The Travel Romance is just one part of the 7 Worst Guys an Expat Can Date. I have been avoiding writing this section for the better part of 3 years because the first one really and truly shook me to my core. While I’ve moved on, I still haven’t quite recovered. I’ve realized, however, that there’s a difference between a Travel Romance and Travel Love. Travel Love has potential. It makes you want to work for, nay, fight for something intangible. It sweeps you off your feet and keeps you dangling – waiting for the other shoe (er – you, in this case) to be dropped.
This one shouldn’t be avoided altogether, but you must know upon entry that your risk of heartbreak is about 90%. Meeting in vacation mode gives you the opportunity to live without the stress of work and other responsibilities at home. You are at your peak around one another. You’re consumed by the bliss of being in a new place with exciting adventures at every turn. Give in to the Travel Love, just don’t give away your heart completely. It will fly away to the other side of the planet to taunt you with ransom letters every time your time-zones allow you to connect.
Travel Romance, on the other hand, is fleeting. It’s a fling on the road never designed to be permanent. It has a mutually communicated date of expiration. Feelings might evolve, but you have perspective. It’s a paragraph; not a chapter.
I genuinely don’t understand the mating rituals of singles in Toronto. On vacation, with just a lingering gaze and a tentative wave, you’ve got the opening to conversation which could lead to a night of passion or following your newfound bliss across the country. Here in Canada, even at a designated “meet market”, all you’ll find are raggedy men glued to their phones or yelling about real estate.
My first Travel Romance after starting The Toronto Seoulcialitewas in Shanghai back in 2015. It was my first truly solo trip, and I was shaking in my boots waiting for take-off. When I approached the hostel (with a printed out map and walking instructions – no SIM card), I was tired and nervous and wasn’t sure if I should venture out or wait until daylight broke. As I walked to the lobby a voice called out; “We’ve been waiting for you!”
It turns out he was from California, was staying at my hostel, had spent the last 5 years learning Mandarin, and had had a series of seizures in Beijing. He wasn’t sure if his health was up to finishing his months-long trip and hadn’t made any plans for Shanghai. I, on the other hand, had planned my trip down to the minute. We met up the next day and ventured around the city. It was nice to have a flirty new friend with whom to wander. People assumed we were married, and we didn’t correct them.
The charade was all too pleasant. We walked all over for two days and the extent of our physical relationship was a bit of hand-holding and a tender kiss on my forehead. It was better than traveling solo. Better still than traveling with certain women. An intense flicker of chemistry with a well-established expiration. I was hooked.
After my little taste of Travel Romance I dove well into the deep-end with Adonis. After him, I thought I’d never fully let my heart go again. Then, I met an American (ex-Co-P) who confirmed it. I’ve never been as happy with anyone as I was when we were wandering through the dusty back roads of Phuket with a snaggle-tooth pup in tow. Since ex-Co-P, there’s been the Gentle Brummie in Seoul, the Tazzie with Trust Issues in Bali, Mr. Non-Monogamy in Toronto (who I met when home felt like a real trip), and the Dutchman in Hoi An. He cooked for me and I reworked his resume. We’re still talking, but that’s just for fun. That’s the key to a successful Travel Romance: make it all about fun in the moment.
The Lifer is someone who came to Korea (or any ESL abroad job, really) directly after University and found things were so good he never went home. Going beyond your comfort zone can be scary, and this guy is plenty content to not budge an inch. Why would he? He’s just like Matthew McConaughey in “Dazed and Confused”. He keeps getting older, and the revolving door of Koreans and Expat Women alike stay the same age!
Like the Eternal Expat, The Lifer doesn’t want to return home for fear he’ll just never have it as good. He’s perhaps a 6 at home, but a 10 abroad. Out every night of the week, he’s got a local girlfriend, but still crushes Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid on the regular. With expat dates across the city during the week, he’s got a locally-sourced meal every Sunday night.
These guys are amazing because they know the best of everything. The best places to find the jobs where you get paid the highest and work the fewest hours. Traditionally these are University jobs, but sometimes you score with a hagwon pulling a fast one. The Lifer knows all about sketchy hagwons and sketchy behaviour. The Lifer knows “the best” BBQ spots in the city, and calls the servers Hyung (Brother) and Emo (Auntie). He knows every single person at the bar, plays it off like he’s too cool to chat anyone up, and secretly swipes in the bathroom because social interactions which aren’t completely under his control are far too nerve wracking.
He’ll leave you eventually, but he’d never dare leave the Land of Morning Calm.
When it comes to Bumble Fails or Tinder Nightmares, the stories write themselves. My writing has become boring in Toronto, however. Life in Korea was interesting because it was foreign and everything was a challenge and new and exciting. The guys I dated were damaged. One was having massive internal crises about love. I wish I could have helped him, but he will have to learn to help himself. Others were with me because they wanted to be on the blog. Ex-co-p I’m looking at you and your wife who still creep my social media – literally LinkedIn today. Writing is a way for me to work through the weirdness I experience while navigating these relationships. I haven’t watched Bird Box yet, but if following the memes gives me any idea, deleting all apps and trying to navigate the Toronto dating scene blind seems to be the only way to avoid the monsters.
