Should You Begin a Relationship That Has an Expiration Date?

Geplaatst op 24-04-2024

Categorie: Lifestyle

Young Americans are more mobile than ever before – many go far away from home to attend school, pursue career advancement, or even just to try living in a new place. With the average age of marriage over 27 for women and increasing, dating as a 20-something has become a complex minefield of challenges around timing and location. It’s no longer enough to meet someone you click with – you have to meet someone whose life trajectory is compatible as well. Often promising relationships come with an expiration date.+


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Jenny hopes to move across the country to attend film school in the fall of 2015.

Julie will be matched to a medical residency in March, which could send her to any of her top 30 choices.

Anna works in the Boston office of a large bank, but her firm’s revenues have been flagging, and she suspects she’ll be asked to relocate to NY soon.

Nicole is a third-year law student in Berkeley, CA. If all goes well, she’ll do a clerkship in Miami for a year after graduation.

Each of these women has wondered whether they should sit out the next year and avoid dating because they faced a built-in expiration date. For most 20-somethings, it’s a familiar dilemma – college students face similar challenges during junior year when many study abroad, and again as they prepare to separate at graduation. But by the time women reach their mid-20s, the stakes feel higher. How long can they really afford to delay finding a life partner? And do they really want to?

Say Yes to the Mess

As a somewhat impulsive person, I’ve lived my life with a “what the hell” attitude and taken risks that were far from a sure thing. I like change, I’m open to new experiences, and I’m strong. In middle age, I want to claim that all the big chances paid off well – but perhaps I’ve conveniently forgotten the failures over the years. In any case, I say err on the side of Yes! Or at least Why Not?

The Best and Worst Case Scenarios

What is the worst thing than can happen if you get involved with someone during the months or year before you leave? Clearly, the worst case is that you fall mutually head over heels in love, feel certain that you’ve found “the one,” and have to separate.

OK, now what’s the best case scenario? You fall mutually head over heels in love, feel certain that you’ve found “the one,” and have to separate.

All the middling scenarios include the usual false starts, misunderstandings, incompatibilities, douchebaggery, and getting dumped. In other words, things just don’t work out. Been there.

So the question is this: Is falling HOH for someone when you have to separate at some future point better than sitting at home in your room?

Life Holds No Guarantees

Don’t make a false comparison. If you did not have to move away at some future date, your relationship could still end tragically and suddenly in any number of ways. We understand rationally that our loved one may get hit by a bus tomorrow, yet we don’t hesitate to jump in because the odds sound reasonable. Until we draw the short straw.

Conversely, most of us count couples among our acquaintances who made it against all odds. They adjusted their life trajectories to stay together. I got together with my husband precisely one year before we graduated with our MBAs. We made the decision to only look for jobs in the same city. Choosing NY made the search a bit easier, but not easy. We both turned down phenomenal offers that would have separated us and took jobs that initially paid less.

One of my favorite young couples has stayed together despite going to college in distant cities and working in separate cities for two years after that. Now they’re 27 and close to marriage.

Julie, the medical student, opted for “couples matching.” This means she and her boyfriend will be sent to the best program both of them get into. Because she’s a stronger student than he is, she’s likely to wind up in Little Rock or Birmingham rather than a world-class hospital. It’s a trade she’s making happily because she’s in love. (Though she’s hoping for the best.)

The Top 5 Reasons It’s Worth Getting Involved Now Even If You Break Up Later

  1. You’ll have a much better year.

Dating is hell, and one of the things people love best about getting into a relationship is going off the market. For a year, you have a partner in crime, a source of support, a person to love, a built-in Plus One. That beats the single life every time.

  1. You’ll develop relationship skills. 

Learning to compromise, empathize, and put someone else’s well being front and center takes practice. Going from “I’m #1″ to “I’d do anything for him” is a huge adjustment. You’ll learn what you have to offer a partner, and what you need in return. There’s no substitute for a real relationship. Even if it doesn’t last forever, it helps shape you as a future partner for someone else.

  1. You’ll have new experiences.

Being introduced to someone else’s family, friends and interests is a wonderful time of discovery and learning. You get to see the world through someone else’s eyes.  You get to make memories you could never make alone. You grow as a person.

  1. Your breakup will be amicable.

If it happens, and you decide to end your relationship when one of you moves, you’ll be prepared. You may mourn the loss, but it won’t feel like someone has thrown your heart on the ground and stomped on it. Because you’re aware of the expiration date, you can agree to keep things light or not, but either way the mourning period should be brief.

  1. Never say never.

In addition to the couples who manage to do the long-distance thing and stay together, there are many couples who find their way back together in time. Circumstances separate them, but they continue to cherish the relationship and reach out years later.

I like to think of the “relationship with expiration date” not as a dead end, or a door slamming shut, but as a door deliberately left open.

Always be open to love if you can.

What do you think? Have you faced this dilemma? How did it work out?