Wedding Undergraduate: Communication and Patience

Today’s post comes from Rachael, one of the many, many members of Team Practical that’s a writer and an editor (I love that we have so many writers here). Her story is about getting engaged (something you guys said we needed to talk more about), about learning to trust and honor your relationships (something we all need to think more about), and about how effing pumped she is to get married in August (I can’t wait for her wedding graduate post). Now, let’s get started:

Joe and I started dating in high school, when he was a junior and I was a senior. How exactly we got together involves an incredibly protracted and dorky combination of mock trial, community theater, LiveJournal, AIM conversations and at least one trip to Arby’s that regrettably may or may not have been our first official date. He was my first boyfriend. And now, about eight and a half years later, since we’re engaged and planning our wedding for August 2011 and all that, he’ll probably be my only boyfriend ever.

It’s all so unlikely, I know, and not just because of the high-school sweethearts thing. We’re now both writers, which is a classic recipe for disaster (although so far I haven’t been tempted to stick my head in an oven and he’s yet to die in a strange sailing accident, so I’m feeling OK about it). But the big thing that maybe should’ve ripped us apart long ago but very thankfully did not is how we dated long-distance for most of the first eight years of our relationship.

We never sat down and talked about how this all would pan out, which isn’t exactly a plan I recommend, but it somehow it worked. We racked up thousands of miles on our odometers (and only one speeding ticket, thanks) and plowed through countless wireless minutes. Nearly every single day we weren’t in each others’ presence, one of us called the other. We were already trusting and honest with each other, but this bolstered it.

We told stories about our friends and our professors and our bosses and our co-workers and our separate but intertwined lives. I guess if either of us had ever been interested in breaking up or seeing other people we would’ve talked about that, too—but it never came up.

For me, it was an ongoing regimen of gut-checks: Is this what I want? Is he who I want? And the answer was always yes. I was choosing him every day. And I knew he was choosing me.

So that was the first lesson our long-distance love taught me: The importance of communication, not only with Joe but with myself.

The second lesson was tougher but also probably more important: patience.

I consider standing in front of a microwave and letting the timer count down to absolute zero to be a feat of will. I have ruined dinners, craft projects, attempts at car detailing and countless other tasks simply because I could not get them done fast enough. And my impatience morphs into something much uglier when there’s no end-point assigned to whatever I’m having to force myself to wait on.

But for the vast majority of our relationship, we weren’t working on a set timeline. Things unfolded organically, if haphazardly. Sometimes this drove me crazy. But most of the time I was able to hold my breath and just swim through it, because what was my other option? Breaking up with him? How would removing him from my life solve the issue of there not being enough of him in my life? Pretty much any scrap of patience I now posses came from Joe and the demands of our relationship.

Last May, Joe graduated from his Master’s program, packed his life into his car and drove down to Atlanta. We moved into a tiny one-bedroom apartment and the year since has been one of the happiest of my life.

But him moving in also kind of ripped open a previously discrete cavern of my brain, the one where all my mostly-secret thoughts about engagements and weddings were stashed. For years, any time anyone asked whether Joe and I would ever get married, I’d just laugh: “We’re just trying to live in the same city, first!” What would happen then? For quite a while, I didn’t really care. I was ambivalent about getting married for the first half of our relationship, not because I didn’t love him but because, um, I was like 20 years old? Just going to weddings during college made me feel like we were playing grown-up; the idea of having one myself seemed absolutely ludicrous.

By the time he moved in last spring, though, I’d mentally planned about four different weddings for us—not including the vampire-goth and/or GWAR-themed wedding he and I had been openly joking about for years, that joke comprising the bulk of our conversations on the subject of our personal future matrimony. Occasionally, I confessed my various wedding fantasies (the one where I wore a green dress, the one with the ceremony on the bridge downtown in our hometown, the one with the cupcake towers) to close girl friends, often finding myself comforted by the fact that they also had ideas for their own very far-off weddings, even when there was no future spouse in the picture. But not a word of this was spoken to Joe himself.

Communication—ha! Patience—ha!

Last summer, when his school insurance was about to expire, I seized my chance. I floated the idea—half-jokingly? one-third jokingly?—that we could just get dressed up, call our family and friends, get married at the courthouse and throw him on the insurance policy I had through my job. “But that’s not what you want, is it?” was his reply (and that of my mom). They were right, of course. It wasn’t what I wanted; it was just an excuse to talk about getting married, because I just couldn’t figure out any other way. In retrospect it seems like it would’ve been so easy to throw it out there with no pretense, but at the time it was weirdly insurmountable. So I took a breath, and backed down.

And then, that job that was providing me with the insurance I was trying to use as an excuse to get married? Laid me off about three weeks after the date I’d been side-eyeing for the quickie ceremony.

In the weeks and months after I lost my job, I realized a lot of things about myself and my general existence, but the most important was that I absolutely need Joe in my life. Like right there with me, every day forever. I knew this before; it’s not like I’d been taking him for granted or somehow unaware of how important he was to me. But this was the first time in our then nearly-eight-year relationship where my capacity to need him and his capacity to be exactly what I needed were simultaneously tested. It sucked, but we passed.

