I announced earlier this week that I would be starting up a Friday advice column, which I am cleverly calling Ask Alex. I have been on the receiving end of a couple of questions, and I look forward to more coming in.
So please submit your queries by emailing me at alexsteed [at] gmail [dot] com. In case you are cautiously interested, I will be keeping the identities of those in search of answers quiet in the column.
Snarky B-Word asks:
I met a guy at a wedding last summer. He was friends with the groom, I was friends with the bride. In a very romantic string of events (and by that I mean, upon pounding several forms of alcohol into our faces) I convinced him to accompany me back to my hotel. We had a great time. Vaguely stayed in touch. He wrote a wordless song that had my namesake. I sent him indie song selections. And then I invited him to another wedding. This time he knew no one, but came and was a champ and we had a fabulous time together and my usually shutdown friends loved him and he loved them. After that we exchanged casual messages and I wound up back in the northeast for a weekend (oh, did i not mention we were separated by 1000 miles?) and ended up going to see his band play, where I met his whole family and proceeded to log yet another wonderful night playing games with his roommates and interacting like the most functional couply unit I’ve been involved in in my 30ish years. Here’s where our lovely fairy tale goes awry: I am a poor graduate student. He is a house painter/artist/musician. Is there any realistic way that we can maintain this story of ours short of writing a shitty screenplay that gets picked up to be a low budget room? Or are we doomed? Is this just totally f’ed. I mean we have only met 3 times and are totally different… mostly I am a snarky bitch and he is extraordinarily nice and sincere.
I should first note that I am extraordinarily happy for you regarding your whimsical situation. Worrying about impending doom is troubling in its way, but it also indicates that you are involved in something so beautiful that the idea of it leaving your life terrifies you.
Sometimes, so long as you can preserve your sanity and long-term sustainability, it is worth it to just say eff it and give things that feel good a try. Some of the best experiences I have had have come from a starting point of eff it. Some of the best travels, love, jobs, and sex all started with eff it, and this is especially important to consider for 20-something readers. It is one thing, for example, to go off the grid and spend a month of misadventure at some rural compound with a girl you just met and adore because now is now, and why not learn and experience a thing or two? It is another thing altogether to put priorities, goals, sanity, health, and the future out of your head to prolong an investment in something that will derail your life in order to keep chasing a dying dream.
So in your asking this question, it would appear that you are nearing the end of the eff it phase. Does progression to Phase Two make sense?
A solid starting point would be to determine what your priorities, values and goals are. What do you need and want, and does this relationship fit into making those things happen? Are you someone who aspires to be in a long term relationship? Will forging this thing help to make your life better than it complicates it? Will it get in the way of your professional growth, or will it make it easier? Are you two sexually compatible, and can you imagine growing together in this way? Can you stomach the compromises that are inevitable? Most importantly, are you able to love yourself, warts and all, and is this one of the things he finds most attractive about you? Will your relationship with him make your relationship with yourself better? Stronger? If he checks out on all of these points, Phase Two is likely worth entering. And on the money tip, if there is anything that we have learned from the past 5 years, it is that capitalism kind of sucks right now and money is fleeting and can go away at any time. It is just as easy to marry a rich man as it is a poor man, sure, but if the rich man loses his money, will he still have what it takes to compliment your existence on a more fundamental level?
And consider that some love—particularly love that doesn’t fit into every other thing that makes us whole—is better experienced in smaller, temporary doses, and its impact on our life is no less important because of its brevity. If it doesn’t work out because you are coming up short on the checklist, then there might be some short-term pain, and that is always scary and hard, but it is better in the long-term. It is, after all, better to have love and lost…
To be fair, I will not pretend as though rational decision-making and love easily go hand in hand. I have been in relationships for years beyond their expiration dates because my internal rationality modulator was clouded by my nostalgia for the love that once existed. That said, the very best relationships I have ever had—romantic and otherwise—were with people who passed the aforementioned compatibility test. I will make every reasonable sacrifice in the world, and even some unreasonable ones, for those who compliment my own relationship with myself, with my own progress, with my own professional development, with my own sexuality, with my own passion. I make little or no time for anybody else.
If this guy seems like he checks out on all of those levels, make it happen. Figure out how to make it work, as difficult as the long distance thing can be. Try it out, navigate those difficulties, and determine whether or not they are worth it. In the end, though, so long as you are working to ensure that you both are complimenting your respective existences more than you are complicating them, go on and give the Post-Eff-It Phase the ol’ college try.