Long distance is the kinkiest of all relationships, requiring more trust than any kind of bondage or blindfold and more obsession than a fetish. Then again, it is also the most socially acceptable way of abstaining from sex.
Committed, long-distance relationships come from a place of love. Ignoring physical separation is the ultimate gesture of loyalty and mutual faith, a demonstration of mind over body.
In my experience, distance does not make the heart grow fonder, at least in a healthy way. I have been in one unsuccessful long-distance relationship, permeated by infidelity, miscommunication and the inescapable temptation of sex. My ex went to school hundreds of miles away from Berkeley — just a two-hour plane ride but an endeavor I only braved twice.
When we were together, it seemed easy. No distance could get between us, riding on the euphoria of touch. That first kiss at the airport made the time apart worth it.
We couldn’t keep our hands off of one another, soaking in sensuality, our lips making up for the lost time. That was my favorite part — every embrace better than I had remembered, each kiss sweeter than before. Her hands, unlike her words, were soft and gentle — her rhythmic movements deceivingly devoted. The sex was only temporary. As our compatibility faded away between her climax and resolution, dissolving with our goodbyes, our connection slipped away on the plane ride home.
Unbeknownst to me, long distance should have meant talking on the phone, not tracking each other’s phones. It should have meant looking forward to good morning texts instead of nudes and planning trips to strengthen our relationship rather than save it.
In hindsight, I would be lying if I said I was the perfect long-distance girlfriend. I was thrust into the UC Berkeley party scene, where casual hookups were easier than ever and flirting was the customary greeting. Sex seemed like low-hanging fruit in the pressure cooker of horny young adults that is college. Candidly, I wanted to know how college — home to dance-floor makeouts and the walk of shame — tasted.
Still, I told myself that if distance hadn’t broken us yet, it never would. But in time, it was the distance that exposed the true flaws in our relationship. No number of care packages, FaceTimes or letters could warm the empty side of the bed. My “I love yous” failed to satisfy her; it was a task successful only between the sheets.
She convinced me that love was not stronger than sex, as if refraining from sex for months at a time was stripping her from a need as vital as oxygen. I thought maybe I wasn’t worth it. Maybe a quick nut was more valuable than the feelings I harbored for her — and, as it turns out, I was right.
She replaced me as easily as the batteries in her vibrator; I was nothing more than a tool for her own pleasure. While I was in Berkeley, my spot in the passenger seat and beside her in bed was filled by a tall blond. Her painted nails and dainty jewelry infiltrated our relationship — this foreign set of hands becoming familiar in no time. After all, hers, unlike mine, were not hundreds of miles away.
I was heartbroken, but her disloyalty set me free. The door to my Berkeley experience opened, and the curtain of distance disguising our toxic relationship lifted, setting the stage for a new character to enter my life.
A few months before summer, I met someone else from home, hundreds of miles away from my Downtown Berkeley apartment. Approaching the end of my freshman year and caught up in finals and packing up my apartment, we didn’t officially attempt long distance; summer was soon enough. But she didn’t need a label nor sex to treat me better than my previous girlfriend ever had. I counted down the days until the end of second semester, when our relationship could exist beyond the screen of a phone.
That short time apart revealed that I was worth more than my body. I was worth the distance.
It was the perfect summer: beach days and shared comforters, meeting the parents and nights out. But as my return to Berkeley crept up on our hometown romance, we both decided that long distance wasn’t sustainable. But this time, the breakup was different, an empty sadness replacing the anger I experienced with my ex.
Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if we stayed together, but I couldn’t endanger the good terms on which we left. My past had convinced me that it was too risky; the distance could bring out the worst in me. I was terrified of unearthing behavior from my previous relationship, of repeating the passive-aggressive texts and betrayal.
I’m not saying that a long-distance relationship is automatically doomed, but it certainly can be ugly — the imminent threat of a breakup and the unavoidable anxiety of cheating. I learned a lot walking away from that second long-distance relationship: College was not the right time for me to commit at that level.
I will wait until I am ready, waiting for the miles apart to become trivial, for love to become more important than lust and for erotic actions to be replaced by meaningful emotions we share from a distance.