QUESTION FROM A GREEK TRAGEDY READER: I am writing to ask for some of your wit and wisdom. I started dating a great guy about three months ago. Right from the start, things clicked. On our first date, a dog peed on his shoe, and we both collapsed into hysterical laughter. On our second date, amongst friends, he held my hand under the table through the whole night. Initially, he was perfect for me. Little by little, he began to let me in to how he feels and what he wants. He’s been very honest about wanting to go back to school in his home state and be closer to his family. I don’t want him to leave, but I understand the motivation. He doesn’t like his job here, and he feels isolated from all the people he loves. He has set plans to move home in May. My dilemma is how do I handle this? I can ride things out and enjoy the time we have (after all, a lot can change in four months), or I can try to say goodbye now, hoping to save myself from some of the pain. We haven’t talked much about his leaving, and we haven’t discussed at all if he would want to try a long-distance relationship. I realize that I have to talk to him about the situation, but I want to try to straighten out what I want first. I feel like I’m in a relationship that already has an expiration date. I know milk can stay good after the expiration date, but eventually it will turn sour. Is it worth the risk?
Here’s the short answer:
I think the key to a happy life, a full life, is to love all you have, to feel lucky for each interaction, to watch and interact and learn from the people in your circle, BUT to realize that they’re not yours to keep. When you go at life with this outlook, you take responsibility of your own happiness and don’t overstep your bounds and force your shit onto someone else. You have to love deeply, but loosely, knowing each of us has our own journey and that those in our path will forever change it, change us, but they’re not ours to keep… I’m not saying it’s easy to love loosely. The truth is we can’t live our lives in prevention mode, keeping our feelings under lockdown, hoping to escape the inevitable pain one day. Because it never fucking works. But it has to make it easier seeing each moment as a loan. —Excerpted from Win or Lose Love
Here’s the longass answer: people will tell you that you can’t really save yourself the pain. That you have to love like you’ve never had a broken heart, go for it full throttle, knowing it’s going to hurt like a scissor-nicked crotch sometime in the future, but to hold onto each day you do have. And, here’s what I can tell you: I’ve done that. Twice. And every word of that was true. Until it wasn’t.
In college, it was Jeremiah. He was graduating. I had two more years. He was heading back to Buffalo, all packed up. It was summer; he left. Went back upstate. We spoke on the phone. Real mail. Packs of photos with captions penned on the backs, descriptions of his friends at home, of a life I never knew. It’s so much harder being the one left behind.
He couldn’t take it anymore and surprised me two weeks later, moving back to the city to be with me. Neither of us could be apart. We both held on and gave us a real shot, moving in together. Raising a furkid. Then, eventually, moving into our own places, onto other people, then back together again. And then apart for good. But it wasn’t distance that came between us. It’s one thing we knew for sure and never had to rose-color with a nearly there, "what if." We were better as friends.
Years later, after my OnceWife upon a life, I was in a relationship with a man I knew would be leaving. We’d "met" via email. He emailed me through this blog one afternoon, and I responded quickly, with a single sentence, if that. The fact that I hadn’t gone on in a detailed reply made him sit up and notice. The predictable chase.
That evening, I was on a first date with another man, and as fate would have it, there he was, Email man, at the bar, shaking his head. What are the chances? Here he’d reached out to a stranger via email, something he’d never done, and on the same day, he ran into me. In a bar neither of us had ever frequented.
He interrupted my date, apologized for interrupting, then told me he and his friend would be across the street, if I wanted to "catch up." Bold, bold, move. Power move. And the move was most definitely welcome; my date was a wet-nap.
Later that night, I fell into the bar across the street, and then into his arms. Yes, really. "Bashert," he’d said. Or maybe I said it. Though both are unlikely. Maybe when he told his mother he met "the one," she whipped out the Yiddish word for destiny. Either way, we took the fast track and became inseparable, sleeping together every night. We became each other’s plus one, met friends, instant "significants." Then, looming the whole time we discovered each other, was the fact that he’d already quit his job, ready to head off on a long-awaited, one-year trip around the world.
"Well, if it’s your dream," I had said.
"But, it’s not my dream. I mean, the thing is, yeah I had this trip planned before I had a reason NOT to plan it. Before I met you. It’s not my dream, but I feel like I’d be letting people down if I didn’t go at this point. I mean, come on, I’ve already quit my job. And if we’re really meant to be, we’ll stay together through it all. We’ll meet up. You’ll visit. We can make it work."
But I knew myself well enough to know that I could never survive a long distance relationship. I’m far too needy. And I had a hard time trusting people, especially myself. I didn’t need promises of forever. I needed him in my everyday life. And if it wasn’t going to be him, it would be someone else. It might be different when you live in the suburbs, but when you’re in Manhattan, out five times a week, mingling, bars, parties, it’s just not realistic. Not for me.
So there’s your first question, to yourself, independent of what he might want. Are you ready for a long-distance relationship? One with an indefinite time line? It’s one thing when you know it’s a set time, with a future planned, but another when it’s just hanging out there, this undefined space of "us."
Here’s the one cliche that holds true on both sides: love something, set it free. If it’s yours, it’ll come back to you… and YOU will want it back. Can you live constantly trying to outsmart, outmaneuver love? Yeah. But it’s no way to live. Bottom line, though, and don’t forget this: if a man loves you, he’ll move heaven and earth to be with you. He’ll choose you, put your relationship first, before any decision he might have made once upon a time before you. If world traveler loved me the way he proclaimed, he would have delayed the trip until we could take it together and let "us" be the adventure. He wouldn’t have let our "now" become a "what if."
So I guess what I’m saying is, make sure he’d kill a small horse for you. Once you know he’d do anything to be with you, to stay with you, to explore the possibility of an "us," then you can worry about how hard you both might fall. But you’ll worry together. If he’s not stopping everything for you, I wouldn’t put both feet into the relationship. I’d find a new pair of strappy sandals and choose a different direction.
GOT QUESTIONS? NEED ADVICE? If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address.