My only two serious relationships have been long distance. During my first one, although we were technically Facebook official, we had many “creative differences.” I wanted to make it work, yet the feeling of anger caused by a lack of mutual understanding while still longing for him to be around caused many tear-filled arguments over Skype. I finally realized when we were living in the same city that the relationship wouldn’t work and although it ended badly, I was happy it had ended.
The end of that same year I took a trip to Israel. I was not intending to meet a kind, handsome, and French-speaking Israeli soldier, but that’s what I found! For the purpose of the article, we can call him Guy. After my trip, Guy and I decided to keep in touch, nothing serious. Fast forward to today, I’m in what is a similar yet incredibly different situation: “Nothing serious” turned into talking every day, a visit to Tel Aviv over my Spring break, and Guy coming to visit me in Chicago this summer. And honestly, I’m happy with our situation. I like having space to finish school and focus on myself, while still being able to text him a picture of the really awesome bacon cheeseburger I ate at Nookies at any time. It’s a win-win.
What does real even mean?
However, the one problem that has come up, again and again, is a need to legitimize my relationship to other people. When I returned from my first trip to Israel and told my friends about Guy, many of them had the same reaction: “OK. But that’s not real, right?” I would assure them that it was real and I was happy with the situation, but I would feel a sense of uneasiness. What does real even mean? Does it mean Facebook official? How was my circumstance less real than dating someone in Chicago? We were spending time together, getting to know each other. That’s what dating is, right?
My most recent encounter with this type of doubt was last week. My mother had mentioned him while talking to my grandma, who we don’t see very often. I had spoken to my grandma about Guy before a few times, but nothing too in depth. Since I come from a Jewish family, I figured she would be all for it, he being Jewish and an Israeli. After speaking to my grandma, my mother texted me, “I talked to Grandma tonight. She asked if you had heard from the Israeli guy?!?!” I laughed & told her, “Almost every day!” I didn’t think too much about it at first, but then she continued, “Grandma asked if you had a crush on the guy?!?! I thought that was very sweet.” As I read the text, a sense of burning started to grow inside my stomach. I was angry! How could my grandma not realize that I was in a relationship with this guy? I mean, we’re not sleeping with other people and we talk every day. I had an overwhelming need to call her and set her straight on the whole situation. Then she would be enlightened, our relationship would be legitimized, and all would be right with the world. So what if it was 1 am? She needed this information immediately.
And that’s when it hit me: Nothing was wrong. There was nothing I had to do or fix. If the confusion of an 80-year-old woman can make me feel insecure, what would that say about me? For no reason at all do I need to prove or explain our feelings to my friends, my family, or anyone else. It would not make my relationship more real or valid if I called my grandma at 1 am on a Wednesday night to wake her up and let her know that she was misunderstanding my love life.
And that’s when it hit me: Nothing was wrong.
Living in the same city or being ‘Facebook Official’ has no bearing on whether a relationship is real or official or legitimate. Instead, it’s a mutual desire for the same thing: to be together. I admit that long distance is hard, and the physical separation is challenging, but overcoming these challenges worthwhile to us. That is not to say that this is how our relationship will be forever. Maybe next month, next week, or even tomorrow our feelings will change, which is true for any relationship. Nothing can make our relationship real except for us. Not our parents, friends, acquaintances, my ex-boyfriend, or my grandma.