In August of 2011, I was having a long, deep, interesting conversation—the type women often do–about my deal breakers for a dating relationship. No Long Distance (I can’t handle that). No one who is not a native English speaker (I can’t DEAL with people butchering my language). No Latin types (They are TOTALLY untrustworthy. Let’s face it, he would probably have about twenty dozen mistresses stored in a closet somewhere. Obviously. Because that’s the way they are. Obviously).
I’m not kidding. Those were my non-negotiables. No dreams about him being a doctor saving lives in the wilds of Africa. No concerns about Religion. If he knew how to use apostrophes properly, I was going to be happy.
Then, in November of 2011, as I passed through (total cliché) Paris, I met a Spanish man who lives in London and did not grow up speaking English.
Does God like to laugh, or what?!
And so, for the past fourteen or so months, I have been immersed in a long distance dating relationship. And yes, it’s a little messy.
He’s seven hours ahead, works long hours, and likes to sleep as much as possible.
I overthink everything and analyze the minutest detail of any situation and need to talk about all of that. A lot.
Distance magnifies all of these little issues.
Sometimes the length of our email threads verges on the absurd. Occasionally, if my brain has gone overboard because we have missed the past three Facetime dates (because he fell asleep), and as a result I have shot off a particularly convoluted and complicated email before bed which questions the state of our relationship, and he reads it when he wakes up and before he gets coffee, I might get a call at 2 AM as he stomps his furious way into work.
He’ll ask me why ON EARTH I insist on waking him up with one thousand words when I could have said everything in about ten. And then he’ll plead with me to CALM DOWN AND STOP WORRYING.
I’ll ask him why he insists on waking me up in the middle of a deep sleep when he knows I don’t sleep well in the first place. I mean come ON. JUST GET A COFFEE ALREADY.
And then because we haven’t actually been in the same place for the past three weeks, it feels like we are falling apart.
Those moments are like vinegar hitting baking soda. A foaming uncontrollable explosion that just spreads everywhere.
Those are the moments when a phone call is never enough. The moments when a video chat doesn’t really do anything but make you realize how very far apart you are.
But those are also the moments in which you evaluate yourself. And him. And “us.” Can we work it out? Is this worth it? Can I handle this, when I can’t even hold his hand and tell him I’m sorry for writing 990 accusatory words more than I needed to?
You know what? If you can work it out, yes it’s worth it, and yes, you can handle it. There is nothing like the resolution after the explosion. Nothing like the calm at the end of the dipping and diving roller coaster.
The thing is, in a long distance relationship, you find out very fast whether or not you can work it out. You don’t have the luxury of making out like little rabbits. You don’t have the distraction of a movie and popcorn. You don’t have the restraint imposed by that fancy restaurant.
All you have is what you say, and how you say it, and the effort you make to actually listen.
It’s a whole lot of work very early on and all at once. And sometimes it’s really not fun. Sometimes you want to be able to go for a coffee and just sit across from each other.
It’s a trial by fire. If you push through bad internet connections and opposing time zones and hurried texts and the misinterpretation that comes with hearing or reading words but not actually seeing the face that should accompany them, and you look over and he’s still there, you go “Whoa. You’re in this for real, aren’t you?”
I’m not saying long distance is the best for everyone. But it might have been for me. There is nothing like really knowing that the other person can be hurt and mad just like you, and will still work through it and not give up.
I needed to know that when things get really rocky, we are both going to keep trying. I am not sure how fast I would have discovered that in a normal dating relationship where it, perhaps, would have taken longer to negotiate any huge speed bumps.
I needed us to be tested and then see us succeed before I had any confidence in “us.”
In the process, I also realized that English spoken with a Spanish accent is really, truly charming, and that not all “Latin types” have harems hidden up their sleeves.
I know what I want. Oh yes I do. But God knows what I need. And that’s such a relief.