Josh and I had been dating about eight months when he dropped the bomb.
His company planned on opening a plant in Monterrey, Mexico. He'd offered to help get it up and running. So he was probably moving to Mexico.
For two whole years.
I was 27 and not exactly sure what to make of it. Had we been dating long enough that he should've, I dunno, talked to me about it first? Would he be coming home a lot, or would he actually live there for real? Were we going to continue dating, or was this it? Could our relationship handle a long distance relationship? Did we even want to try?
Before Josh, I'd dated a pseudo sociopath who's job took him out of the country for months at a time. He definitely, for sure, no ifs ands or buts about it cheated on me while away (found out about that way after the fact, so go me for breaking up with him before that even entered the equation).
Let's just say I was jaded about the long distance thing.
But Josh wasn't that guy. He was smart and funny and loyal. And it was an undeniably great opportunity, career-wise. I didn't really worry about other girls. I worried about the fact that he hates talking on the phone, that he'd be two or three plane rides away, and that our relationship might fizzle without actually being around each other. We're good together, but we aren't the couple who can talk for hours about nothing. It's just not us.
Apparently, he'd get to come home every six or seven weeks, which isn't too bad. And I could visit him, for even a week or so. My job was flexible. Okay, I guess that could work.
We had a few months between this announcement and his departure. He rented out his house, donated his car to National Public Radio, and put his stuff in storage. We set up Skype, downloaded WhatsApp (do you have it? You should. Free texting via WiFi!), and threw a hail Mary.
The night before Josh left, I wrote him a card saying something like, maybe this will actually be good for us. I totally didn't believe it at all. We were at a weird place in our relationship where it felt too soon to "know for sure," but long enough that I knew there was something there.
Honestly, I had low expectations.
But then something weird happened. The guy who didn't want to talk on the phone all of a sudden did. We didn't talk every night, but a lot more than normal. We WhatsApped every day. We watched Boardwalk Empire together, via Skype. And on nights we didn't virtually hang out, I spent so much time with my awesome friends, which was tons and tons and tons of fun.
When Josh and I did see each other, we brought our A-game. It always felt like a vacation, but it wasn't like we met on spring break and tried to make it work (side note: good for you if you made that happen!). We already knew we worked in real life, so these trips were a total bonus.
We appreciated every second.
He sent me flowers, too. And perfume once. It was really sweet and felt so romantic and old school. I'm taking this opportunity to share a photo of the most gorgeous flowers I've ever received.
To be fair, none of this was easy. I cried every time we said goodbye, in person and sometimes on the phone. I did get lonely, I did miss him. We almost broke up once, roughly six months in, due to the fact that after this two year ordeal, we didn't have a plan in place. Though I wasn't chomping at the bit to get married, I didn't like the idea of going through this painful two-year separation for just a regular ol' boyfriend. Puh-leeze, those guys are a peso a dozen.
All of a sudden, on a rendezvous in Austin, Texas, we realized we were already well over the half-way mark. We started talking about moving in together. We talked about getting a dog. We talked about marriage.
I'm convinced we never would've had those conversations so early in our relationship without the distance. Oddly enough, the time apart made us realize how great we are together.
Maybe this will actually be good for us.
My stupid card was right.
Four months before Josh moved home, we bought a Minneapolis duplex together (partially financed by the bonus he got from his company for moving to Mexico for two years!). I picked it out all by myself and he wired me his half of the money. Truly, that's how it happened. A Hey Eleanor #TBT for another day!
You know how the story continues: we got the dog, got engaged, got married. Blah, blah, blah.
My best advice for long distance relationships? Understand it won't be easy, but it is easier if you don't dwell on the crappy aspects. Stay connected when you can (phone, Skype, texts, whatever), and when you're apart, get a hobby. Hang out with friends. Travel. Exercise. Learn how to cook new recipes.
Make yourself happy with things outside of your relationship.
No one wants to end their day talking to someone about how miserable they are without you.
Make an effort.
When you can, meet up in a new city. Surprise each other with nice notes and cards. Send flowers or a book you think they'd like. Anything that makes the other person feel like you're thinking about them as much as they're thinking about you.
And if you don't feel like making the effort (or they don't seem to reciprocate), end it. Making an effort is the only easy part of dating long distance. That part should be fun. If you don't feel like calling or texting or baking your sweetie some chocolate chip cookies, it's over.
Remember, eventually you will be back together. The time apart does come to an end. For some couples, it really does work out.