Q: After my boyfriend and I returned from a teaching stint abroad, he broke up with me. I was devastated but eventually started seeing somebody else. He got really jealous and flew out a few times to see me until I said yes to getting back together. We’ve had a phone relationship since January, with visits whenever possible. Well, I’m starting grad school on the East Coast, and won’t be mobile for three years. But, as for moving to be with me, he’s now saying he doesn’t know if he can leave San Francisco. It’s not even a job keeping him there! He’s unemployed and still unwilling to leave one of the most expensive cities! He simply just wants to live there. I’m wondering if all the waiting’s worth it since he isn’t willing to work very hard for us to be together.

— Dismayed

A: Who says you can’t take the man out of San Francisco? Just force him into the trunk of your car at gunpoint and promise him a bathroom break and a Snickers when you hit Bakersfield.

So, the guy chases you down, wins you back, and now he’s not sure whether it’s you or that tramp with the cable cars? That’s not how love is supposed to work. According to Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, and every romantic comedy ever made, love is throwing aside everything to crawl across broken glass on four continents, only to die in your beloved’s arms. This, on the other hand, is like Romeo texting Juliet (on parchment delivered by servants), “OMG, not sure if i can give up pizza nite w family 2 b w/u.”

In the real world, for people with more to them than an obsessive connection to another human being, there are often practical considerations: whether they both want kids, who’s going to pay for them, whether they’ll join the Hari Krishnas or keep working as tax accountants. While some people can live anywhere as long as they’re with the person they love, for many, where they wake up and walk out the door every day is no small thing. It’s not just the place, but the way of life in a particular place (“The city that never sleeps” versus “the suburb that never wakes up”).

The guy might love you, but he’s made his priority clear: He’s left his heart in San Francisco, and the rest of him is staying to keep it company. Chances are, he got so focused on winning you back, he forgot to ask himself “And then what?” Now that he’s won you, he’s all “Actually, I’m kind of attached to fog, earthquakes, and stepping over a wino to get into my favorite patisserie.” It’s a lucky thing he figured that out before he gave up his apartment and moved to Collegetown. (Love in a place you hate quickly becomes seething resentment.) If you don’t resent him too much, maybe you and he will try to keep it going long distance while you’re in school. If so, you need to be practical, too: Ask yourself how you feel about spending the rest of your days in San Francisco, because you probably won’t get the guy out of there for any length of time — not until you can fit him into an urn.

© 2010 Amy Alkon, all rights reserved.