That didn’t make me any less covertly crazypants about wedding stuff, though. In the most flagrant violation of the sanctity of communication and patience I’ve yet committed, I somehow convinced myself that he was going to propose to me on our anniversary in October. He did not. It was weird and I was sad. I am not totally proud of myself on that night, but good things happened anyway. In a very roundabout and tear-soaked way, we wound up talking about a ring that I didn’t know he had, an heirloom from his great-great aunt that was just waiting to be re-set. The next day, after I emailed him some links to rings I liked—a list he’d requested; a list I was easily able to throw together because, like I said, covertly crazypants; a list I promised not to ask him about ever again—I pushed back all the voices in my head that were muttering “How gauche!” and “So much for all those women and gender studies classes, missy!” and felt proud.

Communication! Patience!

Three months later, in mid-December, I’d so thoroughly coached myself away from thinking about our engagement that I was only distantly suspicious one Saturday afternoon when Joe hauled me to a local jeweler to (cue massive air quotes and exaggerated winking) “find a Christmas gift for his sister,” where the jeweler was oddly chummy with him and even more oddly insistent about measuring my left ring finger.

That night, he asked me to marry him.

Joe, I mean. Not the jeweler guy.

I kicked into planning mode a few days later, and in no time had to be talked out of an April wedding. We landed on the first weekend of August instead. I still think we could’ve made it happen in four months, and there for sure have been days when I was so nervous and excited about getting married that I thought there was just no way I could wait until summer. I’ve tentatively considered elopement not to avoid family drama or planning stresses, but just because sometimes I worry I might explode with excitement before August rolls around. I’m just so unbelievably pumped to get married to this guy, and I think he’s at least as pumped to get married to me. And so in the meantime, we cope by falling back on our old standbys. We talk about how excited we are instead of letting it consume us. And because eight months, really, has nothing on eight years, we sit patiently—together—and we wait.

Photos: Andrew Thomas Lee, a friend of the couple who those of you in Atlanta should definitely check out.

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  • Great piece. I completely relate to some of the pre-engagement struggles with level-headedness you explain here, and you crack me up.with your links to Plath and Shelley and your microwave impatience (I am notorious for leaving a few seconds on the microwave in our house).

  • That could have gone in such a different direction if you hadn’t clarified that it wasn’t the jeweller who proposed!

    As someone who also struggles with patience (all my friends and my husband are VERY patient people and I try to learn from them but sometimes itjusttakestoolong), I relate strongly to the feeling of “I can’t wait for it!!!”.

    Congratulations and enjoy the rest of your engagement for what it is and enjoy your wedding too.


  • <3<3<3<3<3

  • Wow, that could almost be the story of my relationship… so weird.

    I completely get you on the microwave thing. Patience is not my thing, even after 7 years of long distance dating. But I have to hope those years helped.

  • Oh the patience thing… that’s always so hard. I’m the most impatient, easily excitable person I know. And not getting consumed by excitement during the pre- engagement/ engagement phase was next to impossible. But it’s also such a fun, magical time with so many hopes and dreams and ambitions. And it’s all over so quickly. When you’re on the other side, it’s like wow… that was the shortest year of my life. And even though I’m delighted to be married and able to move on with my life (and stop stalking wedding blogs and obsessing about senseless decor details and what the weather is going to be like), I now realize what a special time it was… and I have no idea why I spent so much of my engagement wishing it was over!

  • Faith

    Oh the crazypants engagement person that takes up residence in your body without your permission.

    I’m well acquainted with her, too:)

  • I could have written this myself, only having to edit living locations and shorten 8 years to two years.

    The distance, the first and only boyfriend, the ring anticipation…I so completely get it! Love.

    Communication and Patience…they make the rocking relationships last!

  • Jo

    Love this, love you. Definitely a writer!

  • Rachel K.

    Thank you so much for this post! My fiance and I have been together since high school as well and dated long distance for several years before finally living in the same city. The way you describe the trust you had in each other and having to choose each other everyday exactly describes our experience, and I’m sure countless others who have been separated by distance during their relationships.
    Thank you!

  • Marnie

    Thanks for sharing this, Rachael. I know crazypants well, and the little gender studies fairy sitting on your shoulder. And as for impatience – my man asked me to marry him two weeks ago, and we only have three more weeks to wait till our wedding day!
    All the best with your plans and your life together.

    • Daly

      Good luck!

    • Emily

      5 week engagement! We need a grad post when you’re done!!!
      all the best,

  • That’s hilarious. Where does this insane covert wedding brain come from? Seriously – what is happening here!!! I feel like I left my barbies a long time ago, but this wedding fantasy has an unpredictably strong grip.
    Thanks for writing this.

    • Beth

      Covert wedding brain is terrifying…and one of those things you WANT to fight but then again don’t really WANT to fight either.
      Weddings are lovely–I want lovely with my lovely boyfriend, why not now… (agh! There it is…the covert crazy wedding brain!!)

  • “Joe, I mean. Not the jeweler guy.” – You are SUCH a writer!

    Although I love your last sentence, I think you’ll realize that although engagements do involve some aspect of waiting, they are often so full of celebration, planning and figuring out of stuff (even if you’ve already lived together), it won’t feel empty! Happy summer of details and ideas and joy!