Deleting all Apps
Ladies and gentlemen, I went into 2019 sans swipe. My instagram storied lacked some serious mansplaining and offers of pantsless Netflix and chill. I only lasted about 16 days over-eating, working out, and over-sleeping without window-shopping for men. This is hardly the recipe to meet a mate, and I’m starting to realize why people get cats. Instead of a cat, however, I bought a ticket. Normally my travel talk would be limited to The Toronto Seoulcialite. I haven’t yet posted about Bali because how do you write the top 10 ways to eat, drink, and bang your way through Gili Trawangan?
Of course, I’m kidding. My Gili T romance was full of passion and drama, but there was only one apple of my eye. I am clearly unable to distinguish the b*tches from the beaches, but I do know when a deal is too good to pass up! Toronto, Canada to Cebu, Philippines for $575 round trip and tax-in was a great buy. I’m going at the beginning of April. The weather is supposed to be insanely good and without much rain. In March it will be a year since I left Korea. While there are some cute guys online/ on dating apps, in person they tend to look like moldy coleslaw. I find Hotness monsters on the beach, and I just signed myself up for 7 days of babe-watching.
In the 2 and a half weeks without any dating apps I did find I approached more men in the hopes of initiating an organic connection. It really worked the first time, however someone who I thought was a friend ended up f*cking him in the men’s bathroom of a popular downtown bar (and breaking the baby change table in the process). I met another since we had exchanged numbers before both deleting our dating apps. He indicated he was interested in seeing me again, but ultimately ghosted (because of course he did). Now? I re-installed tinder, but no other dating apps. I don’t open it very frequently. My dating life is actually improving, believe it or not. Tinder managed to bring me one special guy who is hitting all the points of communication I so desperately crave, and another who I’m not quite sure about, but who is ambitious as all get out. I think there’s something to be said for simplifying, and I’m not going to say no to putting a few more chucklehead tinder nightmares on blast in the process.
I’m not the girl I used to be. The manic pixie dream girl you fell in love with on a moonlit night en route through sandy streets to 7-11 exists somewhere, but she’s not here. The stressed out, overworked, manic, afraid of failure girl you loved because you had to isn’t here either. I’m back in Canada where there’s no mania whatsoever. Honestly – I feel as though I must be crazy for holding onto this, but my life is so well-balanced and normal that it can’t be. I’ve either become completely boring or am walking the long line of a plateau; on the precipice of something great.
I wake up and start my day with a light workout. I go to work and count my calories. After work sometimes I’ll go to boxing and sometimes I’ll make plans with a friend. Every two weeks I pay off my credit card and put money into a tax-free savings account. I’m now 31 and this is what you do here even though the notion that I’ll ever produce anything with my measly savings is one hell of a pipe dream. Occasionally I’ll go on a blind date because its next to impossible to meet someone organically. I’ll typically never see the person again and consider it time wasted on the search to find your replacement.
Have you ever tried to replace a love which has moved you so deeply that it changed the way you approach every element of your life? The kind of love that can shake you to your core with memories of its intensity? I have. I was pretty successful too for a 4-month stint because I found someone who was even more afraid of being on his own than I.
For most of my life I was a lone wolf. I was more concerned with getting ahead in my career than finding a partner. I dated, sure, but I had never felt like a piece of myself or my heart was missing until my trip to Thailand in 2016. I was free before I met him, and now i’m scared I’ll never feel free or love/ be loved the same way ever again. It was my 29th birthday and I met the puzzle piece I never knew I was missing at a hostel on the beach in Phuket. After a week together I grit my teeth and made my way back to Korea and feeling emotional pain unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my life.
When he made the leap of faith and moved to Korea to be with me, I didn’t know how to be thankful in a humble way. I didn’t know how to love him without smothering him and unintentionally pushing him away. It was such a foreign concept to me that someone like that could make such a sacrifice for me, that every day was worth celebrating. Colours were brighter. Food tasted better. Parties needed to last all night because why wouldn’t everyone want to rejoice in my newfound discovery?
It was exhausting for us both, eventually, and when he left I felt a pain even more excruciating than before. It stayed with me for another 4 months through which time I must have dyed my hair 10 times and blacked out even more.
Then at the beginning of MarchI met someone. He was still in a long-distance relationship at the time, but I had had no idea. We didn’t have that much in common, but he kept me on a schedule which improved my health and pulled me out of the darkness. He told me his mother always said he was a white knight to maidens in distress. I never imagined that my darkness would take me that low. Eventually I regained my footing and my strength. Of course that was a turn-off for him, and he sought another insecure woman. My replacement had replaced me. You told me you always thought he looked weird.
