By the time we marry in May, my fiancé, M, and I will have been in a relationship for over 750 days.
We’ll only have spent about 170 of those days in each other’s physical presence.
Such is the hell of long distance relationships.
M and I started dating the second semester of our senior year of undergrad. Logically, we knew it was dumb (we both had pretty set plans for life after graduation). But neither of us is very logical. So we dove in headfirst without thinking about the potential rocks and snakes and crocodiles at the bottom. But we did know that we’d probably be apart for at least two years while he went to grad school in Texas and I hopped all over the country trying to find a job in publishing. Good thing I’m pretty talented at pretending not so pleasant things will either just go away or fix themselves. (My cavity and a clogged drain in the bathroom are still waiting for evidence that this method works…)
I don’t know the exact moment that I realized that M was the man for me. That I wanted to be with him forever. It was a gradual thing. In fact, it was exactly as described in The Fault in Our Stars (you MUST go out and read this book at once. I don’t give recommendations lightly…), “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” Spot on. Because somewhere between the Skype sessions that lasted for hours and love letters in the mail, I knew this was it: I was going to see this thing through to the end because I couldn’t imagine life without him anymore. Because he made me a better person. Because he knew me and I knew him.
When M proposed, we were only halfway through our long distance journey. So, like the fiancé I thought I was supposed to be, I launched myself into planning. But I quickly realized it wasn’t as fun as present-day society told me it would/should be. (So many decisions!) I discovered that I didn’t care so much about the actual wedding day because it was the days after that I was really counting down to: The day our regularly reset countdown until the next visit, the next plane ticket, the next tearful reunion and departure would finally end.
So in between the stressful moments of picking out flowers and asking M what shower curtain we wanted to put on the registry, I began counting down to starting our life together: I wanted to come home and veg on the couch with him after a long, hard day. I wanted to try all the restaurants I drive past and wish I could go to with him. I wanted to fight over the last piece of cake on the counter. I wanted to bicker about the cap of the toothpaste and the position of the toilet seat lid. I wanted to celebrate birthdays, holidays, anniversaries (on the actual day!), and three-day weekends together. I wanted to cook and clean and make a home together. I want it all.
Long distance forced us to appreciate the little things. It made us appreciate each other more. It made us communicate more because that’s pretty much all we have in the end. If we couldn’t communicate, then it would never work.
When people hear that we’re in a long distance relationship we automatically get the sympathetic looks and the well-meaning encouragement (“Good for you all!” “Way to make it work!”). But it doesn’t feel like work… Hold on. Let me rephrase. Yes, it’s work. It’s hard work. It takes sacrifice and effort and pain and tears, but doesn’t every relationship? Doesn’t every marriage? Good things aren’t supposed to come easy. So yes, it’s work, yes, but work connotes that you can quit and give up at any point when you get tired or when five o’clock rolls around. What we have, isn’t work. It’s life. We’re living life and there’s no other option than to keep living. And I choose to live with him, whether we’re two feet away or eight hundred miles away.
So long distance is possible. It’s doable. It’s never fun, but it can be creative. We still have date nights. (Netflix! Two screens on the laptop: movie and Skype). We still have deep, hard conversations. (It’ll feel weird at first having it over a screen or a phone, but you’ll get used to it.) We tell each other about every second of the day to help us feel connected. I want to imagine that I was there with him. We take tours of each other’s regular hangouts when visiting so we can picture it better. And there’s nothing like that moment when we first catch each other’s eyes as I pick him up from the airport. It’s the best. Because we’re back where we’re supposed to be: with each other. And yes, that’s cheesy, but it’s so unbelievably right too.
Every single moment we are together is bliss, whether we’re fighting or lingering over breakfast not wanting to part for the day, simply because we’re together. And we know what it’s like to not be.
And above all we’ve had to remember, this long distance thing is temporary. We’ve taken it one day at a time. Literally. And one day we’re going to wake up and realize we have a lifetime to be together.