Couple Q&A:Long-distance for seven long years

Ever wish you could spend the night as a fly on the wall in another couple’s house? What do they fight about? How do they makeup? What can’t they forgive? Relationships aren’t easy and any insight into how other people make their marriages and relationships work (or what happened when they couldn’t) is insightful and often relieving.

Every other week, Sarah Treleaven will be that fly on the wall when she gets nosy with both parties in a relationship.

This week’s couple: Zarin & Darren

Status: Together for 7 years, married for 8 months
Q: Your entire relationship – until four months before your wedding – was long-distance. At the start of your relationship, Zarin was in Montreal and Darren was in New York. Where did it go from there?

D: I was in New York and Zarin in Montreal until fall of 2001. And then I moved to New Jersey and she was still in Montreal.

Z: Then I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Darren was still in New Jersey. And then I moved to Uganda. And then Darren moved to Boston while I was still in Uganda. And then in April 2007 I moved back from Uganda and we moved in together. And then we got married in August.

Q: How did you actually start dating?

D: I don’t remember.

Z: Well, I can tell the story. My friend and I went to New York City for a weekend and stayed with Darren. In two or three weeks, they were having a semi-formal dance at his college, so I made Darren take me. He sent me an email asking me, but he prefaced it with, “I just need to let you know that I had to get incredibly drunk to muster up the courage to do this.”

D: I didn’t do that!

Z: Yes, you did! I still have the email.

D: Well, I would deny it, but it sounds like Zarin has proof.

Q: How did all of this get off the ground? Normally, when you’re dating someone, you have a slow build. But you guys started dating and were immediately weekend houseguests.

Z: It kind of builds up slowly, but it starts off kind of weird. We spent a lot of time in the first couple of years chatting online and sending daily emails, which helped. We only talked on the phone maybe once a week. It was also a long drive, and I was finishing up my thesis, so we didn’t see each other that much that first year.

Q: Did you keep toothbrushes and changes of clothes at each other’s houses? Did you have a drawer?

D: We never did that. She did have some shampoo at my place.

Z: The reason I never had any clothes at his place was because I never did any laundry in Cambridge and I would bring it to Darren’s. He had a washer and dryer that were free. I would go there with every piece of dirty clothing I had.

Q: Did you have any rituals, like always talking before you went to sleep?

Z: Nothing planned. We probably did call each other before bed every night.

Q: Was it hard? Did you find it stressful to be in a long distance relationship?

Z: It was sometimes really sad. When things were going really badly with my dissertation here in Cambridge, I remember crying and saying, “Can you just come over?” And he couldn’t because he was in New Jersey.

D: If you wanted to just talk, it wasn’t always easy because we didn’t have cell phones then and we couldn’t always get in touch with each other.

Z: The hardest separation was the Uganda one because it was so much further. I was going to do field work and it was something I was really excited about. I felt a lot of guilt because I felt like I was leaving him to go on this wonderful adventure that I was happy about, but I felt like I had left him behind.

D: That was hard, because we went back to talking maybe once a week. And even then, it wasn’t reliable. We would try to contact each other once a week, but sometimes we couldn’t get through on the phone system. Email was pretty sporadic, too. And then, on top of that, a lot of stuff was going on. I was trying to graduate, my brother got married – things like that, where it would have been nice to have Zarin around.

Q: Distance can tear a couple apart. Why were you able to do it for such a long time?

D: I think it’s because we’re pretty independent. Also, we didn’t start our relationship living near each other. If we had, and then moved away, it probably would have been a much more difficult thing to deal with.

Z: Except for the Uganda part, we kept getting closer. And when he was in New Jersey and I was in Cambridge, I could have told you every minute of the day what he was doing. I knew when he was at home, I knew when he was at school, I knew what he had for dinner, I knew when he was watching the Daily Show. We probably talked to each other five or six times a day.

Q: What was it like when you finally moved in together? Was it a big adjustment?

D: I was used to coming to Boston to visit her, and then I was living here and she wasn’t around. That was weird.

Z: I think, for me, it was weird to come into a house where he’d been living for a year and then fit myself into it. I think some days I felt like he had a schedule and I was disrupting it.

Q: Do you guys ever argue?

Z: I fight with him more than he fights with me. But that’s not unique to us living together – that’s how it’s always been.

D: She read an article about how she’s supposed to be honest all of the time about how she feels.

Z: It was in some journal and it said that it was very bad for women to keep their feelings pent up. It increases their risk of heart disease if they don’t tell their spouse exactly how they feel the moment they feel it. I told Darren that, for my own wellbeing, I might have to pick a fight with you every so often.

Q: Can you ever imagine living apart again? You’re both in academia, so it could happen.

Z: There will be times when I will have to go back to the field, but most of the time once you’ve finished your dissertation research you’re not going back for more than a month. So there probably won’t be any more yearlong trips – unless Darren can come. And given the look on his face right now, that probably won’t happen.

Here is information about this you can see: Long Distance Relationships: How to Keep the Love Alive