I’ll clarify immediately – just in case there was any confusion – that I mean “ending” in that I’ll finally be living with my American boyfriend and therefore ending the long-distance part rather than the ending of the whole relationship. This isn’t a bitter but freeing I’m-gonna-make-it-on-my-own break up post. Ok, cool. Glad we cleared that up. Moving on.
My boyfriend and I have done long distance for 2 and a half years out of 3 years together – it’s been a long time coming, for sure. I’ve been living in London (UK) while he was in Boston (USA), flitting back and forth and going on adventures elsewhere every 3 months or so. It’s been a tough run, and we’ve had highs and lows, which I go into in my post on the reality of long distance relationships.
And now, we’re moving to Canada together! Yay!
It’s taken as long as 2 and a half years for us to find a way of being together, and a lot of people have asked me when will we be together, what is our plan, which becomes really awkward to answer when it’s quite complicated. And especially when we think we have a plan, but it falls through.
We both focused on finishing our last year at university before coming up with a plan. After we both graduated in the summer of 2013, we started thinking. First of all, we naively thought that maybe I could go to the US for the three months you’re allowed to stay there on the visa waiver programme and just find a job. Because who wouldn’t want to hire a girl right out of university with no experience? That plan honestly had no legs, so it was soon discarded.
I should also note that Alan had a job right out of university as an actuary, which pays for his exams for him to get fully qualified. The way the qualifications work mean that it would be a while before there was an equivalent that would allow him to work in the UK, and even longer before he could work in Australia. I had long wanted to move to a new country anyway, so I was happy to move elsewhere – although of course I wanted the same, equal enthusiasm from either side to be willing to move. As long as we were both willing to do whatever it took, I was happy.
When I got my job at an international company with many offices around Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, I thought I could hit gold. In my first few months I witnessed other colleagues move to Sydney, Vancouver, Texas and more. This is it, I thought. This is my ticket in. I looked up what the rules were, and the document claimed you had to be there for at least a year before you qualified for a transfer. Of course, I asked my manager exactly a year after I joined, and because he’s the best boss in the world, he was really supportive and went to find out more.
Over this time, Alan and I had been thinking where we could move. We thought New York would have the jobs for us, but we had so loved San Francisco when we visited and dreamed about the lifestyle we could have there: surfing, good weather, trips elsewhere in California – I became infatuated with Lake Tahoe, and I occupied my wannabe surfer mind with consistent practice along the coast and becoming actually fairly decent. The grittiness and street vibe of New York City also caught my heart as a city girl through and through as well, though. So what to do?
Well… we needn’t have worried. We soon came to realise with a thud back down to Earth that choosing between two of the State’s major cities was a luxury we didn’t have: my work came back to me and said I would need to be an extremely high level in the company to justify the visa, as it was really difficult in the US and they’d have to prove why I was the best person for the job. To transfer at all, I’d also have to be promoted – I had only been there a year, and there were a few others who came before me who I knew they’d promote before me.
It was back to square one. After this blow, we were pretty devastated and it gave us a bit of a knock. We sulked, we argued, we felt exhausted. But we never gave up. So, soon after we thought “hey – Canada!”. Alan’s work had an office in Toronto, and he changes his role every 2 years, so he would ask about it.
I thought – foolishly, because apparently I never learn – that if the US was too strict, possibly my work would be able to transfer me to Canada once I got a promotion about a year down the line. Canadians are notoriously friendly, right? They’d let me in! I had also done my research and found that working holiday visas to Canada are a possibility – so surely the visa shouldn’t be an issue this time?
So when I went to speak to HR and they told me the same thing as what they said about the US. I said, “But there’s a working holiday visa – what if I can get that and you help me with the job?” But they said no. “We have to justify there’s no Canadian better suited to the role”. Hmm, right. “Oh, and you should probably only consider transferring at all once you’re in a promoted role for a few years”.
