It’s been very difficult being apart now that he’s had to return to work 1300 miles away. We’ve talked about my moving up there, but, seeing as neither of us has been in a long-distance relationship before, we are both worried about moving too fast. I can honestly say this man is the kind of man I’ve always dreamed of being with. He is respectful, motivated, caring, and has an amazing sense of humor. My question is: how should we pace ourselves in this relationship? When would be the right time to move in together, and eventually, possibly even get engaged? It’s difficult being separated from someone I feel so instantly connected with, but I don’t want to move too fast before either of us is “ready.” — Afraid to Move Too Fast
You know, I really believe that you just “know” when you’ve found the right match. Sometimes that knowing takes a while, and sometimes that knowing comes immediately. Maybe you fall into the latter category. Maybe for you, this isn’t so much about figuring out whether this man is a good match for you, but whether his life and lifestyle is a good match for you. Actually, I think that’s often what it comes down to. Finding a person we click with really well is often the pretty easy part (or easier part, anyway). Finding someone we click with really well whose dreams align with ours and who is living in a way that is appealing to us both in the short-term and long-term (or who can adapt to our way of living) is more of a challenge.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume you have met someone who is a perfect match for you. What you don’t know yet is whether his lifestyle is a good fit for you. As far as a timeline goes, I would not recommend getting engaged until you know for sure your lives and future goals fit together, but beyond that there is no too fast or too slow. I mean, what happens if you move “too fast”? Maybe you break up? You’d only break up if you discover you aren’t quite a fit and that’s going to happen whether you move fast or move slow. So… why not just figure it out sooner rather than later?
I’ve written extensively about long distance relationships, and specifically, how to know when you’re ready to move for love and what you need to do before you move for love. Check out those posts and if you believe you’re ready to give a move to your boyfriend a shot, I say go for it. Just make sure you have an exit plan — leave breadcrumbs to find your way home.
Once you have moved to your boyfriend (either into his home or into a home of your own for a while), I would spend a lot of time getting to know the ins and outs of military family life. Talk to military spouses and find out what their lives are like. Consider that your boyfriend will likely be deployed several times over the course of his career. If you marry him and have children with him, there could be long stretches of time when you are alone with the kids, essentially living like a single parent. As much as you really like this guy and could see yourself spending your life with him, the military lifestyle may not be a fit for you. Beyond figuring out whether your boyfriend is a good longterm fit — whether your future dreams and goals align and whether you could be good domestic partners — you need to figure out whether you are cut out for the life of a military spouse.
Those are questions you aren’t likely going to find the answer to until you test out living with/near your boyfriend. To that end, I say just do it. Why wait? If everything is a great fit, then you’ll know sooner rather than later and can get on with it already. And if it’s not a great fit, you’ll know sooner rather than later and can move on already.
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fast eddie December 16, 2014, 9:22 am
It all boils down to risk, career wise can you get work in your field up there? Can you easily move back if things don’t work out? The list goes on and on with questions that you need to ask yourself. If possible could you go for an extended visit before making a permanent change?
Kate December 16, 2014, 9:32 am
It doesn’t sound from your letter like there are major obstacles to you moving to where he is. What I wonder, though, is would you have to move in WITH him, into his military-sponsored housing (I strongly recommend against that), or could you get your own apartment and job and just date him for a while? That seems like a decent option to me, if you don’t have to give up anything major to make it happen.
I do agree with Wendy about how you “just know” when you click with that person that’s perfect for you… but I also think it’s possible to get a false positive on that reading in a situation like yours. You’ve spent SO little time together. And of course you’re going to have an f’ing blast when you get together every few months. I was seeing this guy for a while years ago who lived an 8-hour drive away, in another country. And we’d get together pretty regularly and it would always be an amazing time. We just genuinely had so much fun together. And he was a successful business guy, owned a house, had a great family, all that stuff that looks good on paper. Turned out he was also an incorrigible sketchy cheater, but it took me a while to figure that out. And even before that, I went to see him once and stayed a week, working from his house while he went to work during the day. And I didn’t like it at all. It was so not the same as when we’d get together for weekends and do fun stuff. I was lonely, he’d come home late, it kind of sucked.
