I’ll start this off by saying that at 22, I recently decided that I need a new perspective on my life and I’m moving to China in February. So, of course, now that I’ve decided I’m leaving the States I’ve met two really fun guys. I have told them about my plans to move and I’ve been seeing both of them non-exclusively for the past three months or so. The first one — I’ll call him Devin — I’d never consider marrying, and is a no-strings-attached FWB kind of situation at most (he has acknowledged this as well). If I can, I’d like to keep him around for the thrill of it. The second guy in question, Andrew, is definitely the marrying kind. We go hiking on the weekends and talk for hours on end every day. This is the kind of guy I could see myself with for an extended period of time and recently he has been hinting at a relationship. I would be head-over-heels if it was not for the fact that I know I’m leaving soon and a Beijing-New York long distance relationship doesn’t sound all that feasible to me, especially when I’m going to be gone for anywhere from six months to four years. What I can’t decide is if it’s really worth pursuing a relationship with Andrew or if I should break if off now before I run off to China and before one or both of us gets hurt and just go about having fun with Devin for now? It seems cruel to start up with Andrew when I know that there will be an expiration date. Or am I getting way too ahead of myself? It has only been three months after all. Thanks! — China Bound
Look, any time you meet someone you can imagine falling head-over-heels for and having a future with you risk getting hurt. If we only pursued relationships that didn’t involve much risk — like your setup with Devin, for example — we’d miss out on some of the richest and most character-enhancing experiences life has to offer. You’re going to China, I presume, for the experience, are you not? You want to step out of your comfort zone and into a world that broadens your horizons and challenges your idea of reality. So if you’re up for one adventure (living abroad), why would you simultaneously reject the potential for another (falling in love)? The wonderful thing about being open to new experiences is you never know where they may lead you or how they might change your path.
Sure, there’s a chance you and/or Andrew could get hurt if you pursue a relationship and things don’t work out. That possibility exists whether you were going to China or not. There’s also a chance the two of you will share something that changes you and shifts your perspective on life (isn’t that what you said you were looking for in your move to China?). Life is full of these little gifts — connections to be made with other people, doors in to new worlds, pathways that were once hidden — and if you want to be fully engaged in your life, it’s your job to take these gifts when they’re offered, to open the doors and go down the pathways and see where they lead you.
There are always going to be Devins in your life. You’ll always be able to find a friend you can have no-strings-attached sex with, if that’s what you’re looking for. But a guy you could fall head-over-heels with isn’t so easy to find. Yeah, there are strings attached, but what if they’re attached to something great? I say go for it. Live life fully. Take the gift. Open the door.
I recently started hooking up with this guy I went to college with. When we first started talking he mentioned that he would be relocating to a new city in a few months. Now he’s gone and I can’t figure out whether we should pursue this relationship or not. I really really like him a lot and he is everything I would want in a boyfriend. Except, he has mentioned that he feels like at one point or another one of us is going to decide we can no longer do the distance thing. He says that he really likes me but he hates that I live in NY. I feel like he might not have much faith in doing a long distance set-up. I’m definitely willing to put in the effort to make the relationship work, but I just really don’t want to get hurt. — Confused in NY
Here’s the thing — whether you should pursue this relationship or not isn’t fully your decision to make. You might be willing to put in the work to make your LDR successful, but if he isn’t, there’s nothing you can do about that. If you two had had a real relationship before he left, I’d suggest you have an honest and frank conversation about where you see things going. This would mean discussing an end date to the long-distance part of the equation and considering making a move to be together in the future.
But this guy wasn’t even your boyfriend, right? He’s just someone you said you would want as a boyfriend. He’s someone you’ve been hooking up with and that’s it. See, if he wanted more than a hook-up relationship with you, it would have started while you two still lived in the same city, not after he moved away. He might be willing to do some low-commitment long-distance hooking up with you now — especially if you were the one doing the commuting — but when he says that “at one point or another” one of you is going to decide you can’t do the LDR thing anymore, what he means is that at some point he’s going to find someone to take your place — someone who lives in his city and he can hook up with as much as he wants.
Long-distance relationships are hard — they take a lot of commitment, communication, and work from both parties. This guy has given no indication that he’s interested in any of those things. You had your fun with him, but now it’s time to move on. Find someone who you not only would want to be your boyfriend but who wants you to be his girlfriend, too.
*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.