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Unrequited Love

By Alison Henry

Posted: Monday, Aug. 10, 2009

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Photo by LGray Photography

In "Miles From the Aisle," former CB editor Alison Henry takes you on an irreverent trip down the often rocky road of relationships. She can be reached at alisonghenry@gmail.com.

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I have a dilemma. On one coast I have a man I care about who wants me to commit. On the other coast, is a newly independent me who doesn’t want to put her life on hold for someone with whom she can’t have a traditional relationship.

Team West Coast’s feelings are much stronger and more publicized than Team East Coast’s. Team East Coast needs more time and shared experiences before her own feelings can reach that level. And even that’s not guaranteed.

My Friend Across The Country wants me to be his girlfriend. I, however, don’t see the sense in committing to something that just cannot be. Rather than force ourselves to either make a commitment or end things, my suggestion was just to keep things casual.

And why not? We enjoy spending time with each other. We talk for hours on the phone everyday. We spend hard-earned cash to fly out to see each other. Clearly, there are some real feelings there. But there are lots of unknowns that do not yet warrant a label of “boyfriend and girlfriend.” I’ve spent my whole life over-romanticizing the idea of unrequited love, but at some point, you eventually side with practicality.

My last relationship began long distance. I was in Raleigh. He was in Charlotte. And while 200 miles isn’t the same as 2,200, distance is distance in my book. The first four months the ex and I were together were amazing. I think I told practically everyone I knew that I wanted to “marry him and have ten million of his babies.” (A la “American Beauty.”) When my lease expired in July of last year, I found myself moving to the Queen City for this job – and to be delightfully closer to said boyfriend.

But it was anything but delightful. Within two weeks of moving here, things began to change. Strangely, the very people who would alternate weekends driving two hours to see each other didn’t feel like driving a mere 30 minutes across town. Our time spent together while we were long-distance was exclusively ours; now it was shared with work, roommates and friends. I knew that he had stopped caring, and he admitted he had. But neither of us could figure out how living closer to each other could pull us so far apart. We rallied the troops and gave it a second shot – only to have the same and, albeit more dramatic, conversation five months later.

Now, it is obvious what happened to me and the ex. Life happened. And while those weekends we spent together for the first four months of our relationship were some of the loveliest of my life, they lacked the real experiences necessary to determine if our relationship could stand the test of time. When most couples make commitments during the honeymoon period of their relationship, long-distance couples are essentially living one big honeymoon. When the butterflies and frequent flier miles are gone, you’re left with no real foundation to lean on.

So, while my request to maintain the grey area with FATC may seem like a selfish way to try to have my cake and eat it too, I can’t help but look at it as nothing but well-adjusted practicality. A plateau exists in all long-term relationships. No matter what commitments you attempt to make, the relationship inevitably stalls out. With the absence of interpersonal contact, you are deprived of the heightened level of bonding that fosters growth.

With our loosely defined relationship currently stalled in No Where Land, becoming his “girlfriend” is nothing but a restriction – a premature label placed upon something that hasn’t yet been exposed to the rigors of real life. In a situation like this, you are left with one of two options: either someone moves or you call it quits. And although we've enjoyed our time together, relocation is one risk neither of us is willing to take.

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