  • A post about two writers who had to deal with the long distance thing and ultimately got engaged? Rachael, are you my secret twin? Obviously I can relate to this post (which is so hysterical and honest) so much. Communication and patience are huge for any couple, but obviously when you’re dating for so many years and trying to cover a huge distance, these factors are even more important. I loved in particular:

    For years, any time anyone asked whether Joe and I would ever get married, I’d just laugh: “We’re just trying to live in the same city, first!”

    That’s exactly what my fiance and I always said! There were certainly rough times, especially when we were both trying to figure out where we wanted to live, but things ultimately worked out for the best. And I’m really glad we waited until we were in the same city to get engaged. With that, we knew we were actively planning a wedding and preparing for married life.

    • Yes, for a long time I joked that we needed to at least live in the same state.

    • I used to say same zip code. (Although it’s ended up being postal code, but whatevs.)

  • I’m getting to the point where I’m fairly convinced that Meg is bugging my house, because as usual, this post is incredibly timely. My partner and I are working through some kind of tough stuff about different timelines (his), impatience (mine), and how these things can collide to make me feel, at times, incredibly insecure about what I know intellectually about our relationship (that we choo-choo-choose each other every day) and the messaging I get bombarded with (if he isn’t proposing RIGHTNOW, it’s because he’s just not that into me).

    A reminder about breathing, patience, and the act of choosing to actively build a life together is well-timed. And in fact, I might draft a little under-under-grad post about it.

    • I would totally love to read your under-under-grad post. I need to learn more about the well-times aspect. Well, not so much learn, but just how to deal with it.

    • Barbra

      This. This is exactly where we are. And I loved what Rachael said about choosing him every day. For a while now, my boyfriend and I have thought, “Well, if we’re (he’s) still not ready to get married, maybe we should break up instead.” And that uncertainty is a killer for me. But looking at it instead as actively choosing him every day? That’s a triumph.

      • Ashley

        I am right here too, exactly here. Like it’s kind of eerie how much you’re both echoing my thoughts on it, especially since I feel like no one in my real life really gets it. Gets that it is a triumph, that I am proud to choose him everyday but that what I hate is what that uncertainty does to me. I hate that it makes me doubt him and doubt us in a way that I just know isn’t fair. It’s SUCH a challenging place to be, for both of us, but it helps so much to know i’m not alone. Thanks APW.

    • meg

      I am bugging your house. I hope you’re scared! Also, I like those shoes. Cute.

    • Chris

      I think that makes it a high school post. Or maybe a gap year, depending on where you live. :) In any case, been there, and I’d love to hear your take.

  • Our relationship was long distance for a very long time too, and I agree that learning patience was very hard but very important. When I thought about how much I missed him, I’d ask myself if staying together was the right thing. But I didn’t want to date anyone else. I just wanted him to be closer. I think the following line captures this idea perfectly:

    “How would removing him from my life solve the issue of there not being enough of him in my life?”

  • Mmm, I love this post and like so many others, it is well-timed for me. I find it especially hard to remain patient when everyone else is engaged/married, and I am deep-down-in-my-heart ready for it but other important aspects of our lives (mainly financial) are not. He’s definitely more of a “it’ll happen when it does” type of person whereas I want things nownownow. Communication and patience, indeed. :)

  • calumnia

    This is my favourite wedding graduate post ever. Seriously.

    • meg

      And it’s not even a GRAD post! Wait till she gets married!

  • Kara

    Omigosh. You are totally my twin! I’ve been dating my high school boyfriend for almost 10 years now (8 of them long distance since we went to different colleges then law schools). We’re finally going to live in the same city & live together soon as he’s moving to be with me on 4th of July weekend.

    I am so excited to live in the same city & plan our wedding, but also terrified that something will go wrong. What if when we’re finally around each other more than every other weekend, we decide we don’t love each other anymore? What if we each do things that drive the other crazy? It’s worked out so far though, so I’m hopeful that everything will be okay!

    • No, you’ll be fine! You will do things that drive each other crazy, for sure, but if you can handle distance then that makes you such a stronger couple I think!

    • One of the best feelings is you don’t have to plan to -do- things when you see each other any more! It’s fantastic to not have to do anything special at all and still be together.

    • Oh, you’ll definitely discover that each of you do things that drive the other a little nuts. But it was kind of awesome when that finally happened with us. I don’t know about Joe, but for me it was like, “OHHH YAY finally I get to have FEELINGS about how you deal with dirty dishes and empty toilet paper rolls!”

    • Jamie

      I just moved to be with my fiance last July, we’re getting married in June. I have never lived with ANYONE before, except for my cats, so I was scared too. In fact, a year ago I could’ve been the one writing your comment. “What if he gets tired of me and my bullshit and packs my suitcase for me” was a frequent worry of mine.

      But it works! And I didn’t realize how lonely I was in my previous home until we lived in the same home. I turn over every morning and he’s there. When he has a bad day at work, I’m there. He’s there! In the same room! And I didn’t realize how much I was missing until I had that.

      The one thing we did have to do was institute a chore chart. We are both used to dealing with just our own filth, so we have a cleaning schedule now and we have different rooms we are responsible for each week. And it’s kind of made me more organized, so I’d still say that it’s all around, pretty much amazing.

    • kasaro

      YES! my boyfriend and i are moving in together on July 4th as well! hooray for finally closing the (2700mile) distance and starting new chapters of our lives! congrats and good luck, friend!!!

