Relationship with a shelf life?
September 26, 2011 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Should you continue to date someone, even though in about 1-2 years they plan to move back home, a place where you're pretty sure you don't want to move to?

I've been dating someone for about 9 months, and it's been going great, really really great. We both live in Toronto, but she's from another much smaller city that's a few hours away by plane. I'm not from here either - this is the third country I've lived in.

From the start she let me know that eventually, she plans to move back home. At that point, it wasn't something that I would have considered a dealbreaker, because we weren't that serious as yet, and I didn't think it made sense to not get to know someone because in 3 years they'd be moving away.

Anyways, things have progressed really well, we're very serious, and I thought it was a prudent time to start discussing the future. The place she'll be moving to is different from here as night is from day. It's wonderful in its own way, but different. I've never visited it, and I have no friends, family, or network there, while she has all of that and more. I also have a pretty promising career starting for me here.

We're having a very serious, mature discussion about whether we should continue seeing each other, knowing that in about 2 years she'll be moving away, to somewhere I'm almost sure I wouldn't want to go, and even if I did, I'd probably be depressed (I have these issues).

She's willing to continue dating, because who knows what could happen between now and then. I also don't want to stop seeing her, but does it even make sense? She's left the decision in my hands, and we've agreed for this not to be an acrimonious split if I decide not to. After all, if it hurts now, imagine how much it'll hurt 2 years from now.

What do other people think?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Two ways to look at this. You need to decide for yourself which applies:

1) You never know today what will happen tomorrow. She said that "eventually, she plans to move back home." How certain is this? (My wife and I once moved thousands of miles away and prepared for 5 years...just for it to be really 1 year and it completely messed up the rest of our plans.)

2) You have to think of you and your own future, first. You are pretty sure you don't want to move there. That is a great start. So, you have to go back to #1 and see how realistic that is. If it's pretty realistic for her, then you should end the relationship. If it's not that realistic, then you can stick with it and see what really happens tomorrow. Because you never know what will happen tomorrow. What if something completely unrelated to her possibly move takes your relationship in a completely unexpected direction, instead? You never actually know.
posted by TinWhistle at 7:51 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Why don't you at least visit this place before deciding you wouldn't want to live there? I'm pretty sure my husband wouldn't have said he wanted to live in my hometown if you asked him while we were dating, yet, after getting to know my friends, family, and network, and after we had a child..... there we went.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:52 AM on September 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Perhaps you should start by visiting the other city before you decide that you would or wouldn't want to live there.
posted by jeather at 7:54 AM on September 26, 2011

I think it really depends on where you are in life. If you are middle-aged, settled in your life and definitely not going to make any changes in your life, this would be a dealbreaker. If you are young and you aren't yet quite so rigid then why not wait it out? As you noted, you haven't visited there so you can't say you are making a decision with all the facts. And if your girlfriend is young she may be planning to go home because that is what is most familiar to her,but two years in your twenties is a long time and a lot of growing up/changing happens in that time.

It kinds sounds like you are borrowing trouble by worrying about something that hasn't happened yet (and may not happen). Do you tend to over-think or catastophise (driven by anxiety) in other areas too?
posted by saucysault at 7:57 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Would you regret the time spent together if you did break up two years down the road?
posted by Loto at 7:58 AM on September 26, 2011 [8 favorites]

I would leave now. The longer you wait and the more attached you become, the harder it will be. Sounds like the only hope for this relationship to last is if you change your mind and are willing to move with her. I also think the relationship dynamics will be skewed the closer you get to the known break-up date. I think this will lead to tension and pressure overhanging the relationship.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:01 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

A lot can happen in 1-2 years... Who knows, maybe the horse will learn to sing. It sounds like she makes you happy. Take it. Be happy for 1-2 years. And at the end, if it turns out it hurts to rip off that Band-Aid brand medical strip, well, then you had two good years in exchange for a month of listening to Morrissey and annoying your friends. Not a bad exchange. Or you try it, and it doesn't work, and you don't have a lifetime of What-if to deal with.
posted by Etrigan at 8:07 AM on September 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Not everything worthwhile lasts forever.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:08 AM on September 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

A lot can happen in a year or two.

You guys can break up. Or she might decide not to move wherever it is. Or something else might change in your lives that might affect you guys' future as a couple and living arrangements. You just don't know.

A year and a half ago I was totally sure I was moving to Philadelphia within six months. I'm still here, now fairly positive I'll be living on the west coast by spring. God forbid I had broken up with someone a year and a half ago!

Then again two years ago I was in a relationship with someone I thought I'd marry. By the time I "decided" to move to "Philadelphia", it was over.

Not that bad stuff is the only thing that can happen - maybe in two years you'll get a job offer in her home city. Maybe in two years she'll decide she doesn't even want to go.

So, y'know.
posted by Sara C. at 8:15 AM on September 26, 2011

Best answer: For me, and for several people I have known, love conquered geography.

You are young (not yet 30) and well-traveled (you've lived in 3 countries), so I would challenge the notion that you absolutely could not be happy in a small town with the person you love. This is especially true if she has family and friends established there, which could be your family and friends too.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:20 AM on September 26, 2011

Best answer: Not really an answer, more of an anecdote.

I am new to this small town of a few thousand people that is nearly a thousand miles away from anywhere I've lived before. I got up here a month before my girlfriend to secure a decent place to live for us.

I am going to learn to shovel snow this winter because this place averages more than a hundred inches a year. I have never seen a hundred inches of snow in all my winters combined. I'm going to have to battle my own depressive tendencies through such a harsh winter. But you already know of such things because you are on the north side of the lake from me.

