Should I Move to Another Country to Pursue a Long-Distance Relationship?

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I’m 35, I’m from Germany, and admittedly some national clichés are very true: Germans don’t date well, have a sinister tendency and generally don’t deal with the opposite sex in a very playful way. I was the same, plus having had unhealthy codependent tendencies in my first marriage, that ended 4 years ago and left me devastated for quite a while. After that, there was another big heartbreak (I was “the other woman”, and of course he did not pick me in the end).

It was at that point that I decided I wanted to change myself and my luck in love, and especially reading “Why Did He Disappeared” brought deep healing for me in that regard.

So I started dating guys back at home and developed a fair amount of self-confidence in the process. I became naturally flirty, reconnected with my feminine side, and relentlessly weeded out those men who did not act consistently or showed major red flags — which, without being too picky, were all of them in the end, unfortunately.

Yet, I learned to bounce back quickly, and have build up a sturdy life for myself, i.e.: single girlfriends, reading group, a job that wasn’t horrible, family, etc.

Something was missing though. After 3 years of singledom, I decided to pack up my things and leave home to travel North America. I’ve always had a thing for the region, the language, the culture, the nature and I know it might sound funny, but I also feel like being here brings out the better aspects of my personality: optimism, friendliness, agency.

I started online dating while being stationed in a Canadian city for a while — I wanted to “practice” dating, so to speak, and was also interested in the cultural differences. And of course, despite not being after something too serious, I met the sweetest man…

2 months in, we both have developed deep feelings for one another. So the emotional basis is there: He makes me laugh, he treats me like gold (as you’d put it), he follows up, he talks about a possible future. We’re both painfully aware though that the circumstances are difficult, to say the least: My visa will expire, and I’d have to go back to Germany for one year at least to earn money for a big and final move to Canada.

My friends say I’m crazy to even consider it, and that — as a feminist — I should never rely on a man to provide all the social safety and support I’d have in my home town. To be honest, this aspect IS worrisome for me, but on the other hand, I am also quite sure that I won’t be happy dating back home again. I’m not a pessimist, but I tried and it was a bleak experience.

What is your advice here, Evan? Should I “follow my heart” and give up my life at home completely, or enjoy this relationship while it lasts and say goodbye to him when I have to leave the country? Or, as a third option, go back for the year and make the long-distance thing the litmus test for a possible future commitment?

I’m grateful for any insight! And let me say again: The man is amazing … but I’m scared sh*tless of this major life decision.

Thanks and warm wishes to you!

W

You should be scared sh*less of this major life decision. Nothing impacts your future happiness greater than whom you choose to marry.

Allow me play both sides of the fence for you and give you all the tools you need to make a choice. You’ll note that I have biases, too, but they’re not based on my personal preferences, they’re based on the statistical likelihood of a positive outcome — i.e. you getting happily married.

First of all, I’ve seen a number of long-distance relationships thrive and can always provide an anecdote that directly contradicts my own advice. But the same way we can point out that there are 70 degree days in January doesn’t negate the idea that most days in January are cold. And the fact is, most long-distance relationships are fraught with danger.

Moreover, one person has to take a big risk and uproot his/her life in order for the relationship to be successful.

Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with the people involved but because they’re sort of like simulated relationships until you’re in person full time.

Moreover, one person has to take a big risk and uproot his/her life in order for the relationship to be successful.

So, W, what percent of local relationships actually turn into marriage? I probably had a dozen girlfriends that I really liked for a month fizzle out before marriage. I don’t think that’s too unusual. So what are the odds that your “boyfriend” of two months is going to be a perfect fit for the next 50 years? No greater than the odds of any other boyfriend before. You’ve just had less of an opportunity to explore your incompatibilities because you’re too busy enjoying the ride.

And while I can cite my sister’s LDR as a shining example of how a woman can move 3000 miles to marry a man and live happily ever after, I can also cite a friend of mine who had a two month relationship on a business trip in Europe that led to 8 months of Skyping for 3 hours a day, which led to an engagement over the computer, which led to her moving to Los Angeles and moving in with her fiancé, which led to them breaking up about a month later because they really didn’t know what it was like to be together until they actually were.

This is the scenario I fear for you.

To circle back to your actual questions:

You don’t turn in your feminist card when you fall in love. Feminism is equal opportunity and making your own adult choices. That includes taking the risk to move to Canada in hopes that this guy is exactly what you need for the rest of your life.

