Monday, March 12, 2012

Expat Relationships: Is There Room For Romance?

Dear Readers,

As some of you may know, my romantic relationship of 2.5 years crashed and burned the night I got back from my six month consulting adventure in Nigeria. It’s taken me most of the get back on my feet emotionally...and it is probable that I’m still not quite all there (here?), yet.

Luckily, I have great friends and some gracious and understanding suitors. ;)

Now that I’m in the thick of preparing for my first foreign service officer gig (2 years in the DRC, for which I am studying French full time right now), it occurs to me that my career is hell on relationships. Further, it seems to encourage two types of relationships: marriage or undefined (and with a deadline that closely resembles your pack-out date).

For marriage, you need some time—for courtship, to run a background check on them (hey—we’re always being told by AFN that we’re being spied upon), a year to plan the wedding and another year to deal with all the new paperwork (not exactly romantic, I know). :)

Undefined relationships are not that easy, either, since these also involve aspects of the heart, their, and your feelings, etc. Also, deadlines are decidedly unromantic. It helps to communicate clearly, but most outside of your weird fso culture might not comprehend the acronym-ruled world you come from—more paperwork than adventure, more executing policy than saving the work, more isolation than exposure to exotic locales...

Of course, you might meet someone at post—and many do. However, it is tricky to date coworkers, trickier to date employees/ers, dating foreigners involves the above-mentioned background checks, potential conflicts of interest plus paperwork. PLUS they must want to give up their normal life, follow you around the world and love paper.

I’m not trying to be pessimistic, I’m just curious about how this works for the other unmarried expat-types? I’d love to hear your story!