As I’ve lately alluded, I am currently intrigued by the hypothetical–and possibly practical–prospect of dating someone long-distance.
(Does it seem as though I’m being deliberately cagey about my present situation? It’s true: I am being deliberately cagey about my present situation. It’s gotta be.)
Regardless, it’s also true that several of my girlfriends are now involved, to varying degrees of intensity, with men who live in different states. Men who lived in different states, I should add, when they began to be involved with them.
So, by necessity, these relationships developed and are conducted via technology: through email, over the phone and with text messages.
In other words: these relationships translate to living in a Constant State of Panic. A Constant State of Panic that the other person will not write back. That they will not call back. That they will not return a text. That they will vanish because they have met someone else, forgotten you exist or realized that they simply aren’t interested.
What, does that sound irrational?
The romance, the excitement of dating someone far away lies in the constant exchange of emotional intimacy. Since there is no regular opportunity to be intimate physically, the relationship depends on a connection that must be articulated through words–thoughts, feelings and ideas. Which is thrilling. And also, terrifying.
Of course, there is never total certainty in a relationship. Even in a marriage, as we all know, there’s always the possibility that one person can get up and leave. Love is one part of life in which protecting others means being selfish: to be with someone that we don’t truly want to be with is as toxic for them as it is for us. There is always a leap of faith.
But we’d all go crazy–or, never try and commit–if we didn’t sheath ourselves in various folds of security. Much of that involves the immediate and the physical: living together, sleeping together, eating meals and watching movies–being with someone usually means, literally, being with them.
So how do you feel secure someone is going to stick around when they’re not actually around to begin with? Especially when they never have been?
You don’t. You trust. You write what you hope are charming and witty letters that not only maintain but further the connection already established.
And then you live in a Constant State of Panic that you’re right.