A few summers ago, I went to a writing workshop at a town near enough to my own. I met a guy there. He was handsome and brilliant and self-deprecating. I took to kissing him on the shoulder because he was a little too tall for me to easily reach his cheek, and he, in turn, would slow down his long strides so that I could keep up as we explored.
It was perfect. He was perfect. We liked the same books, laughed at the same jokes, had the same aspirations for our unstamped passports. Everything just seemed to fit. But school was starting again in a few weeks — his in Nashville, mine in Ohio.
I told him that I didn't want to be in a long distance relationship. I wanted roots and close-knit groups and constancy. I didn't want to have a boyfriend-turned-pen-pal several state highways away. I wanted something that I thought was "real."
Fast forward a few years (and a few relationships). He went to Harvard for grad school, and I went to New York to work in media. We started talking again. I went to Boston to visit him on a whim. Turned out, we still fit.
We haven't let the miles stop us since.
This November marked our one year anniversary, and the distance — and his generosity and commitment despite it — has taught me a lot.
Here are 21 things I only learned about long distance relationships once I was in one.
21. A few frequent flyer miles are nothing to be scared of. If your heart leaps when you see him in the airport arrivals hall, they're worth it.
20. From good night texts to long Sunday morning phone sessions, communication is everything.
19. So while it's OK if he misses a Skype date because he's so busy IRL, be sure to ask for a raincheck. You guys need to grow together in real time, not just on iMessage.
18. Because you can't hang out whenever you want, the moments you spend together will be all the sweeter.
17. His mom and dad will be fine waiting to meet you. In fact, it might make it more exciting when you finally do.
16. You'll realize you don't have to "be there" to be there for your partner.
15. But that feeling when you see him there at the bus station, flowers in hand, will be one of the best ever.
14. Even everyday things become special when you're finally together. (Long distance relationships are literally the only things that can make laundry romantic.)
13. It's necessary to make plans way beforehand — I'll pick you up here, we'll go to dinner here — which means there's always a date on the calendar to look forward to.
12. And while it's harder for big romantic gestures to be spontaneous, they do have to be creative. Wine and candlelight just aren't going to cut it.
11. But a surprise bus ticket just might work.
10. Independence comes naturally, and you never feel like you can't try something new, or that your partner won't support you in anything you do.
9. You now have carte blanche to try that big, romantic, running leap that's in all the movies.
8. The physical things that people take for granted like holding someone's hand or ruffling their hair are the things that stick with you.
7. Because sometimes all you have is words, you become very good at saying exactly what he needs to hear.
6. And he'll do the same for you.
5. You'll become both trusting and trustworthy, because you have to, and because it's worth it.
4. You will never feel as close to him as when he remembers that you had a big meeting or exam, and texts you literally the moment you're finished to find out how it went.
3. A lot of people will tell you that long distance doesn't work, that it won't pan out, that it's all moving a little too fast.
2. Don't listen to them.