Thought Catalog
July 8, 2016

6 Things I’ve Learned From Being In An Open-Ended Long-Distance Relationship

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Flickr / Trekking Rinjani
Flickr / Trekking Rinjani

Long-distance. No two ways around it, it’s the pits. Being in a long-distance relationship has taught me more about myself and my weaknesses than seven years of marriage ever did. A year ago, when I was about two years out from a divorce that left me rattled, I met my current boyfriend. While we got off to a bit of a rocky start (garden-variety stuff—commitment issues, communication breakdowns, bad timing), we ultimately found ourselves in a very happy, secure place. Right around our seven-month mark, the sweet spot for any burgeoning relationship, my beau’s job up and moved him to LA—about 1,200 miles from Denver, the place we called home. Being from northern California myself, I had no desire to move to southern California, and after much deliberation, we decided to try this long-distance thing out. Ours is different from most couples doing the LDR thing—we don’t have an end-game in plan and are taking it day by day, which can be a very scary feeling.

Here’s what I’ve learned, and I’ll pass it on to you.

1. Physical contact is not as important as you think.

I’ve learned that while I do prefer lot of physical contact—snuggles and hand holding and spooning at night—it’s not as essential as I thought it was. Don’t get me wrong, I count the days till our visits because I know I’ll sleep nestled against my love’s back with my arms hooked around his chest, but I’ve learned to sleep alone better and let the memories of touch soothe me instead of the real thing. I was also, for a large majority of the time, the sexual aggressor in the relationship (not that he minded). I’ve had to learn to put a pin in my sexual appetite and force myself to connect in other ways—which requires me to actually open up and risk true intimacy. Now when we talk, it’s not extended foreplay to a roll in the sheets later. It’s because we love each other and have to use our words like grownups.

That being said—thank God for phone sex.

2. If you weren’t the jealous type before, get ready to be.

I’ve had to learn to deal with feelings of jealousy, something I’ve never experienced in any of my relationships before. My boyfriend has always had a lot of friends, both men and women, most whom I’ve met and none that I felt threatened by, being a woman of substance, character, attractiveness, etc., etc. That said, when I’m bloated from my period and haven’t left my apartment in 12 hours and missing my boyfriend so intensely it feels like someone is crumpling me from the inside and wish to do nothing more that lie on my bed watching Mad Men reruns and eat peanut butter from the jar, well, that’s when the darkness creeps in. In my mind’s irrational eye, every day when he goes to work, he walks into an office of hipster models, all of them possessing ideal body types, but mainly busty, tiny-waisted, and apple-assed. They’re all rosy cheeked and cheerful, less intense than me, better educated in the world of music and politics than me, more traveled than me, sun-kissed and beachy, with cool jeans and cooler sunglasses and $1,200 bicycles they ride on the Santa Monica pier and a vast knowledge of all sort of sub-genres of music that I’ll probably never listen to even once. In my horror-fantasy, they’re all after my boyfriend like a band of EDM-loving, social-media savvy succubi. This is not a good place to be when you’re sexually frustrated, hormonally emotional, and have been subsisting on protein shakes and Cheetos for three days straight. It’s at this point I force myself to take a shower, put on a little makeup and take my dogs for a walk outside, at which point I usually feel better.

3. Limit your intake from the bottle.

I’ve learned that I do better when I limit my alcohol intake. It gets boring sometimes, since most social events revolve around alcohol, but after some trial and error I’ve found it’s for the best. Quite recently, after a few weeks of abstinence I decided to have a few cocktails with some girlfriends early one Sunday evening. It took exactly two vodka tonics to get me pie-eyed drunk, thanks to my diminished tolerance. This, combined with a nagging feeling my boyfriend and I were out of sync, on top of dealing with some intense personal stressors outside the relationship, put me in a petulant, combative mood. During our nightly phone call, instead of being my usual sweet self, I drunkenly picked a fight, then hung up on him, then called back pissed off, then called back again weepy and apologetic. You know, like a crazy person. I woke up positively mortified. It’s not that we haven’t gotten into drunken arguments before, but most of the time they were in person, and we’d hash it out on the spot and make up shortly thereafter. This time though, I was left with the heavy, sickening feeling that I’d just drunkenly verbally abused the person I love more than anything because I had one too many vodkas and felt like throwing a temper tantrum.

4. Speaking of alcohol—limit the bars and clubs.

When my boyfriend lived only three miles from me, I had full freedom. I could go out whenever I wanted, have all the girls’ nights I wanted, never had to check in before going to a working happy hour, would regularly go out dancing at shows sans boyfriend—it didn’t matter. We had trust and love, and besides, more often than not on the nights I went out without him I’d end up falling asleep in his bed anyways. That’s not the situation anymore, though. When I go out, especially with my single girlfriends, men somehow sense that I’m attached even though I look single, and they swarm in a way they never swarmed before (I guess we always really do want what we can’t have). I’m not immune to compliments and free drinks, and I won’t deny it, the temptation has been there from time to time.

Distance + alcohol + loneliness = bad choices. It’s better to avoid the temptation altogether. Trust me.

5. Move that booty.

I’ve learned I do better when I take in some exercise. It puts me outside of my body, outside of my head. With every squat or every push of the pedal in a spin class, every pranayama breath, I think about the horror-fantasy women, and I think about how the next time I see my boyfriend my ass will look less like a loaf of bread and more like two bowling balls jiggling under my dress. I think about great my tan is going to look on my sculpted shoulders in that same dress. I think all the sex we’re going to have and how I’ll need to be in good cardiovascular shape. Mostly though, I try not to think at all.

6. You gotta have faith.

The biggest thing I’ve had to learn, though, is faith. This is the one I struggle with daily. I have never been an “It will all work out in the end” kind of person. I’m more of a “work your ass off, harass people till you get the answer you want, shove that square peg into that round hole, anything worth doing is going to be a struggle” kind of person. I don’t know the meaning of easy, so it seems only fitting to my life’s pathos that I find myself in a long-distance relationship with a man who was reluctant to commit to me at all in the beginning. How did we go from casual dating, reluctance to solidify our union into a real relationship, to having the most committed kind of relationship there is? We’re not dating other people; we are solely with each other. This requires a commitment of fidelity, communication, and more trust than I’ve ever given anyone. Ours is an open-ended long distance relationship—there are no immediate plans for me to move to LA or for him to move back home. All we have are phone calls, video chats, and once-a-month-trips. Sometimes it feels like more than enough. I’m more in love with him every day than I was the day before, I melt every time I see his face, we make each other laugh, we make each other think, and we make each other happy. Being a person of definites and absolutes, I’ve had to loosen my grip and trust that love does prevail. Sometimes at night, I get scared thinking about a year from now. What if we break up? What if the horror-fantasy woman steals him away? What if our love isn’t strong enough?

This is where faith comes in. I have nothing to reassure me except the love we created and commitment we made. Most of the time, it’s enough to soothe me to sleep. TC mark

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