By Caitlin Thornton
Tell me a story about a couple that has been completely successful in their long-distance relationship. Really. Tell me all about it. Who are these people? How did they manage to stay together while at the same time being apart? Did the physical distance have them yearning to be together, more than ever? Or did it just make them sad and angry? Did one unrequitedly miss the other?
Let’s take a break from the questions that have been explored in many-a song, movie, and article (such as this one) and agree that a little alone time never hurt anyone. It’s easy, when you’re in love, to find yourself attached at the hip with your significant other and say things like, “Holy shit, man, you’re like the second half of me!” Especially when you’ve been taking molly together and drinking all night.
When this person goes away, whether for an extended trip, to wrap up a remote project, or for a job relocation (let’s also agree that getting shipped off to war is a whole other feat for a whole other article), you may feel like something’s missing, or a bit of this thing called sorrow. But then you realize you are in fact a complete person capable of doing things like replacing your window-unit air conditioner, tuning up your bike for spring, and smashing scary-looking centipedes. You’re completely independent, even while technically being attached. And that feels good.
Something else that feels good, though: Being right next to your partner, naked.
If you define your relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend or poly-friends (just roll with it) as intimate, physical, and yes, sexual, what does your relationship become when you’re no longer able to be with this person, merely due to proximity? You can choose “friends,” people who have a mutual understanding that they’ll pick up where they left off, or long-distance lovers who yell at their laptops when Skype keeps shutting down, seem to be in a forever-game of phone tag, and who gnaw at their own legs until they can see each other next. Take your pick.
Call me critical, but when I think of long distance relationships, I think of failed relationships. (Actually, I can think of one that’s still going strong—the guy’s about to move across the country to be with his girlfriend, and they made it a point to jet off to visit one another bimonthly.) I’ve seen weddings called off after dissertations, series of plane tickets scheduled in advance to make those kind of visits quite literally thrown in the trash, and a few couples’ flames burn out when one person moved and started enjoying his or her own life in a new city while the other scrambles to figure out if they should move, what they would do for work, and if it’d be worth it. I’ve seen other couples just let it go.
And you know what? That’s OK.
Our lives are not dictated by directors and producers who want to give an audience that happy Hollywood ending. Among all the articles that advise you to make a long distance relationship work by buying a bunch of plane tickets (time to sign up for a credit card with frequent flier miles!), scheduling naked Skype sessions, and having an “end date” for whenever the hell you two will actually be together again, there needs to be one that says if you can’t make a long distance relationship work, it’s not because you don’t love one another enough. It’s because for many of us, our definition of a loving relationship just does not involve distance.
Even if you claim to have no insecurities (and we all do, so stop lying about that), and you’re fine with your partner making friends you haven’t met and going out to do a ton of fun things without you, for many, getting it on with the person they want to love them to pieces provides a sense of security. Having that security torn away can be frustrating, trying, and devastating.
Since you’re a normal person who may or may not be able to deal with that loss of security, or spend a bunch of money on plane tickets, or know how to blend your life together seamlessly with another person’s, realize that nothing is wrong with you for not being able to make a long distance relationship work.
If this couple-dom is truly “destiny” (whatever that means), you two will eventually find a way to be together, in the flesh, without killing yourselves or going broke. And, if not, you’ll move on, hopefully stay Facebook friends, and have a really hot hook up, should you ever be in Hawaii.
Interested in more “real” stories about this topic? I highly suggest renting the movie Like Crazy, about a young post-collegiate couple attempting to keep their relationship together while living in two different countries. It’s currently on On Demand and will evoke experiences of a true relationship—love, loss, and everything in between. Do it!
How do you make your long distance relationship work?