Your belief that you won’t be happy dating at home again is more of a story than a reality. I’ve never met a woman who was happy dating in her city — New York, London, Sydney, Paris — all of my clients are convinced it’s better elsewhere. Newsflash: wherever you go, there you are. I thought after 300 dates, I had to move back to the East Coast. I married a woman from San Diego and we’ll live in Los Angeles until our house burns down. Point is that you may be right about your German stereotypes, but that doesn’t describe ALL men, just a subset of them. I can assure you that thousands of women will fall in love with men in Germany in the next month. You’re not that different than everyone else.

You’ve outlined three choices:

  1. Follow your heart and move to Canada.
  2. Say goodbye and return home to Germany.
  3. Stay committed long-distance for a year and figure out how to get back.

There’s one other choice you haven’t considered — or maybe you have — but you haven’t outlined it here.

Go with #1 — follow your heart — and realize that if your relationship doesn’t work, you can still build a life and fall in love with another man in Canada.

I’m not recommending this, by the way. If anything, I’m telling you that the most likely scenario is that he’s NOT your future husband. But if you’re going to spend your whole life with regrets that you didn’t explore it, maybe you owe it to yourself to take that chance for love, as risky as it may be.

As Marsha Sinetar talks about in “Do the Love and the Money Will Follow” and I mention in  Love U, you can’t guarantee an outcome but you can feel good about your decision. Adopt a policy of “No Lose Decision Making” and trust that whatever you decide, it was well-reasoned and the right thing for you to do at this point in time. Good luck.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Michelle H.

    Really good response, Evan.   Very well thought out & presented.

    To W: If your subconscious (and all parts of you) wanted to do it, you wouldn’t be so scared; you would just do it.   Listen To Yourself & Your Body.

    Our body (gut; a.k.a. our 2nd brain) knows more than our mind is yet aware of & willing to admit!!   That is my hard-won experience.   Either way, many of us end up with Evan’s 4th choice.   I have (more than once).

    In my out-of-country dating experience, the truth became clear when the man visited my country.   How I ended up behaving while he was here said it all (I didn’t want to continue the relationship).   It took me by surprise (and was a little hurtful for both of us), but it was the Truth, which is precisely what we needed to know before I made the move.

    May God (clarity, knowing, peace, acceptance) be with you, sister.

  2. 2
    Lynx

    “I also feel like being here brings out the better aspects of my personality: optimism, friendliness, agency”

    It sure sounds like it’s not just the guy that attracts you to Canada. I’m a west coast native who was married to a German and lived in Berlin for a time — I get what you mean about the stereotype.

    Seems like it might be a good exercise to consider this: if you hadn’t met this guy, would you still have wanted to extend your stay in North America?

  3. 3
    Clare

    The way I see it, if W feels as if she is tired of her home country and that she cannot be her best self there, what does she have to lose by seeing if she would be happier somewhere else? She’s relatively young, she’s not married, no kids. She can explore the option to move. I mean, she’s considering moving to  Canada, not the Sudan, how risky could it be?

    This is independent of her budding relationship with the guy she met online. You only get one life, and if she feels that emigrating is something she wants to explore, I say why not. People emigrate all the time, and sometimes they move back to their home country if things don’t work out. It’s not such a big deal, especially if you don’t have kids. Rather try things than live with regret, I say.

    That said, she should, as far as possible, make this move about her rather than moving for a man/relationship. That relationship may or may not work out, it’s too early to tell. I like Evan’s win/win philosophy – it’s the best way to approach any decision. Choose to make the best out of the scenario, whatever happens.

    Her decision to move is actually far more about  her  desire to move than anything to do with this new guy. If she really feels she wants a change, she should go for it. But if she’d be miserable if she moved and the relationship didn’t work out, then she shouldn’t.

    1. 3.1
      S.

      Canada, like any place, could probably be terrible if it’s not for you.   I have no idea what living in the Sudan is like.

      I lived in Seattle for three years and was miserable.   When I tell people they are always surprised and ask why.   Moving anywhere is always a risk not matter where it is.

      Why did you think Canada is a less risky place to live? And less risky to whom?

      1. 3.1.1
        le

        Well, Canada is not poor, neither has war or tropical disease.

      2. 3.1.2
        Clare

        Less of a culture shock to move to a developed country if you come from a developed country.

        Yeah Canada might not be for everybody, but I’m sure it’s not terrible and there are plenty of opportunities.

