Q. My boyfriend and I have been dating for around a year and a half. The relationship has been magical. We both have great communication and still act like we’re in the honeymoon stage. He is in the military and is stationed near me; that is how we met.
He gets out in less than a year and really wants to move back to New England. I love my life in North Carolina; I have an amazing relationship with my parents, my dream job, and am getting my master’s at a school in the area. He and I have talked about doing long-distance for a year and then possibly me moving up there. But the closer it gets, the more I don’t want to go. The main issue holding me back is my relationship with my parents. He doesn’t have a good relationship with his mother, and his dad seems to have moved on with his life since my boyfriend joined the military.
I also get made fun of by his friends and family because of my accent and the fact that I am “automatically dumber because I am from the South” (his family’s words, not mine). How do I tell my boyfriend that I don’t think he has a good support system in his hometown for the transition from military to college? Also, how do I let him know I feel uncomfortable with moving up north because I will be leaving my seemingly perfect life to live in a place where I don’t feel accepted? I really love him and can honestly see an amazing future with him once we get past this hurdle.
A. “How do I let him know I feel uncomfortable with moving up north because I will be leaving my seemingly perfect life to live in a place where I don’t feel accepted?”
You can say it like you did in this letter. Detail the experience you have when you visit. Explain your concerns about how you’re treated by the people in his life. Has he noticed this behavior? Have you ever talked about it?
Also talk about why he’s so eager to leave where you live now. Would he ever be comfortable making visits home and staying where he is? What life does he seek in New England? How would he help you maintain the important relationship you have with family in the South?
I like the idea of the two of you trying long-distance for a year because it gives you both time to see what life really feels like when he has more freedom and time, and you have a better sense of what he seeks from his New England life.
It might also give you the chance to see what life you could build in New England. Your boyfriend’s friends and family are his community, and of course you can share those people. But you’d make your own friends, find your own world. Some of us northerners can be very nice when we try. It’s worth exploring during a year of transition.
Honestly, maybe after a few months home he’ll be happy to return to you down there.
For now, though, I’d talk to your boyfriend about your experience here, and focus on making the visits more comfortable. I wouldn’t tell him he has a bad community (he probably misses his people very much). It’s more about where the two of you can build a good life together. You should be figuring that out as a team.
In 1995, I did the opposite and moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina to be with my then boyfriend. And damn, I was lonely. But, because I wanted to give the relationship a chance, I got used to living down there. Still had many trips throughout the year to visit family and friends, so it wasn’t so bad. And, it was good for me to get the heck out of New England, where so many people just stay and languish out of fear of CHANGE. Until, after 11 years together and six years of marriage, he e-mailed me out of the blue saying he wanted to end things “as amicably as possible.” I tell you what, I hopped on I-95 and have not looked back since. Happily back in Massachusetts.
I’m a Southerner living in New England and can assure you that you can be happy anywhere, if you choose to be. I do still miss home but I have made some wonderful friends in N.E. As for your accent and differences, just play them up and have fun!
^Also, most of us Massholes would never consider making fun of someone’s accent.
^Oh yes they would, but I’ve never been teased in a mean way. My husband (a Massachusetts man) and I sometimes tease each other about our accents and the different names we have for some things (sneakers versus tennis shoes, soda versus Coke, etc).
^I will never stop saying tennis shoes and Coke.
This is about local culture. They would tease you the same way if you were from Fitchburg or Dover (ask your boyfriend about the difference). Doesn’t really matter that you are from the South; whatever makes you different, they are going to bust your chops about it. Have you taken the time to read the comments? We talk like this to our best friends; not just the letter writers. Meanwhile, you need to understand, he feels just as disoriented in North Carolina. As much as you may think this is a match, this cultural divide may prove too much to overcome. Be aware that the huge sacrifice he is asking you to make by moving north is the same one you would be asking of him to move south.
I will say one thing about New Englanders (and I’ve lived in the South too): They do a little hazing with outsiders before they pull you into their circles. If they give you grief about your accent, they’ll respect you more if you can give it back. New Englanders are blunt; Southerners are passive aggressive.
^Interesting. I think Midwesterners are passive aggressive and Southerners are polite (in general).
^Bless your heart.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to email@example.com. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.