Started seeing a friend unexpectedly, 1000 miles away. She had her 1st real romantic/sexual experience with me. My wife & I are trying for a baby, and my gf is stoked to co-parent, but wants to go overseas a year. I'm crazy for her. Is 5 months too early for a 'commitment ring'? Wife & I were engaged a month in but I’d known her for 8 years.
I tend to be a very aggressive control freak in all aspects of my life, and I especially like to try and control the future. But while I’m great to go camping with, all the planning, prepping, scheduling, worrying, and fussing won’t work to make a relationship with another person go a certain way. I use a specific metaphor to help me be more chilled out about relationships, loosely cribbed from Taoist philosophy:
Imagine you’re floating in a river. The river has a flow to it, and you could allow yourself to float along with the river. Within that, you have choices - whether to swim alongside the current, or just float; whether to hold onto floating branches or stay free; whether to hang out in the deep center or closer to the shallows. You can control your choices while you’re in the river, but you can’t control the flow of the river.
If you decide you don’t want to go where the river is taking you, you can grab hold of a rock and stay in one place. But the river is going to keep flowing around you and pulling at you. You can try to swim backwards against the current. But the river is never going to give in and take you the other direction. The river is reality, flowing all around you, taking its own way, and your energy is much better spent finding ways to participate in what the river is doing - to “go with the flow,” as it were - than to ignore or resist the river.
That’s what relationships, especially in the early stages, are like. You have to let them go with their own flow. You can’t pre-emptively ensure that certain things happen or gird the future against certain outcomes. It sounds like in this situation, there’s a lot of “flow” that you need to float along with. It’s possible that while she’s experiencing her travels, and you’re dealing with a newborn, things will naturally fizzle out while everyone focuses on their imminent priorities. It’s possible that things deepen between you two and after her year abroad, the three of you decide to move in together and see how that goes. It’s possible that she remains a long-distance connection, with intimacy and commitment but less of an intention to share daily life.
You have to kind of trust that if everyone acts in good faith, whatever happens is what needed to happen. It will cause a lot of pain to try and force things along a specific path or cling to a future that hasn’t manifested yet. The best thing to do is keep things really open, both in terms of “open to different possible futures” and “open and honest communication.” Ask her if she would appreciate a piece of jewelry she can wear during the long distance relationship to symbolize your connection, and leave space for her to be unsure or uncomfortable. And remember that the presence of that item doesn’t guarantee a certain outcome. Everyone here is in a transition state, and there’s a lot of uncertainty - try to respond to that with open acceptance and curiosity rather than a focused plan to nail things down.