I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that TTO and I dated long distance for about 18 months, from the time we reconnected until he graduated from college. I went to school in St. Paul and after graduation (about 5 months into our dating) I moved back in with my parents. TTO went to school in another state, about four hours from Hometown.

When I got home from work last night he asked me if we had any drama in our relationship as a result of that situation. Apparently he’d been watching True Life: I’m in a Long Distance Relationship on MTV (He’s laid up with a bum shoulder right now. He doesn’t normally make a living out of watching TV during the day).

I thought about it for a second and said no, but we’ve never really had drama in our relationship period. It’s just not how we are. Sure, we don’t agree on everything all the time. It would be boring if we did, but neither of us gets any satisfaction out of confrontation or drawn out arguing. I personally try to choose my battles carefully, in all aspects of life. If something bugs me I like to sit on it for a while, figure out why it’s bothering me, decide if it’s worth hashing out (most of the time it isn’t) and then move on. But this entry wasn’t meant to be that. I actually wanted to discuss why I’m glad I was in a long distance relationship.

What we did to make it work:
Either my parents really trusted me or really liked TTO (probably a combination of both) but they let me make the drive out to see him fairly regularly. Yes, I was 22 years old, but I was driving their car. And the trip involved long stretches of nothing but cornfields so my dad was worried. TTO also made the trip home more often which I think made his mom like me even more. Towards the end I think we ended up with him being home one weekend and me being out there one weekend each month.

Every day we would talk on the phone for about an hour. This still surprises me because TTO hates the phone. Not being able to see each other forced us to become good verbal communicators. While we did send occasional e-mails, we really needed to hear each other’s voices. Being that we were in different places and knew different people the conversations didn’t get stale.

We knew that the last few months would be the toughest. TTO had been home all summer and while we were worried about how we would adjust to actually being together at first, it ended up being fantastic. We weren’t ready to be separated again. When he left I sent a big box of envelopes back with him. Each envelope was marked with a day that he’d be gone and had a little treat inside – Little Debbie Snacks, magazines, gum – something to let him know that I was thinking of him. Looking forward to what the day’s present would be made the time go a little faster for both of us.

Here is why having a long distance relationship worked for us and what we’ve gotten out of it:

When we got together we were both coming out of long term relationships that ended not so positively. We both needed to reassert our independence and figure out what we really needed from each other. We are still very independent and we’re both okay with it. I don’t expect him to enjoy shopping with me (even though I really like when he does) and he doesn’t expect me to play on the softball team anymore.

We learned to truly trust each other. My ex went to the same school and we still saw each other regularly. We even went on a spring break trip that had been planned before our breakup (with a large group) and while I know TTO wasn’t very happy about it he didn’t freak out. He went on a trip a few weeks after that with a bunch of guys and I’d heard stories about their previous trips. I was pretty sure nothing would happen, but since our relationship was so new at that time I also prepared myself that it might. I think we both knew that if things didn’t work out we wouldn’t have to see each other every day. We could just let it go. Fortunately it never became an issue. We’re still very honest with each other and it made some of the newlywed hurdles a lot less complicated.

We appreciated just being with each other and made the most of every moment. Our visits never included fancy dinners or major nights on the town. We were so happy to just be in the same room at the same time that we didn’t need anything else. A pizza and movie night was a big deal. This is still the case. We really enjoy each other’s company. We can do absolutely nothing and still have a great time. We don’t have grand expectations – we had macaroni and cheese with hotdogs for one Valentine’s Day.

Most importantly – I think from the moment we saw each other again we knew that this was not just a random hookup. We knew that we were in it for the long haul. We were willing to work harder because we both really wanted it to work. I am so glad that it did.

Long distance won’t work for everyone, but I think it’s made our relationship stronger. It made it easier for me to adjust to TTO’s crazy work schedule. It helped him adjust to the fact that I like to talk, a lot, especially about things he’s not very interested in hearing. As much as I missed him during those months I don’t think I’d change the experience for anything.

*Lifehouse.  It always reminds me of this part of our history.

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