Perfect Attendance

white ceramic mug on table

I’m a proud nerd. I loved school growing up, & I used to cry whenever I was forced to miss a day because I was sick. I never understood kids who would fake being sick or dread going to school every day. I was proud of having perfect attendance, doing my homework, & completing my projects on time. Reflecting on my love of school recently made me see truancy in a new light. If someone preferred to be absent, they obviously had their reasons. Maybe they were being bullied. Maybe their parents shamed them when they got bad grades. Maybe they actually wanted to like school, but they didn’t have the resources to get the help they needed to succeed. The choice to want to attend or not attend school is a simple decision for either side of the coin, because you know when you love something or if you don’t. And that’s why I hate the proverb “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Why would you choose to be kept away from someone or something you love in order to realize how much you actually love it? I’ve always been very good at knowing what I like & dislike, which is why I knew at a very young age that I loved school. I was already attending daycare at one year old, & I started attending pre-school as soon as I was old enough. I practically established a morning routine of getting dropped off by my parents, Monday through Friday, putting my backpack into my assigned cubby, then getting a fruit roll up from the snack bar to start my day by the time I was three years old. lol

Similar to my innate love of school, I usually know in my heart after a first date, whether or not I vibe with someone enough to want to continue to get to know them. After three months, I know in my heart if I can see myself entering into a real relationship & potentially falling in love with them. Absence & distance do not make the heart grow fonder. Absence & distance is more of a test. Because if you can remain faithful & loyal to your loved ones when you’re directly next to them or if they’re on the other side of the globe, that’s how you know it’s true unconditional love.

I’ve had three long-distance relationships so far, & all three of them were terrible. That’s why I eventually succumbed to the notion that long-distance relationships will never work out for me. If you’re currently in a long-distance relationship, hopefully reflecting on my past mistakes will help you navigate your current circumstances.

My 1st long-distance relationship was with my boyfriend from college, who lived in Southern California. The majority of the year we’d be together, living on-campus, but little did I know that with the distance between us, when we’d both go home for the Holidays & Summer, he secretly wanted to break up with me several times a year. And if you’re wondering, he NEVER expressed this issue to me in the two years that we were together. In the end, he broke up with me in the Summer about a week before I started my Junior year, because he decided that he wanted to start dating his co-worker. He had already been hanging out with her all Summer, but he wanted to be a “good” guy & end things with me before he started actually cheating on me. He even phrased it ridiculously too: “Let’s just be best friends, who no longer date.” It wasn’t until almost a month after we broke up that I learned about the other woman. The last time we spoke, I asked him why he started dating me if he had no intentions of marrying me. He finally admitted that it was just because I was the prettiest girl on campus that he knew, & he wanted a girlfriend.

  • Here’s what I learned in the end:

Our relationship had no foundation. We only knew each other for about one week before we became “official” boyfriend & girlfriend. Unlike me, he wasn’t dating with the expectation of getting married one day. He chose me so that he could have the prettiest girl on campus as his first girlfriend. Even though we did discuss getting married during the 2nd year of our relationship, it was probably only because I was still a virgin, & I was adamant about not wanting to sleep with him, because I always believed that I’d wait until I was married to lose my virginity. I also didn’t even want the possibility of accidentally getting pregnant while I was still in college. Over time, it became apparent that he didn’t want to change his life around to include me in it. He didn’t see himself moving to the Bay Area, & I honestly didn’t want him to be the father of my children. Even after breaking up with me to start dating the other girl, he called me a few days later saying, “If things don’t work out, I hope that we can get back together.” At that time, I still didn’t know that he was already dating someone new, but I listened to my intuition & told him “NO” outright.

If someone doesn’t want to be with me, they can go. I’m not willing to let someone break up with me, just to come back, because the grass actually wasn’t greener on the other side. He lied to me throughout our relationship. He continued to lead me on with his lies even after he broke up with me, because he didn’t know his new girlfriend very well either. If things didn’t work out, he wanted to keep me as his safety net. When we got back to school, I considered staying friends with him, because we lived in the same dorm building & worked together on campus. But instead, the Universe clearly placed his new girlfriend in front of my face, so that I knew the truth. In the end, I walked away & cut him off for my own peace of mind. He never genuinely apologized to me or made any effort to be vulnerable & prove that I could learn to trust him, & I’m fine with that. I gave myself closure. I forgave them both for sneaking around behind my back, & I walked away, because he was not my person.

