It ended like this: I was down on my knees by the door, tying my shoes and concentrated on them. She was leaning against a doorframe to the next room, arms folded across her chest. I was avoiding her gaze. It was easier that way.
She said: "I feel like we've been here so many times." An appropriate cliché.
I grunted. I shrugged. I finished with the other shoe and stood up. I smoothed out the wrinkles in my sweatshirt, took my keys and wallet from the foyer table. I scanned the room for the rest of my belongings and caught her eyes. They were tired. She wanted me out. If she was done, we were done. She held the power. That's how it rolled.
In my blacker moments I'll tell you that long distance relationships don't work. I can say with some authority that they are awful, wretched beasts and will leave you feeling withered and depressed. You'll spend more time than necessary pining away and you'll find that yearning is the emotional equivalent of narcotic withdrawal.
I knew from the start that unless I was patient enough, mature enough and desperate enough to make the distance between us work, it probably wouldn't. A one-time healthy and intimate relationship was quickly replaced with bi-weekly phone conversations. Just two voices passing each other through telephone wire. I soldiered on anyway but I wasn't a saint. I used her as a scapegoat for all the other nonsense that was going on in my life, as so many of us unfortunately do with our partners. My eyes kept wandering and while I never acted on it, I would often wonder what life would be like if I just cut her loose and asked out this beautiful stranger at the coffee shop trading smiles with me between sips of her macchiato.
But I'm selling us way too short. We were groovy once and I'll love her for that, that girl I knew. And anyway, there are great benefits to long distance relationships that are rarely talked about. We can learn to communicate with each other on a level that may not have been afforded before when we were lying in bed all day, wrapped up in each other's limbs.
Also, it can be difficult for people to strike a balance between personal growth and commitment in a relationship. Both are important but one tends to dominate the other. In a long distance relationship, we're forced into finding this balance. The situation will harden us and force us to mature, no matter what. We're afforded the time to reflect on what commitment in this relationship really means to us. Nothing tests the strength of a relationship more effectively than chronic separation.