Derail a future heartbreak or enjoy myself now?
March 16, 2014 6:13 PM   Subscribe

I've been living abroad for half a year but the end of my time here is coming up, and of course, I stupidly started seeing someone who is not going to relocate for me. Is it a stupid idea to continue seeing them? I'm already stressed and saddened to an extent I've never experienced before because of my uncertain job search and this is just adding on, but I'm so happy with them that I don't know if I can bring myself to cut this off. Should I continue hoping or is that just stupid? Some more details inside.

I'm happy in this country and would prefer to stay, not just for them but because I have friends and a nice place here, and I feel comfortable. However, the chances of that happening are virtually zero since it is necessary to speak the local language and although I'm already at an ok level, I don't think it will be good enough for work. In general I'm extremely stressed about my ability to find a job (I'm in my early 20s and although I have some prestigious work experience and multiple languages on my CV I am nonetheless obviously not a real catch for an employer), so at this point I'd just be happy to get a solid-paying job anywhere.

SO-person is a few years older than me and is reluctant to move at this time (although they are not a citizen in this country either), and is moreover reluctant to be a barrier to any potential work or educational opportunities I might be able to find.

I still have a few more months left here and I am really desperately afraid to leave. I don't know if it's worth it to keep this relationship going a little bit longer and hope for the best, or if it'd be better to just cut it off and break my own heart now so I can feel more free to move later. Is it a stupid decision to keep this going when I know I'm just going to be crushed later on? I'm so happy and comfortable with this person and I know that I can't manage just being friends with them, so it would have to be totally no-contact which is extra challenging because they have been my support net since the beginning of my time in this country. What is the better decision here??
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do what you need to do to navigate the transition to the rest of your life, whether that's moving back home, finding a job in-country, whatever needs to happen for you to be settled and comfortable and happy.

Keep seeing your person, but keep it casual and remind yourself that it's a relationship with an expiration date. Don't try to tie your feelings for them in with the bigger questions about your future.

Understand that when you move away, you will be ending the relationship.
posted by Sara C. at 6:26 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have never successfully managed to make my heart less broken by starting the process earlier. I also have had two failed long-distance relationship and one that I swore I wasn't going to start that turned into my 13-year-long marriage. So it really can go either way, depending on how committed you both are, and how cooperative the vagaries of life are. It doesn't sound like your person is necessarily ready to make this work (not to be harsh, it just takes a big leap of faith and the timing doesn't sound ideal.)

With technical advances (especially Skype video chat), being apart doesn't suck nearly as much as it did fifteen years ago. But time zones are unrelenting, and it's definitely hard, especially if your life is in flux because you're moving.
posted by gingerest at 6:27 PM on March 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

You are going to be crushed either way, yeah? So you should enjoy yourself and make good memories as long as you can.

Honestly, sometimes relationships with a definitive ending date can be the best because it takes away a lot of the commitment-related stress and allows you both to just have a good time and enjoy each others company while you are able.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:37 PM on March 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have just been in a similar situation to you, although in my case I was leaving a four year relationship. We had almost a year of uncertainty, where I was facing the same decisions you are - should we break up sooner rather than later, so I could mourn whilst I was still in the country where I had a support system? Should we stay together, because you never know what might happen, and what opportunities could come along? The plan was that my partner and I would stay together when I moved back to my home country, and make a decision about a relationship once I had a job, based on where that job would be (either my country, their country or a third country). However, that plan didn't work out, and we broke up about 6 weeks after I left their country. It is impossible for me to say what would have been the better decision, but I will say that I have found it tough being back in my home country, with basically no support system (I had been living in the other country for almost 6 years, so my closest friends are back there, not here). However, on the other hand, the distance has helped, as I am not living in a city that reminds me of that person, and I don't need to worry about seeing them, or anyone in their social circle.

My advice to you: if you want to stay with your partner for the last few months, stay with them and make the most of your time together. But make plans for your return to your home country, and foster your ties and relationships there, so that you have a support system ready to go, and ready to replace what you left behind.
posted by unlaced at 6:38 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it a stupid decision to keep this going when I know I'm just going to be crushed later on?

I don't think you're going to be less crushed if you stop dating this person now than if you stop dating him/her a few months from now, so I would just keep going with it. You're already in too deep to avoid heartbreak now.

Regardless of whether you stay with him/her, though, I think that you should try to build some kind of safety net for yourself that doesn't include your SO. If you don't build that safety net (and if you're anything like me at all) you're liable to start sabotaging things in your life to make a breakup "impossible," as some kind of misguided effort to keep the breakup from happening. I'm talking about doing stuff like making too-major commitments to your SO (like moving in together, getting a pet together, getting each other involved in family stuff) or putting yourself in a precarious position where you have to depend on your SO for basic stuff (like relying on your SO in order to stay in your apartment or in order to have transportation or in order to have a social life). Don't do those things, they won't stop the breakup from happening, they'll just make it so the breakup throws everything in your life into chaos (in addition to leaving you heartbroken).

If you need work right now, consciously make work your #1 priority. It would probably be your instinct to put your SO above work, especially if you've got a ticking clock on the relationship and you want to savor it as much as possible -- but that's how you end up screwing yourself over. The relationship is apparently not going to last forever, so don't make sacrifices that are going to effect your life forever in service of it.
posted by rue72 at 6:45 PM on March 16, 2014

It will hurt. That is an inevitability. But why spend the rest of your time abroad alienating yourself from someone you really care about and being sad? Don't tear down your paradise - ride it to its conclusion. My advice would be to genuinely enjoy the company of this other person for as long as you both desire/can.

Maybe it's the hopeless romantic in me, but I feel you'll be able to look back at your time abroad with nothing but good feels about who you met, what you did, and how you've grown.

Keep it light-hearted, keep it open-ended... you two may end up connecting again later in life.
posted by stubbehtail at 4:37 PM on March 17, 2014

(1) I am sure you will be a really great employee for somebody. Don't do that to yourself. Some honest insight into what you could try differently is fine, but finding a job can just be hard sometimes--especially if you're in a foreign country, and especially in your early 20s. To borrow from another thread I just read on a totally different topic: "And how do you stop losing? Beats the hell out of me, but not trying anymore never helped."

(2) If you're going to keep dating the other person, make sure that doesn't take over your life--keep up with your friends, spend a lot of effort job searching, etc. And talk to this person so they're on the same page--"I really like spending time with you, but I need to spend a little less time with you and a little more with myself/my friends/etc. while I figure out what's next for me."
posted by _Silky_ at 5:20 PM on March 17, 2014

To answer your question - why not keep seeing your partner until the end, as you are clearly both aware of the end date. I have seen people go through this experience, and have gone though this myself, due to people coming into my city on work visas. Drama ensues when the local love interest is unsure about marriage. Your partner may truly want to be with you but may be worried you are not serious about staying (by their side or in the country), or would only be serious about staying if they married you and gave you their citizenship (which could be as innocent as feeling the pressure of supporting someone who cannot work a well paying job because they are not able to integrate with the culture).

I do feel the better question would be why not gain more proficiency in the local language so you have better odds of staying - relationships like these succeed all the time, even when the partners both have different first languages, because at least one is willing to go the extra mile.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 7:22 PM on March 17, 2014

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