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July 12, 2013

5 years.
1,826 days.
43,824 hours.
100's of fights.
100's of make-ups.
1 break-up.
6 separate living spaces.
5 vacations.
4 million international flights.
A handful of times we both wanted to give up.
Relationships are hard whether you live down the block from your significant other or 3,500 miles away. Today marks five years of the latter for me and my favorite guy.

Our relationship started when I was a mere 18 years old - zero to little life experience, a fair number of heart breaks, four years of high school under my belt, so many expectations for what love should look and feel like. The attraction for me with Rich wasn't instantaneous. In the situation we met, the first day of staff week at a sleep away camp, you meet a lot of new people, and are simultaneously overwhelmed at trying to catch up with the people you haven't seen since last summer. For someone like Rich, a newbie at the camp and from another country, there was a lot of time to reflect on what was going on, and he says he liked me almost right away.

I remember flirting a bit (with a few of the boys, because I'm only human), and speaking to Rich over facebook message when I left during staff week to graduate from high school. Nothing serious, but I guess I thought he was friendly and cute and interested in getting to know me. It wasn't until the first week of camp when I had a cabin full of eight year olds insisting that they knew I was married to Rich that I really noticed him. I mean if my eight year old girls thought that we were a match made in heaven, then I guess he was worth looking into on a more serious level.

So that's where our story really begins. It was a whirlwind romance from our first kiss (initiated by me) on. We flirted non stop, wrote each other letters all day, every day, met up after camper curfew whenever we could, and within a month we were in love. It seems a little crazy, but we spent so much time with each other that first month we were together that it felt equivalent to several months in a normal relationship. We just got each other right away, and had so much in common it was crazy. Obviously we've gone through the last five years since then with ups and downs, but I really believe that we made it here on the foundation of love that we built in those early summer months.

I went through a lot of life changes in those first few years we dated. R graduated from Newcastle University in the summer of 2009, and I had just finished my first year at Scranton. I had three more years of college to look forward to, and he was being thrown into the workforce. While I was excited for my remaining college years, and didn't want to rush them, I couldn't help but always feel like I was "stuck". We were stuck. With me in Scranton for three more whole years, this long distance thing didn't seem like it was going to end any time soon. Rich attempted applying for jobs and grad schools in the states to be closer to me, but none of the plans ever seemed to work out. Something about money, or citizenship was always getting in the way.

Because of all of our struggles with being long distance an extended period of time, we fought a lot more than I think we would have if we lived near each other. Every fight seemed to stem from something along the lines of "well if you were here then this wouldn't be happening", or "I don't want to spend all day and night on my phone and computer, constantly conversing with a screen". I studied abroad in Manchester, England for six months my sophomore year, which temporarily relieved some of that tension and made us feel a little more normal only living three hours away from each other, but then I had to go back home, and real life set in again. We were back to square one, and back to the bickering over flights and time off and our future. I think that a lot of our friends and family looked at us as "the perfect couple" because they would see who we were when we were together, which was always really great, but it was these fights, and what happened behind the scenes that almost destroyed us a few times.

Through those college years apart there were a lot of times that I would feel Rich and I were drifting a little because we were in different stages of life, and there were definitely times that I had chemistry with other people, which made me nervous but at the same time opened my eyes to what I was doing by saying I was committing to one person at 20 years old. If R were around all the time, I don't think that there would have really been those opportunities for me to get curious about what else could have been and stray that little bit from what was important to me, but because he wasn't, I was constantly thinking about what ifs and what could have been if we never stayed together after that first summer. I didn't resent Rich or think about any of this in a malicious way, but sometimes my mind would wander and because our situation didn't look like it was going to change any time soon, it was hard not to question everything.

Then, in my junior year of college I started to feel emotions that were new to me, despite the aforementioned "what ifs". I felt panicky that I was too attached to Rich, that I was less of my own person and more "that girl with the British boyfriend", and that I was starting to become someone who was dependent on someone else. The only way that I felt like I could ease my worrying was to see if I could be me, on my own, living my life without anyone else. After a tearful conversation with Rich, against his wishes, we broke up for a few weeks. During that time I never quite felt right, but at the time I felt like I needed to be selfish and have some alone time to make sure that if anything were to happen, I could be on my own. It was a dark time for us because we disagreed - and it was hard for Rich to understand what I was going through because he went through most of his college years single. But, after about a month of agony for him and semi-discontentment, semi-confusion for me, we decided to get back together, and we were honestly stronger than ever. The old, you don't know what you've got til' it's gone business.

Five years is a long time when you've only been around for 23 of them. And it's a really long time to be in a relationship with someone 3,500 miles away & five hours ahead. I know the long distance thing is becoming like a broken record, but it's unavoidable, it's the only constant we've ever had in our relationship. I feel like our life together has been a broken record. We go through a million catch 22s while trying to solve this issue, and we always end up back at square one. It's like when you're waiting on line for a ride for an hour and you just feel like you're never going to get to the front. Or when you're picking someone up from the airport and a million people come out before the person you're picking up. It feels never ending in the moment, but then when you're finally on the roller coaster, or walking out of the terminal with someone's luggage, that's when you realize how silly you were for being so impatient. I hope that's what the end of this stage of our lives will feel like. I just can't wait until we're looking back on this time apart.

It was easy while writing this to focus on the bad, because I don't think that there's really anything about long distance that is, or has been good. But there have been so many happy things in between everything that is our long distance relationship. The special things, vacations and holidays together, and the normal things, unnecessary Tesco/Target shopping trips and bottles of wine in front of Homeland. And even though the vacations have been great - don't get me wrong, I loved Paris - it's the normal things that make me feel so blessed. With an LDR comes appreciation, and that my friends, is probably the only good thing I can come up with. If you are the type of couple that has made it despite the distance, no matter what, you know what I mean. Whenever R and I meet back up with each other in an airport, the first thing I want to do is hug him and take in his scent. I want to get home and sit with him and just look at him, remember what his hands feel like. These little things about the person you love are taken for granted by couples who see each other all the time. I love that despite our ups and downs, we've never taken each other for granted. It's what has made our time apart just a little bit easier, and what will hopefully be the foundation for our lives together in the future when we finally get to be in the same place for good.

The past five years have been unpredictable at times, a little rocky, but very love-filled. I'm with the person I want to spend my life with, and he can say the same. It's amazing feeling this way, and knowing what I know so confidently, but it also makes the waiting so much harder. We're ready for the next step, to make a house a home, to commit to each other, to start a family (not right this second, don't panic). So I guess all of this reflecting on our good times and weak times has just brought me to the hope that the next five years and beyond will be even better, be bursting with love, have no more "I miss you"s, and have a higher ratio of days spent together than days spent apart.

So here's to the next five years and more, babe. I love you.

Read my first post about long distance relationships here.

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