Being in a transnational relationship

My boyfriend and I have been together for a year now and I am very happy in my relationship. He makes me laugh, he challenges me, he broadens my horizons and he loves me just the way I am (which must be challenging sometimes).  But, like a lot of other things in life, the past months have not only been sunshine, rainbows and butterflies. And that’s totally ok. Especially when being from different countries- he’s from the Netherlands, I’m from Germany and we met in San Francisco- things can get tricky. So, here’s an accumulation of things you will likely encounter in your first months of being in a transnational relationship.

#1. “Hi”

You meet in this super hot club or bar or classroom or office and hit it off immediately. His smile is amazing, her eyes are gorgeous and you are hooked. You want to find out more about this person. There is excitement in the air and possibilities. The fact that they’re from a country other than yours is, at most, very enticing. And for now, your first-date-outfit is the biggest of your concerns.

#2. “Ik sprek geen Nederland.”

The first couple of dates probably went great. Being from different countries automatically means always having something to talk about. The other person’s culture, tradition, language, foods, jokes, sayings, believes give material for countless talks. You make fun of each other in a tender way and you laugh and learn and are happy. The duration of this phase will vary by couple. For me, it’s still there.

#3. “Ik hou van jou”

No matter after how long and in what language your SO is declaring their love in, it is a big deal and puts your relationship on a new level. You give in to the idea of a future together, you spend your days painting pictures of exploring the world, building something good together. You start semi-serious attempts of memorizing phrases in your SO’s native language, which result in humorous misunderstandings. You secretly google “Visas South Africa” or “How to survive in Italy as an American” or “I am Venezuelan. Should I follow my boyfriend to Norway?” because..you know…just looking at your options here…

#4. “I wanna go home.”

Chances are, you met while you both lived in a country other than the one you grew up in. Or maybe just one of you did. But, eventually, culture shocks or sat backs or simply a bad day will cause homesickness. You’re tired of living in a foreign country and you’re tired of not speaking your native language. And your SO might just be the channel you express your frustration through. That’s the first moment both of you realize that your relationship will not go on like this forever. One of you might want to move home. Or go somewhere else for a job. You begin to understand that, sooner or later, you will either have to find common ground in this matter or your relationship will have an expiration date to it. But thinking about that is ugly, right? Let’s go back to that movie!

#5. “Mom, Dad, meet…”

After a couple of months, it might be “Meet-the-parents-time!”. This can get tricky if the parents can’t converse in English and your own knowledge of their language is less than abysmal. In that case, your dinner conversation will be limited to friendly smiles or gestures, awkward attempts of throwing random words at each other to make a point and a lot of translating through your partner. Which, eventually, will get so tedious that they just give up, talk to their parents in Russian/Urdu/ German and occasionally give you a rough synopsis of what’s happening. Awkward is what this stage can be like!

#6. “Sorry, we don’t really celebrate Christmas…”

Being from different countries will spice up your daily routine in both positive and negative ways. Your relationship will likely be less boring because, again, there is so much to learn about them and their origins. You may be delighted by how they never even consider splitting the bill and always open the door for you because “that’s just what a man does!”. They may be amused at how you get mad when they’re five minutes late to your date because that is “so German of you.” Both of you may be challenged when one of you wants to celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving or Hanukkah because you’ve just never done that before and certainly not like that! Does that mean you have to go to church with them on Easter Sunday and drink Christ’s figurative blood?  (Schatz, don’t worry, it’s red wine!). You might get frustrated about how they communicate, you might not understand their convictions and what is a funny joke to them is a cultural offense to you.

#7. “Soooo…after graduation…”

Your visa might expire in the near future or your exchange year is over. You might graduate or are finishing up that project or simply want to know where you stand. Whatever it is, eventually something will bring back the difficult talks about the future. And, while we’d all hope that love could surpass all matter of logistics, life shit can determine the longevity of a relationship. Living in this global world is great most of the time- it opens you doors and let’s you live in places you can’t even pronounce. But nothing sucks more than long-distance relationships. And avoiding that can be near to impossible when both partners face a variety of options for their respective futures. Who compromises how much? Do I really want to move for him? Do I really want to make her move for me? There will be more than one talk about this. It will cause doubts and fears and fights and tears. But don’t avoid it because, once you have found a solution that works for both of you, you can finally go back to simply enjoying each other’s company.

#8. “So, here we are.”

