that you hoped it would. She sounds like someone who brings a lot of value and joy to your life.
If you want my advice: accept that your relationship has an expiration date. Don’t try to artificially extend it by going on the interchange with her – that’s only going to make things bad for the both of you. Don’t let yourself be bitter or resentful towards her for going or for “not caring enough about you to stay”. For the love of all things holy, do not try to convince, coax, cajole or otherwise pressure her to NOT go.
Just… enjoy your time with her. Learn to live in the moment and revel in what you have. Feel all the feels, savor every minute you have with her and when the time comes, let it go. It’ll suck and it’ll be like the worst break-up that you’ve had, but it will be survivable. Take time to mourn the loss and then move on. Don’t hold yourself hostage to the hope that she’ll come back. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t – but either way, you need to go on and live your life. A little sadder, yes, but richer for the experience.
Eventually you’ll fall in love again. And maybe this time, it will be the relationship that lasts until the end of your days.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)