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‘Should I try to rekindle my holiday romance?’

Ask Roe: We never discussed doing long distance. I’m haunted I never brought it up

Dear Roe,

I met a man while living abroad last year. The first date left me on cloud nine, but also upset knowing that I would have to leave soon and would have to abandon this immediate connection. By a stroke of luck, I got to stay in the country longer, so we were able to date seriously. Still, we both knew I would be leaving eventually and even though we shared how fulfilling we both felt the relationship was, we never discussed doing long distance. I'm haunted that I never brought it up; to think what could have been.

Is there anything productive in reaching out to him and sharing these feelings, even though it probably won’t make any difference now? I want to tell him how I felt, but is there any point? I don’t know if there’s ever a chance we’d be in the same country again, but I would be willing to make the move.

I’ve written before about how much respect is due to people who commit to long-distance relationships; they require bravery and commitment and work – three things that are deeply underrated when it comes to love. So, were you writing as you were leaving your beloved’s home country and asking should you two try to pursue a long-distance relationship, I would have been in favour.


Except you didn’t ask then. Nor are you asking should you pursue a long-distance relationship now. You’re asking should you reach out to this man and see if you should move back to his country to be with him.

That’s extreme. It’s a jump that’s skipping some vital intermediate steps and, reading your letter, I wonder if that’s a pattern for you – not focusing on the present and logical next step, but jumping ahead and living in the fantasy of the possible, and hypothetical.

Entering a relationship that has a natural expiration date has a way of keeping romances in a state of heightened intensity and emotional safety

For example, first dates are great – they’re exciting and fun and affirming – but first dates should also be relatively low stakes. If, after one date, you already believed that this man was a more exciting prospect than the life you were returning to, and it was thus tragic that you would have to leave him, you may have been projecting more onto him than one meeting could justify.

It may not be a coincidence that neither of you discussed doing long distance. Not that it necessarily indicates a lack of interest, but it does indicate a lack of open communication and investment in seriously, realistically considering a future together.

People can be interested in each other but avoid talking about commitment for myriad reasons: scared of coming on too strong; insecure about how the other person feels about us; intimidated by the potential change to our lives; or we’re just scared of reality.

Entering a relationship that has a natural expiration date – such as your planned departure – has a way of keeping romances in a state of heightened intensity and emotional safety. With an ending ever approaching, you can embrace each moment with wide-eyed appreciation, all the while knowing you won’t be around long enough to get hurt, or to be vulnerable, or to have to deal with the mundane realities of long-term relationships, including disappointment.

That’s why it’s easier to live with the hypothetical, the potential, the regrets, the fantasy of The One Who Got Away. In your imaginations and your projections, your romances will always be epic, perfect, transformative.

By never even discussing long distance when you were together (and it could have led to something real), but fixating on it now when you don’t even seem to be in touch with this man, you’re keeping this dynamic going – the dynamic of committing to fantasy, not reality.

You’re in love with potential, but are you in love with people when they’re right in front of you, offering you something real?

Ask him how he is, how he feels about you and, importantly, why he thinks neither of you ever broached trying long distance. His answer will be revealing

I don’t say this to diminish what you had, but so you can examine your own motivations and what would be best for you moving forwards. If you really miss this man and would like to pursue something real and long term, then by all means reach out to him, but keep your eye on the next step, instead of jumping a mile ahead.

Ask him how he is, how he feels about you and, importantly, why he thinks neither of you ever broached trying long distance. His answer will be revealing. If he still seems interested, you can talk about whether you’d like to keep in touch, and maybe plan a visit. Then, stop. No more jumping ahead into fantasy. See how he’s feeling, see how being back in touch goes, see how a visit goes. See how the present feels. If it feels like love, if it feels real, if it feels right, that’s wonderful.

But it’s also wonderful if you look back on this relationship and realise that it was perfect as it was; that even in its limited timeframe it allowed you to grow as a person and gave you a newfound sense of excitement and openness towards love. That it showed you how rewarding real connections can be, and inspired you to seek out another right where you are, one that has less obstacles and less need for fantasy; one that meets you where you are, and relishes the beauty of reality.