I left the town I have always wanted to live in because she invited me to move with her when she took a new job. We have been dating a year and a half at this point. Would I have ever considered moving here on my own? NO! Would I have considered following her here a year ago? Nope. But what did I say, when she took that job that is great for her career and invited me to come with her? I said Yes because I found, through dating her, that I'll be warmer cuddling up with her this winter than I would be a thousand miles south by myself.

Your mileage and snowfall may vary.
posted by iurodivii at 8:32 AM on September 26, 2011 [10 favorites]

Enjoy what you have while you have it. You're in love! Don't throw it away because of some intellectual notion of what might happen in an unpredictable future.

To explain that a little more. For many people, the really wild and passionate part of being in love only lasts a couple of years. Beyond that they settle for comfort, and knowing each other, and safety and security, and memories of passion, and sharing a history. It's deeper, but it isn't the same thing.

For some people that's what they want, and they stay with their partners. For others, they go back to the start, find someone new, and get back on the roller-coaster. For a lucky few, things stay passionate forever.

I'd suggest that at this stage you're in the wild and passionate bit of the relationship. But you don't really know where you'll be in a year or two. You may be ready to end it, she may be ready to end it, or it may have grown into something that's so strong you and she would both move around the world for each other.

So you can only wait and see where it goes, and enjoy this moment as long as it lasts.
posted by Ahab at 8:34 AM on September 26, 2011

Unless she owns a house in the other town or has a child there or plans on caretaking older relatives or something, she is not "100%" going to move back. Her only anchor is familiarity and in 2 years you could become more familiar to her than her current notion of where home is. Stay with her and see what happens.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:38 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

If your relationship is really going as well as you say, is this the type of relationship that could potentially lead to marriage? If so, you guys would have to decide where to live as a couple. If not, why are you still together?
posted by DoubleLune at 8:47 AM on September 26, 2011

Rather than dread what you don't know, I recommend that you take a trip there together. Whether you end up moving there or not, you'll have a true impression of what's at stake. Isn't it worth at least taking a look?
posted by hermitosis at 9:00 AM on September 26, 2011

PS, I moved to NYC in 2002 assuming it would just be for a couple years. Because of a relationship I ended up staying, and I still live there to this day.
posted by hermitosis at 9:03 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can live your life shying away from what may hurt in the future, you may avoid a lot of pain, but in the process also avoid a lot of happiness too.

I entered many relationships knowing that it may not end up as happily ever after, but the relationships were wonderful. There were many days of love and laughter and most of all, I learned a lot about what I am able to give to someone as much as learning what someone can give me.

In my culture, it is said that everything is perfectly balanced. When there is happiness, there will be sadness, when there is darkness, there is also light. You can't expect to have euphoria in your life and not expect to give something up to get that.

Stay, be in love for the next two years, maybe she will move and both of your hearts will be broken. Maybe she won't and her heart will break that she misses her friends and family. Someone has to give up something eventually. You are both very young and the world is at your fingertips. Don't worry so much and enjoy what life is like now.

You can plan all you want for tomorrow and it still won't turn out the way you planned..."The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley."

I've been living where I live for over thirty-five years. I was only to stay for about ten years. I don't have plans to move, but who knows what tomorrow brings...
posted by Yellow at 9:38 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just chiming in with others to say there is no such thing as "100% certain" especially looking at things a year or more out. You should read the Black Swan by Nassim Taleb if you have any doubt about that.

If she was in your town on vacation or doing a 1 month internship I might advise differently, but to me it would be premature to throw away something good for what may happen in 1 year.
posted by the foreground at 10:22 AM on September 26, 2011

She's left the decision in my hands, and we've agreed for this not to be an acrimonious split if I decide not to

Does she honestly care about the relationship at all? This isn't some small decision like "where do you want to go to get away for the weekend?". This is a question that may well end your relationship. And while She's willing to continue dating, because who knows what could happen between now and then is she willing to continue dating because she sees a future with you? Because she likes you? Or is she willing to continue dating you on chance she might someday come to actually want to care about you and your relationship.

To just toss the ball in your court is pretty shitty behavior.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:30 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I wouldn't.

I have approached my relationships in the past with a "Live in the now" attitude. Even if we were going to break up in the future, why not enjoy the now? Create some good memories, grow, etc etc.

Well, after going through a serious relationship like that and facing the inevitable end of another I can tell you there may be lots of good times in between but the end fucking sucks for everyone involved. Having a sword of Damocles over your relationship does not make you fall less in love and in some ways it makes everything worse.

You can form good times single or with someone else. It doesn't have to be this chick unless you really can't let her go, and if she's that important then you guys should be figuring out a solution to the moving situation anyway.
posted by Anonymous at 11:16 AM on September 26, 2011

I agree with schroedinger. I was in a relationship just like this in my twenties and I took the "enjoy it and see what happens" attitude. Well, I enjoyed it tremendously and fell deeply in love and then my boyfriend went through with the move and moved to the other side of the world. It took my over two years to get over the depression that ensued, and I would not characterize myself as depressive by nature. If I could go back, I would have left at month two when he said he would move after college.

The thing is, he did what was best for him, even though that meant walking away from our great relationship. I should have done the same.
posted by mudlark at 12:38 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it is one of your first long-term relationships then I would say to stay and see where it goes. If it is not, I would still say stay to see how it goes because a lot can change in two years, but in the future if this kind of thing keeps happening you may get burnt out, and you might want to screen for this stuff earlier on. (Cold, but serial monogamy takes its toll.)
posted by stoneandstar at 5:30 PM on September 26, 2011

Instead of asking yourself, "What should I do?", I'm wondering whether you might be better off asking yourself, "What do I want to do, right now?" If you are happy right now with her, you should stay with her and worry about the future when it happens.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 6:10 PM on September 26, 2011

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