I had the opportunity to spend two months living in and exploring a foreign city and I was really excited. There was just teeny one problem: I had a long-term boyfriend and he didn’t want to come. People thought I was crazy for leaving him behind for so long, but it was absolutely the right decision.
I’ve always wanted to live abroad. I’ve dreamed of living in another country since college. I always pictured myself wearing a day-dress and soaking up the sun in some beautiful part of the world. It hardly mattered where—I just wanted to be somewhere different where I could soak up the culture and experience new things. Why wouldn’t I pursue this dream when I got the chance?
My boyfriend doesn’t like to travel and it’s the one thing we don’t have in common. I met “The One” right after college and we started dating pretty much immediately. I won’t gush, but I’ve stayed with him for almost seven years and it’s safe to say he’s pretty darn perfect (at least for me). However, he doesn’t like to travel. We might be compatible in every other way, but my guy just wants to stay in his hometown. That was always a BIG problem for me.
I secretly resented him for his lack of curiosity about the world. I’ll admit I felt angry. I was mad that I’d found the right man for me and it held me back (or so I thought). I knew I couldn’t make him move abroad—that would be unreasonable—but staying in the same place for him seemed equally dumb. I’d wake up at home, feeling annoyed at him because he was keeping me there.
Turns out, I didn’t have to stay put just because he wanted to. It happened by accident. We were out walking in the countryside and I was in a mood. I’d had that feeling again—the one that told me I needed to move away and I was not thrilled about the idea of not being able to. I was in the middle of having a mega tantrum and about to start an argument with him when he said the words I never thought I’d hear. “If you want to live abroad, why don’t you try it for a couple of months?”
I love how chill he was about it. I was dumbstruck. All this time, I’d assumed that wasn’t even an option. I’d bought into the BS notion that being in a relationship meant never leaving his side and that even thinking about it was a betrayal of some kind. The fact that my boyfriend was 100% chill about the idea was surprising. I’d prejudged him and I was wrong. He just wanted me to be happy.
People acted like I was being selfish for leaving. “I thought you’d be getting married soon, not moving away from each other,” my mom said to me. As if her words weren’t explicit enough, her tone rang of disapproval—and she wasn’t the only one. When I told people I was planning on spending just two months away, they acted like I’d lost my mind. They questioned whether I was neglecting my relationship and even made me second-guess my decision.
I needed space to clear my head. It was hard to ignore their words, but I did it all the same. I knew that no one understood my relationship like I did. This wasn’t me running away from my girlfriend duties, this was me doing something I wanted to do for myself. I shouldn’t have to be ashamed of that. I needed space and some time alone and that’s OK. Period.
It was harder than I’d expected. I won’t lie: spending two months in a strange city is hard. Hell, it was scary AF for the first couple of weeks. I felt alone, I didn’t know anyone, and I had, if anything, too much time on my hands. It was all so new, but that was a good thing. I needed a challenge. I needed to have to fight again and prove that I could do it.
I soon found my feet and really flourished. As soon as I started to meet new people and make friends (which was easier than I’d imagined), it all fell into place. This was what I needed: a break not just from my relationship but from my life and from the people around me. I needed to meet new people, see new things, and see that I could be just the person I was no matter where in the world I happened to be. It worked and it was really refreshing.
Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. It’s a cliche for a reason. While I was away, I missed my boyfriend, not in a yearning, “I can’t live without you” way—I’m not a romantic—but the small, everyday things like seeing him in the morning, eating meals together, and having someone to talk to at night. These are the things that make up a relationship and make it special. Now, I’m ready to head back to my life, thankful for what I have and the man that’s by my side.
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