I was ten minutes away from deleting Tinder.
I was fed up with all online dating and had decided to delete all apps and profiles. The sampler-style conversations, inflated expectations, and sore, swipe-tired thumbs had started turning the whole process sour.
Matches no longer conjured excitement and conversations felt forced and repetitive. It’s hard to be genuine when the thing that was created to promote romance between love-hungry strangers starts to feel like it’s turning you into an old man at a slot machine, slowly piddling away his children’s inheritance on the long shot of a Lucky Seven lightning strike.
Tinder has this boost feature that for a few bucks, you can boost your profile so that for ten minutes, a larger swath people will be able to see your curated mug sliding to the left under their thumb as they absent-mindedly think …nah.
I figured I had nothing to lose other than the seven bucks that could have been better spent on literally anything else, but as anyone who’s used dating apps could tell you, once your dignity is already gone, what’s a bit of cash?
At first, as any average guy could expect, the boost did absolutely nothing to garner more prospective partners. A man and woman’s experience on dating apps are on opposite ends of the spectrum. While most women will match with virtually anyone they painstakingly decide to swipe right on, stacking their list of potential suitors to staggering heights, guys can swipe right until their thumbs bleed and still come up empty handed. The same went for me as I watched the clock run out on the final minute of my online dating life.
That is, until the last 30 seconds. Right when I was counting down until I closed the app and deleted it for good, I matched with a girl named Ariel (which I would later find out is pronounced Arrr-iel like a pirate and not Air-iel like the mermaid. Either way, fitting for a girl currently at sea).
Not only did I happen to meet this girl within seconds of deleting the means to ever do so again, but after looking into her profile I saw that she grew up 20 minutes from where I did on the other side of the country and graduated from the college I had also attended in that same area.
I’ve lived in San Diego for a few years, and she’s in the Navy. When we met, she had been stationed here in San Diego for some time and I had been living 15 minutes away from where her ship was docked. We’re both from Northeast Ohio and both attended Kent State. She graduated from there and I moved on to other endeavors after a few uninspired semesters.
I’d be lying if I said these facts didn’t play a role in my interest and was a factor is us being able to connect so easily. This, among the many other things we had in common, all led to us eventually meeting and going out a few times. We found even more commonalities in person and after only two weeks had already known we were going to start dating.
When we first started seeing each other, she had mentioned the fact she had about a month before her ship was getting deployed for 3–5 months. As disheartening as that news was, I hadn’t put all my hopeful eggs into this relationship basket any more than I had with so any other first dates, so I took the news in stride and figured we could just make the most of the time we had together and cross that bridge when we come to it.
We saw each other as much as possible for that month or so. We went on dates and took a trip to the desert and decided to start officially dating. Three months apart was no biggie. I had been single for almost two years by that point so it’s not like I couldn’t handle being alone. Five months was doable, but damn if that’s not a long time, especially for a such a new relationship. When the date of her last free day approached, she still didn’t know where precisely they were getting sent or for exactly how long. We figured it wouldn’t be so bad. With phones and Facetime and care packages, it would be a hard but manageable time apart.
Then she got he news that she wasn’t going only up to Alaska and down to Hawaii like she had previously thought, but that her ship was going to be transporting Marines to the Middle East. And that she wouldn’t be gone for 3–5 months, but eight.
Hmm, well, that is not fun news.
We’d been together about a month at the time we found out, and both really had to evaluate how we felt about each other. She said she understood if I didn’t want to wait for her and that would be unfair to ask that of me after only knowing each other a few weeks.
It wouldn’t be an unbearable amount of time for a couple who had been together for years and had a solid foundation of time to stand on to endure, but for a new couple? A few weeks of casual chats and another few weeks of casual dating? To an outside observer it might seem ill-advised to put yourself through that. To other people I know living “civilian” life, it might seem like a desperate move to try and hold onto something so unstable and fresh just for the sake of not wanting to go back to single life. I, on the other hand, saw it a lot differently.
Surprisingly, the news of our extended separation didn’t really affect me in the way it might have normally had I been the more self-absorbed person I used to be. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve grown up a lot in the past few years, or maybe it’s just the fact that this person is absolutely wonderful and I’m lucky to have found her, but an eight month separation just seemed like an annoying speedbump, not a death sentence.
It’s going to absolutely be difficult, don’t get me wrong, but as it stands, I see it more as a test of our relationship’s fortitude than I do a desperate grasp at love. In the few weeks that we actually got to spend together, we connected more than I have with anyone else I’ve ever been with before. We shared our individual struggles and opened up about things that most people might wait to do with someone new until they were more comfortable. I’m not sure if it was the knowledge of the time constraint we had on our time together, but by the time she had to load up onto the bus that took her to the hotel, it felt as if we had been dating for months, even though at that point it had only been about four weeks.
Despite the time away from each other, I feel more confident in our relationship than I ever did in others. I don’t feel the nagging sense that I’m merely dating her out of proximity as I’ve done with other partners. Not that I was inherently lying to past girlfriends, just that those relationships had always started because we would hang out so often for so long that it would start to feel weird not calling it a relationship, so we would decide to don the mantle. I think this is the case for a lot of guys that would never admit it.
