This is a guest post by Emma Frances. Like us, Emma met her partner while traveling. In this piece, she shares that while a holiday romance can be a magical whirlwind, it can also be a great litmus test to see if you’ve met the right partner for a lasting relationship.
When you’re travelling, a lot of things can seem exciting which might ordinarily be mundane. Crowded markets and unpredictable bus schedules are transformed from a nuisance into an adventure.
When served up in a new context, the things which annoy us back home become an exciting part of the travel experience. Combine these ‘travel goggles’ with the already rocky ground of choosing a partner, and it’s no wonder you can be swept away by the novelty of a holiday romance.
It can feel impossible to know whether you’ve actually met the right person.
There can be beauty in brevity.
I don’t mean to disparage the value of short-term connection. But what if the time comes to leave and every part of you is screaming that this could be something more?
How do you know if you should let your feelings dissolve with the sunset, or rage against the dying of the light?
What do I know about relationships on the road?
You might be wondering who I am to be dispensing such advice. Frankly, so am I.
Clearly every person and relationship is different. I’ve had my fair share of traveller’s heartbreak but I also met my partner on the road and I think I have a pretty clear idea of how this relationship is different to the ones that were never meant to last.
I met my partner on a working holiday in Japan. I am from England and he is from Australia so our home countries couldn’t be further apart. We wanted to be sensible about the whole thing and understood that it didn’t make sense for the relationship to continue after he had to return to Australia.
So I continued travelling around Japan solo. We barely spoke all year but those pesky feelings didn’t go away. So once the year was over, I hopped on a plane and entered the Southern Hemisphere for the first but definitely not the last time in my life.
I would be living in Romania for the following year, so logistically there was going to be a lot of work and distance between us. But if you have met the right person, then finding a way to make it work is a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things.
So, how do you know if you’ve met the right person?
If you really want to know if you have met the right person, then leave. Go somewhere else for a month or two.
Your body has been flooded with hormones. It’s no wonder you can’t make logical decisions right now!
Play it by ear but I recommend minimal contact. If it was just a fling, it might be painful for a week or two but your feelings will soon evaporate. If a good chunk of time passes and your feelings haven’t changed, then that’s a good indication that you want something more long term. Now let them know!
If you already made life plans before you met your partner, follow through on them. I am notoriously spontaneous and often jump into new situations with little thought of the consequences. That can lead to some wonderful experiences, but it can also be a disaster.
If you’re making a big decision like moving to another country to be with your partner, make sure you give it time to make sure that’s what both of you really want. It’s easy to get carried away and you could find yourself in a bad situation a long way from the people who know and love you.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Telling someone you’ve just met that you want to spend the rest of your life with them might feel genuine in the moment, but it’s simply not realistic. It’s not fair to fill someone’s head with dreams that are just that; only dreams.
A few months later you may feel differently and it isn’t fair to get someone’s hopes up and then abandon them when you realise that you can’t follow through.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up hope. Make your feelings known. If you don’t ask, then you’ll never know!
You’re both willing to compromise
A relationship should be about compromise, not sacrifice. If one partner always has to buy the plane ticket/change their plans/give up on their dreams then the relationship is one-sided and the other person’s needs are not being met.
Be mindful that you are not always the victim – if you keep on asking your partner to make sacrifices on your behalf, but aren’t willing to compromise on any of your desires, then it’s time to reassess your motives.
In a loving relationship, you will work together to overcome obstacles, and compromise will be necessary on both sides.
You’ve told your family/friends about the relationship
I understand that some people have a difficult relationship with their family. This may apply more to friendships for some of you.
But if you’ve booked a flight to Thailand next week with your new love and haven’t told the people closest to you because you fear they won’t take it seriously, it might be because you aren’t taking it seriously either.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you are serious about the relationship you will probably want to share its existence with your nearest and dearest.
You should also be mindful of your safety. It’s important to keep loved ones in the loop because, despite your feelings, a new lover is essentially a total stranger.
Even if you’re not in any physical danger, you could be in a bad place emotionally without any friends around to check in on your well-being. Introducing your partner to your family or friends, even if it’s via Skype, is a great idea. It’s easy to become isolated and lose yourself and good friends will pick up on bad vibes that you may have been choosing to ignore.