My 2nd long-distance relationship was with my boyfriend that I dated on & off, during the tail-end of my Senior year of college & through mid-February the following year. We were on opposing Dance Teams in college. It was a classic Romeo & Juliet story. My Dance team’s president hated that I was spending so much time with him & his friends. Not wanting to be controlled, I became obsessed with winning Romeo’s heart just to spite my Dance team’s efforts to stop me. While my intentions at the beginning of our relationship weren’t the greatest, I did fall in love with him & for a short time, he fell in love with me too.

I was about a month away from graduating when he was finally ready to ask me out on a real date & officially call me his girlfriend. I still had one more class to take over the Summer, then I moved back home to the Bay Area. Over the Summer & during the Holidays, we did great. It was only once I was back in the Bay Area for good & he was back in school that the trouble started.

Even though I would come to visit him often, I could tell that our relationship dynamic was changing. In the moments that we’d previously feel close & connected, I could tell that he was starting to detach from me. After a terrible Valentine’s Day weekend together, I had a dream about being chased by a giant carton of milk. lol And after evaluating my dream, it became clear to me that he was “milking” me. I wasn’t surprised when he broke up with me a week later. Then, I found out that he was already pursuing a girl that I suspected he was interested in on his dance team within days.

Here’s what I learned:

Enter into a relationship when you’re truly ready. Don’t waste your time with months of on & off again turmoil. If someone is being wishy-washy when committing to you, it’s a sign that they’re not ready or possibly still healing. You want to enter a new relationship when both of your hearts are healed & ready to love again. No matter how much he wanted to deny it, he was still in love with his ex-girlfriend.

Communicate when you feel your relationship’s dynamic shift. There’s likely a reason that one or both of you are refusing to address. If you want your relationship to last, you need to have honest communication. Even though his ex didn’t want to repeat their past & get back together, the entire time that we were together his eyes were still wandering non-stop with the goal of finding someone who he considered to be an “upgrade” from his ex. Finding my replacement was more important to him than nurturing our relationship & appreciating me.

He had absolutely zero regard to how his selfishness would hurt me in the end. He liked one of his friends who had just broken up with her boyfriend, & he also started to nostalgically consider “what if” he decided to date the girl on his dance team that he was interested in before choosing to date me. I was NEVER a factor in his decision-making. He was too wrapped up in his ego & finding a new “hot” girl to make everyone, including his ex-girlfriend jealous. Even though he kept telling me that he “loved” me, from his actions alone, I knew he was lying.

If your boyfriend is emotionally cheating on you with other people & already looking for your replacement, he is not invested in you or your relationship. He also definitely does not love you no matter what words are coming out of his mouth. You are worthy of a partner who is committed & loyal to only you. Do not settle for mistreatment just because you don’t want to be alone. Have the courage to love yourself more than anyone else & choose to be alone over someone who is clearly being unfaithful to you & treating you like an option. I ultimately forgave him for hurting me, took some time to heal my heart, & moved on. While we did remain friends for a few years, we don’t talk anymore. I can honestly say that I have closure. I learned everything that I needed to from him, & I have no intentions of going back ever again.

My 3rd long-distance relationship was only for 10 months with my boyfriend who was a sniper in the Marine Corps. I first met him at a party when I was still with my 2nd long-distance boyfriend. We didn’t talk much at all that night, nor was I interested. He tried to talk to me, but I made it abundantly clear to him that I was in a committed relationship & only had eyes for my boyfriend. After my previous boyfriend & I broke up, I took four months to heal my heart. I then found out through the grapevine that he had a huge crush on me, even though I did not remember much about meeting him at the party.

Since we barely interacted at the party, he didn’t have enough confidence to try & talk to me again. So on a whim, I decided to message him late one night on Facebook. He was in Japan at the time, so I asked him what time it was over there. lol We ended up chatting over Facebook messenger for several months before meeting again in person. That’s probably why I assumed a long-distance relationship would work out for me this time, but I quickly learned that I was dead WRONG!

