Things happen when you’ve got a long-distance relationship. Those big lulls between seeing each other make changes so gradual as to be invisible and yet after such a time, when you finally do crash into one another again, those gradual invisible changes become stark as black and white.
It’s disconcerting. Shocking, even. Especially when you’re still in contact with each other every day one way or another. You like to think that you change gradually together, and you do, but sometimes those changes aren’t ones that can be experienced across long distances. So coming together after so long and finding those changes, well, sometimes it’s beautiful and wonderful, and sometimes it’s like the universe clocked you one square in the chin.
The great lie about long term relationships is that you’ll never feel insecure. The reason it’s a great lie is because there’s nothing further from the truth: you’ll feel insecure all the time. All the fucking time. The difference is in what you do with the insecurity, in what you can do with the insecurity. I mean, there’s always the option of panic, freaking out, shitting the relationship bed, running so fast you leave little cartoon-dust-clouds behind you in the opposite direction. For some people that’s a coping strategy. T and I, however, prefer to talk.
First, you gotta talk though.
Sometimes a shock like that is too much to talk about right away. Sometimes when all you’ve got is a week together you want to soak up all the good and just be in denial about the bad until you’re far apart again and all you can do is talk. The problem with this approach is that this kind of insecurity has this insidious way of seeping into the good. It’s inky and murky and it contaminates everything it touches and it leaves what would otherwise be a totally energizing encounter unsatisfying. You want to be filled but you get shorted by over half a tank.
We did get to talk in person, eventually, and not without many tears. I wasn’t at liberty to spend a proper night trying to work things out, though I wheedled and cajoled and cried trying to do so. I don’t often twist under the limits my husband sets, and don’t often resent the permission he doesn’t give. Thankfully he and I found a place where we could agree even though it left me a little kid digging my toe into the dirt, frustrated to all hell that I didn’t get my way. I don’t often press him like that either; he was exasperated with me and it showed. He usually contains his frustration with me better and doesn’t explode at me with hurtful jabs about how I want to abandon him so I can “fuck it out” with my boyfriend despite having already had a week with him.
I hated being in that spot, truly torn. I love them both and I want to give them both what’s best for the respective relationships and a time does come when sometimes, you have to choose. It helps that I know my husband tried as hard as he could to accommodate. It helps that there were apologies on all sides. It helps that he gave me what he did: one night, despite his exhaustion, to cuddle with T and try and work out what we could with whispers.
I think the take-away lesson from all of this is that when insecurity rears its head, much as we might really want to push it aside and ignore it so we can experience the good feelings, that kind of denial is ultimately not healthy or helpful. It left me feeling hollow after the experience and it seemed to leave T in a worse place than he would have been if we’d just talked about it in the first place. It’s so much harder to have tearful discussions when we can’t hold each other.
It helps that I know that we’ll work through it, and that I know T is confident about that fact as well. It helps that we’ve weathered insecurity before and are excellent communicators and are both very certain that we can navigate this in a healthy way that leaves us ultimately stronger. It’s hard though, being so far. Insecurity comes up not infrequently, and I believe a lot of it is because of the time we spend apart. I always feel worse for having to do the reassuring when I can’t touch him. Those teary talks, much as they’re not fun to have, always leave me feeling more connected than before. It’s that connection I crave, far more than orgasms, far more than sex.
When I don’t get that connection but I get the sex, I feel like I’ve eaten nothing but candy and no solid food. It feels somehow wrong and sick and I hate that feeling. Nothing stains like that feeling, the dirty-and-wrong feeling, the feeling like despite the fact that by all metrics the sex we’re having is really really great and the togetherness we’re having is comfortable and warm, that there’s something missing and it’s something truly fundamental and it’s just gone. The worst, the absolute worst is not knowing where that feeling came from and being terrified, just terrified, that maybe the connection went somewhere and it’s never gonna be seen again.
Isn’t that just the most tragic kind of comedy? Both of us just dying inside, but trying so hard to keep on a brave face for the other person somehow takes priority over cutting yourself open and letting the pain spill out? Because it’s messy? Because we’re worrying about what’s inside our own heads and completely forgetting that there’s this whole other person here who we can confide in, who we trust more than ourselves sometimes? That trying to avoid that conversation wrecked things more than having the conversation in the first place ever would have? After the fact it just makes me shake my head. For all our talk, we forgot to be authentic.
We were afraid we forgot the steps to the dance, and that we couldn’t dance anymore, and totally forgot that the most important thing is to let the music move us.
Let’s try not to forget again.