Why Does My Long-Distance Relationship Work?

May 31, 2015

Full disclosure: I was one to denounce the whole long distance thing. You can probably even find evidence on this blog without really trying hard. Before meeting the right person, I was convinced that no relationship could work with an ocean between two people and no fixed return date: that is, a date from which both parties agreed they would be in the same city sharing all or at least more aspects of each other’s lives.

A couple walking in sunset silhouette.
“A couple walking in sunset silhouette” by Darin Kim

I won’t lie: it sucks sometimes. I’m writing this entry still on a high after spending 66 hours with my lover while she was on stopover in Canada. And though we’ve both been trying to accommodate each other’s schedules, June may be the first time in months we won’t be able to see each other. We met in October. February brought us to the Philippines. In March, I started working in California. While I won’t deny having work cuts back on our time, the main hindrance isn’t even the distance; due to my travel-savvy skills, I can fly almost anywhere on points or spot a great deal. But, short of winning the Powerball, I’m still not able to follow her across the globe when she stays for 1-2 nights in Italy or London.

This is simply one of the realities of dating a flight attendant: she’s not in one place for very long. And her home base isn’t at all conducive to me visiting (legally and culturally). Even if we were living together, I wouldn’t be able to see her all that often due to our work schedules. If I were to keep a consistent 9-to-5, I might miss her leaving for an early morning flight, or returning late at night. By the same token, she would be gone for as many days as we were together. Sometimes I think this arrangement might still be the preferable option, giving us a little more time together, albeit at the expense of our shared sense of adventure: catching her on stopovers not only keeps her happy in what might be a boring few days in a hotel, but allows me to add more stamps to my passport.

But despite these setbacks, I believe we’re closer than ever before. We’ve both made great efforts to accommodate the other: she flew into LA to see me when her travel time was equal to her time there, and I’ve caught her in various cities around the world when my schedule allows. My concern at the beginning was that one or both of us might fall into the habit of seeing the other as a “stopover boy/girlfriend” (I’m sure there’s a term FAs have, but I can’t be bothered to Google it): someone who is definitely fun for those few days in transit, but not worth considering for the long haul. Thankfully, we communicate very well and address any issues we may have head-on.

The truth is we just work well together. Being from different cultures gives us the opportunity to stretch ourselves in learning new things, and our love of travel makes us both willing to pick up and go if we have the time and feel the pull. I can’t say for certain that everything will stay perfect, but with seven months under our belt I believe we’re past the honeymoon period and beyond the point at which we would question whether this is what we really want, to see someone who lives so far away but for whom we can’t help but have feelings.

Before this happened, I was coming to terms with the reality of some of the relationships I had encountered. Branches of families and certain friends, those I had considered with solid marriages, seemed to be focused on bickering. There was a distinct lack of affection, physical and emotional. Maybe I only had a small window in their lives, but I couldn’t help but wonder:

Is this how it’s supposed to be? Do all couples eventually lose that spark and fall into complacency?

Call me an idealist, but I concluded that shouldn’t happen to me. Yes, I may be naïve, but I’m not ignorant of the realities that a long-term relationship brings to life. There are always going to be three things in the balance: money, energy, and time. The real test of character and compatibility is getting through day to day life, with its trials and tribulations, with a smile on your face because you actually want to smile. Through all the hardships life has to offer, he or she is still there and still loves you… why be with someone that can’t do that? And if you can’t either, then I don’t believe you’re ready to be with someone. Sadly, that seems to be the case for some people I’ve met.

I’m not talking about brief periods of intense stress, but rather the sort of ennui that accompanies couples for whom there is nothing left. Am I missing something? That beneath all that resentment at time lost, there’s still a deep, passionate love? Or is it simply life beating two people down and neither of them really clutching the other for help?

Only time will tell, honestly. For the first time in a long time, something new and completely different has entered my life.

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