Jenny Block on how long-distance dating can (happily) pump the brakes on a new relationship


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It just may be the oldest lesbian joke in the books: Q. What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A. The U-Haul. The thing is, it’s only funny because it’s all too true. We girls have a habit of getting real attached, real quick.
Why is that? Well part of it is that it’s just in our nature to want to partner up, cuddle in and settle down, I suppose. If we’re into someone, what’s the point in wasting any time? I’m not talking about in a “no more partying, I don’t want to ever see my friends again” kind of way. I mean in a “I know we just met but how about we move in together and love each other forever and ever” kind of way.
It’s not so different from when we met our besties when we were kids. We met her. We dug her. We wanted her to sleep over every night.
Here’s the thing, though: Jumping into the fire that fast can get you burned. Believe me. Been in that particular fire. Not pretty. I moved so fast, I had no real way of knowing if she could be right for me in the long or the short term.
This time around though, it’s been a completely different situation … and it wasn’t by choice.
I met my now-girlfriend on Tinder. I naturally assumed that she lived nearby because, well, Tinder. But it turned out she was in town for the big New Year’s Eve game. Apparently, there’s some sports-thingy that happens on that day in Dallas. But I digress.
Her team lost, and she was staying the night in a boring hotel. So she got to swiping. The next day I did the same. We matched, got to talking and I quickly found out that she lived in Houston.
At first I thought, “Nope. I’ve done long distance. I’m not a fan.” But then I thought, “What if long distance dating could keep me from making the fatal insta-girlfriend mistake? If she lives hours away, I can’t move in tomorrow.”
And lo and behold, it worked.
That first week we texted and talked on the phone non-stop. It was fun and exciting and romantic. But more than that, it was incredibly informative. It gave us the chance to ask and answer all sorts of questions that we may have rushed passed otherwise. And since dating was not going to be easy or particularly convenient, we had to really want it.
I asked questions that I really was ready to hear the answers to. In other words, I laid out the dealbreakers and was prepared to walk. I also became more invested than usual. I found out as much as I could about her and was able to actually say to myself, “Wow. I could really like this person. And, I could like this person enough to overcome the distance.”
We met in person a week after we e-met. Once it was clear that the “click” (that thing, that indescribable thing that happens when you know you like someone) and the crave (that thing, that indescribable thing that happens when you know you desire someone) were there, I knew I was ready to try the long distance thing again.
And it worked.
It was like dating with the emergency brake on. We could only go so fast and so we couldn’t make the typical U-Haul mistakes. And the distance actually made it more interesting and intriguing. It forced us to be more creative. It made us really examine again and again: Do I like her enough to do this? Is missing her this much worth it? Is flying this much worth it?
Yes. Yes. And yes, as it turns out.
U-Hauling is dangerous because it allows us to skip certain steps. We allow our emotions and our emotions alone to lead us. Our emotions and our desires, that is. Distance means more time for thinking, more time for getting to know someone, more time for easing in. All of that means we can better avoid something that wouldn’t have worked any way or it allows us build a stronger foundation for what could turn out to be just the relationship for which we were looking. Either way, it’s a win.
Long distance relationships cannot just “work,” they can also be better for us in the long run. They can bring two people closer while keeping those people from completely distancing themselves from their friends and families and lives that they had before they met. It can be all too easy to jump from your life to your partner’s life when you’re together 24/7. But if you still have time and space to yourself, you can still maintain your life.
Not to mention that you can still maintain your selfhood. And that is probably the most important thing of all. An ideal relationship is two whole people coming together; not people looking to fill parts of them that are missing, perceived or otherwise. Think, “you complement me” as opposed to “you complete me.”
Six months later, my girlfriend and I are basically together every other week. And it works for us. Well. As for moving in together, her rule is four seasons. Two down. Two to go.
Hmmm. Maybe we need a new app where you choose from people who are at least 250 miles away. Like a self-imposed, automatic braking system. If you can’t make yourself take your time, the distance will do it for you.
Block is the author of the new book The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex by Jenny Block, foreword by Betty Dodson.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 1, 2016.