Ali and I have been together for almost 3 years, and slightly less than half of that was 3000+ miles of long distance. We've lived together for a year and a half now! Everything is going really well, and we've been talking about five to ten year plans for our future together. When are we getting married? What about kids? Where will we live?
How did we get to a place in our relationship where those concepts have gone from Pinterest page dreams to paving a very real path for ourselves?
We dated for three months before we began long distance. That's not a lot of time. Neither of us wanted to begin an indeterminate amount of long distance without feeling really secure about the other person. We weren't looking for a proposal or anything (this isn't the Bachelor) in that small period of time, but we really focused on getting to know each other on a deeper level for those three months. Most people start out with fun dates where you ask what music the other person likes, or how many siblings they have. We had fun dates too, but the questions were about lifestyle, faith, family history, and other questions that were targeted to see if we were actually made to last long-term. We pretty much fell for each other night one, but those short months were enough to convince us that we could handle pretty much anything together, least of all long distance.
Besides the fact that long distance sucks, it was actually much more fun and lighthearted than when we first started dating. Each time we met up, we'd do something fun: Disneyland, New York City, seeing each other's hometowns, etc. Everything was big and fun and celebratory. When we were apart, our FaceTime dates helped us get to know the rhythm of the other's life. We shared a year together through the internet, and learned so much more about each of our intricacies and quirks.
When we finally moved in together, it wasn't really big and fun like our long distance meetups. It was unpacking, starting new jobs, doing laundry, buying groceries, and maneuvering around each other's living habits. Yes, it was incredible to finally be together geographically. But the big adrenaline rush and the high-stakes trips were gone. We settled in, and the more we made joint habits and traditions the more it became like the greatest best friend sleepover ever. We got to the point where we weren't trying to impress each other anymore - we could relax and be our messy selves. We've seen each other at our best and our very, very worst. We have had two little fur babies we take care of together. We dealt with the loss of one of them. We've had the hard conversations about what both of us want out of our short time on Earth. But most of all, we've learned how to care for each other and negotiate and compromise in a way that serves us both. I don't love using the term "partner" to describe someone I'm with (Are we detectives? Cowboys?), but Ali and I are really life partners.
We needed all of those phases of our relationship to get to the solid place we are now. We've built an incredibly strong foundation, and now it's about navigating life's curveballs together and enjoying the ride. Three more years down the road, life might be totally different... but we'll still be partners, out to solve crimes and ride horses into the sunset.