A couple years ago, I spent a year in the United Kingdom on a study abroad scheme through my University. I went shortly after the royal wedding and many of my friends and family joked about the possibility that I might fall in love with an Englishman and never come home. Admittedly this didn’t sound half bad, and I am sure many people fantasize about falling in love with a foreigner when they go overseas, but the reality is far from a fairytale.
We met during the very first week of classes on a night out, and we hit it off from the very beginning. This was a blessing and a curse, as we had the entire year to enjoy together, and an entire year to become overly attached to one another. The truth was it was great, it was phenomenal! Would I do it again in a heartbeat? For sure! But the reality is, that it was also really painful.
When you meet someone abroad, at least in my experience, you enter into it with this fairytale daze and you think this is lovely, this is adventurous, this is exciting! But as the year goes on and you spend more time together, you start to really realize that there is a set expiration date on this relationship. Typically when you date someone, you look to the future without knowing with certainty whether or not you will break up in a week, a month or a year, or whether you will be in it for the long hall. In this type of relationship you look to the future and you know exactly when it is going to end. In fact, there were many times where we discussed the future with the unaddressed elephant in the room reminding us it would not be a future lived together.
In hindsight, I could have better prepared myself for the nearing end, but I became seriously interested in the guy that I was dating. This was problematic as he had expressed from the beginning that he did not want to attempt a long distance relationship, and frankly this seems to be the norm if you are temporarily residing overseas. What did I expect? We were young, we still are very young (our early twenties) neither of us have a clue where we will be next year, or what we will be doing. In addition, going into a long distance relationship puts a serious strain on a relationship, not just the strain of making an effort to see each other and communicate, but it also adds an unavoidable label; that this relationship is serious. I understand now with more clarity, why he did not want a long distance relationship, and I think it was the best for the both of us.
While I think many situations are different, both parties really need to be committed for something to work, and as much as I would have liked to take things further, he clearly did not want to, and that is something I have learned to respect. I know that friends of mine have had similar experiences, but decided to entertain a long distance relationship, and some of them have even gotten married, I think it really depends on how interested the two individuals are in each other, and where they are in their life. Perhaps if this relationship had occured in my mid thirties it would have ended differently. Who knows!? I do know however, that there is no point dwelling on what ifs. While we continue to keep in touch, and there clearly appears to be leftover affections, we may never see each other again, and if we are lucky enough to cross paths one day, maybe we will try again. In life there really are no guarantees, and unfortunately there are no fairytales either.