Dear Douglas,

I’m 29 and I’ve been dating a guy for the past four months whose contract is up in July, when he will move back to Canada, where he is from.


We have agreed to keep the relationship focused on the present. I am actually surprised at how much I like him and how good it feels to have a boyfriend after two-and-a-half years of being single. I thought it has been going well until Valentine’s Day. I made him a special dinner, gave him a small gift and wrote him a card which shared my feelings for him. He, on the other hand, didn’t do a thing. Then, as a response to my disappointment, he told me that it was destined to be a temporary relationship and that I shouldn’t get too attached. I felt like I couldn’t explain myself and it got so awkward I asked him to leave. My feelings are hurt and my head is spinning. I like this guy, but somehow I expected something different. I am so confused. What should I do now?


— Mazzy (not my real name)


Dear Mazzy,


I suspect if you asked 10 people what you should do, you would get several different answers. No one can answer that question for you. I feel like your situation and question are quite relevant for many people who live abroad or date someone who is from another place and plan to stay for a while. When people know that there is an end date to the time they will be somewhere it creates a different dynamic in the way that they create relationships. Without foreseeing an endpoint, a person is likely to assume that finding a partner to be a good match, with emotional connection and compatibility, will have implications on their future together.


Relationships tend to develop towards (or away from) a continued desire to be together. Knowledge and understanding, trust and connection, mutuality and shared decision-making are part of what determines how we are relating to one another. The time people have together helps them to answer a number of good questions. Are we a good match? Do I continue to desire this relationship? Is our relationship sustainable? For many people this is an underlying assumption and helps them determine how open and trusting they can be.


So what is the process when we enter a relationship that we believe will be ‘for now’ and have no sustainable future? One way is to become involved in the same way that one would as if the relationship won’t end — using denial for as long as possible — and then be willing to deal with the emotional pain of losing someone you have become close to. Another way is to restrict the ways in which one allows oneself to feel close, or to open up to another. It is an agreement to care, but not too much. It is predicated on the assumption that we can control the way we feel and can manage emotional connection, and possibly intimacy. ‘For now’ has its upside. It allows us to keep living in the present and experiencing life as we live it. But, the danger is that ‘for now’ can become a way to think and function and we lose a deeper sense of who we are and how to have what we want.


The choice is yours. Good luck!


— Douglas


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Douglas Holwerda

Douglas is an American trained psychotherapist, writer of the Dear Abby-esque monthly column in the Word, "Dear Douglas". He holds to the notion that the living of life is a creative endeavour... an eternal adventure without promises. And that we are both shaped by the journey and the shapers of what is possible. Our greatest hope is to find love and connection along the way. Live it all.

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