Finally, this concerns me a little bit: ” I can honestly say this man is the kind of man I’ve always dreamed of being with. He is respectful, motivated, caring, and has an amazing sense of humor.” All of that sounds like it could be that sort of “good on paper” stuff I’ve mentioned. What I don’t hear you say is how he treats you better than any other guy you’ve dated, he totally gets you, he anticipates your needs, he knows your issues and your triggers, he can deal with you when you’re at your worst, you want the same things in life, etc. You shouldn’t take the step of moving in together until you can say those things and be sure of them.
Lyra December 16, 2014, 1:10 pm
I agree with your last paragraph especially. I can think of so many guys who fit that description. I definitely can describe Navy Guy as “caring, respectful, motivated guy who has a sense of humor”, but that really just scratches the surface. In my opinion I don’t know if the LW knows him well enough to determine if she should uproot and move to where he is at.
LW, a couple questions: would you be ok if this doesn’t work out? Would you be ok having spent all the money to move the distance to be with him but then you break up? Is there any attraction for you to live in his area if he wasn’t part of the picture? I ask all this because moving is SUCH a hassle and is incredibly expensive. And of course it COULD work out, I’m not trying to imply that it won’t, but it’s a huge risk.
FireStar December 16, 2014, 10:11 am
All love comes with some level of risk. If you take this risk and move to be near him – think about the fall out if it didn’t work out. Could you move back with relative ease? Could you find employment? If you are comfortable with the worse case scenario then I say GO FOR IT. Life is short. You don’t have any children that you need to prioritize over acting impulsively for love (and don’t get pregnant with any either until you both have been together for some time and both want to start a family). Some great love stories start with a leap of faith. You may fall – sure. Or you may soar. Best of luck to you both!
Lyra December 16, 2014, 10:20 am
As someone who is dating a military guy (veteran, is in the reserves), I am a big supporter of military relationships. BUT I also want to caution you, in the military there are a TON of relationships where it is on the fast track due to an impending deployment or a move to a different state and engagement/marriage happen too soon. There are plenty of military divorces because of that…people are on the fast track because they are madly in love and then a few years later they realize that they didn’t think it all the way through and they aren’t a good match
It doesn’t sound like you’ve spent all that much time with him, so of course the time you’ve spent has been wonderful and he seems really great and awesome. You’ve only had a few weeks and a few dates with him. Yes you originally met in college, but that was a while ago and I guarantee he has changed (as have you) in the few short years since then. I wouldn’t move just yet, I would spend time getting to know him better — phone and Skype and Facetime and all that good stuff — all while maintaining a long distance relationship. Plan visits to see each other, buy plane tickets when they’re on sale, and get to know him while visiting him in his town before you decide to make a move.
As Wendy said, being a military spouse is not for the faint of heart. To put it lightly, it’s hard. My boyfriend and I have had discussions of him going back on active duty, and because I KNOW that isn’t something I could handle, I told him that wasn’t something where I would follow him. It wasn’t me trying to make his decision for him, it was me being open and honest with him about my own needs. His mom was a Navy wife until his dad retired, and his dad missed 2 of his 3 son’s births because of being deployed. Not to mention at times his mom was raising the 3 boys by herself because of deployments.
So in a nutshell, give it time. It sounds like you’re still pretty young. Spend some time dating from afar first, and make a decision if this is something you are absolutely serious about. I agree with you that you may be moving too fast — mentioning potential engagement/marriage when you’ve only had a few official dates is definitely rushing it.
Kate December 16, 2014, 10:48 am
I was married to a guy in active duty military, and I agree that in that culture it is very common to rush engagements and marriages and babies. And very common to find out you made a mistake. And then you’re stuck thousands of miles from home and what do you do?