Looking back to that time in Thailand when we had just met, I remember something he said then reiterated the day he moved in with me in Korea and about a year after we broke up. He had told me about this theory that some people were built for one another. I laughed it off because he told it to me in far more graphic terms than I’m explaining here (more emphasis on the body than the soul 🍆), but feeling the need to repeat it one last time when we were both in replacement relationships something I still just can’t shake.
I often wonder: if so many of us are just replacing our missing puzzle pieces, has the other half of my heart just found a band-aid he can’t bear to rip? Are you putting a square peg in a round hole because you’re too scared to be lonely or too stubborn and afraid to admit you made a mistake?
Now that I’m back in Toronto I’m trying to assess the dating pool from the outside looking in. While I’m more focused onfinding a jobthan a date (current job ✓, new job August 20th ✓), my gal pals are on the prowl. I’ve returned from Korea to find I only have a handful of single male friends. It seems like I have more single female friends in my age-group than ever, and they are all experiencing the same problem. Is it that Toronto men are scared of commitment or scared of a confident, successful woman? Let’s take a look at some examples of my single pals and other gals dating in Toronto.
Dating in Toronto: Lisa
Lisa and I have known one another for over 10 years. She’s got a pretty dominant personality at first, but is pretty chilled out and easygoing when it comes to making plans. She finished her MBA a few years ago and has taken on a senior role at a start up. She’s passionate about her work, her dog, and her family. I haven’t seen my friend Lisa in 4 months. Why? Well, she’s been pretty heavily into the Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid scenes. For her, Dating in Toronto is a full-time job, too. She’s met a pretty attractive man who seems to take up a lot of her time, yet another commitment-phobe, plus she’s juggling a gazillion first dates. Seems like she’s collecting a variety of styles, throwing them at the wall, and just seeing what sticks. So far she hasn’t really gotten anywhere, and I haven’t really seen my friend!
Dating in Toronto: Abby
Abby is 25. She goes out every Friday to the exact same bar hoping to find a husband. I shit you not, this girl honestly thinks that the first guy who doesn’t back away when she smashes her face into his is going to make for a great provider for her 2.5 children, dog, and white picket fence in Thornhill. Abby joined ultimate frisbee because she thought it would be a great way for her to meet guys. She does it all for the ‘gram. She captions with the likes of “your vibe attracts your tribe” on a picture of a group of people who don’t actually know one another. With someone like Abby, you can’t share your interest in a particular member of the opposite sex. She will undermine any sort of connection you had by trotting over, tits out, making the game real easy for ya man over there. Why work an hour for $100 when someone’s dangling a $20 note in your face, right? She gets off on creating competition with her remaining female friends. She’s a juvenile, insecure, little girl who needs the validation of strange men more than the loyalty and support of gal pals. Don’t be an Abby, don’t take home an Abby, don’t befriend an Abby.
Dating in Toronto: Jessica
Jessica has a revolving door of men. She keeps 2 or 3 in play and has a whole bunch of guys on the bench. She climbed the corporate ladder quickly at the same company for the last 8 years. Recently, she bought a condo and furnished it exactly the way she wanted having lived in a shitty, run-down old building for most of her time in Toronto. Dating in Toronto changed a lot for Jessica when she made the move. All of a sudden the dudes who were freelancing and bartending on the side felt the need to get their shit together and move on up in the world. Jessica was finally showing the wealth she had accumulated, and these guys were not into it. The two men she’s currently dating have told her those three little words over and over again (“I love you”, for those of us who are jaded). Neither of them want to date exclusively. It’s sad, but when you’re dating in Toronto everyone is always on the look-out for something better. They could have their perfect man or woman doing naked back-flips in their front yard, but unless they put down the phone they’ll remain completely oblivious.
Dating in Toronto – Candidly Cartier
So what’s the secret to actually meeting someone in Canada’s largest city? I thought it would be easier than my experiences in Korea seeing as there are more native English speakers here and many of us grew up with similar cultural backgrounds. In reality, it’s far more difficult. Why is dating in Toronto so obnoxious? When I met Adonis, it was an instant connection. Our wifi signal was weak and I can honestly say, for me, it was love at first sight. I don’t think that feeling will ever go away, and even thousands of miles apart I still feel like we’re connected. With ex-Co-Pilot it was easy, too. I begrudgingly met him after a series of crappy first dates and it was a “right place, right time” situation. He was absolutely incapable of being alone, and I needed a band-aid. Now I’m in a situation where I have a great apartment, great job, and some great friends. I’m no longer working as a conventionally “female” gender role (as a teacher), and the intimidation factor is out of control when you’re dating in Toronto.
Dating in Toronto is Exhausting
I’m too tired to get dolled up and go out on Friday nights. I’d muuuuuch rather Netflix and Chill. Going out clothes sold here are either hoochie-mama bralets and booty shorts or totally binding triacetate-polyester blend urban professional attire. There is no in between, anymore. My feet hurt. Doing my hair and makeup, stuffing myself into spanx, then trying to get that dang zipper up by myself is exhausting – and for what? All you see at these meet markets are people trying to get the bartender’s attention or simply sitting in a corner and swiping all night.