        1. S.

          I think you might be right for W. since she seems to have other reasons besides her boyfriend to move to Canada. If she moves, I wish her well.

          I asked the question because the way you said, “It’s Canada.”   Makes a lot of assumptions, not just for W, but in general.

          I grew up in the U.S. but moving to Seattle had a hugely negative impact on my life.   Culturally.   It was developed country to the same developed country.   I thought it would be okay for me and it was not.

          Not every citizen even in a developed country is having the same experience, has the same risks.   I just questioned that assumption because I sure had a different experience.

          I’m used to being the exception though, so I’ll leave it alone.     Thanks for replying. 🙂

  4. 4
    Michelle

    I’ve been waiting for this topic so I can explain my model of LDR success 😀

    My boyfriend and I are unicorns – we met by chance while we were traveling (overseas for me), were intimate immediately, had an LDR for 1 1/2 years, and are celebrating one year of living together tomorrow. So to emphasize what Evan teaches (don’t try this at home folks!) these are the components that made our lightning-in-a-bottle relationship a success:

    1) We were both fully ready for a committed relationship when we met.

    2) We are both excellent communicators, very independent, and not prone to jealousy. While we were apart, we naturally wanted to talk on the phone every day and text each other regularly, and had no anxiety about being apart.

    3) We had the opportunity to visit each other to get to know each other in person every few months. We became exclusive after about 6 months.

    4) We were patient and talked through all of our options, concluding that myself making the move was best since out of the four passports we hold altogether, we shared one of them and I would be able to work where he lived. I had also lived near his area in the past, was familiar with it, and even had relatives and friends a couple of hours away. We waited until it made sense for me to leave my job and finish other projects in my home country.

    5) We did not have financial stress. We met when my boyfriend was moving to where we now live from another city, and had planned to be living alone, so he could pay his mortgage and other expenses easily. I had to take a pay cut when I moved, but we are still able to live comfortably and save for the future.

    6) My boyfriend loves my home country and could see himself living there when he came to visit. He’s agreeable that we will move there eventually for better professional opportunities that are available to both of us, so I’m not stuck in the less-than-stellar job market where we live now.

    We also have had a dose of good luck – I found a job after only 6 weeks with health care benefits that I can cycle to, so we only need one car and the expenses that come with it.

    So, my story can be that anecdote of an overseas LDR success story, but only because so many factors have worked in our favor, and luck and timing were on our side. It’s definitely not something to plunge into without careful thought and consideration, and a LOT of communication with your partner.

    1. 4.1
      le

      Where is your boyfriend from?

      I tried a long distance relationship, but his lack to support me (I could not get a job in his country, after I moved there for him, and refused to support me financially while I was studying to try to get a better job after graduation) made it fail.

  5. 5
    NoName

    Hi W,

    I did that. Moved a country in pursuit of a long term relationship. And never regretted it!

    The way I did it – I quit my job, initially came for 3 months and ended up staying. We got married, had a son. Our marriage lasted 10 years, 7 of them were very happy, 3 not so. But I still consider that marriage a success.

    If you speak the language, your education allows you to build a career in a new country then what are you afraid of?

    I am always afraid to regret something I haven’t done rather than something I’ve done.

    You are only 35, the world is your oyster! Good luck!

     

     

     

    1. 5.1
      Jeremy

      If you don’t mind my asking (and truly, I mean no disrespect here, I just want to understand), what makes you consider this marriage a success?   What was it that you sought out in getting married that you think you achieved in this 10 year marriage that ended after 1/3 of it was unhappy?

      What would failure have looked like?

      1. 5.1.1
        NoName

        Hi,

        Thank you for the question. I consider a relationship to be successful if it lasted longer than 5 years and was happy most of the time.

        Unlike Evan I do not believe in life long partnership/marriage. Due to changes in the society I believe an average person will have 2 to 4 long term relationship lasting 10 to 15 years as best case scenario.

        There are various reasons for that and my text would be 3 pages long if I went into how and why. I believe life long partnership/marriage will become rarety and number of people entering official marriage will decline.

        I do not see this situation as doom and gloom and disaster, our society is changing and relationship/marriage is adapting to that.

  6. 6
    Nissa

    Yep. Evan is spot on with both his #4 suggestion and his framing of feminism. Feminism is about choice. Besides, life is funny. It’s just as likely that at some point you will end up supporting him, given that female life expectancy is usually longer than male life expectancy. There’s huge value in having a loving companion to be with you until the end of your days.

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