The new school year has started, which means the now-blank tables are pregnant with piles of papers and the amount of sleep I average per week will start to dwindle. What isn’t changing is the fact that I negotiate this shift in seasons with my favorite person, for better or worse, dirty apartment or not.
It was six years ago, this recent August, that I moved to Long Island and into D’s two bedroom, on-campus, staff apartment at Stony Brook University. It was not the first time I’d lived with someone, but it was a bigger relationship risk than I’d ever taken. I was leaving my town (Washington DC), my other best friend, my place teaching at a great school. But it wasn’t all bitter: I was also breaking free of my rent situation with two monsters, starting a new full-time job working with youth, and as mentioned, getting to see the love of my life way more than every third weekend. In short: it was time for change.
This week, admittedly spurred by the “Tall Men With Feelings” episode of Orange is the New Black, I’ve spent some time thinking about what makes long distance relationships work and how to make short-distance relationships (that feel otherwise) also work. I once had a LDR from DC to Osaka, Japan. When it didn’t work with the overseas girl, it felt inevitable, but when I started seeing a woman in Chicago while I was in DC, nothing felt inevitable. Nothing was.
The first time I lived with a girlfriend had been in DC and it was a bad decision–not the initial move-in, but the start of us dating after that. She and I were close friends. She had been some help after my previous relationship–with Osaka girl–had fallen through. I was in a bad way. And then things got a little worse. After one of my then-roommates in a twenty-something house took the liberty of forcing me to get in his car for a date with him, tossing my phone away, and professing his love for me, I chatted her online, packed a bag, and went to sleep in her second bedroom. Over the next few weeks I slowly moved all of my stuff out of the house while Creep was at work and then I was gone for good. A month or so into living with my friend, she wanted us to move forward. I was hesitant but took the risk even though it felt a lot like defecating where you eat. I enjoyed being around her and the family we were creating with our network of friends. Also, I was broke, sad, and felt like I didn’t much have a choice (but clearly I did). It was selfish; I wasn’t into her as much as she was into me, and I could have saved us each a lot of grief if I had been honest with both of us early on. That’s not what happened. Instead, we ended up dating, moving to a better place in the fall, getting a second cat, and then breaking up the next spring before the lease was up. It wasn’t a long distance relationship, but I think about that particular failure of judgment any time I think about how long distance relationships end–since the beginning of our relationship came on the tails of a failed LDR.
Seven and a half-years after I started seeing that Chicagoan, I’m sipping coffee on a Sunday morning next to her in the third place we’ve lived together. What people don’t talk about when they talk about long-distance relationships is that point when they become not long-distance relationships. When it does work, and how you know it. That instant when you realize that it can’t be long-distance anymore because you miss the person too much in the quiet and small moments of your day. When talking on the phone until 4 or 5AM every night isn’t enough. When you’ve been spending more money than either of you have on weekend trips more frequently than you’d planned. It seems inevitable, looking back, that I would have moved my life to NY, but at the time, it just seemed necessary. There were plenty of things I enjoyed about my life in DC, and plenty of things that made me anxious about moving. But I chose to move. It seemed like the only choice at the time that would keep my life moving up, even if I wasn’t sure what that meant.
Whether you’ve been in a long-distance relationship or not, how or why did you decide to move closer (or move in) with your person?