Swipe for Your Life
Speaking of swiping, I’ve been out on my fair share of first and second dates having met through a dating app. My aforementioned friends and I get the same message each and every time we opt to keep our legs together for more then a couple of dates. “I think you’re looking to take things a little slower than me. I’m looking for something more casual.” Sir, I’ve met you twice. It’s entirely unfair to imagine that you know what I want. It’s cocky to think that you’re such a stud that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with you after seeing you in two different outfits. Also, it’s pretty pathetic that apparently I’m only good enough to be your booty-call. I was prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt after your horrendous first kiss because we had good banter. I’m starting to think that these morons just want their tinder date to turn up and bend over before agreeing to ever meet again.
A Girl’s Gotta Eat
These guys seem to think that I want the ring, the house, and the 2.5 kids immediately. It’s not that I want something serious, I just want something consistent. I’m starting a new job and have a pretty full schedule, but a girl’s gotta eat, right? Realistically, I’d like to have a companion with whom to do absolutely nothing on Friday nights, and maybe to go hiking with on Saturday mornings. I like breakfast in bed, too. Yeah – I’ll make it. Don’t get up. There’s still so much of the world to see, and I’m plenty happy as a solo traveler. If you’re along for the ride, great. Please don’t assume to know what I want. Don’t dismiss me simply because you’re intimidated or a Toronto man scared of the first inkling of commitment.
We all do it. Social Media makes it easier than ever to look up how our loved ones past and present are doing. Are they living their best lives? How happy are they? It seems when I’ve finally met someone new, the ghosts of lost loves past have their interests piqued. When I started dating my most recent ex, it breathed life into a few poltergeists. The man I’ll probably always consider to be the first great love of my life reached out. He said everything that I had needed and so desperately craved hearing, albeit all a little too late. I was honest about our communication with my new partner, and he was honest (well…to a point) about his. When I was living with the Adonis, he would call his ex while I was at work. What did I care if they spoke? They dated for 7 years – she was a huge part of his life and he was important to her. She was also roughly 9,000 km away. How much harm could she really do from that great a distance? I think I’d be more worried if he wasn’t interested in her well-being and didn’t want to maintain mutual respect.
Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
In a new relationship, it’s tempting to look back on your partner’s old ones. Are you part of a trend or are you different, special – an outlier? Are you far enough outside the particular set of previous patterns and failures to stand the test of time? A jealous, pissed off, or threatened woman does better research than the FBI, CIA and Secret Service combined. When in a budding relationship I was contacted by my (then new) boyfriend’s ex stating that he had cheated on the previous two. She told me I was becoming a symptom of a much bigger problem. I, of course, dismissed it at the time. He told me just enough to make it seem like we had an open and honest relationship. I was completely transparent. When his pattern reemerged several months later, you had better bet I quickly learned about RSS feeds, source, input, and the ease of info gathering online. I did it because I sensed a problem. I had an underlying insecurity about the state of our relationship. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and unfortunately got more than I bargained for.
Poking Holes in More Than Just the Story
What about the longstanding current girlfriend, fiance, or even wife, though? I mean, she’s already won. What use is it to look back on something which ended so very long ago? On one hand, I can see that she means no harm. She’s just curious about our history together. How far down the line is it normal or healthy to creep? Why does my ex boyfriend’s current love want to know about my daily activities now when he and I ceased all contact 7 months ago? I’m sure there’s a small part where the “winner” can take perverse pleasure in popping up and rubbing it in your face that she’s enjoying your old memories. Is there trouble in paradise or does she just want to lord her “success” over me without ever having to exchange words?
When you’ve finally met someone new and are enjoying learning all about him, she’s there to drudge up the past. At least when a man’s 6th sense kicks in, you might get closure. When woman’s sick sense starts tingling, everyone just ends up shaken. It’s better on both sides to leave well enough alone.
To my exes’ new girlfriends and wives: ladies, if you’re really that curious about me, reach out! I’d rather be cool with your creeping than completely unnerved. If that’s not your jam, please have the decency to use a fake account. You don’t need him to block me. You don’t need to control with whom he communicates. The women before me prepared him to love you. If your relationship is strong, it’s due in part to the fact that I made him ready to love you and that you’re a better fit together than we ever could have been. The hell he and I went through together doesn’t negate the joy you have now. It’s not in spite of it, it’s because of it. We worked through issues together that have made him a more considerate boyfriend or husband for you. They will hopefully have helped make me a better partner in my next relationship, too.
To my readers: If your man is communicative, caring, and observant, chances are there’s a mother, sister, or ex-girlfriend who helped him along the way. There’s not a single ex-boyfriend of mine with whom I’d want to get back together, but I have a genuine interest in their well-being. Don’t try to police your significant other’s communication. If he’s friendly with his ex and a better man with you than he was with her, you might even want to buy her a bottle of wine.
