I am at that sticky place that a lot of expats romances get to. I am from the US, she is from South Africa, and decision time is coming as to whether we are really meant to be together for the long haul or if this is just a Cambodia thing. We’ve been together three months and, well, I think she might be the one, but I would like another three months or so to really feel certain. But my work contract, which I am ambivalent about, ends next month, so I’m faced with renewing the contract for another year for the sake of what may be the love of my life, or maybe isn’t (she has no plans to leave the Kingdom). Meanwhile, there is a super cool job in Kabul that I’m on the shortlist for. If I get that job, should I take my dream job or my (potentially) dream girl?
I’m leaving – more on that later - but you should stay.
I don’t believe in the concept of soul mates, but I know that good and strong love is a very rare thing indeed. Think: what kind of love is this? Is it the fiery kind that grips your chest and shines back at you? The kind that makes you want to share and teach and cling and learn? Do you need this woman? Does she make you feel complete? Does she feel the same way about you? If this is what you have, stay. Jobs come and go more than this kind of love – I know. If you take the Kabul job, you’ll carry regret with you for the rest of your life. Even if you find new love later on, you’ll still wonder, “What if I stayed?” If you stay in Phnom Penh and things don’t work out with her, fine. You can rest easy knowing that you tried. You might not love your job now, but at least you can go out and distract yourself in Phnom Penh. In Kabul, you’ll be spending lonely nights, caged in lockdown, nursing your heartache with whisky.
That being said, you should talk to her. Don’t shut her out! Let her know what you’re weighing. The temperature and direction of her response might help you make your decision. And if it really is your dream to live in Kabul, ask her if she would ever consider going to a place like that. This might help you figure out if she is The One.
If you do stay, do it because your heart tells you to. Don’t be resentful. Don’t make your girlfriend feel like you’ve sacrificed something for her sake. Let her know what you’re giving up, but also make sure that she knows that what you’re holding on to is more important to you.
Try moving in together, then you’ll really know if this is meant to be. And, if after three more months, you feel like you’ve made a mistake, don’t be afraid of leaving. The three months you’ve had so far really aren’t enough to see her imperfections. After six, you’ll know who she really is, for better or for worse – I’m sure.
This will be my last column. It’s time for me to fly, to take my own advice, to go home to be with the one I love – someone who I left behind because blind career ambition got the better of me. It’s been a pleasure talking to all of you, and I hope that I’ve been able to provide some help.
After six months of writing, I can sum up relationship philosophy like this: communicate with, respect, and care for your partners. Be good to them, and don’t expect anything less in return. OK? I’m signing off, Phnom Penh. It’s certainly been a pleasure.