How Long-Distance Sort-Of Dating Works

From the perspective of The Distancer, who cannot speak—and does not claim to be able to speak—for The Distancee.

Go out several times—dinner, coffee, the requisite rom-com, three beers each in a cozy artsy bar with low lighting and the smell of cigarette smoke emanating from every nook and cranny. Talk about your family. Talk about his family. Talk about your friends. Meet his friends and want to impress them but not look like you’re trying to impress them. Laugh at each other’s jokes. Send constant, unnecessary text messages like “Are you still up?” and “:)” and “Hahahahaha, okay.” Hold hands. Hold hands crossing the street for everyone to see, but hold hands secretly at first. Hold hands under the table, like the starry-eyed teenagers you morph into in one another’s presence. Allude to liking each other, come very, very close to confessing you like each other, and then, a few hours before your flight, finally admit that you like each other. Almost expect him to burst into the airport at the last minute with a bouquet of yellow roses and a banner that reads, “DON’T GO, I WILL DIE.” Be kind of relieved when he doesn’t; you want your story to be tender and poignant but real, not a ridiculous rainbow-colored Gary Marshall cliché. Hop onto the plane with a smile on your face and freeze-dried promises tucked into your carry-on bag.

Let that plane whisk you off to some secluded arts community halfway around the world, where you will stay and sleep and learn and write for two weeks or a month or a quarter of a year. Struggle to adjust to living your life a full twelve hours behind—you’re grabbing lunch while he is getting ready for bed, and when he wakes up in the morning, all lazy and bleary-eyed, you’re running on caffeine fuel and being bitchslapped left and right by a self-imposed eight PM deadline. Your heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged, and you don’t want to think about it this way, because really, Simple Plan and Natasha Bedingfield? COME ON. But that is precisely the way your heart feels, and it’s not like overplayed tacky pop songs have patents on human emotions.

Worry. Worry a lot. Worry some more. Pretend you’re not worried at all. Tell him you’re having a spectacular time, which you are, but worry that this would make him feel bad. Tell him you miss him every day, which you do, but worry that this would make you a stupid clingy whiner who leaves then clings and whines. Stalk him but always make it look like an accident, which sometimes it actually is (you swear!). Try not to gain weight; excess baggage is never a good thing. Try not to flirt with anyone, and try not to think about him flirting with anyone, and try not to keep tabs on who’s flirting with whom and who started it and why. Try not to be too disappointed when you log on to Facebook and that little green circle beside his name is MIA. Try not to call him in the middle of the night, because when it’s the middle of the night in his part of the globe, it’s high noon in yours, and pulling #dark, dramatic stunts like these when the sun is out is just pathetic. Instead, have fun at your secluded arts community halfway around the world. Meet tons of new people; keep the loneliness at bay. Most of the time, feel happy, productive, and fulfilled. And when you’re as happy, productive, and fulfilled as you can possibly be, pack your suitcase and plan to come home.

Finally come home. Go out for dinner, coffee, the requisite rom-com, three beers each in a cozy artsy bar with low lighting and the smell of cigarette smoke emanating from every nook and cranny. Talk about stuff. Unpause the relationship or ~special friendship~ or whatever-it-was you had to pause for two weeks or a month or a quarter of a year. Laugh and realize how good it feels to hear and see each other laugh again, as opposed to reading “LOL” or “ROFL” on a computer screen at one o’clock in the morning. And when you’re holding hands under the table or while crossing the street, know that if you can survive long-distance sort-of dating, you can survive absolutely anything. Know that this isn’t true, not really. But go on and try anyway. TC mark

image – Jahyne

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  • Summer

    This is lovely. I want this with someone.

    • twinkie

      no you don’t

      • SJT

        Yeah, you really don’t.

      • Habib Placencia

        I second that. no. you don’t.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed. No one wants this. It gives you a deluded sense of well-being, because you know you have someone there, even if they’re not near you. But it also slowly eats away at you. No one wants this. 

    • Matt

      It’d be nice. Rough for a bit, but rosy around the edges. :)

      • Anonymous

        har, knowing that there might be another girl sucks like hell. Esp when he’s “busy”

  • Mackenzie Rose Walsh

    Whyyy do these articles that are posted always relate to my life right at the correct time? haha

    • CL

      goddamnit seriously TC

  • Anonymous

    “Try not to gain weight; excess baggage is never a good thing.”
    My extra motivation for working out and being super healthy while the boyfriend is away. I’m sure he doesn’t want to come back to someone different.

    Add to the list:
    – the disappointment when you log into your e-mail, and there is no message waiting for you from that person,
    – the envy you feel when you see happy couples strolling the streets together,
    – the sense of longing you wake up to every morning.

    • Anonymous

      every night for that matter, or when you’re curled up alone in bed.

  • Michael Makary

    i’m living this right now, it could stretch out to a few years. but she’s the one.

    • Anonymous

      so sweet! Tell us your story :]] !! Mine will be around four years, and that’s if he gets to come back home after grad school is done.

    • Anonymous

      so sweet! Tell us your story :]] !! Mine will be around four years, and that’s if he gets to come back home after grad school is done.

      • Michael Makary

        well, she and i are egyptian. we met in egypt 6 years ago where i was living at the time. i moved to los angeles 4 years ago, she however cant get a visa :( i found out that i have to wait till i’m 31 to become a citizen (another 4 years) because i didn’t file for selective service. i’m drafting letters and scheduling appointments with congressmen to intervene

      • Anonymous

        best of luck to you! :]

    • Any Name Will Do

      I feel so lucky than, only 10 months till she’s back from China.

      • sarah

        My guy’s back from China in ten months! Right now the 14 hour time difference is killer

  • Emma


  • Anonymous

    Very nicely put and well written. Ever heard of skype? Idk, i only call

  • Timawa

    I am so in a situation like this. Hopefully there’s an article from the Distancee perspective.

  • Melvin Alvarez

    Regularly poke him/her on facebook and always feel excited when he/she pokes you back the next time you log-in.

  • Ischra Centeno

    There’s a beautiful thing called Skype, although by far not the same, it is an incredible help to the relationship. Distance isn’t relative to closeness.

  • Fred

    Lovely article.  Almost the story of my life 2-3 years ago, when my then girlfriend was in Korea.  Tried that for a year, but we split up, partly because of the distance, partly because of me changing philosophically (and we would never be able to work together after that), and partly because she doesn’t like staying home.  Can’t blame her for that, even if I ended up chasing her around the world for a time.

  • Michael
  • Kyle Angeletti

    It won’t work. 

    Save your time, energy, money, and mental stability. 

  • Chris

    Its not that bad. 

  • Ellen

    What happens when the guy tells you “I want to stay in touch. I’ll be waiting for you when you come back. Go have fun, see who you want, but I don’t want to stop knowing you,” and then you realize he was lying, that he was just looking for a summer fling, and that he doesn’t really care? My friends here in China are getting real tired of me complaining about my awful kind of boyfriend from back home.

  • NoSoup4You

    Yep…pretty much.

  • rayray

    Until four months in, your conversations all reduced to platitudes, in a moment of drunken desperation, you end up making out, even hooking up with that guy in your program. Then when you reunite, you realize you lost the best thing you ever had.

    • Anonymous

      hey, are you the bitch who tried to flirt with my boyfriend? know your fucking boundaries.

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