Lyra December 16, 2014, 12:19 pm
mylaray December 16, 2014, 11:04 am
I think it’s true that sometimes you just know (although it’s often said in hindsight). But I really think having dating experience under your belt helps you know and figure that out more easily. Sometimes you’re just gonna go for it and not listen to silly rules. You can still be sensible along the way, but love and life don’t align perfectly with rules. My husband and I moved somewhat quickly (though not nearly as quick as this situation). We got engaged and lived together for 5 months before we were married. Once we decided on engagement, we moved fast because we knew what we wanted. Since we didn’t want to live together before, I didn’t see the point in waiting any longer. Life is all about taking risks, and it’s about knowing yourself and being confident enough to take a jump in certain situations. Staying in the same place will just keep you safe.
Lyra December 16, 2014, 1:02 pm
I definitely agree with what you said about relationship experience. That’s one reason why I mentioned above not to rush into moving just yet. The LW sounds fairly young — not that people who are young can’t have good relationships, but in many cases people who are young rush into things quickly and don’t give it enough time.
mylaray December 16, 2014, 1:20 pm
Yeah, it reminds me of one of my close friends who wants to move down to my state (which would be great). But she wants to move for a guy in the military and she doesn’t really like that lifestyle of uprooting all the time. And she’s a teacher so that’s not always easy to move. She’s in her late 20s but has never really dated, just a handful of dates here and there. She’s so infatuated with him and it makes me nervous for her.
Lyra December 16, 2014, 1:48 pm
Yikes. That doesn’t sound like a good idea for your friend to move, ESPECIALLY if she doesn’t want the military lifestyle. That is a recipe for disaster.
sobriquet December 16, 2014, 11:17 am
“I really believe that you just “know” when you’ve found the right match. Sometimes that knowing takes a while, and sometimes that knowing comes immediately.” This! Sometimes you just know that you’ve found a good partner. Although you should never rush into anything you’re not comfortable with, forcing yourself to take things too slowly can have the same effect. My relationship naturally moved very quickly (professed love after 2 weeks, moved in after 5 months, engaged right before our 1st anniversary), but it all felt “right.” I spent too long waiting for the other shoe to drop instead of just embracing that I had FINALLY found the kind of love that everyone had been talking about!
I say, make the move, take your birth control religiously and plan to go through all 4 seasons together before taking the engagement plunge. I think it will be easier for you to think objectively about whether or not the military lifestyle will work for you without an engagement ring clouding your mind. One step at a time. Good luck!
Addie Pray December 16, 2014, 12:08 pm
Don’t you sometimes (or often) read Wendy’s advice and it’s so appropriate for something going in your life that you’re certain Wendy’s posts are actually cryptic personal messages to YOU?! Me too. So thanks, Wendy! ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE, GIVE LOVE A CHANCE, JUMP IN WITH BOTH FEET, PEDAL TO THE METAL, THROW CAUTION TO THE WIND! Also, carpe diem, because pourquoi pas. What else am I missing?)
booknerd December 16, 2014, 3:25 pm
I say go for it! What is there to lose if you can afford it, have a back up plan and really want to? Nothing! You know each other well, already. Go for a visit to make sure. Do it!
When my partner moved away ( before we were together) , I had a job lining up in the same city. Life just wasn’t the same without him. I visited him two or three times while interviewing and getting to know the city a little. I took a chance and went. If it works, it’s great and if it doesn’t you can always go home.
And at least you know you tried!
Skyblossom December 16, 2014, 3:53 pm
One thing you should consider is how long can he expect to remain where he is? How soon until he is transferred? If you can’t expect to spend at least one year where he is I wouldn’t move until he does. Then you can decide whether the new location works for you. What would you do if you joined him now and then he was transferred overseas? Military men spend time abroad, it’s part of their career but you wouldn’t be able to just move and get a job because you wouldn’t have the appropriate visa to work in the country he where he ended up. What if he ended up in Hawaii? Hawaii sounds fun but it is terribly expensive. Could you afford it?