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Making it work with an ocean in the way

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

In September of 2019, I found myself in a romantic relationship with a considerate and communicative partner. Much to the amusement of the friends and family who watched it happen, Jerry and I fell in love over the course of a couple months, and we quickly agreed we wanted to continue our relationship and spend our lives together.

Yet as of New Year’s Day, we had never met.

I have always said I’m not a long-distance relationship kind of person. I had felt strong connections fizzle the instant I actually met a few people, and having an online dating profile never felt like a good use of my time. I wrote off online dating and long-distance crushes as unrealistic and unproductive.

I decided that if I was going to meet someone, it was going to happen organically while I pursued the things I’m passionate about. I was correct, but my assumptions about when and where that would happen (in a few years/in the United States probably) were not.

I got bored while visiting my friends in South Florida last year, so I sent a message to a fellow artist to strike up a conversation. Over the course of a few weeks, we exchanged real names, drawings, photos of pets and lots of questions. Our interests overlapped in ways that surprised us almost daily, and we even have birthdays that are only one day apart.

As well as in private messages, we were also interacting in group chats and social platforms, which essentially functioned as what I would consider a “group date” if we were courting in person.

I could see that the person I liked was not just considerate and kind to me -- he was like that with everybody. He had lots of friends who were openly delighted whenever he came online, and I understood why. I quickly realized I wanted to be a part of his life, and it turned out that he felt the same way about me.

Interestingly, Jerry had also sworn off long distance relationships. He’d been in one or two when he was younger, and found them disheartening and difficult to maintain. It can be very difficult to care about someone from a great distance. There is no reassurance of their presence when they are offline or sleeping, no physical touch, and believing everything they tell you about their life requires a great deal of trust.

It wasn’t going to be easy, but we knew if we didn’t give it a shot, we’d regret that decision for the rest of our lives. We talked, saved money, flung curses at an ambivalent ocean and filled out lots of paperwork. By the end of four months of long distance longing, we had a finish line in sight: brand new passports and a flight arriving in Orlando in January.

There are many ways it could have gone wrong, but it worked because we were both honest with each other from day one. When one of us felt anxious or insecure, we talked about it. Communication and vulnerability weren’t things I had to fight for, they were things he offered gladly.

The distance gave us lots of opportunity to get used to the idea of being in a relationship, and lots of space to work through things that we felt worried about. By the time he was crossing the 4,200 miles between us, I had no doubt that I was starting a wonderful new chapter in my life.

We’ve now been a couple “in person” for four months, and that policy of open communication has continued to enrich our relationship. I get to see the love of my life every day, and Jerry spends a lot of his time reminding me how lucky he is and trying to make me laugh.

I’m pretty sure I’m the lucky one.

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