Sunday, December 18, 2005

JDaters Anonymous Open Forum: Comfort Zone

Today's topic: A friend recently asked me why women were "so afraid to leave their comfort zones." Living in a major city and attending a graduate school, he would meet women who were unwilling to take the chance of moving somewhere else, an opportunity that he himself hoped to embrace in the not-too-distant future. These women were natives of the city or its suburbs, with family under an hour away. These women had established themselves professionally and within their community. But when they asked him where he was looking at internships, and he rattled off a list of city names that would require air travel to get to, they became emotionally closed off and wouldn't return his phone calls. Do people (and let's make it gender neutral here, at least in the question) limit themselves by not extending their search for a mate beyond their immediate vicinity? Can people be faulted for wanting to stay within the lives they have created for themselves? Can they reasonably expect that the perfect person is going to appear and assimilate into their life, if they're not willing to be the one who assimilates into someone else's life? Or is it more reasonable to limit your search to the pool of people most like you, most likely to stay with you in your comfort zone? Is taking a leap of faith--or taking a chance on love, no matter where it takes you--a journey that everyone can and should take?


Anonymous said...

The way work and life is organized now, it's virtually impossible to be able to stay in one city for any reasonable length of time, at least not often in the same profession or line of work. Still, most people live within perhaps a days drive of their family, ditto for their University or graduate school. (Yes, it's often one OR the other).

There's no doubt that you can find someone within the confines of your search 'radius'. (Nothing further than 250/300 Mi. from NYC/Cleveland/Dixville Notch!) You can 'settle' for what's available within that search area. You could marry, retire and die happy. This might just happen a bit later when you slowly come to this realization.

Still, most industries and business will require you to be mobile and move quite often, and this has been the experience for many, many decades by now. It's almost an American inheritance, to 'make your fortune', you'd often have to 'light out for the territories'. That has been our tradition now for well over 200 years.

Now for whatever reason when a prospective BF/GF asks you if you would be willing to move for them, what they're asking is 'Am I worth this?' Often this case remains to be made or known, it's that leap of faith. What remains unsaid is the fact that it's more than likely that you'll have to move away anyway to take advantage of some professional opportunity or business in a different community.

The people who do not move, or who are unwilling to do so usually have strong ties to their family or the community for some reason. When over 30-40 say, they often are not professionals in the upper echelons of their industry or business, but people taking care of elders, or tied to the community via religious or close historical ties.

People not wanting to leave NYC for example, may like it for a variety of good reasons, and never seek to leave. This may be a comfort zone, it could be for the plethora of professional opportunities, or just because that's where all their friends are.

So the question remains, 'What are you willing to do for love?' For some they have to have proof positive that this love is worthy of the sacrifice. For others this has to be a bit more serious, there has to be love AND riches for them to consider ever moving.

The fact remains that most of us do eventually move, and most of us now move quite often. (Households move on average once every ~7-8 yrs.). It remains to be seen if we'll be motivated to move for love or money. Most of us move more often just for the money and opportunity. The thinking is there's always new hot gals & guys in the new place, right? Cheers,'VJ'

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's a matter of psuhing limits as it is practicality. I've done the long distance relationship thing and almost moved for somone. I think it is unfair for a partner to ask so early in the relationship descions like that should be saved until engagement or marriage.

Anonymous said...

It's expensive to move, a huge hassle, and requires making new friends, which can take awhile. It's also not necessarily easy to find a new job in a city where you don't know anyone. I would be willing to move, and, in fact, would love to leave where I'm living now, but the relationship would have to be worth more than all of that hassle to me. I wouldn't just pick up and move on a whim, because of the chance of being stuck there without anybody, and unhappy, should the relationship fizzle.

Esther Kustanowitz said...

The course of love never did run smooth, someone once said. From what I hear, love is about compromise. First and second dates are about information exchanges and chemistry. No one knows for sure where our professional trajectories will take us. But if someone does know that there's a strong possibility that (let's say) he might be leaving the city/state/country within six months or so, isn't he justified in saying something?

If someone said that to me, and it was someone I didn't feel a connection to, then I would probably use that as my excuse to opt out of the nascent relationship. But if I somehow, miracle of miracles, managed to feel a connection, and felt like it would be a good investment of my time, I would pursue it, and make a decision a little further down the line, as details and emotions emerged.

Or at least that's what I think I would do, rationally. But no one ever really knows until they're in it, submerged past the point of logic. So my writer's mind imagines.

annabel lee said...

