I wrote a piece about the best first date I’ve ever been on. It picked up some traction, along with a lot of perplexed commenters.
Though the love story was one for the books, the relationship had an ending. From what I wrote though, things seemed fine. In fact, they appeared fucking magical.
And they were. But the relationship still needed to end because not all love stories are meant to last forever. I want to discuss why that is. And I want to talk about why so many people thought we should’ve lasted forever.
But first, here is the original story:
I lived in Korea as an English teacher. I didn’t reside in the ultra-modern, international city of Seoul, but in Daegu; the third-largest city in South Korea located at the bottom of the peninsula.
The foreigner community was small; mostly consisting of a few other English teachers and military men that stayed on the United States base.
Several weeks into my stay there, I decided to give dating a shot. But I couldn’t just go out to a bar and meet someone, seeing as there were already so few people to meet. Nor was dating a Korean man an option. They were too intimidated by Western women to even think of flirting with me. Alas, my options were limited.
As any millennial would do in this situation, I took to Bumble. I hopped on the dating app and started swiping through a plethora Navy men; often stating in their profile that they had a short time in Korea but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have a good time.
But then a guy caught my eye. He was tall, blonde, and French. Hello, I thought. This was quite the rarity in Korea.
I instantly messaged him, and we got to talking. His name was George, and I could tell from the get-go that he definitely wasn’t a native English speaker. But, having the patience of an English teacher, I really didn’t care.
We planned our first date to an ancient village called Gyeongju.
To get to Gyeongju, you have to take a bus one hour east of Daegu. George and I planned to meet up at the station to catch a bus.
I got off the subway to walk up to the bus station. The moment I turned the corner and first locked eyes with George in person, I tripped — hard. George was a great guy, though, because I was mortified and he said absolutely nothing of the incident.
George was, in fact, cuter in person; his smiled gleamed, and he seemed very happy, go-lucky. His English was also better than expected, quite an excellent relief. We hopped on our bus to Gyeongju and began the most interesting first date I’ve even been on.
The village was sprawling and magical. We walked through rice fields and passed by elaborate burial mounds. I learned about the history of Korea while simultaneously learning about George’s history.
We bonded over feeling like foreigners in such a vastly different city than where we respectively called home. George was in Korea for an internship for his Master’s program. He described what his family was like and how much he missed them.
At the end of the night, we ventured to Wolji Pond. George’s co-worker described it as a must-see sight of Gyeongju, especially after the sunset.
The pond was like any other pond but with a temple stretching over part of its surface. The traditional blue, red, and green structure allowed people to walk across the pond and enjoy its view from above.
George and I found a bench near the pond’s edge. The night became colder and colder. George offered his coat to me, seeing that I was obviously freezing. I jokingly said that I’m a baby with the cold; something I never needed to worry about in California or Florida.
As we sat together, overlooking the pond, the small temple in front of us lit up in a sparkling yellow glow. The lights reflected across the pond and the whole sight was something I’ll never forget.
As we sat in awe, looking at the pond, I felt George move closer to me. He told me how crazy it was; the two of us sitting there in a remote village of Korea. Just that morning, we were complete strangers. Yet, here we were marveling in such a beautiful sight together.
I looked at him to let him know I agreed and our gazes locked. I saw the light from the temple reflecting back to me in George’s eyes. He gently touched the side of my face, pushing my hair out of the way. He leaned in and pressed his lips against mine. My heart raced but in the best way possible. I felt his skin brush against my face, and it felt so right in that moment.
George and I went on to date for a year after that. We lived for several more months in South Korea before he had to leave to go back to France. George and I lived apart for a few months before he offered for me to come live with him in Paris. We spent a magical summer together in our tiny studio apartment overlooking the Eiffel Tower.
It was a first date that sparked a magical year. We ultimately decided that our relationship wasn’t meant to last forever, though we did love each other. But one thing is for sure: neither of us regrets the day we decided to swipe right.
Now here are some of the responses to my story:
But why split up? You guys seem so perfect for each other according to what you said. Was it the long-distance? It’s really difficult to find something that fits the profile so well, I couldn’t imagine myself giving up on it.
But this is a sad end to the story.why?
Why did you guys decided that the relationship isn’t something for eternity?
Why ???? I couldn’t have imagined anything going wrong with the relationship.
And herein lies a lot of issues we have concerning lifetime partners.
What George and I had was a love story for the books, no doubt. But there are many more factors that determine the compatibility for two people.
I’ll cut the mystery for you all and explain why George and I didn’t work out.
Ultimately, the distance was the most significant factor, but neither of us was willing to sacrifice. I had a lot of difficulties finding any work in France concerning my field. George had to take an internship, and though he tried, he couldn’t find one in California.
But when it came down to it, neither of us really wanted to sacrifice our respective lives. I wasn’t willing to give up my fledgling career and friends. George wasn’t willing to leave his family behind in Europe to fully pursue our relationship.
Then there was the language barrier. Sure, we were able to hold regular conversations and navigate seven different countries together. But could I sit on a field, looking at the stars, and contemplate the universe with George? Definitely not.
And I’m a writer, for god’s sake. Words are important to me. I make a (sort of) living off them.
And with words comes, by far, one of the most important qualities I look for in a life-partner: emotional intelligence. I used to think that a roller-coaster relationship was healthy; that the ups and downs were what made things exciting.
But as I grew older, I began to realize those behaviors were toxic. I didn’t want to guess what my partner was feeling; I didn’t want my boyfriend to bottle up his emotions.
Being able to understand and communicate one’s emotions is sexy (and necessary) to me now.
Not all love stories are meant to last. Sometimes something magical comes into your life, if only for a short time.
But does that mean it was a failure? Does that mean it wasn’t grand?
George and I still shared a first kiss under the warm glow of a Korean temple. We ate our weight in Neapolitan style pizza from a small restaurant in Rome. We road tripped to Belgium; watching him from the passenger’s seat and seeing the sun dance across his face as he smiled at me. We spent many nights watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle from our cozy seven-floor walk-up.
And just because we decided not to be together doesn’t mean we think any less of the time we shared.
I loved George, and he loved me. End of story.