How To Make A Long-Distance Relationship Work


Authors’ note: I wrote mine, he wrote his — we pieced them together, all via email. How else would we get anything done?

Minneapolis: First, you best be certain, but don’t over-think that. I don’t mean a lifetime commitment. I’m not saying you’ve found “the one.” Simply, be certain that — right now, in this moment — the other person, this relationship and all that will be unique to it, are exactly what you want. Among the variables distance brings, there is a constant: This relationship cannot be half-assed. Get into it knowing it’s what you want.

Detroit: Long distance is hard, but you chose it, so there’s no whining. It’s better than the alternative, which is unthinkable. It has to be worth it. You have to be with someone who makes it worth it. You both have to be all-in, or it’s not going to work.

Minneapolis: Our progression went something like this: Long-distance professional colleagues. Long-distance friends. Long-distance best friends. That all took about three years. By the time it became long-distance love, neither my heart nor mind gave me any other choice. Their rare duet had a booming chorus: “This girl is your soul mate. You’re crazy about her. It doesn’t make any sense to fight it.”

Distance plants crazy thoughts like land mines on the plains of sanity.

When it happens, I step around the thoughts, duck and cover from the doubts, and I don’t flinch. That’s what you do when you KNOW.

Detroit: He’s the first person I think about in the morning, and usually the first person I talk to. I’m using talk as a flexible verb, here. It can be a text message, a phone call, an email, a video chat, an instant message. He’s the first person I want to have contact with. There’s an hour time difference, so I’m often awake first. I start with “Good morning, I love you.” I want him to wake up and be in a good mood. 

Minneapolis: You have to talk. A lot. Take all the gestures a so-called normal relationship entails: touching their hand, wiping their tears away, fingers through their hair, throwing crackers at them because you see them standing there and want to throw crackers. All of that is replaced with communication. Talk about the mundane. Talk about the news. Talk about your future. Tell a dirty joke. Run a gamut of emotion in whatever manner you need. 

Detroit: Communication is all we have. We talk about everything. We’ve covered big things, like how we’re learning to let our walls down, and scars we both have from previous (not quite perfect for us) people. We break it up with smaller, fun things, like ‘did you see this video?’ or ‘did you read this article?’ We talk until we run out of topics and then we talk some more. 

I imagine that if we lived in the same city, most of our time would be spent doing something together: Watching movies, reading books, and just being. But for now, we cover the gap with communication. 

Minneapolis: I can pick up her mood by her vocabulary now. Even via text message, I can tell if she’s happy, if she’s angsty, gauge her libido. The sound of her voice pauses my world no matter the time, no matter the situation, no matter my mood. The pop up of a message from her is the difference between getting up to face the world and crashing back into bed for a few hundred lines of instant messaging. Skype is a gift from the heavens that can cut through weeks and miles of separation with one belly laugh.

Detroit: We send sexy text messages. It’s a coping mechanism, and when you’re not getting any for two to three week stretches, your imagination tends to run wild. We think about it so much when we’re apart that when we are together, the sex is out of this world. And that is not hyperbole.

Minneapolis: Oh, and there’s the sexting. I don’t mean cutesy “What are you wearing?” sexting. I mean vivid-as-a-solstice-sunrise “If you were here right now this is where my tongue would be and this is what it would be doing” sexting. Sex drives don’t understand miles. They basically understand, “I really want to grab onto something” and “Holy freaking WOW” and that’s about it. Embrace it. Sext like it’s an Olympic sport and you’ve promised a gold for your country.

Detroit: When we see one another, which is every two or three weeks at the moment, we make it count. I greet him at the airport with a hand-painted sign that says “I love you like there is no tomorrow.” He picks me up, spins me around, and whispers in my ear. I meet up with him in a different city, and he says “We have a stop to make.” We end up at a bakery, for a surprise belated birthday cake. 

Minneapolis: We make time together count. Every time I see her, the first thing I do is pick her up and spin her around, whispering something mushy in her ear. The camera may as well be pulling away and credits rolling with “the boy damn sure did get the girl” music starting up.

Some people wait their whole lives and never have that feeling. But every time I see her, we start with a romantic ending. 

Detroit: We get hotel rooms with big showers and bring candles and music and do crazy romantic cheesy things, because whatever we do has to last until the next time. We try to make sure there is always a next time, something to look forward to even as we are leaving. 

Minneapolis: We fill our time together like every other couple. Bad TV. Starbucks. We just make it count a lot more than those people. I make the touch of her hand last me two weeks. I memorize the rasps in her voice. Oh. And what normal people call “amazing sex,” we might possibly consider calling “pretty ok” depending on whether they even belonged in the same conversation as us in the first place. (They probably don’t.)

Detroit: Every night we are apart, there is a bedtime phone call. Even if I am asleep he calls to wake me up and I mumble something sleepy-cute. Often we’ll be texting or messaging and I will type, “Getting sleepy, call when you’re in bed.” Even if we only talk for a second, I go to bed feeling loved. And at the end of the day, that is always enough.

Minneapolis: And lastly: “It’s late. I can’t keep my eyes open. I’ll say this like I did yesterday and the day before, and tomorrow and the day after. I miss you. I love you. Good night.”

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image – Phaedrus