Love in the Middle East

Finally Friday. And for the record, I don't think "playing in the park" is a euphemism.

Dear Meredith,

First, I've been a reader of your blog for more than a year now. Ironically, I started reading only after I left Boston and encountered some relationship trouble (a little more on this later), but I have used to keep up to date on the happenings in my hometown.

In January I met a wonderful and beautiful woman. She was a friend of a friend who had moved here on an exchange program from Israel. When we first met we seemed to hit it off immediately. It wasn't long until I found a reason to see her again, and even though we spent that whole night talking alone in the corner of a party, she sent some mixed signals (I tried to move a bit closer to her, and she told me to "get away" because she needed space). I then entered a busy part of my life, and didn't see her for a few months.

In March, two-and-a-half months after our initial meeting, we again ran into each other at a gathering of friends. We again spent most of the night talking, and she again sent mixed signals. During our conversation, she told me how she wasn't really happy here, and that instead of leaving in September as planned, she would be heading back to Israel in three weeks. At the end of the night I found an excuse to walk her home, and feeling like I had nothing to lose, I kissed her as we passed through a park on the way to her house. She reciprocated, and we spent many more hours talking and playing in the park until it was time for breakfast the next day.

I figured that we would just enjoy each other's company for three weeks, and then life would return to normal. We spent as much time together as much as possible over the next few weeks. We learned that we shared the same views on politics, philosophy, art, culture, and family. I had never felt so connected to someone, and had never been able to be so honest and forthright with a romantic partner. It had only been three weeks, but this was the first time I felt balance between me and the other in a relationship. It is safe to say I fell in love with her very quickly, something that I do not normally do.
Now to the problem: She has been home in Israel for a little over a month now and things are anything but normal. We both miss each other deeply and feel that our connection was unique, but we are both really cautious about drawing conclusions based on only three weeks of experience with each other. We have Skype dates frequently, and it is the highlight of my day when I can talk with her. Neither one of us wanted a long distance relationship. Personally I've tried long distance twice, and each time I sacrificed greatly to be with the other person, only to have the relationship end with the other person cheating.

To put our current situation into a wider context, I am 26 years old and a graduate student. I have five more years at my current location, with no option to move elsewhere during that period. She is 24 and an undergraduate in art school in her final year of study. She has duel citizenship, and could move here afterward should she want to. She has no definite plans after she graduates; she well may want another degree (possibly from outside Israel) but that decision might be far away.

So what can we do? We've talked, and we both feel a bit stuck. It seems crazy to think that we can maintain a relationship from a distance after only three weeks of togetherness. Neither one of us wants anything exclusive from this distance and don't think this is an option. At the same time, it seems crazy to be talking so frequently and not admit that there are deep feelings between us. One of us would be hurt if the other moved on. Yet, how can a relationship like this, even if it moves toward friendship, develop when we never see each other? Are we setting ourselves up for heartbreak?
I hope you can help!

– Wrong Side of the Pond

WSOTP, I'd wait until about two months before she graduates and decide whether you still have the hots for each other. If you do, ask her to move. Why not?

Yes, moving to a country she didn't like the first time around would be a risk, and it would certainly put a great deal of pressure on you, but I don't see any other way this could work. She's at the exact right age to take a big leap with questionable consequences. If she's not up for joining you and getting a degree in the US, well, there's your answer. No mixed signals there.

Until then, Skype your brains out if you want to. And maybe book a nice trip to visit the Middle East over a break. (Expensive, but what's a little more debt on top of student loans?)

You're asking me for a solution but it's too early to give you one. Just do what comes naturally -- calling or not calling, dating others or staying true to your Skype relationship -- until a real decision can be made. This is love in the time of grad school. It's annoying. It's transient. But it is what it is. You just have to wait it out.

Readers? Any reason the letter writer is telling us about those initial mixed signals? Is it worth keeping in touch when they're stuck in different places? Thoughts on love after three weeks? Is it easier to fall when you know there's a way out?

– Meredith