Over a year ago I wrote an article about the best summer date spots in Seoul. My most enjoyable first date in Seoul, however, was pretty unconventional. Our romance was short-lived and never got very serious. It was before I ever fell in love. It was before I ever truly had my heart broken, too. There were disappointments down the line, of course, but he and I actually still talk to this day. Maybe it has something to do with my best (and longest) first date in Seoul!
A friend and I had planned on going to the Doosan Bears game at Jamsil Stadium. She had come up from Dongtan and had no intention of joining me on a first date in Seoul. Thismilitary manand I had been chatting on and off on tinder for a few weeks. This was before having written about the 7 Worst Guys an Expat Can Date. I was avoiding seriously dating at the time. Since boys were already on their way to the game, so we figured we could all hang out. While sitting in the stands some overly aggressive foreigners started waving at us and one of them even shouted out, “Kate!” We still can’t figure out who they were, but they didn’t end up being the guys from Tinder. Because of that encounter, we almost bailed on the meet up. I’m so glad we didn’t!
I love going to watch live sports, so meeting up at a baseball game was perfect for me. At a baseball game you’ve got the hoopla of the game, the crowds, and the walk up songs. At a baseball game first date in Seoul you’ve got the bonus of cheerleaders, and announcer, and BYOB. If conversation gets boring, get well into the game. If the conversation is riveting, it’s just the Korean league. The field is smaller, the players are slower, and unless watching pop-fly after pop-fly being caught is your thing – it’s pretty repetitive. Not a ball fan? Find something else with an element of distraction or an easy out. If you’re meeting someone for the first time you don’t want to get sucked into a massive time commitment (read: waste of time). If you’re having a good time, however, laissez les bon temps rouler!
Could the sunset pictured above be any more perfect for your first date in Seoul? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one quite as extraordinary since! We got to canoodle for a bit as the game wrapped up and the sun went to sleep. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight, right? Well our weather the next day was pretty darn perfect as we strolled hand in hand along the stream, but that comes later…
First Date in Seoul Key # 3: Multiple Dates in One
Did you think my perfect first date in Seoul would lead you to a bathhouse crossed with Korean Dave & Buster’s? Well, we’re here! We had been out in Itaewon for dinner and needed somewhere to go before curfew hit. My date was actually with his boss who was totally down to check out Dragon Hill Spa. If you’ve never been to a Korean bath house/ sauna/ jimjilbang, read up on the most luxurious one in Busan! (Privilege check: this probably is best suited to cisgender straight couples. Being on a first date in the actual baths together could prove risky! I’ll let you use your imagination…) Here are my reasons why a jimjilbang is an awesome first date in Seoul.
First Date in Seoul Key # 4: Clean up Your Act!
With 9 different baths in the female sauna area, you’ll be super fresh, clean, and relaxed for the rest of your date. We separated for about 30 minutes and reacquainted fresh-faced, squeaky clean, and in pajamas! If a guy can’t handle me without makeup then I know it’s not going to last, but PJ’s is a whole ‘nother…ballgame!
First Date in Seoul Key # 5: Plenty to Explore
After a quick scrub and some relaxing in the tub, we all met up in the lobby. I used to live in Jamsil (south of the Han River in Seoul), so sometimes we’d crash at Dragon Hill if it was tough getting a taxi home. Since it’s open 24 hours, it’s also the perfect hideout if you want to socialize past curfew. Since the boys were new to Korea, we explored the many different saunas in the huge building. Are you a hot or cold sauna kind of person?
There is a restaurant and a snack bar. Grab a snack of some ramyeon (cup noodles), bingsu – a Korean dessert which is like flavoured “snow” (shaved ice), or a beer to keep you going!
I love getting a little competitive on first dates. Playing plenty of arcade games was a great way to get to know how my date handled victory and defeat! We shared a sneaky little first kiss in the singing room where he sang me his absolute favorite song (and where we screamed Alanis Morisette’s “You Oughta Know”).
Ready to catch some Zzz’s? Head into the indoor (or outdoor if you’re keen on being mosquito breakfast) cinema or any of the sleeping rooms around the jimjilbang. Sleeping together on the first date in Seoul means something a little different here! The best part? In the morning, we got to soak one more time before heading to breakfast in Itaewon.
You know you’re on a good date when you don’t stop to check your phone or take pictures along the way. Back in the winter of 2016 I took this snap of Chonggyecheon – a stream in Seoul. It was nice ticking this one off my Seoul bucket list. You can walk from Dongdaemun through Namdaemun and up to the palace by following the stream. Who knew just a few months later we’d be walking and talking hand in hand under a noticeably warmer, blue summer sky?
Have you ever been on a truly unconventional first date in Seoul or anywhere else?
