“Out of sight, out of mind” or “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”—which is true? Well, for old, rotten bananas, I can tell you which one rings true. But for love, it’s not quite so simple.
My husband Dan and I currently live in a one room apartment, teach at the same school, share the same office, and live in Korea on the other side of the world from everyone else we know. Talk about relationship immersion! But it hasn’t always been like that. For the five years we were dating, we spent three of those years long distance. Even though I would never wish three years of Skype calls on anyone’s relationship, after several weeks (or months) apart, the joy and passion of seeing each other again is a beautiful thing.
It seems as though having a long-distance relationship was my destiny. In fact, the first time I realized I was interested in Dan was during our Christmas vacation in college. After having spent several months together almost every day, those few weeks apart made me realize, “Hey, I miss him and am excited to see him again! ” Because our families lived ten hours apart, we hardly saw each other over summers, and when Dan transferred to a university six hours away, our relationship had to make an overhaul.
Instead of playing tennis on free afternoons or studying at midnight with our friends, we had to find more creative ways to include each other in our lives. We made presents for each other, exchanged endless amounts of music, and, of course, spent hours upon hours strengthening our relationship by simply talking together. While I would have wanted nothing more than to live closer together, those years when we were “out of sight,” we had time to cultivate other friendships and non-mutual interests.
It seems that those two years apart were preparing us for the ultimate challenge: an entire year apart while Dan finished his degree, and I moved to Paris, the city of love, to be an au pair. Living in France was my adventure and my passion, not his, and I felt grateful for his understanding and encouragement despite the long separation. I left for Paris with his great-grandmother’s wedding ring on my finger and a hope that this would be our last goodbye. My French host family didn’t have quite so optimistic an attitude about the possibility of maintaining a long distance relationship, but honestly, I didn’t care.
Thanks to a huge discount in flights, Dan got to come visit me in Paris for New Years. It’s times like these that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” seems too tame for reality. Seeing each other after such a long absence explodes fireworks of joy, giddiness, excitement, and passion! We crisscrossed the city multiple times, frolicking here and there, laughing if our plans didn’t work out because, “Who cares? We’re together! ” During this visit we counted the number of miles we (mainly Dan, because I didn’t have a car) had traveled in the name of love, and to our surprise, we had traveled almost exactly one time around the world. Wow!
Our three year wedding anniversary is next week, and looking back I feel I can confidently say that being long distance for the majority of our five years dating shaped our relationship for the better. I wouldn’t go back and re-do it for anything in the world, but we both experienced first-hand how the other dealt with the stresses, complications, and frustrations of being apart. We had to negotiate and navigate through all the ups and downs that life presented in a different way than most relationships, and because of this, we got to know each other on a deeper level.
So, would I say that Dan living far away meant that he was “out of mind”? Hardly. But being separate gave us valuable time to grow individually without constantly having our eyes glued to each other. As for the “absence” understatement, well, I’d say that for us, it made rekindling the passion that much stronger. Does that mean being together 24/7 for our last two years in Korea has stamped out all excitement from seeing each other? Not at all. Just like being apart, being together all the time is a great chance to find new, creative ways to show you love each other.