“We cannot put off living until we are ready. The most salient characteristic of life is its urgency, here and now without any possible postponement. Life is fired at us point-blank.”
Jose Orgeta y Gasset
That was the quote that Rob came across in his Franklin day planner that tipped the scales and began our journey to where we are today. There is irony in the fact that someone as random as I am have organization to thank for my soon to be husband. I have been reading emails and IM transcripts from the earliest days of my relationship with Rob. I tend to do this when it has been a long while since we have been together and another visit is nearing.
When one considers the physical distance between us the actual amount of face time we have had is remarkable. By the time he arrives here in early June to help us pack and move to Canada, we will have spent about 24 days together. In not quite 6 months. Better, I think, than some couples who live on opposite ends of the same city.
Between us we have sent nearly 800 emails and spent literally days on the phone and IMing if the hours were calculated. There really isn’t any point during the day when we can’t reach each other. One of the things that experts recommend for long distance relationships to be successful is communication, so in light of all this I would call us uber-successful.
The early days emails are interesting in retrospect. There are the odd moments when our interest in each other is clearly not “just friends”, and I wonder now how that was overlooked, or if it was really. In our conversations of late we have admitted to each other that the attraction was early and mutual, and I wonder how that can be because each of us was still clearly not ready, consciously anyway, to love someone other than our late spouses.
I did an Internet search last night to find the predictors for long distance relationship success. The first was communication, and letter writing was the chief factor in romances prevailing whether it was email or the snail variety. Talking on the phone was just not enough. I can understand why. Writing frees a person from constraints, and it is a deliberate medium in which you can take the time to phrase and frame your thoughts. The phone is fraught with the same problems of speaking in person and worse, robs the speakers of the visual cues that verbal communication ironically relies on.
Establishing ground rules for the relationship early and sticking to them was another predictor for a relationship’s longevity. I don’t recall if Rob and I did this in so many words. When our needs were not being met, we simply told each other what was wrong. Which I suppose is the one rule we did have and still do, and that is we tell each other when something is wrong, or we ask when we don’t understand where the other is coming from. This though, I think, goes back to communication.
Another factor for success is the amount of face time a couple schedules. After spending about 10 days together over my spring break in March, we both realized that there was no way we could get to June without seeing each other. We had barely survived the two and a half weeks between our first face to face meeting in Idaho Falls and Arkansas. So, a new plan was hammered out with regularly scheduled visits. It hasn’t made the time apart easier, but it has given us something to look forward to and eased the longing to be together a tiny bit. One of the things the articles didn’t address, but I will, is that how much face time a couple needs is going to vary and has to be talked about and adequately addressed. Rob and I in a word…..suck…..at the physical separation part of this long distance thing. Some of it can be attributed to widowhood, but I think also it is just our personalities. We need to be able to physically connect and show our affection, need, and love for each other. I was no different with Will, and I would guess it was the same for Rob with Shelley.
Deciding how long the distance will be a factor in the relationship and who will be the one to relocate was cited as well as a predictor for success. I am moving to Canada in June. And this is no small thing at my age and given my circumstances. It means selling a house, resigning from my teaching position, pulling up stakes in Iowa and emigrating to another country. And I am doing this with a four year old in tow. However, it made the most sense when looked at from a practical standpoint. I will be able to teach eventually in Canada but it is not as easy for Rob to find work here in my neck of the Midwest. He has the better job. But honestly, and all practical matters aside, I was okay with going to him. He feels like home to me, and wherever he is that is where I am supposed to be.
Another important point in maintaining a distance relationship is keeping things “spicy”, and they suggest everything and the kitchen sink really. To be blunt I don’t see the appeal of phone sex, and webcams are beyond nasty in any context I can imagine. Erotic emails on the other hand, while not a substitute, make for good foreplay. Whereas Rob is adamant that some of these emails of ours need to be purged from the “record” so to speak, I will not be deleting them anytime soon. I have nothing of Will. No record of his thoughts, pure or otherwise, and so I can’t bring myself to destroy anything that Rob has written to me and probably never will. I guess only time will tell whose version of our early days will be the one of record.
Back in the day when marriages were a matter to be arranged rather than something born of preference and personal choice, distance and courting by mail weren’t viewed so suspiciously. One of the mp3’s that Rob sent me over the course of our communications was Prairie Wedding by Mark Knopfler. The lyrics aptly fit our situation. Rob used a verse of that song in the following post on the YWBB in response to someone’s query as to whether or not two people could fall in love over the Internet:
I am saddened that our society has made us so bitter and jaded that we look for subterfuge and ulterior motives everywhere. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use our heads and know what we are doing…..but I, for one, appreciate that there can still be magic.
The start of my relationship with my fiancee was kind of described by the beautiful song “Prairie Wedding” by Mark Knopfler, which starts like this:
We Only Knew Each Other By Letter
I Went To Meet Her Off The Train
When The Smoke Had Cleared And The Dust Was Still
She Was Standing There And Speaking My Name
I Guarantee She Looked Like An Angel
I Couldn’t Think Of What I Should Say
But When Adam Saw Eve In The Garden
I Believe He Felt The Selfsame Way
I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic.
I guess I am too and every day I count myself one of the luckiest people on the planet to have been found by this amazing and remarkable man with whom I am going to spend the rest of my life.