The concept of love bombs is one I’ve seen particularly frequently in Korea. The gist is that you meet a partner and it’s an explosion of feelings, but also commitments one or both parties have no intention of keeping. You have what you think are open and honest conversations about your emotions, about your goals, about the future. You travel together, meet your partner’s family, buy one another lavish gifts. In the blink of an eye, it’s over and done. Love Bombs. And what’s cuffing season? “Cuffing season is that period of time between fall and the dead of winter when people start looking for someone they can spend those long, frigid months with,” -Sameera Sullivan.
Expat Love Bombs
I can’t speak for expats in other countries, but I would venture to guess our issues of loneliness are all pretty similar. We leave our families and (for most of us) our friends and support systems back home. While social groups in Korea form quickly, they’re often made up of people with whom we’d probably never be friends back home. Romantic relationships are different. Expats often have “light-hearted” trysts, but once a connection is made, exclusive relationships are locked down very quickly. Everything is intensified when you feel instantly loved and cared for. I think most of us crave that adrenaline rush of passion. Unfortunately you can’t call a house a home without a little work, time, and attention. Most of us are only contributing one of the three in a new relationship while living abroad.
My Last Love Bombs
My last two serious (albeit short-lived) relationships were definitely love bombs. I knew right from the start that these should be enjoyable little flings and that I shouldn’t invest my time or emotions too much. In Thailand, H dropped everything, flew with me from Phuket to Chiang Mai, and started making comments about ring shopping and spending the remainder of our vacation pretending we were engaged.
Ex-Co-P was quick to start calling me his “Seoulmate”. He would call my apartment “Our City House” and his room on base “Our Country Home”. He shared what was his eagerly by bringing me goodie bags of things he thought I wouldn’t be able to buy (off post) in Korea. I was still getting over my last love bomb where the ye-olde-Adonis, H, actually gave up Bali to move into my shitty little studio apartment in Sincheon. I could see through Ex-Co-P’s bullshit immediately, but I chose to ignore it because he did all the things that H stubbornly refused to do.
Blind Beyond the Art of Seduction
On our 3rd date (coincidentally the 3rd day after we finally met in person), he snapped a selfie of us to post on Facebook calling me his KECH (a play on my initials). He asked me to be exclusive about an hour later. FINALLY! Finally I had someone who wasn’t afraid to show off to the world that he liked me. I didn’t need any of the expensive gifts he had brought me on our first few dates. All I needed was someone who wanted to be close to me. That was my version of having a guy jump up and down on a couch on Oprah. Finally someone wasn’t ashamedwas proud to be with me. Everything seemed different. He even put together an outfit to accompany me to Seoul Fashion Week. He invited his family and friends into our life together. Sparks flew.
Within weeks he was asking me my plans for the future (immediately by piggy-backing onto my Taipei and Tokyo trips), telling me his goals and dreams, and asking how we could fit into one another’s lives moving forward. He used to joke about me moving in with him on the base, but there was an underlying truth and neediness to it all. He made me actually want to have an easy life in the boonies running track on Sunday mornings, meal-prepping for the week in the afternoon, and cozying up with a movie Sunday nights. It seemed so simple. I couldn’t hear the tick-tock of the bomb because it had already detonated. Our simple, little, careless, time-sensitive relationship had immediately broken its contract and gone off the rails the moment I said “yes” to being his girlfriend.
Man-ipulation & Subconscious Un-Coupling
I can’t pinpoint the moment it all changed. In hindsight I think he continued to slowly chip away at my confidence by maintaining past drama. Ex-Co-P loved to drudge up his past relationships. He continuously brought up the issues he created for me in the workplace. He would perpetuate drama by inserting himself in issues I had had to rectify on his behalf that were having an effect on my life. I felt inadequate at work and at home.
After our one, and only, major argument, I coughed all night. The next day he demanded we run 6 km (round-trip) up and down Namsan Tower. He knew full well that I was a sprinter working on endurance and had a bad cough. He was testing me and patronizing me. It was clear that he was looking for a fight. When we got to the base of Namsan Tower, he asked me was if I wanted to go find his “Pont-des-Arts”-style love lock from two girlfriends ago. This was the girlfriend who was still friends with some of my friends. She even lived in the area of town I desperately missed. Had I not been dating this loser, we’d probably be friends.
“Cuffing Season” is Bullshit
I wrote the 7 Worst Guys an Expat can Date nearly a year ago. Hundreds of comments came pouring in. Many said I sounded like a jaded woman scorned. I think most of those qualities identified in the article still hold true. Elements of each character can be found in both men and women. As a cisgendered, straight woman, I write about my own personal experiences. The list is not comprehensive. Let’s say I wrote about the “7 Treasures Every Expat Woman Should Seek Out”. You better bet your bottom dollar there would be no more use for this site at all. You see, if I was any good at taking my own advice, ThatGirlCartier would cease to exist. My Grandmother was RAF and my Grandfather was RCAF. It’s like I walk around with a giant AF magnet on my heart and “US AIR FORCE” tattooed across my forehead. Am I supposed to avoid every Military Man I meet? Who knows – you already know I can’t follow my own advice!
