Should I stay or should I go, he says...
October 1, 2008 6:13 PM   Subscribe

So we fell in love after seven years of friendship but the timing is a bit awkward. I had already decided to move back to my home country…

My boyfriend and I have made the relationship "official" a few months ago and we are very much in love and have a great time together. He already has been to my home country on holidays and fell in love with my family, friends, culture, etc.

The trouble is, before we got together, I had already decided to go back home, as I have been away for many years and feel I need to "reconnect" with my culture and be closer to people I care about. He liked the country, found a sense of family he didn't have before. Plus he is currently considering the possibility of moving there with me. Because we already know each other, are more mature (at least we'd like to think that!) and are quite certain of what we want in the long-term, we were considering living together there and etc.

But at the same time he wants to take that step, he reckons the move would be a really big thing to do. He does not speak the language, (but is making impressive progress at learning it) and is scared of relying on me to get started and above all, start from scratch is what scares him.

In terms of professional opportunities though, there is a fair amount of opportunities in the new place, but it would mean that he would need to make an effort to go out, meet people, learn the social etiquette, etc. He is a sociable guy so he shouldn't have that much of an issue with that.

I had a bit of an outburst with him last night because when I asked about what his thoughts are, he said he just wanted to enjoy the time we have together. Which makes me think he may just want to enjoy it here and end it all when I leave, which sounds a bit unreasonable, but I am scared of giving the best of me and getting hurt later.

How can I deal with that uncertainty? I don't want to make plans for a life I am not certain that is going ahead or not. And how can I show him that I will be there for him because I love him? I also don't want to put him under a lot of pressure as I am aware this may push him away. Any suggestions? Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total)
Which makes me think he may just want to enjoy it here and end it all when I leave, which sounds a bit unreasonable...

What? That's completely reasonable, in most circumstances. There isn't an easy choice here. That said, I think you guys should figure this out ASAP rather than later, to avoid you feeling like you are the best of [you] and getting hurt later.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:23 PM on October 1, 2008

What happens when he, like you, wants to go back "home" after years away? You are a living example to him of why he should be nervous about this whole move. I would not pressure him. He is learning the language and trying. THe problem is that there is no clear cut black and white answer, but if you take a chance and it works out not how you want, you will get hurt. Sometimes you need to assume the risk and accept the various outcomes.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:57 PM on October 1, 2008

It sounds like you're viewing it in a bit of a black and white way - you're going, and he can either come with you or not. But it doesn't have to be like that. There are a number of options available, and which works for you personally and you as a couple depend on what your priorities are and what compromises you're both willing to make.

He's right - moving to another country and starting from scratch is a really big thing to do, and definitely scary. And just as you're missing your family and friends and culture, he will feel the same if he moves (loving a new place doesn't stop you missing home - as you've discovered).

What is the most important thing to you? Would you be willing to sacrifice your relationship in order to move back home? Would you be willing to sacrifice moving back home to keep the relationship? Do the answers to these questions depend on how willing he is to compromise as well?

Can you postpone the decision for a defined period (eg: 6 months) so you can both have time to decide what you really want and what you're prepared to sacrifice?

Can you postpone moving back for a defined period (eg: a year) to give him (and his family and friends) time to come to terms with him moving, improve his language skills and make plans for work etc?

Can you agree to move for a defined period of time (eg: a year or two), with the proviso that if he's not happy, you'll move back together?

Any move doesn't have to be a permanent one - you could decide as a couple to share your life between two places - a few years in one, a few years in another (exact times determined by what's going on in your lives).

Good luck!
posted by finding.perdita at 7:00 PM on October 1, 2008

As Guitar Wolf once said, "Love knows no nationalities, boundaries, or genders!"
posted by wfrgms at 7:23 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

If 40 years from now, I am an old man who sits in the pub getting drunk crying about the one who got away when I have a few pints in me - it will be because of a situation I was involved in that was like this.

All I can say is, do not drag this out. You know what you want, and you'll either save the relationship at all costs or it will slowly die in what seems to be some official tragedy of long distance and cultural misundertanding you know deep down is probably bullshit. Have this worked out before you leave your lovers' sight.

I can say without one hint of meldodrama or post-teenage angst... that a part of me went away and never came back when this happened to me. Be honest with yourself and what you want, then make it happen.
posted by Deep Dish at 9:47 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think Kurt Vonnegut said in "Mother Night" that lovers form their own country* - your relationship should theoretically come before your own country. However, usually in international relationships, one person decides they must live in a certain place, and the other person will follow. If this doesn't exist in your relationship, it probably wasn't meant to be. Besides, you don't know how your boyfriend will like living in your home country. Being an expat isn't for everybody.

*I think the character's lover (with whom he creates a country of two) turned out to be a spy sent for the express purpose of capturing him to put him on trial.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:11 PM on October 1, 2008

Have you quit your job or bought your plane ticket yet?