    • Tina

      I know I’m late to the party, but wanted to add to this. My boyfriend and I ended 8 years of distance several years ago. It was short-lived too because I knew I would be leaving the country to teach for another 8 months. I had all of these fears, but knew that being together without having to make elaborate plans was going to be wonderful. That alone made working out the kinks a little bit easier.

      We certainly had some rough patches of getting used to each other and the habits that we had developed over our time apart. People who didn’t know me as well thought it was strange that I was moving in with him for about 7 or 8 months only to leave again. Would I put my stuff in storage? What if it didn’t work? I realized from these questions that I wasn’t as worried as I originally felt before moving in. I just knew that it would work. I think that comes from the time and effort you spend making it work while you’re apart.

      We’ve been living together over two years now since I’ve been back and things are going great. So hopefully it alleviates some of your concerns.

      I think at some point a couple has to work out the kinks of living together whether it’s before they are married, after they’re married, or after years of long-distance relationships. Having a foundation of communication certainly helps.

  • This could be my fiancé and I’s story. We started dating our freshman year of high school, did the long distance thing for all of college and just moved in together last August. We got engaged on our 8th anniversary, and will be getting married in just about a year. Communication and patience are definitely key when doing the long distance thing and are a great foundation for a strong relationship.

  • charm city vixen

    I can totally relate to your pre-engagement impatience. My SO and I live together, talk about getting married, and he has picked out the ring… but it’s the anticipation and waiting and IMPATIENCE of it all that is killing me!!!

    I know I’m going to love being engaged, just like I love dating him… but I want the fiance status, I guess! And I have to know a plan (control freak?) and it kind of bothers me that I’m not in on this plan and he is “surprising” me! AHHHH WANT TO KNOW NEED TO PLAN!!!! (that’s my crazypants-ness… that, and making lists.)

    Congrats on your engagement and thank you for posting!

  • I had a folder on my computer titled “Pants”… it was my secret wedding folder for almost a year before we were engaged. It was short for crazypants, of course.

    • That is amazing!!

    • meg

      Hahahahaha. Excellent. Most of us have to keep that folder after we get engaged too. I mean, maybe a little tiny bit. (Hangs head).

      • Oh mine stayed around until the lappy top died in the roof collapse. I renamed it “Too Legit to Quit”

    • Mine was called “Troublemaker” ;)

    • This actually made me LOL. Somehow I didn’t have a secret desktop folder! Lots and LOTS of covertly-read RSS subscriptions, though.

    • JEM

      Mine was/still is hidden in the Windows “Sample Pictures” folder. For like 2 years. Because really, who clicks on that?

      …and then I passed that hiding spot suggestion on to others.

      • O.o ME TOO. It seems I am unoriginal. I can deal if it leaves me in this lovely company, though!

      • Ris

        “Sample Pictures” – that’s brilliant.

        • JEM

          Thanks! I don’t look it, but I’m pretty sneaky ;)

    • That’s hilarious.

    • Emily

      Ha! I had a folder except I titled it “Top Secret” so of course my boyfriend found it. I don’t know what I was thinking…in many ways.

      • JEM

        This is cracking me up! It is…practical…to start thinking about ideas and researching in advance, right? To get the beat deals/figure out what is important/etc. etc.? Right??

    • Olivia

      I just checked my folder and it has been mysteriously renamed “China.” I guess that’s pretty cryptic.

      I think it used to be called Big Important Events or something like that, because we openly discussed our impending engagement but had tacitly agreed not to use the real words describing those events until they were “real.”

    • I titled mine “W” for wedding of course. And it was buried inside of a bunch of different folders.

    • Beth

      Mine’s titled “Wedding (theoretical)” but “Pants” is so much better…

      • Amy

        I think I became a Wedding Photographer in part because it would help cover up the crazy pants..Now if I want to buy a wedding magazine to look at the dresses I just justify it as research!

    • kasaro

      this is fantastic. honestly, the boyf would DIE if he saw my google reader. he’s just warming up to the fact that i’m obsessed with APW. good thing he doesn’t know about snippet&ink and 100layercake and b.a.bride and…

      maybe i should add CNN and the NY Times to make my feed a bit more diversified lol

    • Erin

      I secretly read APW for a year before we got engaged (not brown-nosing at all here, I’m for serious!). My now-hubs was so surprised when I hit the ground running with half a million ideas the day after he (finally) proposed.
      This post was great. I love that so many of us have similar stories, and thrilled that there are so many happy resolutions.

    • That is so perfect. Mine was a folder titled “s-s-s-s-secrets” hidden inside of two other folders.

      My boyfriend was pretty surprised when he proposed and an hour later I was showing him an entire folder of inspiration pictures.

    • Barbra

      Mine is called “handles”

    • Beb

      I had a secret wedding email account that I started three weeks before we got engaged. PW? bitchesbecrazy (bitches being me). :)

    • Haha, I’m not the only one with a secret wedding planning folder! Mine is called APW ;-) since so many of the links in there are from here!

    • The great thing about computers is that it’s easier to hide things. Last year when my boyfriend was away for a business trip, I took out Off Beat Bride from the library. Before he got back, I hid it in a purse in my closet… but left the return date slip at his spot at the dinner table. Eyebrows were raised!

