From Indiana, With Love: an Essay on Long-Distance Love, Divorce and Finding Happiness
It wasn’t that my family considered gayness wrong. It just wasn’t something that was considered at all. Somewhere in my history, I learned that girls marry boys and have kids. And I wanted kids. So I made a conscious effort. In 6th grade, I evaluated all of the boys and decided to “like” the one that measured up based on a decent level of intelligence and who wasn’t ugly.
When I married, I thought that it was for life (because that was also present in the “this is what marriage looks like” concept in my mind). Divorce was bad. I was devastated when my first husband decided he was “too young” to be married and a dad. So I tried that route again, and I was settled in for a lifetime when my second husband decided we should “spice up” our lives. As I considered my personal thoughts of being with another woman, I slowly came to realize what had eluded me for 35 years. I wasn’t happy in my marriage because I just wasn’t interested in men!
Fast forward through a couple of years of questioning, therapy, a major surgery and lingering recovery, and a failed attempt to leave my husband. I was extremely unhappy. Fortunately at about that time, my job sent me on an out-of-state training, where I felt safe enough to search online for friends who might understand the craziness that was my life. I met someone who actually lived near me, and I spilled my guts to her on more than one occasion. She helped me find my courage to finally actually leave my marriage. I was free to find myself! I jumped into a relationship with this friend (who also happened to be married, and was considering a polyamorous family, which meant that we had to stay closeted to most people). I was finally able to come out to everyone who didn’t know why I had been so unhappy in my marriage. I was even able to “like” LGBT-related pages on social media! Who knew that it would be a simple Facebook connection that changed my life? My relationship was rocky at best, and I knew I needed to expand my circle of friends for when it ended. Curve Magazine used to post on Facebook a networking blurb: Make new friends—comment below with your location, age, and a random fact about yourself. So one day, I did. I made sure to specify that I was at the beginning of the end of a relationship, and I didn’t want to date anyone yet.
Nikki responded that day, but it was nearly a month later before I found her message in my “Other” folder on Facebook. She had grown up not far from where I was living at the time. We talked casually via Facebook messenger for a few days. She wasn’t exactly ready to date either. She was grieving the unexpected loss of her girlfriend of 10 years. Much of our early conversations were along those lines, though: “If I ever date again….” But soon, since she was in California and I was in Indiana, and there was no chance of her outing my girlfriend, I spilled my story—including the part about my girlfriend’s hope for a poly relationship. And Nikki was stunned. Because she had lived my story. She had shared her girlfriend with a husband. The more we talked, the more we found major parallels in our lives. It was a connection neither of us could deny.
Two months later, her son was teasing her because she had called me her friend, and he asked how we could be friends since we had only ever talked via Messenger and “how can you be friends with someone when you’ve never even heard their voice?” So we scheduled a Skype conversation. She says the moment she heard my voice, she knew she wanted to date me. I had not yet officially ended my relationship, although I had not seen my girlfriend in a month. I knew it was over, but I was finding it hard to admit. I spend two nights trying to have a conversation with my girlfriend, and when she refused yet again, I wrote her an email breaking up with her. Once I sent it, I called Nikki, crying. She was incredible. Not once did I suspect that she felt any jealousy or anger at my girlfriend for ignoring me. She was simply supportive and caring. Later that night though, she sent me a text: Now that you are officially single, will you be my girlfriend?
How does a relationship work when you’ve never met in person and you live 2,300 miles apart? Skype becomes essential. Planning is vital, and continuous communication is necessary. We had decided to try to visit each other a few times each, and as long as everything went well, plan on me moving to California about a year and a half later when my daughter was transitioning between middle school and high school. Her visiting me first was key—she had extended family nearby in case this connection was a fluke, and she needed a safe place to stay. We were Skyping daily, and texting and calling each other when we couldn’t be on video. And then fate stepped in. My daughter decided to move to her dad’s to be able to spend time with her long-term friends. The student I was working with was not going to need an aide the following school year. My lease was coming to an end. Nikki was coming at the beginning of June, and not going back until the end of July (she is a teacher), and if those two months were at all like our Skype relationship, I would just pack my stuff and move back then. Those were the most amazing two months ever!
And then fate stepped in.
I left my car with my son (it wouldn’t have passed California emissions tests), and packed all my stuff in Nikki’s car. Her boys were staying for another few weeks with their grandparents and would fly home in August. We drove at a leisurely pace and just enjoyed each other’s company. We asked for late checkout from hotels, and stayed up late at night. We arrived in California, and found a nice apartment to share. Twenty-three thousand miles seems like it would be a difficult decision, but it is clearly the right place for me. It may have taken a long time to figure out who I am, but happiness is out there, waiting to be found!
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