When I tell people about the person I’m dating, their first reaction is usually happiness for me. I came out publicly as gay a year ago, so I suppose it’s nice for people to hear I’ve found someone to experience my gayness with. There’s also usually a bit of curiosity about my person’s gender, since they’re nonbinary. How do those pronouns work again? Plural pronouns for a single person? Huh? But people have been overwhelmingly supportive and eager to learn.
What confuses people more than anything else is that my person lives 1,400 miles away from me, with me in Florida and them in Vermont. The distance between us is almost as far as two people can get from one another in a north-south direction in the contiguous United States. And neither one of us is in a position to move anytime soon. They have three kids and an ex with whom they coparent, and I have two kids and an ex with whom I coparent. We each have deep roots in the cities we live in, especially when it comes to our kids, and we can’t simply pick up and move.
So, when I tell people about the distance, they’re a little incredulous. The news seems almost to have a delegitimizing effect on my relationship, to the point that one person even said, “Well that’s not going to last long.”
Now, I do get why, from the outside, our situation could seem a little… impractical. Why not just acknowledge the futility of trying to maintain a relationship from so far away? Why not at least attempt to find someone else? Date a little? Maybe not keep it exclusive?
I asked myself questions like these in the first few months of falling for my person. What was I thinking? I had separated from my former husband because I’m gay, and yet I never even got a chance to create a profile on Grindr. The person I’m dating is a colleague, a friend with whom the spark of something more ignited after we each learned the other was in the process of separating from their partner. It gave us something in common, something to talk about. We didn’t stay on that topic for long though, and soon we were deeply in like with each other.
So, technically speaking, we are each other’s “rebound.” And we’re not even a year in. We’re still in that new part of the relationship where your hormones ping around like crazy and still think your partner’s chewing sounds are “cute.” Surely we are deluding ourselves?
Maybe. But maybe not. We’re determined to see it through. My deep like has morphed into deep love, but that’s not the only reason I want to hang onto this relationship — a person can fall in love with someone who is completely wrong for them. Love isn’t always enough.
The reason I want to make this work is because my person is so right for me. How could I set out on a mission to find someone supposedly better than them when they are so spectacularly good for me? I can’t let this person out of my life. They are too good. They have too much to offer.
I’m not a person who believes one person can “need” another in the way one needs food, water, and sleep. In fact, I think need-based love can lead to destructive, codependent behavior. I also hate when people say their partner makes them “better.” Shouldn’t we all be as good as we can possibly be on our own? Why must we depend on someone else to inspire us to be our best selves?
And yet, my person does inspire me to be better. I am a better version of myself when I am with them. They calm me when I’m anxious. They believe in me when I don’t believe in myself. They push me when I don’t think I can. They make me laugh until tears come out. I admire them, but more than that, I am in awe of them. Now that I know my person exists in this world, now that I’ve experienced their friendship and love, the idea of intentionally excluding them from my life is unthinkable. So I guess the way I feel about them is something akin to need.
And yet those 1,400 miles still stand between us. It looks like we might have to wait years before we can live under the same roof together, if that is what our future has in store. But for now, how do we make it work? Internet and airplanes.
For the last six months, they have visited once per month for five or six days at a time. We are freelancers, so our work is in our laptops, easy to pick up and take with us. They visit and we keep working, but sitting next to each other. Travel costs money, of course, so the money we might have spent on dates with other potential love interests goes into plane tickets. And our “dates” are free: nature hikes, strolls through antique shops (could we be more gay?), walks on the beach, cooking yummy meals at home, and watching Netflix movies. Last month we splurged and went to the opera — nosebleed seats.
Honestly, it completely sucks when those 1,400 miles are between us. But when they are, we carry on with life, taking care of our kids, running them back and forth to their activities, helping them with their homework, keeping up with the maintenance of our households. We text each other throughout the day, make quick calls to say hello, and swap articles and memes back and forth, fodder for our evening calls. After our kids have gone to bed, we call each other on video chat and rehash our days. We always have more work to do in the evening, but we leave our video chats open, working together side by side, 1,400 miles apart.
I never could have predicted this for myself. When I first came out, I imagined going on a slew of awkward dates to try to meet someone. I never imagined I’d stumble headfirst into a long-distance relationship. But here we are, and we’re making it work. Maybe sometimes love is actually enough.