The day I left for college, it took every bit of my self-control not to turn right back around at the end of the road, drive back to Jack's house as fast as I could, curl up on his couch, and refuse to move for the rest of my life.
You see, it was the first time I was technically allowed to be with him, finally with him, and yet we were being torn apart by distance.
I kind of think my parents did that on purpose, the not letting us date until I actually left. I think they were hoping we would quickly discover that this long-distance thing sucked (yes, it did) and break up (no, we didn't) so that I wouldn't run off and elope with this super-dangerous old man I had fallen in love with (never intended to).
But I didn't turn around. I kept driving, and three and a half hours later, I had a new dorm room, new classes, a new job, a new town, and new freedom.
It really sucked.
I drove home just about every weekend, not because I was homesick or not used to being on my own, but because I was finally free to be with Jack and it was time to really date him, to get to know him, and to be his real girlfriend. Calendars were my best friends, because they told me how long it would be until I could be near him again. The distance between us made me ache all the time. I was incomplete.
The next year, I went home a little less often, and even less the year after. By my senior year, I barely went home once a month. It's not that I didn't miss him, or that we had any problems in our relationship that made me want to stay away. No, it was that as our relationship matured, the distance didn't matter as much.
We trusted each other and established our own independence. I figured out who I wanted to be, and he built a life back home to which I could return when it was time. We were apart and together, and it was a crappy and wonderful time for us.
Fast forward to now, seven years later. When we travel, we often do so separately because of our conflicting work schedules. During the week, I don't see him more than an hour or two a day since we work opposite schedules. And you want to know a secret that's going to sound a little terrible?
I don't really miss him when he's gone.
Don't worry, he doesn't miss me either.
I mean, sure, being together is always better, and don't think for a second that I don't completely adore this man.
But we will never be one of those couples who whines that they have to be away from each other for a day or two (in fact, we are really not fans of the kind of couples who do that). We'll probably never even be one of those couples who spends hours on the phone when they're apart for a weekend.
Looking back, I don't know if Jack and I would have the relationship we have had it not been for the distance during those four years.
The distance required us to wait, mature, and learn to communicate.
The distance built trust.
The distance taught me to enjoy my alone time.
The distance built independence and confidence.
The distance made the together much better.