Some guys are into asians, or tattoos, or girls who do the weird stuff. I’ve recently found myself searching out partners based on finite proximity. I was specifically targeting people who will not be in Chicago for the long-term. I’m not sure exactly why, but I got really enamored with the idea of dates who had a distinct finish line for their time with me. There are a number of good reasons to get involved with someone who’s going to be an isolated romantic incident.
Why Have a Short-Term Relationship
- Paradigm Shift
I’m not going to say it lowers your standards. But you could certainly change your standards with the temporary nature of the engagement. You don’t need to look at every aspect of their character and consider the long term effects. Don’t obscure your ability to build a meaningful connection by worrying about what might happen when your parents finally meet them. If you normally don’t date asians, or people with tattoos, or people into the weird stuff; just give it a chance. Try romance that’s not polluted with all of your expectations. You might even learn to overcome one of your longstanding dealbreakers if you have a limited engagement to desensitize you. It’s a fine opportunity to step out of your comfort zone with a prearranged escape back into it.
- Raw NRE
While there are certainly occasional exceptions to this, a relationship will generally never be as exciting as in the first month or so of its inception. Those feelings of exploring new emotions and affections stir you right up!
Relationships can be a lot like eating muffins: the beginning is usually the best part.
Sure, the stump of the muffin is still cake, which is fine and delicious. But the stump will never be as sticky-sweet and nut-glazed as the top. A short-term romance is like going to a bakery that only sells the top part of the muffin.
- Imported Goods
One of the easiest ways to have a limited engagement is with someone who’s from out of town. Maybe they’re visiting for a grad program, internship, or spring break. While you don’t want to outsource too much of your labor, you could certainly gain some insights from taking in foreign engineering. Exclusively dating domestically deprives you of the knowledge of the vast spectrum of flavors and persuasions that’s in a global market.
- Rebounding Safeguards
I’m recovering from a pretty hard breakup.
You’ve probably seen somebody in the wake of a breakup making some very poor decisions about their romantic life. Hell, you may have even done it. I know I have.
When you’re fresh from a loss of the heart, you’re exceptionally prone to mistakes. It’s like being emotionally drunk. A good way to subvert any misplaced decisions is to have a limited engagement. Just like having a designated driver is good when you’re physically drunk, having a designated breakup is good when you’re emotionally drunk.
- Blank Slate
Even in a town as big as Chicago where you could conceivably see one hundred different people for the first and last time everyday…it can still feel like your reputation precedes you.
In that respect, it’s hard to be the person you want to be when you feel bound to the weight of the person you think you are. When you go out with somebody and your lives are mutually alien to each other, it can be very liberating. You don’t need to wonder if they heard any stories about who you were in high school, if they’d ever met an ex of yours who’d given them bad reviews, you don’t need to wonder if they’ve already slept with a member of your social circles…or family.
In that, you can really try something new. Maybe you’re not the dancing type. Maybe you just don’t do karaoke. Maybe you would never get drinks at that bar…
When you’re with someone who doesn’t know you, you don’t have to be you for a spell. You get to be social in a raw, unprocessed state of self. And you get to be with someone who’s feeling the same.
That being said, there are some items you should be ready for:
Troubleshooting Your Limited Engagement
- Be Satisfied
There’s a chance you could spend every second with your summer love until they get on the plane/megabus/spaceship back home; and it still wouldn’t be enough. The same is true of relationships with no designated conclusion. If it feels like you’re not getting to spend enough time with them, good. That means you’ve found something really special you want to experience as much as possible.
While it’s good to let that drive you to do things like give them a ride home at four AM, it can be very negative to let those feelings of desire bring you down. You will have plenty of time to be sad after it’s over.
- Avoid Falling
It’s easy to rush a relationship when you’re strapped for time. You may end up sleeping together after your first
drinkdate. You may also find the L word ready to launch from the tip of your tongue dramatically sooner than it has before or ever should.
- Manifest the Destiny
Hopefully, everyone knows the terms of the engagement before they sign up. You’re mixing a drama cocktail when leaving things out. Make sure that dates know the duration, the limits, and the aftermath. While it may feel like killing somebody’s dreams to be realistic, consider it doing them a favor.
When your successful short-term romance comes to an end, there will also be some de-briefing. Just like the terms of the relationship need to be discussed before it begins, the terms of the non-relationship should also be discussed. Will there be a future? If so, under what circumstances? Are they conceivable? Realistic? Worthwhile?
- The Vacation Fling
You could become each others regular vacation partner. I had a partner I met at an anime convention who lived 400 miles away and had a very strong primary relationship. She called me her ‘vacation boyfriend’. Once every few months, she would come visit and take in her favorite local food, local music, and the her favorite local sexual deviant.
- The Friend Zone
As long as everyone was honest and open about the terms of the engagement beforehand, a transition back to platonic friendship could happen with little or no turbulence. If, say, a relationship was only going to last until the spouse returned from service overseas, but a really excellent connection was built during this time; then the friendship could certainly be worth the loss of booty.
- The Pilgrimmage
There could be a realization of desire for a more permanent move that started with the vacation. While the summer lover could ease the move, I strongly recommend against moving in-with your vacation fling. Moving in with a vacation fling until the transplant finds their own space (or worse yet, indefinitely) is fertile ground for growing the shit-show tree. There are already dangers that exist when moving in with a partner who already has an established life in your hometown. A transplant will not have the friends or family to fall back on if the cohabitation goes poorly.
- Going the Distance
Sometimes, feelings are strong enough that you can stretch them across states or even oceans. I defer to the Dan Savage opinion on long distance relationships, though. I also believe there are too many pitfalls for even a successful long distance relationship to last more than a year or two.
- The Civil Conclusion
Not intimate enough to be in the friendzone, not uninterested enough to end things completely. Still send each others silly-ass pictures of cats on each others’ Facebook sometimes. Sending a Valentine on February 14th wouldn’t even be totally unwelcome. The two of you might even hook back up in the future if the appropriate circumstances align.
- The Ghost
Disappear from each others’ lives. You could never speak again and pretend like nothing happened. This can also work.
This has just been my recent experience with it. If anybody else has other views on short-term relationships, please post them in the comments!
What are some other good reasons to start them? What are some bad ones? What are some potential problems that we’ve encountered? Have you ever had a STR (short term relationship)? What worked about it? What didn’t? How did it end?