Right now I’m talking to several men. I’m actually just dating and getting to know them on a personal, platonic level. No more intense situations right off the bat. No more instances of watching him pull the pin, drop the grenade and run away. Certainly no more “fuckboys in sheep’s clothing” (as so aptly a fellow Seoul Blogger described Ex-Co-P). I met H in August and Ex-Co-P at the beginning of March. Cuffing season is clearly not limited to the dark, cold, lonely, winter months…especially when it comes to sociopaths “love-bombs”. When someone shows you who they truly are, believe them the first time. Don’t let love bombs’ smoke get in your eyes.
Everything ends, but some things don’t even get a chance at a proper start. Grown men need to learn to communicate rather than “ghosting”. This is the story of my devilishly handsome, mysterious, and insanely cowardly rebound.
My Most Recent Ghosting Experience
I recently went out with a man who I thought was interested in dating casually. As I was fresh out of a relationship, I figured he planned on getting to know me over time. It’s also fair to assume that he was seeing other women throughout the first month of what I’ll call our “courtship”. Tinder is like window shopping, and I had a brand new account. We saw eachother 4 times that first week, which was a little intense for me. It was also pretty similar to my last relationship. Co-P was in a new Facebook relationship a mere 11 days after he and I split. That’s such a shady look. Perhaps he shouldn’t have cheated if he knew he’d get so butthurt about our break-up. I wasn’t in a place where I felt I needed to “win” the break-up. I want to wait until I actually know someone before determining I’ll be spending my valuable time with him alone.
So, rebound and I had some really nice dates. We went to some of my favourite spots in Itaewon as he was new to the city. A friend of mine came along on date #1 (what I call an “audition”), and his boss met up with us later that day. He joined me for a restaurant review and asked that we spend the next night “just us”. He held my hand in public and let other males around us know through physical cues that he was the alpha and I wasn’t going to entertain their advances. By date #3 he told me he didn’t want this to just be a fling. After that, I started to get the silent treatment. He’d go incommunicado for days, then blow up my phone with cute selfies and videos. We both left Seoul for the long weekend, but were in touch the whole time.
When he got back home, he called me via video chat. He cracked a joke at one point, so I laughed. He told me that’s all he ever wanted. All he wanted was just to make me laugh and smile. The line was delivered with such innocence and fluidity I almost believed it. I rolled my eyes and that’s when he said the one thing that surprised me.
“You’re so cool. You play it so cool.”
“Yeah, you act like you don’t care. I care.”
“I’m confused. You’re the cool one in this situation. I’m just trying to keep up.”
My bullshit-o-dometer was whizzing out of control. That’s when he told me he had the next 10 years of his life planned out. Where was I going to fit in? It’s nice to have a casual, physical relationship, but what were we and what happens next? What about the “dot…dot…dot…”? After I told him it was a little early to be having this conversation, I suggested getting together on the weekend. He agreed, with the caveat that now (after nearly a month of knowing one-another) was the perfect time for this serious discussion. After that? Radio silence…was he seriously ghosting me after trying to lock it down on freaking FaceTime?
Gentlemen, you know exactly what kind of shitty human being you are when you consciously decide not to pick up calls or respond to messages. Nobody is too busy to make plans with someone they like. When a man is interested in a woman, he’ll move Heaven, Earth, a board meeting or a boys night to see her. When you’re ghosting, you’re avoiding responsibility because you’re too chicken shit to have an actual adult conversation. Everyone gets anxious when it comes to potential confrontation. You owe it to the other person to provide a proper conclusion. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: to get what you want you have to communicate.
Ladies, here are some of the reasons why he’s ghosting you:
He’s Not Looking For Commitment
This guy will flip his shit at the simplest “how was your day?” text. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a serious relationship or casual tail. He wants no strings attached and assumes you’re hunting for a ring. Drop the dud and play the field. He’s not worth your time.
There’s Another Woman
I always say that Tinder is like window shopping. Men can certainly make the most of a shitty situation. In fact, a lot of guys I know actually exclusively Tind while on the can. If you’re dating someone actively perusing your replacement, he’s a turd. Don’t let yourself circle the drain with this one.
You’re the Other Woman
I met this wonderful man last year who really wanted to take things slow and get to know me. We went on some fantastic dates and I felt like we really started to make a connection. Then, he started acting weird and before I knew it – he was ghosting. It turns out his ex fiance was getting married and he just wasn’t quite over it all. It didn’t matter that their relationship was over. He wasn’t ready to make an emotional investment that might end with similar feelings. This one actually came back and we were able to talk it out. Eventually, we even became friends.
He’s Just Not That Into You
It sucks to hear, but the old Sex and the City adage is real. He doesn’t see this going anywhere and doesn’t wanted to get sucked into an emotional conversation where he’ll have to explain why. He doesn’t even respect you enough to have the common decency to tell you he doesn’t want to see you. Start swiping.
