When I Moved For My Long-Distance Relationship, I Lost A Part Of My Identity

Photographed by Mindy Best.
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I would tell my husband that I would cross oceans for him, but being the overachiever that I am, I already have — way too many times.

John and I met in Singapore almost five years ago — where I am from, and where he studied. For two years, we bonded on weekend getaways on Instagram-enviable islands in Thailand and Indonesia, where we basked in the tropical sun and devoured our weights’ worth of seafood. I watched my partner develop a more international palate — and sweat way too much on our dates. Then, John graduated and left for L.A., and I was left behind in Singapore.

In the two years we were apart, despite being able to see each other more often than other across-the-world couples (hello, working on a laptop), I was constantly lamenting about how agonizing long-distance relationships were. And I was agonized. My long-distance relationship was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through — second only to the month both of my parents were in the hospital (back when I was 21).

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I’ve never been an overly clingy partner. Yes, I missed John all the time when we were apart, but I had things to fill up my time — a full-time job that I loved, an epic friend group, and my family. I knew that moving across the world would be a bitch and a half, but I never anticipated it would be such a struggle.

Adjusting to living with John was the easy part. It’s funny; before we lived together, so many people cautioned that you don’t actually know someone until you’ve lived with him or her. Not true. Everybody can change, everybody can adjust and adapt — especially if it’s for someone you love. I’d known John for slightly more than four years before I showed up in his bachelor pad with three suitcases full of clothes and shoes and makeup, and he is exactly the same person as he was before I moved in.

Granted, we have had to adapt. A queen-sized bed was no longer a big cloud nest that I could sleep diagonally in, and John’s once-muted apartment now looks like it had a passionate tryst with Crayola.

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Beyond just adjusting to having my partner around all the time, what bothers me is that I feel parts of me slipping away — by no fault of my now-husband. I am no longer an editor of a publication I love. I no longer feel in demand, or that I have a purpose. I no longer have a group of girlfriends I see on a regular basis, or a gym I call my second home. My comforts no longer exist, my people are nine thousand miles away, and I am now living in a city that practically requires driving (and I can’t); I feel claustrophobic all the time.

I am dependent on my husband in ways I don’t want to be. I haven’t had to depend on anybody but myself for money throughout most of my adult life, and now I’m tearing my hair out because I feel permanently broke while I anticipate the arrival of my work permit.

The lack of human contact — apart from that with my husband — is another issue. Before, my job required me to interact with and meet people every day. Now, a conversation with the check-out guy at Trader Joe’s feels like a breath of fresh air. Sure, I have FaceTime dates with my mom every day, but it’s never the same. You can’t see how a person’s eyes light up when you crack a joke over FaceTime.

I want to be my own person again, and I’m trying. It’s hard, you know? I’ve slowly started making friends and going to events in the city — and I’m probably one of UberX’s top customers.

Of course, it’s not that I’m unhappy entirely. After five years of waiting and planning, it’s amazing being able to wake up to the man I love every morning, and to actually spend time together.

People always have advice about how to survive long-distance relationships. But the truth is, no matter how much you plan, you never actually know what will happen until you pack your bags and move. Nobody ever tells you this: The happily-ever-after part of the love story? Turns out, it’s not perfect either.

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