    • Jenny

      Love it!
      My wedding bookmarks folder used to be called “Himitsu” (secret in Japanese). Now that wedding talks have become more open, I changed it to “Kekkon,” meaning “wedding.” Not that he understands it either way… :P
      I had a folder on my computer but it is so secret I forgot where I put it, hmmm…

      • spark

        Ha ha ha this is all so funny. Mine is hidden in a ‘pictures’ subfolder, called ‘clothes’… cos there’s no way my boyfriend is looking at pictures of clothes… so glad I’m not the only slightly obsessed-and-embarrassed-about-it girl out there

  • marbella

    3 years of long-distance (different countries) for us was tough, but as you said ‘choosing him every day, and him choosing me’ is what makes it work. Those conscious choices make you evaluate why it is worth it all the time! In over 5 years of living together since the long-distance days, I am still grateful for being able to be together in a way that I don’t think non-long distance couples are lucky enough to experience.
    May you choose each other daily for the rest of your lives!

    • You said it well: long distance teaches you a lot of lessons!

    • Olivia

      Sometimes I even miss the way that we would talk when we were long distance. All that depth that you have when you’re in the same place has to somehow be translated over the phone, and those were some amazingly intense moments.

  • Aah long distance….like a lot of people above I can really relate to this post! Getting married in August, been through about 4 years of long distance. And it’s been awful at times, but now it’s almost the end I can look back and see how it has also been so good! Cause it’s you can look back on those years and think “Wow, we really changed in those years. You grew up. I grew up. When did that happen?!” And it’s amazing to realise that you’ve grown up beside each other, even from a distance.

    I was talking to an already-married friend who said that after the honeymoon she had this moment of realising…wait…you don’t have to leave! I don’t have to leave! This is where WE live now! And she said it was awesome because it just felt like they had arrived home after a loooong journey. Amazing.

    • Shelly

      9 months into marriage after yeeeaarrrsss of long-distance, we still look at each other every Sunday evening and say “yay! neither of us has to leave!” and then we snuggle up together. It’s my favorite part of the week.

      • I agree! We’ve been married a year and seven months now and I still get excited that we are no longer long distance. :)

  • YES! Amazing! My fiance and I met in high school and started dating when we were about 20, and for the first few years neither of us wanted to get married. To anyone. Ever. Then we hit year three and I don’t know what happened but I started getting wedding fever. I think part of it was a desire to elevate our status from simply “dating” to “engaged”, which sounds wonky but I felt like the term “boyfriend” just didn’t accurately describe what I felt for him anymore. I didn’t want to get married, yet, but I did want to be engaged. I told him and he freaked.out. I ended up moving across the country to Boston to go to grad school while he stayed in San Francisco, and that was so tough. I worried a lot that we would grow apart, because he was starting a new job and I was meeting so many new people in school. It all worked out, but we never really talked about wedding stuff until he said he was planning to propose. Yes, occasionally I would mention marriage. I would mention the idea of me proposing to him. But nothing…specific. It’s as if either of us were afraid to say the words out loud. When people would ask, I would say (honestly) that I didn’t know if we were ever getting married. Inwardly, I was trying to decide if I was ok with that.
    The night he told me he was planning to propose I emailed him a bunch of rings that I liked with a few specifics I already knew were important to me. I used to hide wedding stuff in my “shopping” bookmark folder (a place I knew he’d never look) and sequester all pictures and downloads in another folder on my computer marked “clothing/jewelry pics”. Sometimes he would catch me reading Offbeat Bride. He never said anything, but I would get a little embarrassed, like he’d caught me doing something wrooooong.
    We didn’t actually start talking about marriage stuff until we were engaged! But at least we started. And so far, so good. :-)

    • Beth

      “I think part of it was a desire to elevate our status from simply “dating” to “engaged”, which sounds wonky but I felt like the term “boyfriend” just didn’t accurately describe what I felt for him anymore.”

      YES. YES. YES. I do want to get married, but holy cow, yes. I feel a little ridiculous (I imagine whiny high school girls, “Like oh my god, my boyfriend….”) when I make grown up phone calls about joint bank accounts, our house insurance, etc. and have to refer to my boyfriend.

      • Caroline

        That is why I started calling him my partner. It doesn’t have that unwelcome conotation boyfriend does, descibes our relationship better (heck yes, he is my partner), and is not gender specific. (my partner is not genderqueer, but I think that the term partner, being less gender and sexual orietation specific is way better.( inspired by a reclaiming wife post here about the terms partner and wife)
        I love it, it is a great term for where we are at.

    • charm city vixen

      I totally relate to not wanting to date anymore — to wanting to be “engaged,” because “engaged” is so much more in line to what we feel for each other.

  • You have no idea how much I adore/needed this post.

    I had the same type reaction on multiple occassions when I thought I was going to be proposed to. Our come to Jesus conversation happened on Valentine’s Day (and the anniversary of our first date). I spent the entire night being weird, too. I’m not proud of who I was then, and somehow I managed to be that person a few other times until we finally got engaged in April.

    Fortunately my fiance is the perfect complement to me. He’s known how wedding crazypants I’ve been for quite some time, and he’s so ready for us to live in the same city, under the same roof, and share our lives together—so we’ve been planning for a JULY wedding, even before the ring, so that we could pull it off (in three months, ha!) once we finally got engaged.

    Your post is so refreshing. Thank you for making me feel better about my crazypants self. I look forward to reading about your wedding in August!