I'd be highly unlikely to date someone "geographically undesirable" unless (a) I knew him already (e.g. the friend I met at my college reunion who became "B#1" at the start of my blog), or (b) he was just so amazing that I thought he was the one, which actually happened to a friend of mine, and they're now married.

But generally speaking, I've built a life where I am, and just as I wouldn't expect anyone to move for me, I don't want to be expected to move for anyone. So if I met a great guy who knew, with certainty, that within a few months he would be moving to a city I couldn't drive to in under an hour or two, I'd probably write him off. If he tried to take the few months before he moved to try to convince me to fall in love with him regardless, well, I don't know what would happen. But relationships are hard enough -- why add a complicating frustration like distance into the mix?

Chutzpah said...

Most custody and divorce settlements put restrictions on where residential or joint custodial parents can move. For example, within a 60 mile radius, anywhere within the state but not across state lines or sometimes even less than 25 miles. Personally I would leave for love in a second, but I have 3 little people (usually referred to as "baggage" by potential suitors) whose lives I also have to take into account.

Anonymous said...

Chutzpah does mention something that I neglected to include, but certainly that is part of every consideration for divorced parents.

Be that as it may, the Census tells us that the 20's & 30's are the time when most people are on the move, with many relocations being made to accommodate jobs and career opportunities. These are necessary for many job postings, and it is indeed rare to be thought of as 'exempt' from them in most industries.

Living down south, I was severely geographically undesirable, but my honey relocated down here from PA despite this fact. We've prospered ever since. Several of her companies have disappeared since then or were heavily reorganized.

There is a natural time for this type of migration, it begins to slow to a crawl in your 40's+ as kids become settled into a routine around a certain place. Then it picks up as you might move to where the kids have moved to for child/elder care.

Many of us remain far from our families, and very far from the places where we grew up. We made these moves for schooling or jobs, when and how we are willing to make such a move for another or love has always been a bone of contention, even in long established marriages. It's never easy, but in their heyday of the 1950's & 60's IBM for one required their executives to move almost every 5 years like clock work. And that's if you were lucky enough not to be on the 3-4 year 'fast track' plan! They among others were famous for this requirement.

About 1/2 of my siblings no longer live in the state I was born in up north. All have settled far from our 'hometowns'. One says he'll will move within 10 years down south to retire early. I think this type of wholesale migration is not uncommon today.

None of this is first date material though. Considerations along these lines will necessarily come up as the relationship becomes more serious. For many, it might never reach this point if the prospect of moving is too painful or too onerous to you, and they know this.

Me I had a simple rule for my intended when we were seeing each other. If she was within about a 6 hour drive of where I was going to school, I would try mightily to visit her on her business travels. That's about just under 400 mi., and that's how far I was willing to drive for my love. I would be willing to make a day of it to see her.

Presently if you are unwilling to drive more than 1-2 hours to keep a putative good relationship going, this means that you are more or less confined to Manhattan or just some parts of LA. Worse still if this is against traffic or in rush hour traffic. Then it might be counted in single digit miles. I'm betting your grand parents did a bit better than that before they got together. (You might ask then if possible).

In the 21st century, we'd be restricted to mating & marriage patterns more akin & familiar to the 19th century or early 20th if we were to confine all or most prospective marriage partners to just those who could be reached by car in 'under an hour or 2' AL! Just a thought. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

Anonymous said...

There's also a huge amount of pressure if someone is moving for you. You'd better have a lot to offer if you are the sole reason for someone else's move.

Jennifer said...

Well, due to my family situation I currently can't move any farther away from them than I am until roughly 2007. That's one factor. For another factor, can I afford to live where they are living? And for a third, does this place offer me any reason to move there other than the SO? Because if I'm moving to Alaska (note: I HATE cold) ONLY because I luuuuuuuuuve him, I'm going to end up miserable and hating him for wanting to live in Alaska.

I was in an LDR with my last ex, and who was going to move was a big argument. I did NOT want to move to his town. It had nothing whatsoever to recommend it other than being cheap to live in. Plenty of unsafe neighborhoods, jobs sucked, etc. He didn't even like the place, and claimed he liked where I lived better. But in the end, his friends and family were there and he couldn't figure out how to swing a change in the cost of living, and ... we hit a stalemate. It was a relief to finally end it.

I'd move if I had something in the guy's town than just him, and I could afford to live and work there without a car, and in general, it was an improvement. But I am not moving for someone if there's no supporting factors.

