She flew away

My girlfriend moved to Australia to nurse her father, and now she doesn't want to come back.

By Cary Tennis
Published December 18, 2003 8:35PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I have been in a relationship with a woman from Australia for the past three years. I got caught in the dot-com crunch and there were some money issues. Then her father was in a pretty bad auto accident. She went back to Australia a few months ago to help while her father recovered and took a job to cover her expenses while she is there.

I have a great new job and the money problems have been resolved. Now that she is back where she grew up, our relationship is under a lot of strain. Her father is back on his feet and recovering well, so I assumed she would return and we would move forward with our lives.

But she has grown slightly distant, and after a long phone conversation she admitted that she has second thoughts and may not be willing to return to the States and continue our relationship. I married once because I was about to become a father, and now am a single dad. We talked about trying to save money so I could move there but I cannot jeopardize my daughter's well-being by moving without some kind of security.

This tears me apart. I am stunned and am not sure what to do, or if there is anything that can be done. I don't want to see the relationship end. I have asked if there is anything else and been told that there is just this dread about returning to the States. I don't know if I should push or just give up. Is there an answer or even something to consider on where to go from here?


Dear Broken,

Why don't you visit your girlfriend there, now that you've got some money flowing in? Visit her for a week. Walk around Australia with her; notice how it smells, how people talk, how the food tastes. Notice what it's like to have everyone think you talk funny.

Look into getting a job there. Hook up with some agencies. Meet her dad. Meet her family. Try to get a feeling for what you'd be in for. Don't assume you have to decide right away. Just take it all in, try to relax, try to absorb it all. Notice how it's different, being with your girlfriend, now that you're the one who doesn't know where the small towns are and what all the plants are called, who doesn't remember the obscure soap jingles, bits of schoolboy lore, and the names of mid-level politicos from the 1970s. Think about how you like being the one who's not from there. Take a week. Enjoy yourself. Then come back to the States and mull it over. Take long walks. Sleep late in the morning, if your daughter will let you.

Speaking of your daughter, do you have a big, loving family of your own? Would it be a hardship for you to leave them? Or are you one of those people who longs to become a part of somebody else's family? If you're looking to be part of a family, and they seem to like you -- especially if there are kids your daughter's age -- that's something in favor of making the move.

Personally, I find it exciting to think about moving to Australia. I knew a kid in elementary school whose family moved to Australia. You should have seen the look in his eyes when he told us they were going. And he never came back, as far as I know. When people went to France and England they always came back. But when they went to Australia that was it, they were gone. You could get land. They needed people. And, apparently, they still do. They even have a business skills migration-type visa available if you qualify.

Don't you sometimes get the feeling that here in America they could just as well do without you? That is, unless you're manufacturing laser-guided missiles or combat-grade Bibles? I think there's a whole tribe of us who've never felt that America loved us as much as we loved America, maybe because we don't love America the way they think we're supposed to, with bunting and harsh rituals and prayer before meals.

Maybe down in Australia, they'd appreciate you more.

In a way, you're being asked to choose between love and fatherland. How could you possibly make up your mind? All choice is difficult, and this is among the hardest.

But you must go visit first. Because who knows what's really going on with your girlfriend? She says there's nothing else and maybe there isn't anything else, but you have to find out. So book yourself a flight.

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Cary Tennis

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