You may break up because you were simply too different. You may somehow slide into a long-distance situation or you could belong to the lucky ones that continuously make it work. Whatever it is, appreciate all that your partner is teaching you. Take it as something that makes you grow and look at relationships in a different way. Ideally, I hope you are happy, enriched by them, in love with love and life and really excited about what the future holds!

Cheers,

Ari

 

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Undefined…

“So, I met this super cute guy on a dinner party the other day and we hit it off from the start. I’m going out with him tomorrow and I kinda have a crush!”
– That was me last week.

“He is an asshole, forget that I ever mentioned him, I feel so alone in this new city and how will I ever manage to meet the right guy, he seemed so promising, AAAAAH!”
– That was me yesterday.

So, what triggered those sudden changes of mind and heart? Reality did!
Disney movies, friendship necklaces in high school, mushy songs about relationships, they all hammer one eternal need into our minds: We need the one-on-one. There is someone out there who is the salt to our pepper, the John to our Paul, the Noah to our Allie (sigh now for Ryan Gosling!). And mostly, we are aware that finding this special someone will take up lots of time, hurdles, effort and (probably) a few heart breaks. It seems like there is no easy way to leading us to the One, no way to go about it without compromising something. The height. This one pet peeve in your partner you thought you could never live with. The list goes on and there is one other problem: How do you know that your current date or crush is The One?! Exactly, you can’t.

Last week I went on two dates with the same guy and they both were great. Having drinks in a bar in the trendy Mission District of San Francisco. Hiking up Twin Peaks to enjoy the view over the city at night only to throw ourselves into the hustle and bustle of the Castro Crowd afterwards. Lots of kissing and flirting and long, great talks. My crush grew by the minute.
After 4 margaritas (they were 2 for 1), we walked back to the MUNI station and got into the long good-bye kiss. Then he planted the bomb: “I feel like I should be honest with you: I am seeing someone else besides you. But I really like you. But I’m not looking for a relationship at the moment, I think.” I said good-bye as gracefully as I could and cried my way home (the margaritas were reaaally gettin to my head…) only to be pittying myself all of next day (thank awesome friends for helping me through this part). I felt so stupid thinking that after only a few days in San Francisco, I could be lucky enough to find this great guy, enjoy myself so much and not have a single catch to it. And I felt resented only thinking about the fact that he was dating another person, like…does he not realize that I am awesome enough to be enough?! Well, the truth is, he probably really doesn’t. And maybe, just maybe, that’s because we have only been on TWO dates. Having spent most of my dating life on a college campus, I am completely new to the real dates and the real talks about exclusivity and labels and going steady and I hate it already, it’s so confusing. But even I know that two dates is not nearly enough to ask someone to close themselves down to all other options. I was not a happy camper after hearing him say all that he said… because it burst my bubble! The bubble that safely held the idea of having him be the person that cares for me like no one else, who will always be there for me and I will always be there for him and oooh, can anyone else hear wedding bells in the background? We fault our partners for not being on the same page, but in my case, I needed this burst of phantasy because here is the reality: Neither of us knows the other one well enough to picture anything going anywhere at this point. And while I am generally ready for a relationship again, who knows if O. is the guy I want to have a relationship with? Him dating others will allow me to do the same, explore my options, go out and mingle without putting pressure on anything until I know for sure what I want.
Of course, there is always the risk that I am wrong. That there is this guy somewhere, to whom I am not one of several dates, who is on my level from the start, whom I don’t have to wait around for because he would never leave me hanging. Yeah, maybe I am wasting my time with O., maybe it’s really stupid to think that dating without labels isn’t setting me up for heart break. I guess I have to remind myself of my own previous blog post of advice on how to listen to myself. Being both attentive to yourself and realistic is really tough. No matter how this ends though, it’s good to have a reality check every now and then, to prevent yourself from setting sail to cloud nine only to find yourself on rock bottom.

“I like you and I really like spending time with you but we’ve only been on two dates and I feel like it would be sort of crazy to decide to be exclusive or to try and predict where this is going (or not going).  I wanna get to know you better and see how things flow before I’m making my mind up on you. So, at this point I am far from asking you to stop seeing other people or getting yourself into something you might not be ready for…mainly because I myself have no idea what I’m ready for either. In case I notice that we are headed into different directions entirely, I’ll make sure to speak up but how about we cross that bridge if ever we come to it?”
– That’s me today. Let’s see which disasters this is gonna get me into….

Cheers,
Ari

“Love is a growing up.”

“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”

This quote by James Baldwin is enough to make me want to read everything the man ever wrote. It’s been my Skype status for months now. I used to change that status every time I found a new quote I liked. The fact is, I haven’t found anything that rings more true for me than these words.