Currently, I'd rather date someone in town again, or at least someone who lives within a half hour of where I live already. Moving to look for love isn't something I'm up for. I'm not looking to completely upend my life just so I can get laid.

Esther Kustanowitz said...

Jen, you're funny that way. :)

For me, I still think it would depend on the guy and the destination. I am kind of tied to the east coast, but I don't know what I would or wouldn't do for love until it happens. I'd like to think that if something special came along, I'd treat it the new environment as an opportunity, especially if it was for a limited duration. But then again, I've got a career that's more flexible than most.

Anonymous said...

J_Schiff said...

I don't think we can always assume that people want to remain where they are because they want to stick to their comfort zone... Sometimes it's a bigger question of values - if you're hoping to find the right person to settle down with and eventually get married, start a family etc. perhaps you've also considered that you want to be close to yoru family when you start your own - there's nothing wrong with not wanting to compromise on that and I'd say in that situation it's more of an issue of principles rather than comfort. Additionally - moving solely for another person can put a lot of pressure on a relationship and inevitably makes things a lot more difficult if the situation sours...

marty said...

I've met a lot of girls who are space aliens. I think it w/b cool to move to another planet.

Anonymous said...

As someone who moved across the country to marry my husband, I believe that I know of what I speak. I disagree with Annabel Lee when she said -- "I've built a life where I am, and just as I wouldn't expect anyone to move for me, I don't want to be expected to move for anyone. So if I met a great guy who knew, with certainty, that within a few months he would be moving to a city I couldn't drive to in under an hour or two, I'd probably write him off."

I was born, raised and trained in L.A. (where Annabel Lee lives) and had no desire to live anywhere else. But I went to N.Y. to attend a wedding and was introduced to my husband. I actually went out with another guy while I was there too. But I would never have said yes to either date expecting that they would have had to move for me to L.A. So just agreeing to a date meant that I was agreeing to moving to N.Y. And as it turned out, I did.

Esther is right by wondering if singles are getting too comfortable. The way I see it, this comfort creates a big fat boulder for singles who want to get married. "Writing off" a guy who is geographically undesirable because you've "built a life where I am," implies that your life as a single woman is more important than being married . . . anywhere. I wasn't going to stick around L.A. as a single woman no matter how comfy I was there. If it meant navigating a long distance relationship, I was willing to do that because I met an awesome guy. I would have preferred that he live in L.A., but that wasn't the reality.

Leaving my friends, family and budding career was very difficult and frequently painful. I sold my record collection, gave away my dishes and got on a one-way flight by myself. I was extremely homesick for the first 8 months, but my husband was phenomenally suportive. It's now 18 years later and I call myself a "California girl who's a New Yorker."

I know of other women who've met their future husbands when they were visiting their hometowns and when they married, the women moved. One woman moved from New York to Arizona with the condition that she'd travel to NYC once a month, or her parents or one of her sisters would visit her once a month. He agreed. And I coached a woman who lived in L.A. while she dated a man who lived in New England. They married and are currently bi-coastal and are figuring out where they want to settle.

It's a virtual world today. Borders between states and countries are now more fluid than ever. Why limit yourself to being single in one small corner of the world just because you're comfortable or "made a life?" To me, it's just not logical.

Dr. Janice

Tzemach Atlas said...

take a look at this Jdate billboard.

Panama Joe said...

Geographically speaking, the Comfort Zone thing makes sense. I would never get involved in a long-distance relationship. Why should I? Sure, the other person may be special, but special people are EVERYWHERE.

Also, I would never move to a different city to be with someone unless I seriously planned on marrying them.

People, is it that hard to get a date?


peachoid said...

Dr. Janice makes an excellent point about an unwillingness to move implying that "your life as a single woman is more important than being married."

If people are miserably single yet could be happily coupled if they would move elsewhere, obviously, it's idiotic to stay put.

I would add that these comments about not relocating tend to come from people who are not in a great relationship and who have not met someone worth going to the ends of the earth for. Sure, there are guys who are not worth relocating for. But some people are lucky enough to find a guy who is. Geography is a dumb reason -- nay, a criminal reason -- to let him pass by.

The problem with a faraway guy met online is a different issue. That problem involves the difficult issue of conducting a long-distance courtship that lets the relationship evolve organically.

