I woke up one day and realized I was in a situation I vowed never to be in - a long distance relationship. I'll be the very first to admit I've never even been great at close-distance relationships. I never had amazing role models to show me how to have a "good" one.
So I'm in Chicago, having left my home of 26 years. In all honesty I assumed my relationship would quickly fizzle out. I mean, I moved to Chicago... Why not just find a new beau to skip over to The Bean with?
I learned an important lesson relatively quickly; quality trumps quantity. Yes, there are oodles more gays here than in Dayton, Ohio but that doesn't correlate to better, more compatible gays. If there are creeps in Michigan there are creeps in Florida if you know what I'm saying. The ratio of "normal" to "creep" is the same there are just a lot more examples to weed through.
So I realized that you don't find a great person under every rock or around every corner. I had spent ten years looking for someone who didn't make me want to punch his mouth off after being around him for more than 72 hours.
So I decided to hold on. And on this roller coaster, holding on is the best way to describe it.
I wanted to write about this because its something I choose to deal with, everyday. It is a situation I hate. I absolutely hate. Maybe someone out there has questions or had found him/herself hundreds (or thousands) of miles away from their partner and this will help? Maybe I'm just trying to make sense out of it for my own sanity. Either way - here you have it. It's not perfect but it's how we attempt to make it work.
• My Tools/Tips •
Skype - Everyday. We Skype everyday unless one of us is out of town. If you're anything like me when you don't see a person it becomes easier to forget them. If you think about it, Skype and FaceTime or Tango or whatever you use weren't really available 10-15 years ago. It was ICQ and Yahoo messenger and it wasn't a constant connection. We actually leave it on at night so we can roll over and see each other. His snoring wakes me up but you pick your battles.
Texts - We keep in contact periodically throughout the day with pictures, emoticons, this and that. all the normal things you'd do if you lived in the same area code. I guess it's the new love letter. It feels good just to have a reminder that he/she is there AND if you have iPhones you can see when each other is actually typing which makes it all seem more real and personal.
Respect - It is important to respect the relationship and understand that there are really (really) shitty moments and we can't physically be there for each other. But if we could, we would, and I had to learn to find comfort in that. It's also kind of a struggle between respecting personal freedom and the importance of communication. I don't like someone keeping tabs on me BUT if you want someone to give a shit about you, you don't get to tell them where and where they are allowed to.
Expression - I am very emotional and if I don't express the gamut of what I'm feeling I will eventually explode and then it's a whole big mess trying to piece my feelings back together. Speak up bc he/she can't know what you're feeling if you don't. I think it's a really special and important thing to see and hear "I miss you". I think it's also important to know what it's like to constantly miss someone.
Hope/Faith - You have to accept that life doesn't always follow the mantra "It is what it is. What will be, will be." Sometimes you have to grab it by the nuts and direct it. If you have someone, I say just take the risk. Even if this doesn't work out, I've experienced loving someone and really learning to appreciate the time I do have with him. It really is a luxury to be able to cuddle up with your man/ladycandy every night. If we broke up tomorrow I'd still walk away knowing I learned how to love and let myself be loved better.
Intimacy - Everyone wants to feel good about themselves. I like to feel attractive and sexy - so he tells me I am. He likes to feel strong and special - so I tell him he is. (He's way better at it than me though, that's for sure). I think, at least for me, I needed to learn to put more weight on being told "I love you". And don't get me wrong, it's not easy always reading it in a text or hearing it from a voice over the phone or on a computer screen. But, it's important. When you can't massage someone's shoulders after a long day or (my personal favorite) get a back tickle while you fall asleep, you gotta find it where you can.
Be Sexy - Are there really rules to a relationship or is everybody different in their thinking of normal? If you need an open relationship try it out. If you need 100% monogamy to feel secure then do that. If you want to date a man and woman, give it a whirl. Know what you need and know what your partner needs. Send a dirrty pic. Text a little filth. It's reeeeeeally easy to find someone else online who'll spark those naughty bits so let your hair down and show your beaver... or whatever else.
Humor - He makes me laugh and when I'm feeling daunted by the fact that I have no car and live 5.5 hours away, it means so much to be able to smile through the tears... and I cry a lot. Be cute, be creative, call each other stupid nicknames. Be a kid sometimes. Your partner really is just someone you should enjoy spending time with and my friends are my friends because we are able to laugh together.
Sacrifice - Money, time, whatever comes easily. It's a lot of work to visit another city and, equally so, to have someone visit. I know when I have a guest we are going to run around and spend money, go to eat, experience life. We have to squeeze 1-2 months worth of goodies into 4-6 days on average. That's no easy task when you aren't willing to save a few bones to throw towards celebration. It's a lot to ask a person to drive to see you once a month. I'm lucky to even see him that much (which would have sounded crazy to me a year ago).
Compassion - Sometimes it's easier for me than it is for Eric and sometimes it's the opposite. People deal with their emotions differently and I had to understand that my Gorilla hurts too. He's my gentle giant and when he breaks down it's my responsibility to be strong. I can't carry him but I can give him a tiny shoulder to put his head on. Honestly, I think he taught me how to give a shit about someone else. When I was able to understand that, I was able to stop being as selfish as I was always had been.
Realness - Above all, be real. Be honest. If you want to fall in love then let someone see your good and your nasty. If you fake it to fall in love you're going to look in the mirror one day and flip the fuck out because you've denied some part of yourself to coerce someone into thinking you're the bee's knees. If you need something, say it. If you don't want something, say it. Be tactful, be considerate, but be yourself. You don't want someone looking at you in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years wondering who the hell you are and what happened to the person you "used to be".
This ended up longer than I initially intended. I hope that it reads as... kind of what I have come to realize works for me. Obviously I am no relationship expert. I do not know how to fix a broken one and I certainly don't know how to be the perfect husband/boyfriend/partner. Everything I learn is because I've fucked something up. I'm just one of those girls and I've had a lot of bad relationships.
Long-distance is hard. I had to make a decision to throw up my hands, tell Jesus to take the wheel, and try something that I hadn't ever tried before. This could end up being the best decision I ever made... or it could all come crashing down when I move my Eric into my studio apartment and we live on top of each other for another 6 months. Who knows?
If you find yourself in a situation where you have to leave, or your partner has to leave - maybe it's for work, or because they are in the military, or because they are having a mid-life crisis and have to eat their way through Italy, India, and Bali (wait... is that "Eat, Pray, Love"?) REGARDLESS, just because it isn't ideal doesn't mean it isn't worth it.
I read that you should do something everyday that scares you. When it started I was afraid it was going to end before I had a chance to fall. Now I'm afraid of what would have happened if I had never taken the risk and let myself love the man my heart needed.
Hopefully this all made sense. If I can do it, you can do it.