Long Distance Dating 101

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Today is the last day ever, ever that I will live in a different state than Heath. Perhaps that’s tempting God, but if I have anything to say about it, this will hold true.  I’ve been waiting in the movie theater watching previews for the past six and a half months, but now the opening credits are rolling onto the screen.

Long distance is a mix between sitting in traffic and the scene in the notebook where it’s pouring down rain and Allie runs and jumps in Noah’s arms. My weeks are marked by countdowns to the next visit to Austin or Houston. I’ve altogether taken over Heath’s childhood bedroom as my own. I like it because he probably has about 50 trophies and medals in there and I have one trophy from choir in my room. He’s cooler than I am.

We both hate long distance dating, obviously. If you like it, that’s probably an indicator that your relationship won’t work out well. But we would both agree that we’ve developed a healthy, mature relationship in our time apart. Here’s what we’ve learned:

1. Every second is valuable.
This is the most obvious gain from long distance. Sometimes we were exhausted from the workweek and our drives and we’d spend the entire weekend on the couch watching television and cooking. We would exhaust ourselves staying up late and waking up early trying to make the most of each minute. We rarely went on dates since our cash became gas money, but that didn’t matter. What was special and memorable is just to be in the same room as the man you love.

2. Loneliness isn’t the enemy.
I live alone and so does Heath. I know few people in the city and live in a large, echoing apartment. It’s easy to feel isolated or alone, and for many weeks I did. But feeling lonely had nothing to do with Heath’s physical proximity. You can feel just as lonely in your dorm building of 200 people as you can in an empty apartment alone.

Loneliness is a heart issue. It has something to do with the awkward Jesus-shaped box in your heart. Loneliness is the awkward middle piece that you usually can’t fit in until you’ve figured out the rest of the puzzle of self-esteem, identity, autonomy and a lot of faith. The double-edged sword is that you have to be lonely once in a while before you learn all the life skills that teach you survive alone. Once you learn that, you won’t ever be lonely again.

3. Let go of a little of your independence. 
Heath and I are both independent. Heath’s independent in the I’m-going-to-start-my-own-company way and I’m independent in the fly-off-to-a-new-city-and-live-alone way. We both follow our own passions to a fault. Sometimes, it’s difficult to co-exist in a relationship where compromise is an active reality. For me, compromise looked a lot like Heath’s parents seeing my morning face. Ick. But when you have a place to meet halfway, any sacrifice is worth it!

4. Sometimes you’re dating your iPhone more than your boyfriend.
FaceTime, Snapchat, and Facebook messages galore! With modern technology, I can see Heath any time I want. (Thank you Sprint for unlimited data). My phone is always in my hand or within reach. Heath might disagree, but he exclusively seems to call when I temporarily walk out of the room. Regardless, your phone is your greatest asset. Plus, if you have a mac, you can text and FaceTime straight from your computer to any phone.

5. You can always blame the distance.
Couples fight. It’s inevitable. But there’s a difference between needing to fight and wanting to fight. Like a two year old throwing a temper tantrum in the cereal aisle, sometimes people (me) act out. Our frustrations at being apart sometimes overflow into bickering or refusing to Snap the other person back. Those are the fights when napping or a bowl of cereal can solve the problem before you create a worthless fight.

6. You learn how to wait patiently.
If you don’t, you will not be happy. Heath and I both work different hours, so our schedules never aligned. Plus, everyone once in a while, he would go to California for work meaning we had a 2-hour time difference. This meant a lot of waiting for each other and finding ways to pass the time until we could FaceTime. But as soon as that phone rings…

7. You always must be present. (written by Heath)
This has been perhaps the hardest aspect for me to learn while dating long distance. When you are sitting next to your girlfriend watching a movie, you don’t need to have all the right words. When you go to the mall or even eat a bowl of ice cream together, words don’t have to fill in the void of time. But across states and often time zones, words do have to fill the void. I can’t be daydreaming while on the phone. I need to be present.

For example, I (Alyssa) am not allowed to eat popcorn while we are on the phone. Apparently, I get really ravenous over it and stop listening to Heath while I munch on the salty perfection.

8. Details matter
I (Heath) learned to appreciate Alyssa’s passion for details. She loves hearing about food I had for lunch and who I talked to on the phone today. She also wants me to love the details in her life. Before dating long distance, I never thought much of details. But now, the details are what connect our lives from thousands of miles away. When I describe my day down to the cup of coffee (he drinks half-caf), she feels a part of my life and I feel a part of hers.

9. Show how much you care, often.
I (Heath) call her in the morning, at night, and randomly throughout the day. I send her little emails as much as I can. I’m not perfect. In fact, she’s much better than me at this. But I want her to know that I’m thinking of her. I want her to know I’m busting my butt at work so that I can be a man and take care of her. I’ll call, text, email, snap, leave voicemails, anything everything to let her know she’s the single most important person in my life.

10. How to love.
This isn’t as much about dating long distance, as it is about dating Alyssa. The girl has taught me to love, more than anyone I’ve ever known. I’ve watched her personality mold from calloused and pessimistic to heartwarming and vulnerable. She has taught me through her actions how to sacrifice her old ways for a future with me. It has inspired me to do the same.

“If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return.” – Paulo Coehlo

I’ve been told distance can tear love apart, but that isn’t true. Lust or a crush maybe, but love is forever.  It will never spoil.

11. And last but not least, you can’t hate your boyfriend when he sends you pictures of himself at the beach.
I lied. You can.

Manhattan Beach, CA

What would you add?