Dear Wendy: “Can A Vacation Fling Turn Into The Real Thing?”

A couple of months ago I went on a foreign vacation and met a great guy. For a few days we connected, laughed, talked, and had great sex. I left him with a hug and “it was wonderful,” and thought that would be it. I wasn’t going to let myself fall into any “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” unrealistic romance. But once I got home, everything seemed dull without him. The life we’d jokingly talked about having together sounded good. We started emailing a little. Without saying anything about it, I’ve started learning his language and saving money to go back. But I’ve found myself afraid to say anything very serious to my friend … I don’t know what he’s thinking we are. The email flirting is fun, but I don’t know how to bring up the subject of anything more serious without sounding like I’m chasing him or prying (I don’t even know whether he’s started seeing someone else). After all, I was the one who made it clear nothing serious was happening when I left. What do you think I should do? Or am I totally crazy for trying to make a vacation romance into a real one? — In Love, Maybe

Look, far be it from me to say vacation romance can’t turn into the real thing. Hell, I had a vacation romance once and you know what happened? I married the guy. But! And there’s a big but here. I wasn’t looking for someone to brighten my dull life when I met him. And I didn’t consider “love” between us as a possibility right off the bat. That’s not to say there wasn’t fantasy in the beginning. There was. But it was far outweighed by reality, and a big part of our reality was the distance between us. He lived in NYC and I lived in Chicago at the time and there were some hard questions about practicality we had to address in the beginning. If we hadn’t been honest and open from the get-go, I’m not sure there would have been much hope for us.

What you’re describing — a fling in a foreign country with someone you aren’t even sure is single or not — falls pretty heavy in the fantasy column. You had a few great days with the guy and a good time imagining a (fantasy) future together, but if you don’t even feel comfortable enough with him to broach the subject of a real relationship, I’d say your sign-off name is probably a bit premature. Why don’t you slow down and take stock in the reality you have. Focus on how you can brighten your dull life in more practical ways. Long-distance relationships are hard. Like, really hard. And I think you may be projecting some of the glamour of a vacation fling onto a situation that has more obstacles and challenges than you’re considering at the moment.

Once you’ve traded your fantasy lens for more realistic eye-wear and can bring your situation into clearer focus, ask yourself if what you yearn for is a connection with someone or a connection with this guy in particular. If it’s the former, try to find someone closer to home. If it’s the latter, foster a friendship over email for a little while before you start naming your babies. There’s no reason to rush romance — especially if it’s budding across many miles.

I am a college senior who lives at home, and as such I’m involved in the everyday life of my newly single mother. My mom recently separated from her husband of 15 years, and is dating a new man. I was studying abroad when she met him, but upon my return they were into things pretty heavy for only three weeks. It’s now five months later, and her gentleman caller has become pretty comfortable in our home, yet he doesn’t take her out often and cancels their dates two out of three times. If he does take her out it’s to suit a need of his (shopping trips, but for him only, she never comes home with bags) and somehow they end up back here, in our home with her bedroom door closed while my high school-aged brother and I are there.

My problem is I don’t like this man; I can see right through him and to his real intentions. I expressed my feelings a few times, but he assured me when we were first introduced that the impression I had of him was baseless. I see he’s actually much worse than I originally thought, but my mother is like a puppy wagging her tail and jumping at any chance to have the table scraps of time he gives her. Her mismanagement of her love life has scarred me in the past (I have trust issues, daddy issues, I’m afraid of love and sex, but hey, at least I know these things about myself!). This woman’s love of love has left our family in worlds of trouble, and I’m really afraid that watching her screw up AGAIN will leave me not only scrambling to put the pieces back together once again, but also that the last bit of respect I have for my mother will be torn away from me. I see them together and I experience feelings of disgust, disappointment, pity and most of all, mourning for the person that I thought my mother was. I am seriously considering moving out and on with my life, but we’re the only family we have (another result of the choices she’s made in regards to men), and it pains me to think about where we’d all be without each other. What should I do/say? — Concerned Daughter

You’re a senior in college, CD; if your mother’s behavior and choices bother you so much, move out! By your own admission, your upbringing screwed you up, so why continue staying in an environment that’s been so dysfunctional for you? I appreciate that you love your family and you want to be there for them, but as a grown adult now, you don’t have to remain under the same roof to “be there” both emotionally and physically for your mother and brother. Frankly, it’s a little worrisome that you equate “moving out and on with your life” as turning your back on your family. It’s called growing up. Most people move out eventually. It doesn’t have to be some big, dramatic thing.

I’m focusing on you here, and not your mother and her relationship with her boyfriend, because you don’t really have any control over what goes on between them. You do, however, have some control over your own life. That might be a new sensation to you — especially if you grew up in an unstable household. It may seem like a foreign concept that you don’t have to wait for other people to make smart decisions for you. You can make them for yourself. Whether your mother ever gets her act together or not, you can make a choice today to start living in a happier, more functional environment. You can make the choice to get therapy and unpack some of the baggage from your childhood. You can decide that love doesn’t have to be conditional and that you can separate your mother’s bad decisions from your own feelings toward her.

With the help of a trained professional, you can even learn to love your mother with compassion and not judgment. You can learn to express your feelings to her — and not just to the men she’s seeing — with kindness and concern and not bitterness or anger. All of these things are possible, but they’re going to be much, much easier to achieve if you live on your own and can begin to separate yourself from the mess of your mother’s life. At this point, CD, it’s not noble to stay in your mother’s home while you watch her self-destruct. It’s borderline martyrdom. If you truly want to help yourself and be in a place where you might even be able to help her, you’ve got to move out and find some stability on your own.

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