Love is a growing up.

In the last year or so, I’ve grown more than I can even begin to explain. I recently celebrated the first anniversary of a relationship that has changed my life in every imaginable way. And no, it was not easy. It wasn’t Hollywood, although it began kind of like the plot for a romantic comedy. You might say, how disappointing that it didn’t continue that way, but really, when the movie-feeling stopped, the real amazingness only began.

I know there are no guarantees for anything in life, but as uncertain as the future may be, I am absolutely sure of one thing: What I learned in this past year I wouldn’t have learned alone. It’s true you should be able to live and be happy by yourself, but you do need people to come into your life and shake things up, so that whether they leave or stay, you’ve changed and grown. Before this year, I was pretty convinced that I was not really the type who had relationships. I was never sure why that was, but it was sort of a fact of life that I did not question very much. You can imagine how much it took me by surprise when someone basically fell from the sky and wanted to stay – and for that to be someone I actually wanted to be with, too! I spent the first few months in utter confusion and disbelief.

Recently, as we celebrated our first anniversary on Skype (yes, long-distance is ANNOYING), I realized that my disbelief has never quite gone away. Sometimes I still expect to wake up and have dreamed this entire relationship. Sometimes, I wait for my house of cards to crash, not quite sure I can accept the fact that someone glued the cards together in these last few months. Sometimes I’m just plain scared. And then yes, love is a battle, not so much with the other person, but with your own demons and insecurities and fears.

But it’s also a growing up. And it helps me to remember – whatever happens, I’m a different person today than I was last year, and I dare say, a calmer and happier person. That alone is worth battling some demons on the nights I can’t sleep…

“Heeeey, you. Sorry, I’m a bit late. I’m one of the presenters in the afternoon panel and my name is Soandso.”

“No worries, let me get your name tag and welcome package.”

“So… you work here?”

“Yes.”

“Mhm… so, what do you do… I guess you helped a bit with the organisation of this thing?”

“…”

Long Distance

So here we are, and the blog title applies once again… Ari and I are no longer “real” roommates.

I mean, we’re no longer any kind of roommates , at least not officially. But I’m telling you, living with your best friend for two years (and NOT killing each other) creates a bond for life. At least that what it feels like to me. I can’t imagine my life without my roommate, and that’s still true even when we’re on different continents.

Also, it’s not like we’re strangers to long distance. We’ve been long distance roommates before (hence the blog), and we’ve also been in other kinds of long distance relationships before. In fact my boyfriend of now almost a year (wow) lives on a different continent as well. Conveniently, it’s the same one Ari will be moving to… and there are plans that I might move there as well in the not so distant future. So while we’d still be in different countries, at least we might end up on the same continent again.

This, then, is really the essence of what I take away from college: The bonds we forged, the ones that I hope will last a lifetime.

The people I love will be all over the world, in fact, they already are. Some of my best friends are currently in the U.S., in Venezuela, Germany, Australia, the U.K., Chile, Finland, Norway, Kenya… honestly, you name the country, chances are I’ll know someone either from there or currently living there. Some of them I don’t see every year or even every other year. Some I haven’t seen in years, some I might not see until our 10-year-reunion. And yet, I don’t think it’ll matter too much. We have Skype, Facebook, Whatsapp, heck, even Pinterest to share those things that made us think of each other. The fact that we have Internet means we’re never really very far away from each other (except those moments when you really want to give the other person a hug).

So what’s next?

For me, it’s a six-month internship starting in August, and then… dare I say it… I might make my next move after that dependent on my boyfriend… because a year and a half of long distance is really quite enough. So one of us will be moving. Holy shit. That’s how serious we’ve become. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s the most amazing thing that ever happened to me, but… sometimes I get really freaked out.

For Ari… well if you’ve been following, you know about San Francisco. If not, GO BACK AND READ, seriously. And she’ll keep you posted of course. We plan on continuing this blog not just as a means to stay in touch but I guess also to sort out our “post college confusions”  – credits for the quote to Tabi, thanks 😉

So stick around… we can only get more confused (and therefore entertaining) from here on out… real life is waiting. (Yay?)

“It’s not you, its me…”

…yeah, right!

First of all- This is a lie! If you tell me that my personality is not compatible with yours, then this relationship has failed because of how I was and of how I acted. If you say that you cant be happy in my presence, then is that not because of who I am? At the very least, it’s us, how WE were as a couple, the things WE did or didn’t do. So don’t give me this bullshit pitty. 

