Love + Sex, Love

When I was forced to choose between going long-distance or breaking up with him, I did something that surprised me

It was clear one night, when we huddled in his childhood bedroom, teary-eyed, trying to work out what was to come. 

By May 1st, we couldn’t delay any longer.

We’d sent in our deposits, told our family and friends where we were planning on going, and now we were faced with the seemingly insurmountable truth: a 400-mile distance between his university and mine and a choice to stay together or to break up.

When my boyfriend and I began dating in our freshman year of high school I never imagined the longevity of our relationship. Admittedly, I was shy and reserved. Early on, I decided we would likely only stay together for another few months.

Later, on my 15th birthday, when he nervously mumbled, “I love you,” before leaving for the night, I held out on repeating the words for another year.

However, slowly, we fell in together.

I craved his calm nature and knowledge of music and math. We’d stay up late every single night talking, sharing our dreams and goals. Due to his intelligence and passion, I wasn’t surprised when he got into his dream school in December: Brown University.

As May approached and I began to choose my university, we both felt the awkward tension between us. How far away was I willing to go and how would it affect our relationship? When I settled on a school in Washington, D.C., we knew there would be a nine-hour driving distance between us.

We wanted to stay together.

It was clear one night, when we huddled in his childhood bedroom, teary-eyed, trying to work out what was to come.

“We can do this,” we reassured one another, but that meant making some serious sacrifices and decisions.

First things first, we discussed whether we were we prepared for the emotional burden of long-distance. At home, we were neighbors and classmates. We would see each other every day and were never short in physical intimacy between us. We had to understand that physical intimacy wouldn’t be an option anymore, so we got creative.

This meant finding intimacy in other ways.

Skype dates and phone calls became our go-to. It can be comforting to hear one another’s voices. On top of that, sending physical letters and gifts in boxes served as a sweet reminder that we’re thinking of one another.

Once, while I knew my boyfriend was sick with the flu at his university, I sent him a comfort box full of peanut butter, stuffed animals, and sour gummies.

Meanwhile, during a particularly difficult semester, I opened my mailbox to find a sweet Valentine’s Day card from my boyfriend that I immediately hung up on my wall as a reminder of his love.

In addition to accepting the emotional burden of long-distance, we also had to accept the emotional burden of being two teenagers with sexual and romantic interest.

Having dated all throughout high school, we couldn’t deny to one another that we were curious about other people. It meant swallowing our embarrassment and admitting it to one another when we meet people we have a genuine interest in or who have shown interest in us.

Although this doesn’t mean we’ll act on it, being honest about it often reduces the guilt associated with being in love with one person, and having a healthy interest in another person. In our three years of being long-distance, neither I nor my boyfriend has gotten upset with that level of honesty. In fact, it has provided a chance to discuss the shortcomings in our relationship.

What are we missing that another person could provide? How could we remedy it?

When all I wanted once was someone to cuddle up with during a movie, my boyfriend suggested downloading a movie streaming service, so we could watch movies at the same time, over video-chat. While it wasn’t exactly what I wanted (the warmth of another person is quite nice), it was still lovely to cuddle up with a stuffed animal in bed, with some popcorn, and listen to his laughter and comments as we watched.

Along with accepting the emotional weight of long-distance love, we also had to accept the financial burden. We decided a few weeks into being long-distance, we wanted to see one another. That meant trains and meals and outings, all of which that could put a strain on our wallet. And so, we budgeted.

We’d open every semester of being long-distance by picking two or three weekends to alternate visiting each other, as well as deciding on the cost. When I went abroad to London for a semester, my boyfriend decided to visit for a week, during which I tried to alleviate the cost of his flight and hotel by taking him out on my tab and cooking meals.

Long-distance relationships are certainly a financial and emotional sacrifice. They can be frustrating and can leave you wondering if it’s really worth it. But, for every moment we regret our decision, we have five more where we know it was perfect for us.

Through long-distance, I’ve kept close with the person I love as well as found my independence. I’ve traveled with my boyfriend in London, visited his school several times, and learned how to be happy without physical intimacy.

For now, three years into long-distance and getting ready to live together after one year left of school, I can happily say that it made my wallet lighter, but our relationship stronger.