Relationship Advice and Columns

What’s Worse for a Relationship: Crisis vs. Stagnation

As many of you know, Ben and I are now living in South Korea. In case you’re wondering, we’re living in a city called Changwon in the south, near Busan, the second largest city. I wanted to relate the story of our first week here and how we got here, which I think illustrates that crisis is much easier for a couple to deal with than stagnation.

Ben and I were booked on a flight from Toronto to Daegu, in the middle of South Korea, via Shanghai. We were scheduled to leave on July 24 at 4:25pm. We got to the airport, care of a good poly friend of mine, and checked in. Sometime after 4pm, it was evident we were not going to leave on time. By the time 6pm rolled around, they told us the flight would be delayed at least until Saturday and possibly Sunday. They would be putting us up in a hotel. Ben and I ended up talking to travellers who also had other destinations to get to. The airline couldn’t give us any information about when we might get to Daegu and we weren’t sure what to do. In any case, we stayed in the hotel that night. The next morning, we woke up and went down to the lobby of the hotel. The airline staff were nowhere to be seen. We went into the airport and also couldn’t find them. We had to decide what to do because we had to arrive in Korea by Sunday night. We were able to find another flight to Tokyo and decided to take that. We knew there was a flight to Busan from Tokyo just after we arrived and were optimistic we could get on it.

After we arrived in Tokyo, we discovered the airline lost one of Ben’s bags. It took us awhile to talk to staff at Narita Airport and get that sorted out. Finally, we arrived at the next counter and booked tickets to Korea. I was going to take money out of my account to pay for my ticket to Korea, however the machine wouldn’t accept my card. We were running out of time. Next to the ticket counter happened to be another Canadian. He asked us what was going on and we explained the situation. He said, here, you can use my credit card. We were blown away by his generosity; a perfect stranger paying for my ticket! We did exchange contact information so I could pay him back later. I could have sworn that up until then, everything that could have gone wrong had gone wrong, and in fact, getting to Korea was the least of our troubles, I’m sorry to say.

Once we arrived at Busan Airport, we checked our email and found out that the director of our school would pay for us to take a taxi to Changwon. She was also going to put us up in a hotel that night near the school because we had to start teaching the next day. We were really jet lagged but managed to get through our first day. We did discover however, that our director was a pretty unpleasant person. She hasn’t trained us and expects us to read her mind. She has no qualms about barging into our classroom and speaking to the kids in Korean. She apparently has financial problems as well. She also hired an American of Korean descent to help her work with the foreign teachers;he was very pessimistic about Korean culture and had almost no backbone, so she stresses him out to no end. The teachers at our school were very confused about why we had come to work at this particular school because they all knew how awful it is. They also expressed surprise at how calm we were. We told them we were quite happy to be together, since our relationship has always been long distance, and happy to be living elsewhere.

After our first full day, we arrived at the apartment the school was giving us. It was evident that the director hadn’t bothered to check out the apartment and make sure everything was okay because the last teacher had changed the door code. The director contacted someone from the building who got us in; the place was a complete disaster. Obviously, we wouldn’t be moving in for sometime because the apartment had to be cleaned. We finally did move in 3 days later.

Throughout this entire time, Ben and I have kept each other calm. We’ve also been working long hours and have come home exhausted, not to mention jetlagged. We remark that if we were in this situation alone, we wouldn’t be sure what to do. Thankfully, we have each other and other foreign teachers to turn to; some of them live in our building, in fact. I remarked to Ben that this particular crisis is much easier to deal with than stagnation. As a relationship evolves, the people in it come to a point where things get boring and after 8 months, Ben and I haven’t reached that yet. This situation however allows us to strategize and bond. We are now trying to figure out a new job…

If you have any questions about any sort of relationship, send me an email to Thanks as always for reading!

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