  • Olivia

    I’m impressed that you only got one speeding ticket.

    This was a wonderful and very well-written post.

  • Katy

    Ohhh goodness patience. We are also high school sweethearts. Been together 6 years with 2 more until he is out of the army and we can (finally!) live together. And we have a year deployment to get through before he is out.
    So yeah, I know what you are talking about with the whole communication and patience thing. It’s all about skype.

    And *ahem, my folder is just “ideas” ..

  • Mallory

    You are still so awesome.

  • Gillian

    “For me, it was an ongoing regimen of gut-checks: Is this what I want? Is he who I want? And the answer was always yes. I was choosing him every day. And I knew he was choosing me.”

    Yes! I love this post. I’m married to my high school sweetheart. Really resonated with the thoughts about what it means to discover that means he’s the only one I’ll ever be with. I hope August comes soon for you!

  • “I was choosing him every day. And I knew he was choosing me.”

    Those are my favorite lines from this post. Some days this is easier than others!! Choosing him was something I thought about a lot before & during our engagement. As for him choosing me, mostly I was in awe. Now it’s about us honoring our vows every day.

    I hope your August wedding day comes quickly, time definitely starts to fly as it gets closer. Enjoy every precious moment of your engagement & wedding~

  • Marissa

    Wow, I felt like I was reading about myself! The Boy and I have not gotten to engagement status yet, but we did long distance for three years and we’ve just moved in together and I have no job at the moment. So we’re at the crazy hard part in your timeline. Luckily, though, we’re both in the “let’s wait until things naturally develop” camp, so even though I read APW every day to laugh and cry and be inspired by other women’s brilliant stories, I’m in no hurry to plan a wedding. This particular passage really resonates with me: “For me, it was an ongoing regimen of gut-checks: Is this what I want? Is he who I want? And the answer was always yes. I was choosing him every day. And I knew he was choosing me.”

    I love your writing and I can’t wait to read your graduate post!

  • My fiance and I were semi-long distance the first year we dated (about an hour apart, so close enough that we saw each other 1-2 times a week, but far enough away that we couldn’t hang out every second of every day), and in some ways I almost miss the special breed of trust and independence we had then. I love living with him now, and all the ways that our lives intertwine, but I think that the year we spent on the phone every night and excitedly driving to see each other on the weekends was so important to the way our relationship unfolded. We learned to talk (and listen!) to each other in that year.

  • AnotherCourtney

    I love your story – half because it’s awesome and your excitement is so evident, and half because of how eerily similar it is to mine!

    He’s my college sweetheart instead of my high school one, which means we spent a couple years in the same city (around semesters abroad and summer internships elsewhere) before I moved to another state after graduation. I, too, picked too-soon wedding dates and “perfect” proposal dates all along. (One of the first things he said to me after he proposed was “Now we can go on vacation together without you being disappointed that I haven’t proposed every time!”). Oh, patience.

    We are finally living in the same city, finally getting married in September, and I am so excited I could burst, too. Even though it’s a pretty simple wedding by some standards, it still feels like a fairytale to me because it’s FINALLY HAPPENING. I’ve known I would spend the rest of my life with him for years, but now everyone around me knows it, too, and that’s an awesome feeling.

    So, congratulations to you, Rachael! May August come swiftly :)

  • Miriam’s Mom

    Terrific article! I was in a 5-year-wait-lots-of long-distance-phone-calls relationship, too. We just celebrated 33 together, so I’ve got to confirm the things that are making your relationship with Joe stronger definitely worked out for us. I’m so happy for you, Pirate Rachael and am so glad you were part a wedding in our family (trial run for the nerves?). Your turn will be just as wonderful, I’m sure! MWAH!

  • I don’t know how so many of you gals managed long-distance relationships for so long. Maybe I’m extra needy. :p When I started dating my husband, we spent hardly any time apart until finally I was practically living at his place within a month, rarely sleeping at my own apartment. We’ve been together almost four years and the longest we’ve been apart is a week – and I miss him terribly if he’s gone. Kudos for hanging in there and making it work and not going crazy because I sure as heck would have!

    • Beb

      Well, you can make it work and still go a little crazy. I am recently engaged and my dude and I have been long-distance for approximately 2.5 of the 3.5 years we’ve been together (which is small potatoes compared to what Rachael and her fiance did, but we were often on different CONTINENTS and in places with patchy phones and limited internet – blurg), and, ya know, we just DID it. It sucked a lot, at times, and I think I reached a bit of a mental wall once the end was in sight (his graduation from grad school and planned move down to my city). But you find ways to struggle through it, because when it’s worth it, it’s worth it.

      • Caroline

        We were long distance for 3 years, but only saw eachother every six months for a long weekend, due to school and work and lack of money for flights.
        It was hard. We talked for hours a day, everyday. It was so hard, and
        I love living with him now, but we got to know eachother so well because we
        spent all our time just talking, and we managed.
        Like Rachael said, ““But most of the time I was able to hold my breath and just swim through it, because what was my other option? Breaking up with him? How would removing him from my life solve the issue of there not being enough of him in my life?”
        it seems hard, impossible, but you find a way to make it work , because it’s worth having this person in your life, even if that presence is phone calls and short visits.

