A year ago, I wrote a column for this very website extolling the virtues of long-distance relationships. At the time, I was in such a relationship.
Six weeks after that post was published, the relationship ceased to be long-distance. And I have to say: it’s been one of the best relationships I’ve been in. Here are six of the best reasons why:
6. Communication, communication, communication. — By starting out in a situation where we needed to communicate electronically — since we couldn’t see each other often — we’ve built a foundation of communication. We text and IM each other all the time, and we send each other e-mails. On days we can’t be together, we make sure to talk even more, and we chat on the phone for at least a few minutes every night we don’t go to bed together. And the need to stay in contact when we didn’t live geographically nearby has translated into a habit of reminding each other how we feel with little “I love you” messages we send back and forth. It never gets old; it never feels stale. It’s simply the truth.
5. Appreciating the quiet moments. — When you can’t be with your partner all the time due to distance, you find ways via video chat. Often you’ll just have each other in the corner of your screen while you do other things. In my case, just because we’re together now doesn’t mean we still don’t do the things we did before, when we lived apart. Oftentimes, before or after dinner, we’ll sit on the couch and check Facebook, Tumblr, and our other social networks. We’ll show each other posts we find interesting. And we’ll pause for touches and kisses, because we can. We appreciate the quiet moments together.
4. Openness and honesty is a habit. — At this point, my partner and I are still learning things about each other — for example, I didn’t know she used to play basketball until it came up in conversation. But we know the big stuff: our hopes, our dreams, our food preferences, our bedroom preferences, our TV and film preferences, and so on. We were honest and open up-front about these things and so many more. I talked about my bad habits of internalization and self-harm; she talked about her emotional nature and her initial fear of meeting me (long story). Nowadays, we don’t think twice about being honest about anything that we love, hate, fear, loathe, or admire; we don’t think twice about sharing things that others might find embarrassing; and we don’t hide things from each other, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel.
3. We make the time. — We’re both busy people. We both have jobs, friends, interests, and lives. We have chores to do, errands to run, phone calls to make, meals to prepare, and so on. But no matter how busy we are, we make the time to be together, even if it’s just spending fifteen minutes snuggling in bed before going out to see friends. Because we’re both introverts (she more than I), we know the value of quiet time and shared silence. Plus, when we do that, quiet time often becomes sexy time, and that’s a big plus for all involved. We make the time to be together in all ways, because we know how important we are to each other — and because we know what it’s like to not have that kind of time.
2. The value of alone time. — When we didn’t live near each other, we spent every minute of every visit together* because we didn’t know when we’d be together again. But now that we are geographically together, we know that it’s not possible to be around each other all the time. Plus, we have different interests — for example, I like stand-up comedy shows and she doesn’t. So when a comedian comes to town, I go to the show and she does something else. Of course I invite her; I’d rather go with her than anyone else. But she’s not into it, and that’s okay. Similarly, sometimes she likes to go into the bedroom to read while I’m working on my computer in the living room, or cooking, or even reading. We pop in and check on each other from time to time, but it’s alone time, and we know all people need that. Plus, it’s nice to be alone when you know you can be not alone simply by walking into another room.
1. Lessons learned. — She and I will never forget how difficult it was to live five hours apart by car. We’ll never forget nights spent apart, long video chats, three-week intervals, and inability to physically comfort each other after long days. But we’ll also never forget that first hug after three weeks apart; that first kiss on Saturday morning; that last kiss on Sunday afternoon. We’ll never forget being forced to only communicate electronically; we’ll never forget counting the days; and we’ll never, ever forget the day she moved here to be with me. We’ve learned how to communicate with each other, and how to be open and honest with each other. We’ve learned what the other person likes and dislikes, what the other person wants and needs. And for the past ten months, we’ve put that to very good use. As human beings, we learn and grow and create relationships in which we are happy and content.
My relationship would not be what it is if we hadn’t spent eight months long-distance. It hurt while it was happening, but what we’ve built makes it all worthwhile.
Last time, I talked about safer sex — condoms, IUDs, birth control, etc. I want to reiterate that here: make absolutely certain that you want to have children before you have sex without some sort of contraception, and make absolutely sure that you want to be fluid-bonded to your partner before you have sex without physical barriers. You can’t get pregnant from having oral sex, but you can certainly share STIs that way. I recommend that everyone get tested, and if your doctor pitches a fit, find a new doctor.
Even though my partner and I are fluid-bonded, and even though she uses oral contraception, we still use condoms during intercourse. Part of it is my own neurosis about unintentional pregnancy, but most of it is our combined intelligence. If we decide we want to have a child, we’ll go into it when we’re ready, not before.
Take a page from my book. Don’t be ashamed about buying condoms — hell, you can get them online now and not have to even go to the store. Don’t be ashamed to ask for birth control pills — many women take them to regulate their hormones, and birth control is just a fortunate happenstance. Don’t be ashamed to talk to your doctor about implantable contraception (such as IUDs), and, guys, don’t be ashamed to go with your female partners. They probably would appreciate the support.
Got an idea for a future “Six of the Best” column? Tweet it to me @listener42.