I think of these high-powered women of great wealth and fabulosity -- Maureen Dowd, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters -- who are unattached. On occasion they are quoted about their sadness at not having a wonderful man in their life. These women are rich, famous, busy, well-connected, powerful and thin. And yet, and yet, they are pained by the lack of a great guy.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of adding an unnecessary additional 1000 words to this post, I've got a comment or 2 to add.

1.) We should be unsurprised that Annabel Lee is comfortable where she is building her career & reputation in her field. It's what folks do in their 20's and it's naturally a high priority to them. Peachoid makes a good point in recognizing that she's probably not met anyone worthy of such consideration.

Still Dr. Janice has a good point too. I've seen this go both ways with husbands & wives moving to new towns. I've seen several move out of the country for love & marriage. Don't laugh, that famous english major Garrison Keillor did it for a time too.

If AL has a search radius of <1 hr. lets say, and she lives in a region/area dense with likely Jewish prospects, there's bound to be somewhere well under 1000 likely prospects within this search radius. That may be enough to find a 'decent match' as in 'good enough', but a truly great match has always been worth some travel. That's all we're saying.

At such similar densities earlier communities soon grew dissatisfied with their likely choices at marriage partners, and soon drew up rules about 'marrying out' of the community as a matter of course. [And yes, there are some lovely familiar mathematical formulas dealing with this phenomenon. (Look for 'F')].

2.) On Babs W. & Martha S., both have been previously married, and to some very successful people who yes, helped them get started in the industry. (One way or another). Both do fine on the dating scene, as any New Yorker can tell you. Dowd has been variously linked to most of the staffs at papers & media outlets in Washington & NYC. At 57 her perpetual Irish rose-coquette act has grown tiresome and she wants something more than a series of semi-satisfying Mr. Toad's wild rides? She'll not be looking any longer in the swamps of journalism to find her Prince then. But she can whine herself a best seller, and isn't that's what's most important to her here? Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

peachoid said...

VJ: Sure, Barbara Walters and Martha Stewart have been divorced. I don't consider that an indication that they have successful romantic lives. Being 60-something and having previously been married -- well, that doesn't strike me as especially fulfilling. Walters told Oprah she didn't date: Frankly, there weren't that many men for her to date, she said. Stewart was quoted lamenting the lack of a meaningful man to go home to. Dowd's entire book was a cry over being unattached. If you claim that these women are doing fine on the dating scene -- well, I don't know what that means. Especially at their ages. The only way to do fine is to be out of the dating scene and into the happy marriage scene.

Anonymous said...

Ah Peachoid, I think we're getting down to the crux of the issue here. Some gals want dates, some gals want LTR's, and others want dates leading to marriage, or just the later. Not all of these groups or conditions are mutually exclusive.

But come New Year's there's a few things we can count on happening. Once again perpetually 'single' Babs and Martha, respectively a multi-millionaire and a billionaire, will in all likelihood be able to wrangle one or several dates for their various evening soirées. Not a problem usually. Ditto for Dowd. We'll see them in the city pages of the newspapers or magazines making the scene. None of them will be home nursing a cocktail alone, unless it's by choice, resting from exhaustion & the rigors of being oh so fabulous.

And for what they pay Dowd for being slightly amusing every fortnight, (something your dear Aunt Helen still does and is at the nursing home), she can buy any sort of male entertainment and attention the world offers and she can tolerate. Getting them to stick around for awhile and 'appreciate' her is another story, and one that takes a bit of real effort, and of course is also something that many of her colleagues have never quite mastered at the Times. But that's another story. Happy Holidays folks! Cheers, 'VJ', ga.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm... VJ raises an interesting point. Do some 'gals' want dates such that dating is an end in itself? Are wanting 'dates' and wanting 'dates leading to marriage' mutually exclusive things? I think they are.

(I know tons of women who claim they want dates, dates, dates, and have no interest in marrying their current boyfriend. Then they meet someone new and are married within a year.)

Farther along the continuum, what is the overlap between marriage and LTRs? I think it is a logic problem. All marriages are LTRs, but not all LTRs are marriages.

Chutzpah said...

Trust me, not all marriages are LTR's. Ask any Jewish wedding photographer whose clients got divorced before looking at the proofs.

Needsabetterjob said...

People are better off being optimistic about life.

Being constantly pessimistic as in
"rust me, not all marriages are LTR's. Ask any Jewish wedding photographer whose clients got divorced before looking at the proofs."

is a great turn off to many. Yes i see the sordid humor in that, but most guys would take a pass.

I believe this web site is attempting to promote optimism, in a difficult experience that the Jewish singles are having.