        • Beb

          Yes, exactly. This was similar to my experience. At one point for a six month period, he was in Africa and I was in South America, the time difference was brutal, neither person could travel to see the other, I was working a ton, he was traveling and having fun a ton, and it was just HARD. Lots of crying over skype (when it was working) happened (on my part) (with lots of listening on his part). But, yes, you decide it’s worth it and you make it through. To be honest, I’m glad we have had such a lot of experience being apart, because it does make you learn to communicate, and to appreciate – I mean really appreciate – what you have and why you’re choosing to be in a relationship with that person. Whatever doesn’t kill you, right?

  • Geepuff

    While my experience in the long distance stuff has been limited, I am with you on the whole convincing yourself a proposal wasn’t going to happen and that that was fine with you (which it totally was, and I sometimes think, would still be). I thought the bottle of champagne in the hotel room where he purposed was a gift from the hotel. What? How am I supposed to know how fancy pants hotels work?

    Also, wanted to thank you for the post and to thank all of the commenters for the sane, practical, wonderful comments. After a weekend in the WIC looking for bridesmaid dresses, I needed me some practical in a big way.

    Meg, thanks for helping us all keep our heads screwed on!

  • Jillian

    Internet high-five for high-school sweethearts and former long-distance couples getting hitched!

    My fiance and I were long -distance for 3 of our 6 years (so far) together…and I totally hear you on the Communication and Patience front. Being apart for so long really forces you to work on communicating to one another and I’ve found that it has really benefitted our relationship now that we live together. And to echo what you said in your post, being away for an extended time does force you to evaluate your life without the other person and think: Do I really want this? Is this the person for me? Like you, the answer was always a resounding yes.

    But oh man did I fail on Patience. Those 3 years felt like the longest of my life.

  • Amy

    Thanks for this post!Holy cow do I know that “crazy pants” engagement feeling. To top it off I’m a Wedding Photographer, so I get to listen while all of my wonderful clients tell me about how they got engaged.
    My BF and I have been together for over 5 years on and off long distance too. A cross country move for me and three years later I’m still patiently(and not so patiently sometimes) waiting. It can be hard to wait, and easy to convince myself he’s about to pop the question at any moment, especially when you start breeching the subject of marriage and it looks positive.(we just started looking at rings casually online) I know that when the time is right he’ll ask. Then I’m pretty sure he knows that the wedding flood gates will open, and all my”research” for my photo business will be put to good use planning our wedding.

  • Laura Mc

    Definitely can relate over here too!

    Dated 8.5 years before engagement, 4 of them were long distance, and even after we moved to the same city, I wanted to live on my own first. That was very important to me and I’m so glad I did it.

    As sucky as long distance was for the first 4 years of our relationship, I think those growing pains were so good for us. It taught us how to communicate with each other, since the phone and occasional visits were all we had. We got to know each other as people first before being distracted by other relationship benefits.

    Besides, when we get married next year, we will have been together for 10 years (Gasp! A decade!) And who doesn’t like nice even round numbers like 10? :)

  • ka

    I am in love with all the MUCH-NEEDED shame-blasting for the secret world of the pre-engagement impatience, and perfectly imperfect engagement stories that’s happening here.

    Congrats Rachael!

  • Thank you for this post. I relate to it immensely, and your words made me tear up because they’re exactly what’s been in my head at times.

  • Tara

    This was wonderful. I can’t resonate exactly with your story (I broke up with both my high school and college sweethearts), but two parts really, really rung a bell:

    “For me, it was an ongoing regimen of gut-checks: Is this what I want? Is he who I want? And the answer was always yes. I was choosing him every day. And I knew he was choosing me.”

    I recently broke up with my boyfriend and this was the problem I was having. I wasn’t waking up wanting to be with him, nor going to bed feeling like he wanted to be with me.

    I definitely resonated with this:

    “But most of the time I was able to hold my breath and just swim through it, because what was my other option? Breaking up with him? How would removing him from my life solve the issue of there not being enough of him in my life?”

    I went through mostly long distance relationships throughout college and that was my consistent experience. Removing the guy from my life wouldn’t help anything, but sometimes it felt like that would make it better (note: in some cases, it did, but in some cases, it just made things worse).

    For me, the hardest part was that I have bouts of depression and long distance relationships just compound that, making them incredibly hard, even if I am completely in love with the guy.

  • gratefulreader

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. My anniversary was yesterday and I was certain that a proposal was in the works. CERTAIN. Yesterday came. Yesterday went. No proposal.

    A well thought out celebratory weekend of waterslides, fancy meals, and resort kanoodling–but no proposal.

    This post has just cemented my resolve to sit down and talk about it. We’ve always been honest–and the “don’t spoil it” radio silence that keeps me from discussing it is just not us.

    As much as I appreciate this blog for its pretty pictures and well written posts, the sincerety and help that pours from the page is unbelievable. Thanks to Rachael for the post, and thanks to Meg for the inception of such a great forum.

    • meg

      Go talk. But when you think about it, the really important part of your relationship is always going to be waterslides and fancy meals and kanoodling (and the like, feel free to sub in sprinklers and cheap-picnic meals and kanoodling). The rest is just timing.

  • Marchelle

    Oh Rachael. We need to hear more from you.

    • meg


  • Rebecca

    Wow, you could have written the 8.5 years that preceded my marriage (well, two speeding tickets, but otherwise pretty close!). We did long distance for four years and it was really hard, but this pretty much nailed it for me: “How would removing him from my life solve the issue of there not being enough of him in my life?”