Meeting friends and relatives can be nerve-wracking even for an outgoing person, but your partner should recognise why this is important. An outright refusal to engage with your wider social circle is a major red flag.
You’re willing to let them go
This might sound counter-intuitive but in a truly loving relationship, both partners want the best for each other.
Remember, you don’t own anyone. Trying to force a relationship can kill it, and might taint your memories of the good times you shared together.
Love can be real and still not last forever. If either partner’s happiness would be better served by them continuing their journey alone, then you must be prepared to let them go.
It’s normal to feel attached to your partner, but you can’t derive happiness only from each other. True contentment comes from within. Your relationship should be the icing on the cake.
You have realistic expectations
Don’t idealize your partner. When you spend a lot of time apart, it’s easy to see only the parts of a person that you want to see.
There is no such thing as a perfect person or a perfect relationship. There will always be parts of each other that you do not like all of the time. It only becomes a problem if you try to pretend that this isn’t the case.
Being in a long distance relationship can become a way to maintain emotional distance. Do you really want this person to be a large part of your life or is the distance a convenient means of keeping them at arm’s length?
It is entirely possible to be emotionally present in each other’s lives across long distances and different time zones.
But you need to make time for each other. You might be living separate lives temporarily but if you’re too busy to answer the phone or respond to a message then your partner won’t feel as if their presence is valued.
Keep each other informed about what is going on in your life. Mundane details about your day can help you to feel connected to what is happening with your partner even when they are far away.
When you are finally in the same place, it could be tempting to move in together straight away. Take time to get to know each other first within this new context. Going from living on opposite sides of the world/country to seeing each other every single day could be overwhelming. Saving money on rent should never be a primary reason for living together.
You can talk about anything
I believe honesty is always the best policy, but if you are spending time apart then it becomes especially important. Misunderstandings can occur easily when you are not communicating face to face.
Address any issues as they arise and talk it through with your partner. No topic should be off limits. Don’t allow your fears and frustrations to build up and jump to conclusions based on incomplete or imagined evidence.
In general, try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt. If you can’t trust each other then your relationship is built on very weak foundations and it may be that you haven’t met the right person.
When you are living apart or planning a drastic move to be with your partner, you might need to have some big conversations earlier than you normally would in a relationship. If you’re taking a big step like moving to another country, then it’s important to know that you’re both on the same page.
I’m not saying you need to pick out baby names but if your partner has always wanted two boys and a girl and a litter of Alaskan Malamutes running around the house, but you can’t stand kids or animals, that might be something you want to find out before you uproot your life to be with them.
You help each other grow
Is your relationship greater than the sum of its parts? If you have met the right person then you will work with each other as a team to become the best versions of yourselves.
You will delight in each other’s successes and commiserate in their failures. You will help your partner to develop their weak points and they will do the same for you.
If you are both better people since knowing each other, then you know you have met the right person.
You both want the relationship to work out
I think that intent is something which is often overlooked regarding the success of a relationship.
The romantic notion that love is based on some kind of magical bond that exists through space and time and can endure any hardship can be very damaging.
It minimizes the emphasis on the amount of effort that goes into maintaining a healthy relationship.
Yes, it’s important to feel a strong spark with your partner. But relationships require a lot of work.
If you are both prepared to put in the effort and are rooting for a positive outcome, then your relationship is more likely to stand the test of time than that of someone who romantically believes that love conquers all and you are just destined to be together.
You share a sense of humour
Relationships are hard. Cross-cultural or long distance relationships are even harder.
But if when times are hard, you are still able to make each other laugh, you have a better chance of making it through adversity in one piece. There aren’t many situations that can’t be resolved with a big dollop of compassion and a good sense of humour.
As you get older, you realise the truth in all of the cliches. And while there certainly is truth in the saying, ‘When you know, you just know,’ I would like to suggest an updated version:
When you think you know, give it 12 months. If after a year, you still know, then you’re probably right.
About the Author: Emma Frances is a travelling artist, musician and writer. Originally from the UK, she has called many places home. From China to Japan, Romania to Australia; each place has its own stories to tell. A graduate of Dartington College of Arts; she is currently furthering her studies in Chinese Mandarin. She loves swimming in the ocean, attending poetry open mic nights and generally doing things that frighten her. She writes about her adventures on her website: https://emmafrances.co.uk