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Dear Miss Information,
Last summer, I had a summer internship 1,500 miles away from home. While there, I fell very hard for one of my coworkers. He's handsome, incredibly intelligent, and hilarious; honestly, he's everything I ever wanted in a man. We had a lovely summer romance, but with the distance involved, things seemed to have a pretty obvious expiration date. Unfortunately, my feelings didn't. I've tried everything — keeping busy, having flings with other guys — and nothing has worked.
I never got over him, but I at least managed to put things at the back of my mind. We kept in touch after I went home, but I always thought he had moved on and was over me. However, recent drunken (and then sober) phone calls have proved otherwise. Now that I know he still has feelings for me and would love to see me, I'm right back to square one emotionally. I'm falling apart — a song from last summer is enough to bring tears to my eyes. He's heading off to medical school this fall (200 miles closer to me!), but it's not like either of us have the budget to see each other terribly often.
But, I do have the money currently to go visit him once. With the cost of med school, he doesn't have the extra cash lying around to reciprocate. So what should I do? Throw caution to the wind, go see him, be insanely happy for a week, and face the emotional Armageddon when I come back? Or just keep muddling along like I have for the past year, and keep my fingers crossed that I magically get over Prince Charming?
— Long Distance Dilemma
Dear Long-Distance Dilemma,
The screenwriting term "Plant and Payoff" refers to a type of foreshadowing in a movie, where you plant a detail at the beginning, only to have it "pay off" later. (A really good example: in Titanic, when Jack says "Good thing our love is unsinkable," before staring at the camera for ten seconds. Oh, you don't remember that? Weird.)
I firmly believe some relationships are Plant and Payoffs. It's definitely possible to meet someone great at the wrong time, then evolve independently into the kind of people who would be great together.
Am I saying you are clearly soulmates and please send me an invitation to the wedding, it's the least you can do? Nah. But I am saying that most of us get nervous when we can't easily define a relationship, even though freaking out detracts from the relationship itself. If you can't define it, you can't define it. The question is, can you enjoy the gray area?
It also bears noting that "payoff" is not necessarily "happy ever after." In ten years, you may make love on a doomed ocean-liner. Just as likely, it will fizzle and you'll say hi when you see each other at the grocery store. My point is, maybe you can't be together now, but that doesn't mean this is your only shot.
If you're okay with the crippling uncertainty, I say go visit him. Nurture your plant-and-payoff. If you'd rather try to move on and think visiting would be too hard, that's fine too. Either way, the details of your relationship are going to be in flux. You and he will have to fumble until things naturally settle — and they will, whether or not you fret over them.
Want to meet someone to have a regular-distance relationship with? Meet them on Nerve.