Convoluted relationship/life situation

Some background first:
I’m a 23 year old male Korean citizen, back in S. Korea for my mandatory military service after graduating from college in the States. I have spent the majority of my life abroad (outside Korea), and hope to make my future abroad. To make things more interesting, I have an American girlfriend of aprox. 4 years. She’s in the States right now so we’re doing the long distance thing.

Now, let the bitching commence!

The life of a korean conscript sucks. Freedom is minimal (can’t leave the base on weekends or well… Ever, really unless you’re on leave), and Koreans love hazing so I’m going to have to take shit from assholes that are 3 to 4 years younger than me (Korean culture is very hierarchical and the way you address someone a year older is different than someone of equal age). It’s like prison, except one friend who served as a prison guard in lieu of the military said he envied the prisoners since they didn’t hit the prisoners and they got to watch TV indoors in the winter instead of standing in a guard tower all night with a rifle. Everyone has a horror story about some asshole that outranks him (a fellow conscript who just happened to sign up a few months earlier) forcing him to do pretty degrading shit. Speaking of shit, one guy I know had to unclog a toilet with his bare hands.
Here’s a fun statement from the AHRC (Asian Human Rights Commission). Suicide rate is high and the bureaucracy so thick with bullshit, most of that free manpower is wasted and a good portion of the conscripts just dig all day for no apparent reason. And I know I’m going to catch shit as a result of my less-than-stellar Korean language skills.
The even better news is that the recruitment base I’m being sent to sends a disproportionate number of their soldiers to the DMZ, “the scariest place on earth” according Bill Clinton (thanks Bill!). Well at least if I serve there I can tell people I stood on front lines of freedom or some bullshit.
On the bright side (heh) a lot of friendship formed in the Korean Army last a lifetime and it’s sort of a male rite of passage here, so… Yeah.

Then there’s her. I need to end it. It wouldn’t be fair for her to wait for me and I don’t want a dear John letter making things worse. Plus the difficulty of communication with the outside world would strain even the strongest of relationships.
I made an attempt to break-up a while ago but that only lasted a couple of days. It’s going to be unpleasant. It was last time. I’ve gotten too used to the feeling of having someone there. She’s just going to try to delay it like last time, but this time I can’t give in. I’m leaving the 20th so I have to do this pretty soon.

Then there’s that other girl who likes me and I kind of like her too but that’s really neither here nor there. For the record, I haven’t done anything even remotely close to betraying my girlfriend’s trust even though it’s all going to shit anyway.

Man… Life’s a bitch, ain’t it?

(I realized halfway through writing this I made a similar post a few months ago. This one has more bitching and conviction though.)

I’m sorry you’re going through a trying time; it’s difficult when you’re faced with a seemingly insurmountable future.

The only bit of advice I’d offer is, don’t break up solely because “it’s not fair to her…”; she’s [presumably] a big girl and between the two of you you can figure out with resolve whether or not your relationship will survive your difficult future.

Good luck.

I think drpepper has the right idea. It seems a shame to break up with her pre-emptively.
I’d say try talking to her about it and make sure she understands what the future might hold. If she is willing to give it a chance even after that talk, don’t cut off someone who might turn out to be a valuable source of support.

“It’s not you, it’s the Korean military.” At least that’s a new line. :wink:

Seriously though, let her know what your thoughts are, but let her decide what is or isn’t fair to her.

I agree…breaking up with her for this reason is ultimately less fair to her than you think. Now, if you feel that you can’t maintain your feelings for her, and want to be free to explore things with this new girl…then by all means break it off. But if you’d like to have a future with your current girl…give her more credit than you are. Lots of couples have endured long separations, and you can still get real mail, right? Breaking up with her, just so you don’t endure the pain of her breaking up with you down the road, is not very…well, manly! You’re going to be a soldier! You need a sweetheart to write to!

And for the record…how long a period of time are we talking, here…a year? Two?

Aye, a relationship has two sides and making her decisions for her is demeaning to her.