This was the last straw for me. I was not waiting another few years before me and Alan could be in the same country. Alan had a few difficulties and set backs where his company said they might be clamping down on transfers to Canada, so we spent a solid few months in limbo, not knowing what was going to happen. We discussed the possibilities open to us.
- Quitting our jobs and moving to Canada anyway – the thing about this is that surprisingly, it’s a lot easier for someone from the UK to get a working holiday visa than an American. Most Americans can only move to Canada if they have a job waiting for them. There is a “working holiday” sort of thing, but it seems very obscure from what I’ve read of it
- Travelling – this was sort of my view: fuck it, let’s just go travelling for ages! But of course, in the long term this wasn’t the most responsible idea! We’d still have the problem once we got back
- Marriage – this is the big one people have asked me about. And this warrants more than a bullet point to explain…
“Why are you so against getting married? That’s the easiest way, isn’t it?”. Yes. I know a few British-American couples who have gone down the marriage path, and I have nothing but respect and happiness for them. I honestly love that they’ve not let anything stand in their way and done what they wanted and can be together. But what’s right for some people isn’t right for others.
Alan and I discussed it and neither of us felt ready to get married. We just personally felt – and I guess have always felt in our ideas of relationships – that we would want to live with each other first. I also think being a bit of a romantic myself is partly a reason too: I want my wedding to be something I can put a fair bit of thought and money into, and I want an amazing honeymoon. I know that sounds spoilt, but I would much, much rather spend the time and money I have now on building my career and budget travel.
Another thing is my stubbornness. Because I don’t feel ready to get married, I don’t want to feel pressured to do so by the American government. I want to do it on my own time, and feel that marriage as a way to get into a country is outdated. Why can’t it just be a partner, and then you prove your relationship to whichever government you’re applying to? Australia does this – my sister didn’t have to be married to her now-husband (but boyfriend only back then) in order to piggy back on his visa. I don’t judge people who do get married to enter a country, because sometimes there’s no other way, or marriage is the preferred choice; it’s more a criticism of governments and moving along with more liberal times when it’s accepted that people don’t necessarily want to get married.
The be-all and end-all is this: I love my boyfriend very, very much, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to get married or want to at this time in my life. I have nothing against people who want to get married earlier – it’s just not my preference for my own life. We all want different things and that’s ok!
We probably would have had to consider marriage more seriously if we hadn’t have found another way – but we had our idea of Canada in the works and we wanted to exhaust every other way before we tried marriage.
After months of waiting, it all came rolling in at once… Alan was told he could transfer to Canada and I applied for the Canadian working visa, which this year had been extended to 2 years straight-off; exactly the time Alan would have in Canada within his role. Was this seriously working out? It seemed impossible, but we were giddy. Well and truly giddy.
Things got confirmed bit by bit, we told our families (a very sad moment!) and started planning our move. Funnily enough, the very day I told my boss I was leaving, he did everything in his power to contact the Toronto office in hope they could help me out in some way as we both knew HR in the UK wouldn’t do anything (as I mentioned, he is the best boss in the world, after all). Some back and forth later and I have a job waiting for me when I get over there, covering someone’s maternity leave for a year in the same role I’ve been doing for the last year and a half in England.
I think anyone who’s had a long distance relationship will know it’s a rollercoaster. Me and the boy have had some incredible times – our whole experience has been travelling together, having intensely happy periods of time together, but of course that’s come with emotional goodbyes and moments we felt so apart we found it hard to see how we could carry on. And all with the constant cloud of how we’re going to make this work in the long run.
To anyone going through this, I feel you. I really do. It’s something I honestly feel nobody can 100% understand unless they’ve been through it. Just hang in there if you both love each other and desperately want to make it work. And you can always holler on email if you need anyone to moan to.
So this is going to be a fun, weird experience to actually live together; to live a domestic life, actually plan trips face to face and comfort each other properly after a shitty day at work. I’m already looking forward to IKEA visits, arguing over bedside tables and forcing my interior design ideas on Alan. And I can’t deny that the thought of a pet doesn’t excite me greatly.