DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am contemplating a big move and looking for a distanced opinion. A few years ago, I met Awesome Guy at a work event. We hit it off, had a lot in common, and amazing chemistry. We both travel a lot for work and actually live in separate countries. Neither of us was looking for “the one” at the time, so we agreed to see each other casually when we found each other in the same city, which was about once a month or so.
This worked out well for almost a year, but as you can probably guess, it got more complicated as we both developed “feelings.” We started making excuses to see each other more often, and I guess this is also where we both started acting pretty stupid. I think of both of us as intelligent, responsible, successful people, but in this instance, we both rolled zeros in emotionally mature decision making. Neither one of us really wanted to admit we had fallen for each other, because then that would mean big decisions would have to be made. Did we want an exclusive relationship? How long could we stay long distance? Did one of us want to move to be closer? We started an explicitly causal relationship, what if the other didn’t want to make it “official”? Would we then stop seeing each other and lose what we had? So we both continued in this love-limbo for an embarrassing long time, like a year.
Eventually though, resentment began to grow. “Why can’t HE just say it?” And I realized I really needed more out of a relationship, so I ended it and I started dating someone, Local Guy. Almost immediately, Awesome Guy said he was sorry and wanted me back, and was ready, for as you say, an Awkward Conversation, but I thought I need to actually try dating someone local in a “real” relationship for a while, so I put him off. Well a few months of dating Local Guy, I realized a convenient address doesn’t automatically make someone a great partner. I also realize as I am writing this how daft I seem in retrospect. Epic failure.
So now, present day, back with Awesome Guy. We had said Awkward Conversation, and we both admitted we loved each other and should have talked it out a long time ago. He said he loves me, he also wants a real relationship, and he asked me to move in with him.
So here is where I need help. At first I was ecstatic. He said all the right things I’ve been waiting for and I was all ready to pack up and move. And then I started to second guess everything. Yes, we have a lot of shared interests and we’ve been seeing each other for a long time, but all of that has been long distance. Yes, the chemistry is fantastic, but is that because we’ve kept the NRE going an unnatural length of time because we only see each other once or twice a month? Will we lose that if we are living together? Or keep it because we’ll still be travelling for work? I do speak the language in his country, and I’ve visited before, but I won’t know anyone there besides Awesome Guy. Am I crazy to pack everything up and move in with him? Maybe I should move there and get my own flat? Or maybe we should just stay where we are and try to visit more often? Or this is just normal jitters before a big change I should go for it?
What say you?
Just Indecisive, Maybe Packing?
DEAR JUST INDECISIVE, MAYBE PACKING: Y’know, I get a lot of questions from folks who are worried that they’re overthinking things. A lot of times, that overthinking comes about because they’re trying to avoid getting hurt, and the way they do so is to try to find a way to critical path their way through life. Other times… well, the over-thinking comes about because they may be overly focused on the wrong things.
But let’s take things a step at a time, shall we? First and foremost: you and Awesome Guy spent a year in a long-distance relationship, getting together as schedules allowed. Now I presume that you and he were staying in contact over the course of this LDR, so it wasn’t just a case of you or he arrived in the other’s city with a couple days’ warning, you banged like weasels in heat and then went back to your separate lives until such a time as fate or work brought you together again. So, a fairly standard long-distance arrangement.
Over the course of this year and the next, you and he were having a hard time having that Defining The Relationship talk… and for understandable reasons. It’s a not inconsiderable commitment to move to another city or state for a relationship. It’s an even bigger commitment to move to another country to be with someone. That’s a pretty big leap of faith to be taking, no matter which of you ultimately chose to make it. Then, you began to realize that you had needs that weren’t being met by this relationship and so, quite sensibly, you ended things. Awesome Guy, seeing the relationship was ending, made a last-ditch Hail Mary, saying all the things you’d wanted to hear… and you decided that you needed to pursue something different instead of just immediately changing your mind.
This was actually a good call. While there are plenty of times that the threat (or reality) of an impending break up is the wake-up call that will finally slap the stupid out of someone, there’re just as many times where somebody will say whatever it takes to keep their partner around. The fact that you stuck to your guns (and prioritized those unmet needs) speaks well of you. And then, when you realized that no, the issue wasn’t that your lover wasn’t local, you and Awesome Guy reconnected, talked things out and are back together. And now the question is: where do you go from here?
So let’s talk about the over-thinking and what you may need to be focusing on instead. I’m of a mind that you’re overthinking the issues of whether the chemistry and NRE and whether the connection you two have has been artificially prolonged because of the distance and that means you and he are making a mistake. But in my experience, chemistry tends to die faster in LDRs because, well, they’re long-distance. While seeing each other infrequently can keep the novelty factor longer, the fact that you have fewer opportunities to bond and the frustrations of long-distance mean that absence tends to make the heart go yonder, not fonder. One of the reasons why LDRs tend to fall apart is because it’s harder to maintain a relationship at a distance, especially when there are other compatible people who are closer. So the fact that you and he have made things work for as long as you have and kept your connection is a mark in the plus column, not in the warning column.
The issue that I think may need more attention is that you don’t mention about how things have changed with you and your partner. You had some understandable concerns when you decided to call it off. While being with Local Guy made you realize that convenience wasn’t the problem… what about the other issues? You and Awesome Guy had the Awkward Conversation and the DTR conversation, but have the circumstances that lead to your break actually changed? One of the issues that comes up when couples get back together after breaking up is that while they may miss each other and genuinely care for each other, the underlying cause of the break up hasn’t changed. As a result, they end up going through the 12″ dance remix of their first break up… just faster, more intense and with a really sick beat.
You don’t mention it in your letter, so I’m hoping the answer is yes. But it’s still something I felt needed to be brought up.
But what about moving to another country for him? A country where you don’t have a support network or a social circle outside of him? Let us be real: yes, that’s a pretty hefty leap of faith. Leaving aside the logistics of moving to another country (work visas, whether they’re accepting people during COVID, etc), you’re pulling up stakes to move to a place where he is literally the only person you know. That’s a risk. But I know people who’ve done just that, who’ve gone on to have happy and successful marriages and are happy as clams.
Now that doesn’t mean that risks can’t me managed. Getting your own place is probably a good idea, so that you’re not completely dependent on your partner. It also means that you’re going to have to get more familiar with the city on your own and create your own relationship with it, separate from your relationship with your partner. I would also suggest trying to find organizations or MeetUps, whether for expats or locals, that match your interests. Having your own support network and your own circle of friends can be vital for your own mental health, as well as for the health of your relationship.
However, at the end of the day, you can’t insulate yourself from all risk or critical path your way through life. You have to make risky decisions and take leaps of faith. You’ve put a lot of thought into this, you and your partner have gone through alot together… and now it’s time to decide whether you love him enough and trust in the strength of your relationship enough to make this leap. There is no reward without risk. And yes, leaps of faith can be scary. Sometimes you fall.
But sometimes… you fly.
The only way to know is to jump.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org