When he was finally home long enough for us to go on dates, go on quick weekend trips, or have staycations at a hotel for the weekend, I quickly realized that our online chemistry was all that we had. It also hadn’t occurred to me that it’s easy to be clever & witty through Facebook messages, especially when you have the time to think through what you want to say. While I figured we’d at least have some chemistry in person, the excitement of finally spending time together in-person turned bleak, as the tiny spark we had fizzled out quickly. The more I got to know him, the more I knew that I needed to break up with him as soon as possible.

Here’s what I learned:

It’s easy for anyone to be charming & witty online, but nothing compares to in-person chemistry. Talking to someone for a few days, weeks, or even months online actually means NOTHING. You still need to spend quality time with someone in-person to know who they are, how they act, & how they carry themselves on a daily basis. If you feel like punching yourself in the face or need to be drunk or high to tolerate them, because you NEVER have anything to talk about, take it as a huge red flag & end it. There was no way that I could settle with our relationship. It got to a point that even thinking about having to be intimate with him repulsed me, & it felt like ants were crawling all over my body when he tried to touch me.

When I love someone, I enjoy & want all forms or intimacy. I need a husband who can engage in a deep conversation with me. I need a man who challenges me to be better & do better throughout my lifetime, throughout our marriage, & as we grow old together. I know I’m in love with someone when I can’t keep my hands off of them, & I want to always feel irresistible to them too.

I was overly ecstatic whenever he’d get deployed to the other side of the world. I didn’t understand his sense of humor, & I hated not being able to genuinely laugh anymore. He was smothering & obsessed with me. I was so much happier when he was gone, & I was alone. I felt suffocated when he’d ask to spend more quality time together. In the end, since I wasn’t interested in being intimate with him anymore, I wasn’t surprised when he went elsewhere to get it. In fact, I was actually relieved that I finally had a reason to end it, because I didn’t want to dump him while he was still deployed. I forgave him for the choices he made that lead to our break up, & I forgave myself for not being honest with him or myself to end it before it turned into a huge mess.

To anyone already in or currently considering getting into a long-distance relationship with someone, here’s my final advice:

1. Know who they truly are in-person, so you know that you can actually go the distance together.

You can’t deny whether or not chemistry exists in a relationship. After you’ve spent enough time together, the spark between you either fizzles out, or it ignites into an uncontrollable, passionate dynamic relationship. Trust your intuition – it’s clear when you like someone or you don’t. Don’t bother wasting your time staying with someone that you don’t even like. People can choose to change their toxic behaviors & bad habits, but who someone is at their core, including their personality, hobbies, etc. will not change no matter how much you want them to.

2. Discuss how & when the distance between you will no longer affect your relationship.

You cannot be separated from someone you love forever. If you’re actually happier when you’re not together, that’s a huge clue that the relationship is already dead in the water. Two people who truly love each other will decide how to change their lives around so that they can be together & stay together for good. One or both of you must decide how to compromise, move in together, & create a life that works for both of you.

3. Choose to always love, be faithful, be loyal, & be committed to your partner whether there is distance between you or not.

Your partner’s absence should not be an excuse to do whatever you want. If your relationship is truly meant to go the distance, an ex or another person sliding into your DMs or flirting with you at a social event will not affect your connection. As I said before, distance is a test. If you value your relationship, you wouldn’t let any outside factors affect it.

In a lasting relationship, your partner will ask you text them when you get home. In the times you forget, they’ll call you to make sure that you’re home & safe. When traveling, you’ll want to call or text your partner before and after your flight to ensure that they know where you are & that you’re safe. You’ll want to FaceTime or snapchat them when it’s been too many days since seeing them, whether you’re away in another state or just stuck quarantined separately, due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. lol

If you’re dedicated to your relationship, you’ll reject new & old love interests left & right out of respect to your current partner. You’ll even be willing to warn close friends to go easy on their compliments, because you don’t want anything to be accidentally misconstrued by their comments. If you love & value your relationship, you won’t want anything to mess it up, especially not by someone who’s really just a close friend from college who likes to call you “Boo” under every selfie you post to hype you up, because you have long history of hating the way you look.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you need to create distance between you & your partner to make them love you more. Two truly committed individuals will reject anyone & anything that tries to interfere with their connection. They don’t need excuses, loopholes, or exceptions. Long-distance or not, someone who truly loves you will always be there to love you the way you deserve to be loved. When the right person comes along, they’ll make you want to “show up” for them every single day, bringing a whole new meaning to the notion of perfect attendance.

XO Denise

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