If you're currently in a relationship, you've probably been asked countless times, "so are you breaking up before you leave?" This question haunted me in the weeks before leaving. From my closest family members to coworkers I'd just met, everyone seemed to ask. However, my boyfriend and I have been together for over 4 years and I didn't really see my time abroad as a dealbreaker for our relationship. I hadn't even considered breaking up. In the days leading up to my departure and the weeks following my arrival, I heard everyone's questions like little voices in my head doubting whether it could work. I never intended to jeopardize or lose sight of my relationship. On the other hand, I also wasn't willing to let it hold me back from chasing other dreams.
Here we are, three months in and everything is great! He is visiting in a few weeks for the New Year and staying for the first part of January. I am not only excited but so proud of us for not letting fear get the best of our relationship. I am fully confident that if you want to stay together with your significant other throughout your year abroad it is completely doable.
Not many people are in a long-term relationship at the age of 22. Being in my early twenties, few people can relate to a half a decade long relationship. While abroad, there's a lot of pressure to be unique. I've met a lot of amazing, daring, and creative people. At this age, I think long-term relationships can have a reputation for being boring, static, and limiting. When it comes down to it, I know our relationship is none of these things. My boyfriend is my biggest supporter, shoulder to cry on, and best friend.
Last year over Christmas, I went to meet my closest group of friends from high school. We'd been friends since middle school and remained close throughout college. They were in different states and I was living at home so we only saw each other a few times a year. It came up in conversation that two of them were considering applying to teach abroad. Immediately, I knew it was something I would regret not doing.
I had always had teaching abroad in the back of my mind as something I would want to do but during the chaos of senior year, it never even occurred to me to research it. Although there were some logistics to work out, I left that night knowing I was going to apply.
My boyfriend picked me up that night and on the way home I told him about my plan. He was a little shocked but ultimately said that if it made me happy I should go for it. In the next few days, I applied.
In the months leading up, I tried not to think about it too much. We went to Hawaii over the summer to celebrate graduation and went about life as usual. Time flew by, and finally, we were sitting on our last date the night before I left. It was a heartbreaking goodbye. I don't believe that there is only one right choice to be made in life.
I only knew two things absolutely.
One, that I was going to move to Spain. Two, that I did not want to break up.
We didn't have a plan for what days or times we would talk. We didn't decide if we'd continue watching our favorite shows online. We didn't really plan anything. This is the opposite of most advice I've read on the internet. Many articles tell you to plan times to talk, write letters, and text daily.
To be honest, this advice is really time-consuming. Upon moving to Spain, I was extremely busy running around the city, meeting new people, figuring out the Metro, going to appointments, traveling, and learning Spanish. Likewise, my boyfriend is busy working part-time and attending his last semesters of school. We found that setting no concrete expectations has been the best way to handle this change. Obviously, we have boundaries for our relationship. However, we don't have any expectations for what the other person needs to bring to the relationship on a regular basis.
Because we spent nearly every day together before I left it, it does feel like our relationship is somewhat on hold. It's just an unfortunate truth of having less time together. However, our years of stability are what make it possible to bear the distance. We have built a foundation of trust, kindness, and communication. Although we don't have time to talk, I know nothing about the foundation of our relationship has changed. Therefore, the whole thing stays grounded. This summer, I am eager to get home and continue our life together. But, I know it will be hard to say goodbye to the life I made here in Madrid. Being in love with two lifestyles makes me feel incredibly grateful.
In the words of Winnie the Pooh, "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
At the end of the day, we're both in busy phases of life. Luckily we are also easy-going people. But more so, we both want the best for each other. Right now, what is best is to focus on excelling at the opportunities right in front of us. I know that what we are doing now will only make us stronger and better versions of ourselves in the future.