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Culture shock #3: expiration date relationships

Apr. 10, 2018
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Imagine you’re at Trader Joe’s, searching for some tasty sustenance. You take a look at the fresh lunches, seeing plenty of promising options, but nothing groundbreaking. Your hopeful eye keeps wandering and suddenly, a vibrant, spicy lime avocado chicken salad catches your eye—exotic, fresh, protein-rich. You check it out, reading the enticing ingredients and knowing everyone in the office is going to go berserk at the sight of it! You glance unsuspectingly at the expiration date and the perfect image shatters—this salad expires today! Oh, for the love of God, yet another decision to be made at lunchtime. You have two choices: search for a safer, longer-lasting product, or say “YOLO” and gobble up that spicy salad with no regrets. 

But what if that lunch was actually a relationship? What if the sea of viable options was actually “the other fish in the sea” and the enticing (but quickly expiring) salad was really a relationship with a set expiration date? Now, I’m no psychologist here, but do you see any correlation between your wild or not so wild meal choices? As a survivor of relationships with known expiration dates (and food poisoning), I prefer to chance the situation and let the chips fall where they may, even if I’m picking up my heart after. 

You can currently find me in round three of “this relationship could expire in x amount of months.” I work abroad, and I’ve never stayed anywhere longer than about a year. Dating never begins the same way, but my oh so stubborn mantra of “no men this year” inevitably wanes, and I succumb to the pain and pleasure of a relationship understood to be expiring. Sometimes, it can even be a good thing. So, let’s start with the silver lining. How can a temporary relationship yield any positivity?

Trying to piece together a prosperous future for two is no easy task in the modern world. Relationships will always be challenged by things like career moves, family, and die-hard habits. If you’re dating someone temporarily, normal red flags you’d consider “deal-breakers” in a long-term partner hold less importance in a short-term relationship. For me this is often a partner’s lack of healthy practices (smoking, eating or drinking norms, etc.) or emotional incapability (because not everyone has the best shoulders on which to cry). Or, let’s be honest, maybe you’re the one who is scared of being emotionally transparent and prefers to keep things light and free, knowing the odds of “together forever” these days is far too seldom anyway. 

Being willing to date frequently also reveals your personal weaknesses and gives you the chance to discover what you cherish or can’t stand in a partner.


But let’s look at this scenario from the romantic movie perspective and consider the downsides to short-term relationships (which are plentiful). Perhaps you’ve checked out a book from the library and can’t seem to return it. Your due date is closing in and you start to become a rebel… but with a cause this time? Hearts pop out of your eyes as you blurt out those three dicey words (despite your better judgment) and you find yourself reassessing your goals, imagining how this person could fit into your story.

The negative aspects appear in this moment. What the heck are you supposed to do when one of you has to move, and how do you treat each other with love and respect in the agonizing process? I won’t lie and say these experiences haven’t affected me in negative ways, and I see now that I’ve become a somewhat cold skeptic of “forever” commitment. But being a skeptic (or a realist) doesn’t stop me from always giving it a shot. Maybe one of these days an expiration date will turn out to last a lifetime.