    Now, 18 months into this marriage business, we’re doing it again – he has moved back to our home town a couple of hours away to chase an amazing job opportunity, and I’m staying behind, living in our house with our dog and finishing the 18 or so months left of my PhD. It’s not the situation I typically think of for newishly-weds and it’s kind of scary, but evidently much more common (especially in academia) than I had realised. Maybe it’s even worth a guest post if there are others in APW-land who are in the same boat. Your wise words on long distance relationships, patience, communication and choosing each other every day are much appreciated today (we’re starting Week 2 of long-distance v2.0).

    So thanks (also to Meg for her creepy mind-reading or however it is she does this), and all the best to you guys – marriage is awesome, you’re gonna love it.

  • Katy Clarke

    WHAAAAAAA? You aren’t getting married on the bridge? I thought we had worked out the permits and timing issues?!?! A beautifully written essay Rachael, as usual! I can’t wait for August too!

  • San

    Oh my god Rachael, we are relationship twins!!

    Me and my fiance have been together eight and a half years as well.. since high school.. he is my first and only boyfriend.. we got engaged this year.. AND we have spend almost four or those eight years long distance!! This is totally freaky. I am also really impatient and have ruined many art projects and dinners because of it!

    Communication and patience really are the key. That and spending irresponsible sums of money on phone bills.

  • Melanie

    Rachael stole every bit this out of my diary. The impatient part. The being a writer part. The getting laid off part. The “he’s so totally going to propose on our anniversary…. Oh sh*t he didn’t propose and now I’m sitting on the toilet sobbing!” part.

    Oh, wait. I don’t have a diary. Dang it.

    Thanks lady.

  • Ash

    Yes, yes you are a writer! Lovely story. I echo your crazy pants with. You have no idea. I went bonkers and he still wanted to marry me! We win.

  • What a beautifully written post! My story doesn’t relate much to yours, but nonetheless, such a good, heartfelt read. Can’t wait to read the grad post in August!

  • Vene

    Joe’s a lucky guy! Rachael, it’s clear you’ve worked hard to find clarity in this relationship and within yourself. If we all followed your lead, it’s almost certain more happiness would come our way.

  • I wish this post had come earlier! It hits so close to home. I totally relate to the “covertly crazypants” thing. A few months ago we had a LOT of talks and it all boils down to patience. Which I am HORRIBLE at. But this post is still helpful to read now, because I still have to have patience. Logically, it makes more sense to wait a few years to get married, but I want to be engaged now!
    Also, Nick is my first and (hopefully) last boyfriend. And through most of it, we’ve been on and off long-distance. In June we will finally be in the same city – even in the same apartment! So I totally feel you.
    Can’t wait for your grad post!

  • Lauren B

    Wow this spoke to me. Covertly crazypants!

    This lady may or maynot have a rather large file on her MacBook labeled “work stuff” that is jam packed with indie wedding stuff.. Dresses, arrangements, DIYs I aspire to be able to create. All so my live-in BF won’t get completely scared off when he uses my comp… Which he uses over his own 90% of the time.

    Oh also I’m a massage therapist so there’s not a whole lot of “work stuff” that needs to be done on a computer… Like ever.

  • Sarah S

    I’m always glad to hear of others who are marrying their first boyfriend/girlfriend; it feels like a very small and misunderstood club. I’ve been with my fiance since high school and we just graduated from our separate colleges last weekend. We got engaged in February and are having a long engagement (about a year and half). From very early on in our relationship we knew we would be getting married eventually…we got promise rings for each other soon after high school graduation. (We’re going to use the promise rings as our wedding rings.)

    Part of why we waited several years to officially get engaged was because he was my first boyfriend, and before I felt comfortable taking that next step I wanted to have plenty of time to gut check the situation: Will I always be satisfied with the fact that I never “got to” date anyone but him? Am I sure I’m making the right choice? Is what I feel for him really special? (Spoiler: the gut checks always came back positive!) I’m a pretty grounded and realistic person and I know how unlikely and uncommon it is to find the right person right off the bat. I also felt like I needed outside spectators (especially parents) to see that we weren’t rushing it, in order for our relationship to gain some perceived legitimacy. So we waited until the time was right.

    Thanks for sharing your story (and sorry my comment got so long). Wedding grad post please!

  • MP

    I’m glad to hear that someone else not only survived the insane years of long-distance, but also struggles with communicating about life plans once you are finally able to talk face to face (somehow over the phone/aim/skype/FB Chat it’s all so much easier to talk – finally get face to face and you end up covertly checking APW while your other watches Superman, constantly checking to make sure they’re still watching the movie and tipping the computer screen so they can’t read what you’re reading – lest they get concerned that you’re sick of waiting).

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  • so so funny! thank you for sharing.

    it’s so fun to see in couples the things that really rub us the wrong way, yet are so good for us. i love that the compromises we make (although mainly for cute smiles and hot-buns-o-fun) really do pay off in the end.

    i always laugh/weep at the saying ‘marriage makes you holy not happy!’

    it’s kinda true, but in a a good/funny sort of way.

    i hope you have a glorious wedding day! may all your dreams come true. x

  • So. Eloquent.

    All happiness to you and yours.