Oh, Long-Distance Relationships

Oh, Long-Distance Relationships

I’ve been dating my boyfriend Andrew for five years — but, for the past 10 months, we’ve lived 1,200 miles apart. I moved to New York while he stayed in Missouri running his business, both of us pursuing the career opportunities we had spent years talking about. Even though long-distance can be a beast, we’re starting to find our groove with half a country between us. Here’s what we have figured out so far, and please tell me your tips, too…

We often don’t have a chance to chat until the end of the day, and by then it’s easy to forget the zillion little things I would blurt out if he were beside me. I started compiling occurrences like these in a draft email on my phone to share with him later. My list included everything from overheard subway conversations to restaurants we should try when we are together. The first time he visited, I read my notes to him over dinner and he recalled similar moments he had experienced. We laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. Our solitary experiences had a second life together. Since then, we’ve made a point to talk about random occurrences as much as anything else.

On days where absolutely nothing exciting happens, not even a notable lunch, a call, even with no dialogue, can feel comforting. It plays out like this scene from David Sedaris:
“‘Are you still there?’
‘I’m here.’
‘Good. Don’t hang up.’
‘I won’t.'”

There are afternoons when I’d give anything to fall asleep on Andrew’s warm shoulder while he reads off “Today I Learned” headlines. And there are nights when I wake up in a cold sweat after my recurring dream of running from my Brooklyn apartment to his house in Missouri.

FaceTime isn’t a fix-all to those daunting feelings, but seeing Andrew’s face through a slighty-fisheyed lens helps ease the pain. It’s charming to see his sweet, tired eyes in the morning, fresh buzzcuts and get a tour of his refrigerator stocked with new groceries. If only we could teleport through iPhones.

Andrew and I have brainstormed ways we can still create “date” experiences. So far, we’ve tried a two-person book club, FaceTime pizza dates and live-texting during political debates. We have also found success with reading each other to sleep. (“Is she awake?” I’ll hear Andrew add to a dialogue sequence as I drift off. “Andrew! My eyes are wide open!”)

When we first discussed dating long-distance, we decided visiting each other often was a non-negotiable. Initially, we agreed we would take turns traveling every month, but with meetings, deadlines and ridiculous travel expenses, it proved impossible. Our new eight-week schedule feels long (read: for-ev-er), but overall it’s manageable. Before Andrew’s last trip to visit me, I felt more jittery than I did on our first date. The entire week before, I had shaky hands and a stomach doing backflips. It’s funny to get butterflies after half a decade of dating.

Being away has also helped me develop my own identity within a long-term relationship. I can focus more energy into my work, find space to discover what makes me inspired and eat at any restaurant without compromise (Chipotle two nights in a row, thank you.)

Then, when Andrew visits, it’s like a week-long dream date. The stresses of our everyday lives seem insignificant, as we pack all the highs we would have experienced in two months, into a handful of days. Even little things that once annoyed me, like the toilet seat left up, now seem lovable. Did you ever read this New York Times article about a Vermont couple who lived in two different houses, joined by a bridge? I can see why it works so well.

The hardest part of long-distance dating actually comes right after Andrew visits. My tiny bedroom looks empty. Everyday routines seem extra quiet and running errands feels somber. I find myself relishing the sad love songs wailing from the drugstore speakers. “What was I thinking?” I wonder as I mouth the words to a Muzak version of “Unchained Melody.” But days pass and I rally. I buy myself a slice of NYC dollar pizza and take in the skyline in front of me, remembering why I’m here.

Oh, Long-Distance Relationships

Andrew and me living it up Vegas a month before my move.

I’m curious: Have you dated long-distance? How did it go? Please tell me everything!

P.S. How do you know if your partner is the one, and would you date older?