Consider the current black-or-white scenario as it currently stands:
A) You move, he comes with --> you keep the boyfriend and your plans (WIN!)
B) You move, he stays behind --> you lose the boyfriend but ultimately keep your plans (heartbroken but surrounded by friends and family)

Here's how he might be seeing the situation:
A) She moves, [I] go with --> keep the girl, face big changes and challenges (win... but no job, lots of stress and cultural/language "handicaps")
B) She moves, [I] stay behind --> lose the girl, continue life as before the romance (boring, but no major life losses -- except for you, of course, and some lost dreams)

I don't mean to say that you aren't worth making big changes for, but keep in mind that your choice of going home forces him to give something up whether he stays or goes.

So be honest with yourself and figure out what it is you want (finding.perdita lists some great questions to think about), listen to him and the next steps to take will become apparent.

Oh, and when you are older and more mature, sometimes it makes sense to keep options open and leave things in a gray zone, and sometimes you have to make black or white decisions in order to live the life you want to lead. Either way, and especially when other parties are involved, things don't always go as planned. Be compassionate and respect his feelings. Love each other. Good luck.

FWIW, I am (was?) in a similar but reversed position. Regarding "... giving the best of [you] and getting hurt later," it's just as hard to be the one potentially staying behind. I've got either David Bowie's "Heroes" or "Get It While You Can" (Howard Tate's version, or Janis Joplin's) on constant repeat.
posted by bumblebeat at 10:16 PM on October 1, 2008

The trouble with this is kind of clear, if you try to predict the future.

In ideal future, he moves out there with you, you stay together and get married, and you spend the rest of your lives together. The fact that he took the risk (of being alone and friendless in a country where he doesn't speak the language, after you decided to dump him five days after your arrival, and everyone telling him he's an idiot for having made the move) and it paid off is a great story you tell at family gatherings.

In uh-oh future, he moves out there with you thinking that you'll both tell the above story at family gatherings years down the road, and instead you dump him five days after you get there and he's stuck alone and friendless in a country where he doesn't speak the language, with people telling him he's an idiot.

So you can see that there's potentially a high reward for him, but also a significant risk. For you, the risk is significantly less; since you're moving out of the country anyway, it's not like you'll start up a new relationship in the short time before your move, so at least you enjoyed his company during that otherwise wasted period, and if you dump him five days after moving back home, well, you're home.

I'd encourage you to try to be sensitive to how much more epic and risky this move will be for him than for you, if he goes through with it. Be a caring, supportive partner, and make him aware that you know how much is at stake for him. Finally, depending on how you truly feel, either let him know that you're committed to him and really want him to come, or be honest that you're not really committed to him yet and that you understand if he doesn't want to come with you without a stronger commitment from you.

Then it's in his hands, but he'll know where you stand, and you'll know where he stands -- which is the foundation of a good relationship under any conditions.
posted by davejay at 10:31 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

To deal with relationship uncertainty you need clear communication. Have you guys ever had a talk about the future? You say he’s learning the language and could get a job in your country. Has he thought about this, too? Or are these your plans alone?

I know you don’t want to pressure him, but maybe you can gently discuss your/his future. Don’t press him for a wedding ring. Just talk. Maybe you guys agree that the future is uncertain, that he’ll visit you for a couple of weeks, that you’ll see each other every summer, whatever. You need to talk to him so that you reach a point where your actions are not being dictated by fear (of driving him away). You need some confidence in the security of your relationship.

Big questions come up all the time in relationships. You might as well find out now if you two can communicate so that neither party feels driven away.

That’s one of the rad things about love – finally finding someone who tolerates (even loves) your quirks and questions.
posted by fiore at 6:21 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this helps: but I was exactly in your BF's situation, and one day it just clicked and I had no more qualms about the big move. I think the trick was to consider it a big adventure, the biggest adventure yet. And of course, complete confidence in my SO. The problems of being in a new country etc etc can be overcome if the heart is willing, and I think you both should talk it out and make it clear that both of you are in this for the long run. Of course I still wonder from time to time what the hell I'm doing here so far away from home, but these moments pass.

oh and as finding.perdita says, we do have a deal where if the home country sucks then we would seriously look else where. but it's been good so far.
posted by dhruva at 7:19 AM on October 2, 2008

Fiore nails it. Communication is the key here. My wife and I are both from different countries and currently live in a third.
We have however, had the conversation about where we want to end up eventually. We are also open to the idea that we may encounter another country where we decide to end up instead. Life's funny like that, our needs and desires change as time progresses.

The key to it all is honest communication with respect for each other's viewpoints. We view it all as a big adventure and like dhruva said, one day it just clicked for both of us. We do though have a deal where if one day the constant travelling doesn't work for my wife any more, then she says so and we go home.
posted by arcticseal at 7:33 AM on October 2, 2008

P.S. I've been on both sides of this question in my time - please feel free to email me if you want...
posted by finding.perdita at 2:35 PM on October 3, 2008

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