I have been in a middle-distance relationship (MDR) for just over a year. My partner and I live about 3 hours away from each other by car, and see each other every 2-3 weeks. Everyone is familiar with the perils of a long-distance relationship: lack of trust, infidelity, lack of physical intimacy, and the distance just getting between the lovers. With all these challenges, knowingly entering into an MDR might seem crazy. But for me, my middle-distance relationship has helped me regain my self-worth, autonomy, and intimacy within a relationship...
Before my current relationship, I was in a relationship where I was giving up too much of myself just for the sake of staying together. I did not have much of a sense of self. I often allowed “small things” like my taste in music and what to do in my free time to be dictated (not just influenced, which is pretty normal) by my relationship. And, even though we saw each other nearly every day, there was no intimacy between us anymore (neither emotional nor sexual). It wasn’t just because we were sick of each other. It was because I felt like I had nothing to bring to the table, and nothing was forcing me to. I didn’t have much of a social life, and didn’t push myself to get involved with new things. Even though I considered myself an independent person in many other areas, I viewed my own social independence as a threat to our relationship. So, instead of branching out and finding my own things to do, I often found myself doing nothing at all. 

Now I’m in a much different place. This MDR has inspired me to take more control over my own needs and desires and control my own happiness. The last year has been a chance to recreate a self that seemed like it was not there anymore. The time and distance has allowed – maybe even forced – me to find things I like and become more socially autonomous. I have really invested myself into new friendships, my job, and even joined some team sports. I feel like I have my own life again. Within the relationship, our communication is better than in any relationship I’ve ever been in. We are open with each other, and are eager to share what we are up to. Not having much time together helps us not take each other for granted. It also keeps our sex life energized (you have to take advantage of the short amounts of time together)! This experience has allowed me to understand the real value of balancing self-autonomy and interdependence in a relationship first hand. 

So, while a long-distance relationship might not work for everyone, and while I do not want this relationship to be long-distance forever, it has helped me regain my self-confidence, autonomy, and self-worth, as well as actually increased the emotional and sexual intimacy I experience in my relationship! This MDR has been a big step toward my filthy freedom! 

Chloé Gurin-Sands graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in Spanish and minors in Gender & Health (Women’s Studies) and Latina Studies. She currently works at the University of Michigan as the Community Engagement Coordinator at the Spectrum Center, the campus LGBTQ resource & advocacy center. 

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