by Jennifer Vanasco -
SGN Contributing Writer
I never expected to be in a long-distance relationship.
And if you had asked me a year ago, I would have said that it would never work, at least for me.
What I love about long-term relationships is their quiet, steady dailyness. Sure, the rush of love in the beginning is intense, fun the way a rollercoaster is fun; your stomach jumps, you feel slightly sick but exhilarated. To fall in love is to feel unsettled, obsessed, and intensely alive.
But what I like is waking up next to someone every morning and going to sleep next to her every night. I like cooking dinner together with a glass of wine and having friends over for meals on the porch. I like holding someone's hand on the way to the grocery store. I like witnessing someone else's life; her triumphs, her challenges.
So if you had asked, I would have said that a long distance relationship was not for me, even in the short term.
But last summer, when I met Jenny, we fell in love. She was in New York for a couple months, and we quickly became close friends. It was only in the weeks before she was leaving that I realized I felt more for her than that. But I didn't tell her - neither of us talked about it, or made any moves - until she was already back in Chicago in grad school, 801 miles away.
I would not have chosen long distance. But it might have been the best thing that could have happened to us.
Long distance meant that we had to work harder to communicate. We were on the phone constantly, updating each other on our lives. We discovered video chatting, and would introduce each other online to our friends, our new purchases, our changing facial expressions.
And we visited. All the time. We spent a week a month in each other's space. We were constantly changing work schedules, school schedules, plane schedules so that we could spend one more day, one more morning, one more afternoon.
But in addition to all that togetherness, we had apartness. We learned a tricky thing - how to be in love, and want to be with someone all the time, and yet also carry on an independent life, making new friends, seeking new adventures.
We also fought. A lot. Wow, did we have fights. But it was a good kind of fighting, where we smoothed out the rough places and figured out where we were different and where we were the same; where we could bend and where we needed our own way of doing things.
Was it hard? Yes. Hard enough that I thought about moving to Chicago for a few months. Hard enough that we counted every day. Hard enough that we didn't think we could do it.
Our relationship is so solid now because it was built step by slow step. We are both old enough to have been in other relationships that weren't quite right; we know what we want and who we are. And because we have spent so much time apart, we don't take each other for granted.
For us, long distance worked for a few reasons. We both had full, independent lives, so neither of us was at home pining (don't get me wrong, we pined, just not morosely at home). We had an end in sight - Jenny's graduation from grad school in mid-June. We were deeply committed to each other right away. We gave each other both space and full attention.
And, most importantly, we started off with the same deep values - we discovered our compatibility through friendship, not romance.
Now it is nine months since we started dating. Jenny moved in to my NYC apartment five days ago. And tonight, we are cooking dinner, glasses of wine in hand.
Jennifer Vanasco is an award-winning, syndicated columnist. E-mail her at Jennifer.Vanasco@gmail.com; follow her at Twitter.com/JenniferVanasco
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