A lot of people want the benefits of a relationship without actually putting in too much effort to get them; the sex, the attention, the affection, the comfort of knowing you’re desired and attractive. All of these things can be part of the package, but when you’re in it strictly to receive those things, you’re not choosing that person, you’re just craving validation and can’t handle being horny and alone.
This feels different. This feels like a definite choice. And, in turn, in feels easier to endure any kind of hardship that we may have to face because the fate of the relationship doesn’t feel at stake.
She’s had her worries about how I feel about the whole thing and thinks that she’s eventually going to get a “Dear John” letter from me telling her that I don’t think I can deal with the distance any more, or that I’ve found someone else I’d rather be with, but I honestly don’t share the same concerns. I’ve made my choice to stick it out and I’ve told her as much. If I had doubts about it or didn’t think I was up to the task of having to endure the time apart from each other, I would have told her up front and not even put us in the position we’re in.
As of now, it’s been three months since our first date. We only had around five weeks of in-person interaction before she left. From what she heard, it’ll be two months before she’ll have another connection where we can talk again. It’s November now, and she won’t be back home until May. I’m down about it, to be sure, but I’m also confident in my resolve to see this through.
It’s truly a unique situation. How many people can say they were separated from their significant other after so little time together? I’m sure not many. I’m sure that some people might even say that we haven’t even been together long enough to be able to call her my “significant other” and honestly, I’d sort of agree.
But to me, this sort of challenge to a relationship this fresh can only be an indicator to the strength of the people involved. It can only show the potential in each person to step up and bring their best to the table in order to maintain something so fresh and fragile. Not out of a desperation for comfort and love, but out of a recognition of something real, of something meaningful. It’s acknowledging when the universe sends you something special and then puts your desire for it to the test. It’s as if the confidence and resolve I’ve developed in myself are being held up to scrutiny to see if it’s the real thing, to see how serious I am not about the relationship, but in myself.
I don’t see this struggle as having to do with necessarily with the relationship itself, but of my recognition of wanting to tread the right path in my life. This person embodies everything about myself I’ve tried to develop to grow and evolve as a person. It’s as if I was rewarded for my efforts in climbing my own personal mountain with someone who was climbing their own, and we both happened to meet at the same time on the same cliffside. Now we just have to set up basecamp and wait to continue our shared journey.
Some people might say it’s naïve, that’s fine. Or they might say that we’re going to put too much pressure on our reuniting that when we finally do get to see each other again, our expectations will be too high. To that I say, just….no. It’s not like that. Really. It’s not. I have no expectations for some kind of perfect relationship or think that it’s all bound to be sunshine and rainbows if we can just make it through this. I don’t think this early hardship is somehow going to imbue the relationship with some unassailable fortitude. It’s going to be a relationship like any other, but it’s going to be one that we consciously chose, not just another one that we casually slipped into out of convenience.
People underestimate the power of conscious choices. They don’t understand the finality behind them and how when you make a conscious choice, all struggles to stay the path shrink to almost nonexistence.
When you truly make a definitive choice, in relationships and in life, all other options are no longer appear available to you. They disappear along with any apprehension of your decision. That’s what commitment really is, making such a determined choice that you no longer look for escape hatches. You no longer have a Plan B. You throw yourself into it fully and consciously. You remain aware of your decisions and don’t second guess yourself. You keep your eyes looking forward on the future and positive development, not lingering on your past mistakes or anxieties about “what if.”
I’m sure a lot of people would think it’s crazy to deprive yourself of so many other potential partners out there, sexual or otherwise, while I don’t have mine here with me and we haven’t even been together long enough to justify waiting. To that I say, you’re not seeing the bigger picture. To manifest the future you want, you have to see what’s coming, not what is. You have to set aside immediate desire and step up and into a life of intention.
So, that’s what I’m doing, I’m stepping up. I’m not just taking a chance and hoping it works out, I’m making it work because I made the conscious decision to do so. I think that’s one of the biggest problems people run into in their relationships, they just don’t fully commit. They leave one foot out the door and someone else’s phone number in a glass box to break “in case of emergency.” I’ve done that my entire life and it was always something that nagged at me in the back of my mind — that I didn’t really care.
Modern generations don’t seem to have the attention span for the long haul anymore. To give themselves no way out and therefore the necessity of giving the other person your all. I understand it hasn’t been that long for me and my girl either, but as it stands I’m determined to put in the work.
I’m sure a lot of people understand what I mean and perhaps even figured this out early in life, if they’re lucky. Maybe it seems so revelatory to me personally because I’ve never normally had the resolve to truly commit to anything. Maybe it feels different now because I’ve actually grown up and can now understand the benefits of discipline and long term results. Maybe I just really like this person and can see a future with them despite knowing how early it is. Maybe I just need to believe that to get through it, but I see this shitty time apart as merely one pothole at the start of a long journey.
A pothole big enough to shake the frame and make us pull into a pitstop for a while to recharge and get our bearings, but not big enough to keep this car from cruising into a future full of gratitude and inspired connection.
A pothole big enough to make our hearts skip a beat, but not to stop them from growing in such a way that we feel even closer for having experienced it together.
Well, that’s how I choose to see it, anyway.
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This post was previously published on medium.com.
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