You’re an Option, Not a Priority
He wants to keep you around in case he needs an emotional relationship or a late night booty call down the line. Unfriend. Unfollow. Block if you must. Move the hell along.
Dating is tough. Expat dating is often tougher. When it comes down to it, we all want to feel important and cared for. Nobody wants to feel tossed aside. Ladies and gentlemen, don’t willfully neglect another human. Be kind, be gentle, and stop ghosting. I can guarantee that a reasonable person will respond much better (and likely stop responding altogether) if you tell him or her in a nice way that you don’t want to proceed. The calling, the texting, the passive aggressive social media posts (and lurks) will all vanish – and you won’t have to. If you want to alleviate guilt and avoid confrontational/ emotional conversations be clear. Stop ghosting.
Co-P and I started having the inevitable (inevitable because he’s leaving Korea, not because he’s a cheater) break-up talk. It would have been fine had it not been in Haneda airport 6 hours before our flight. A few days later our fast, serious, fleeting, expat dating romance was over. Little did I know then, he was already seeing (and sleeping with) someone else. The confidence I had in our direct, communicative relationship was an absolute lie, and I feel pretty stupid having trusted him. Because of the exciting, dramatic, androcky way our relationship began, I felt like most of the time we were playing relationship chicken. I had several trips lined up before meeting him. He said he wanted to come, and without too many jokes or dares he booked flights. I should have taken my own advice…
Looking back on our relationship (as shortlived as it was) I have a number of thoughts and feelings. We are completely different people with a few key common interests (fitness, food, and expat dating, it seems). Ultimately, we weren’t compatible romantically or with our timing. He tried to limit me to 2 tourist attractions per day on our travels. He wanted a 10 PM bedtime. I wanted to soak up everything (including the nightlife) in a new city. He followed the rules. I wanted to renegotiate them. There were so many times when I felt I couldn’t be as wild and outlandish as I wanted to be. In some respects, that’s a really good thing. Co-P pushed me to be the healthiest and strongest person physically I could be. I was well-rested, too. Ultimately, I got bored. I think he did, too.
As much as I’m content with my life without him as my boyfriend, there are still moments that give me pause. I miss having him as the friend I thought he was. There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from every relationship, and expat dating is no different. Take a look and see what you can extrapolate from every interaction. Here’s what I’ve learned…
Expat Dating Don’ts
Don’t have your first few dates at favourite spots in your neighbourhood. You’ll hate yourself going back to a memory you made together there every time you pass them.
Don’t invest yourself too much in the beginning…or really ever. It’s important to keep a balance and your own social life. Don’t be one of those people who gives up on your single friends when you’re coupled up.
Don’t ignore the majority of your friends saying bad things about him. Especially don’t alienate them in favour of the ones who speak kindly.
Don’t ignore his ex gfs if they reach out to you. There’s a reason they sound crazy. That reason is probably that he hurt them something fierce.
Don’t let things move too quickly. If he’s asking you to be exclusive on the third day you’ve met, maybe there’s another issue. Pump the breaks if things are heating up a little faster than anticipated. It might be exciting to jump into a new relationship, but you also might be left with the feeling that you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. He might have self-esteem issues, be self-indulgent, or just want to stir up drama. Co-P posted about his new girlfriend the day before a trip we planned together. (Super nice way to let me know you cheated, by the way…). Expat dating is tough!
Don’t get hung up on past heartaches. There’s a reason he’s not the one with you on this date! Focus on this new person who wants to spend time getting to know you!
Expat Dating: Break-Up Do’s
Do let yourself have a mourning period. Maybe you haven’t lost the love of your life, but you’re losing out on someone who has made an impact on it. You’ll be ready when you’re ready.
Do: It doesn’t matter if your mourning period is short. If you are ready to get back out there then do it!
Do: Say YES. If you get an interesting invitation then say yes! Surprise yourself with new hobbies and activities.
Do: Meet new people! It doesn’t matter if you want to get out on the dating scene right away or not, new people = new perspectives. Isn’t learning what we’re born to do?
Do: Widen your net. Meet people (new friends and prospects) you might not normally go for. Everyone thinks they have a “type”. If yours hasn’t been working for you, try something else! Whether you’re an expat dating or just meeting new pals, there are plenty of us in a concentrated environment. Go forth an experience new things!
Do: Look out for #1. Take care of yourself first. Don’t overextend yourself for someone who won’t go out of his or her way for you.
I’m not looking for the stars and the moon in another human. I’m looking for a travel companion, good conversationalist, work-out buddy, party pal, and all around life partner. I’m looking for someone who won’t deliberately hurt me (or put me at risk) because he’s started to stray. Neptune has 13 moons. Uranus has 27 (and they’re outta this world, girlfriend). Our very own galaxy is full of stars and moons. If you’re an expat in Korea like me, you’ve likely circled the globe at least once or twice. He (or she) is out there, but you’ve gotta make it through the Star Wars first.