Secondly- this line is usually the introduction of a more than unpleasant conversation/monologue/proposal that would end in a “Let’s just stay friends!”… I got enough friends, thank you! I don’t need a friend, I need a boyfriend. Actually, I don’t even necessarily need that, I was at the stage where I would have wanted a significant other in my life but I am not dependent on one! BURN! 

Thirdly- Is the question really whether its you or me? Isn’t it rather “WHY”?! Why did you not want to believe me when I told you that we were too different?  Why did you have to shake the few solid pillars that would help me through break-ups? Why did you promise me heaven on earth, promised to change, to make things better, to please please please give you a second chance despite how little I trust in those? Why did you tell me to just be myself, because thats who you love, only to dump me a few weeks later for that exact reason? Why was I not enough to make you stop searching for more, to make you have the ideal romantic relationship you have always imagined? Oh, right, I forgot…its not me, its him….

He left and, of course, the skies opened up like in a dramatic movie scene and it was hailing with thunder and lightening and I sat in my room feeling small and lonely and flat-out stupid. I had seen it coming, I had seen it coming from miles away. And still, I had decided to ignore my gut feelings and plan roadtrips through the US and potential apartment sharing, had consoled myself with the thought that, while going to SF meant leaving my friends behind and leave my comfort zones, I at least wouldn’t do this journey alone. But now I have to accept the fact that I WILL go alone and I WILL leave my friends and family behind and I WILL jump into the unknown and I WILL spend Christmas alone and I WILL have to deal with homesickness on my own.

Break-Up Timeline:

Day I: 

He left. Cry and stare at your ceiling feeling completely empty. Have short rushes of anger during which you consider  burning the clothes he left behind and dipping the toothbrush he forgot into the toilet. Involve roommate/friend/sibling into such conspiracies. Have roommate tell you what a daft prick he is and how much better you are off without him. Decide to change your hair style. Go back to being a whining piece of shit.

Day II: 

Move into your bed. Only stick out your head if friends or roommates come in to check on you. And to feed you chocolate. Lot’s of chocolate. Self-pitty you. Eat chocolate. Spend a short second thinking about how you should go running to get rid of the calor…nevermind, it’s an inevitable truth that you need chocolate right now. Watch lots of TV shows and chick-flicks to cry some more. Take a shot if you have alcohol nearby. Don’t answer phone calls, especially not if its your mom. Acknowledge that its sunny outside and start crying because not even that goddamn weather is on your side. Look up break-up songs that will confirm your opinion of him being stupid for having dumped you. Watch Sex and the City. Eat an entire Ben and Jerry’s on your own. With a brownie. Feel sick but satisfied.

Day III: 

Your room feels too small, you need to get out. Also, you realize you cant push reality off forever. Silver linings appear. Sun is shining and you actually dont want to shoot it from the sky. You do feel like going running though. You start thinking more optimistic about life. Not about love though. Love sucks and everybody who is in love sucks and everybody who mentions the word love sucks. You make youe change in relationship status visible on Facebook because you are sick of the “You ok?” “You look tired…or did you cry?” “How was the week with your boyfriend?” comments. Change in status results into random people hitting on you and friendly people being sad with you. You tear up but are determined not to show that. Is there some Ben and Jerry’s left?

So, as I was sitting with my  good o’ friend B&J, making it through the last Sex& The City season, I gained new hope. Yes, I am on my own and that’s scary. Yes, I have lost trust in my judgements. Yes, I am doubting myself and my compatibility with guys. But just as I’m scraping the last bits of my ice-cream from the bottom of the container, I am also scraping the pieces of my self-confidence together. I know I dont have to be fine yet but I want to be. Life is too short and by me sitting in my room pitying myself I am not making my life any better. I might be weird and random and crazy and sometimes quite a package but there is one thing I have always been proud of:

I AM AN OPTIMIST!

And while going to SF on my own is scary as hell, it is also gonna enable a completely fresh start, a new exciting beginning. Who knows what I could become? Maybe I’m a surfer girl? Or a party girl? Or a nerd? Or the career woman? I dont know but now I have the opportunity to find out without having someone to hold me back. I cant promise I will not cry over him anymore but I am done being isolated and miserable, its just not me, I tend to not cry over things I cant change anyways. We are young, we can fail and get over it. And while my heart, my pride and my trust are broken, I am determined not to have this hold me back.