The Basque Country has a lot of stories about couples meeting, being apart for years (often with little communication - think letters sent from and to America daily, with a lag of half a year; sometimes a well-meaning but imposing relative who grabs the letters “to spare her the pain, she should just find a nice boy here”). My great-grandparents met when they were in their late teens, fell in love, the families refused to give parental permission for the marriage, they didn’t see each other for ten years, met again by chance and said “to hell with them.”

Long distance is difficult but not impossible. Of course, if the only reason you’re together is the sex, that doesn’t work long distance - is it?

Bummer, man. How long are you going to be serving? My only advice is try to think of it as an adventure. For the rest of your life you’ll have “when I served in the Korean military…” stories. You gotta milk these for all these are worth.

As for the girl, bummer again. I’ll go against the flow and say it’s a good idea to break up or have an open relationship, with the understanding that you all will be free to get back together or resume a normal relationship when you finish. If you aren’t super serious and aren’t pretty much convinced it’s going to work out there is no reason for her to spend those precious years in the early twenties waiting around. We’re only young and sexy once. Might as well have fun with it. And if it is meant to be, you guys will find each other again.

To me there is just no reason for a non-marriage oriented relationship to be exclusive when one partner is overseas for years. The only thing that’d serve is quelling your own insecurities, which it seems you have a handle on.

I was not in a relationship when i served, but many of my fellow soldiers who were, broke up with their girlfriends during that time. One of the primary reasons was the time apart, but many also complained that their girlfriends didn’t understand how taxing military service can be. When on leave, the girlfriends wanted to spend a lot of quality time together, but the men just wanted to sleep.

Digging is a good exercise. Be glad you don’t serve in a colder climate. It takes hours digging a foxhole into frozen ground.

Around two years.

When I said it’s not fair to her, I think what I meant was it’s not fair to me. We talk about what we’re going to do and her position invariably is she doesn’t know what she wants. I think if I left it alone we would just continue the relationship. In that situation, I’m probably going to look to her for strength during my service, thinking about seeing her after it’s over and all that. But I don’t want to find out one day that it was all an illusion and she’s already forgotten about me. 2 years is a long time and I know she would have little trouble replacing me if that’s what she wanted. Even if she didn’t want to, well shit happens, right? I don’t think she would cheat on me, but there’s no guarantee that her affections will last since that’s not something she can control. Life is going to suck as it is and something like that may very well push me over the edge.

I do love her still, but breaking up is probably in both our best interest. Who knows, if it was really something special, maybe we’ll look for each other at some point in the future.

The other girl’s kind of a nonfactor, not worth pursuing. I guess I just mentioned it for kicks. Maybe at a different time and place, but I’ve got enough to deal with.

The DMZ gets perty cold from what hear.

I agree with you, if you’re not sure about things (either with the military or the GF) then say you want to cool things off fir the duration, but you’d like to get in touch after demob and see if there’s any chance of picking up again.

No harm, no foul.

If she’s not sure what she wants now, who knows what could happen in two years of minimal or no contact? It may be a good time to let a failing relationship (which you seem to be saying it is) end without blame.

On the other hand, I have a family story like Nava’s. My Aunt’s BF was sent halfway round the world for seven years, specifically to get him away from her. They were not allowed any contact at all during that time. They’ve been happily married since he got back in '65 or so.

It does.

I feel for you, I really do. Almost all of my male friends had to go and didn’t enjoy it at all. If it’s any comfort, conditions have improved a bit over the years, and the length of time you have to serve has also been cut down (I think it used to be closer to four years).

I have to say, I know very few people that had relationships that survived the guy’s military service. And that’s when the girls are living in Korea and can go visit on the weekends. The guys later said that having the girl break up with while they were in the military really really sucked, and quite a few of my friends deliberately broke up with their girlfriends before they started service. So I understand where you’re coming from. That being said, I do know couples that weathered the two years and are now married, so like any situation there is no hard and fast rule for everyone.