Life, here I come. Once again. BOOM!…I’ll keep you posted on whether that optimistic attitude will last even when the sugar rush will have faded tomorrow….

encouraging

Pride and Prejudice…

“So this is your opinion of me. Thank you for explaining so fully. Perhaps these offences might have been overlooked had not your pride been hurt by my honesty… “
” My pride?” 
“…in admitting scruples about our relationship. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your circumstances?” 
“And those are the words of a gentleman. From the first moment I met you, your arrogance and conceit, your selfish disdain for the feelings of others made me realize that you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry”- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1813

I don’t know if any of you have read that book or watched one of the countless movie versions? Personally, I have always believed that this story might be quite cute and adorable and Austen-style revolutionary for her time but so full of cliché-cheesiness that I never actually believed in that kind of stuff. But over the last few weeks the long-hoped-for “up” followed the down-period that I was facing a little while ago.

Life on campus is always fast-paced. Things come with a big BAM and before you know what you are dealing with, it’s gone again. Lately, I was reminded of that again. It took me five days to encounter my very own, personal Pride-and-Prejudice-story. Not only did I get into a situation that I had never dreamed of getting myself into but also did I learn that first judgements are very barely accurate. I dare say that I am a person who is farely good in understanding people fast BUT, and I know I gotta work on that, I also know that once I get a very negative impression of someone I am not bothered trying to discover other sides. Simply because there are so many other people around me that I like from the start, so why would I waste valuable resources trying to tickle some potentially nice sides out of someone ? Well. Sometimes, you should do exactly that. I’m sure you all have had encounters with people that, when you first meet them, completely intimidate you. In Germany, public universities are perfectly sufficient for good education and only the very rich kids are willing to pay extra for a little “(priv)” behind the university’s name. The only reason that I will have one of those is thanks to a mix of luck and maybe a bit of talent. However, since we have this situation in Germany, you associate a certain sort of people with private universities. Equipped with confidence, money and all the latest Apple products, this species of college student works its way up the carrier letter and usually also gets what it wants. It is top-down, arrogant, smart and surrounded by its equals. Hence, its not a group I would ever count myself to….But maybe I was judging to fast? Maybe there is more to people than their first appearance, however stereotypical it might be?  Even if you are sure that this person belongs to a certain category, does this mean that he or she fulfills all characteristics of this category? No, it does not, as I have learned.

Some time ago, I wrote about insecurity. Insecurity in terms of self-doubts regarding academics, looks and social status. I ignore when people compliment me and decide to focus on all the things I still “need” to improve. And this could get me into a loop where, at some point, I will stop believing in myself completely and thus lose every bit of confidence, which then will make people doubt me in return and so on and so forth. I thought that if my family had a bit more money, I wouldn’t have to pressure myself so much fighting for good grades and good scholarships. I thought that if I would lose weight, people would like me more. But what I realized is that self-doubts are not at all bound to a certain category of people, everyone has them. Even the most confident person on earth can hide something underneath a mask of arrogance. Maybe that person next to you in class, who is solving the Rubik’s cube within a minute to show off, could actually become your soulmate, best friend, someone who walks next to you for a part of your life?

We can never be certain what life has to offer us or where it will take us. Situations we would have never thought possible can actually happen and sometimes its exciting to just let go of this crazy urge to want to control everything. Spontaneous decisions can be the ones that lead to the most fun results. And ideally, the result is that you are happy. How you got there and for which reasons, often plays not a very important role anymore. I am happy, thats all I want to say I think. And how I got there is a story I would have never imagined to be true. Let’s just say that I got “austenized”.

Yes, I still miss New York like crazy but I stopped looking into grad schools there, I just can’t afford it. I will do my masters degree in Europe and then…good question. I still look at the pictures from my summer almost every day, sometimes with a happy reminiscing smile and sometimes with tears running down my cheeks because I miss the city so much.  Yes, I am super busy with my studies and my job and some of my friends face their own, personal issues and are occupied with that. Yes, there is a big question mark to life after graduation and I have no idea where I will be in a year from now and, almost more important, with whom I will be there. Maybe with Jessi.Or Judith. Or maybe with someone who is currently walking next to me through this part of my life and whom I would love to include into the next chapter. Or maybe I will go alone, who knows? As a matter of fact, it seems like several big decision are to be made soonish and usually I would freak out about this. However, I succeed in remaining quite calm because my life changed a little. This change came with a big BAM into my life and gives me a lot of confidence into myself, into the world, into the thought that everything will work out if its supposed to. I know, quite cheesy but also really comforting. I can be on my own…but its really nice to have someone be with you…

On this, potentially rather confusing, note:

Cheers guys!