“We were already committed to the marriage for life,” Love said. “And so that was tough, because we were both 28, independent, and pretty particular people. It was kind of like two worlds colliding.”
Plus, she added, “It’s always different when you’re sharing the same bathroom.”
There’s something about the Washington to New York relationship that feels more manageable than other long-distance relationships. Washington-area matchmaker Michelle Jacoby said that among her clients that are willing to date in other cities, New York is always on the table.
“I think it’s just perceived as not that far away,” she said. “Philly is only two hours away, but nobody ever says, ‘Yeah match me in Philly.’ ”
People from the District often travel to New York for work, have friends or family there, and there’s a $25 bus to get there on a whim. But a Washington-New York relationship can pose the same problems as dating between any two distant cities.
“What tends to happen, in my experience, is they either fizzle out because one or both parties is not enthusiastic enough to make the extra effort,” Jacoby said.
Full disclosure: My boyfriend and I are in a LDR between D.C. and New York. We had a conversation with the phrase: “It’s not that far.” As we loaded up the car, left New York and sat in traffic for six hours, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. Woah. It was a little far.
So are all long-distance relationships between the two cities doomed? Was I tricked into thinking something was easier than it is? For Love, it turned out okay. Her fiance left his job in New York, and they now live in Arlington, Va., with their two children, a golden retriever and have 11 years of marriage under their belt.
A Washington-New York relationship can work, but only if you treat it like any other long-distance relationship. Some couples prefer the independence that comes with long distance. Others succumb to its challenges. Here are some lessons they’ve learned.
If you start out long distance, the relationship could move really fast
Starting to date someone long distance is a more intimate affair. A first date is a weekend away, two nights, six meals, morning breath and all.
In 2012, Liz Traison’s Brooklyn-based job sent her to a conference in Baltimore. She met Ari Witkin while “contra dancing,” a traditional English line dance. They hit it off immediately and started to text and talk on the phone, but it was unclear whether it would go beyond that.
“I think in the beginning we were both unsure that we wanted to be in a relationship with anyone in our own city let alone someone who lives so far away,” she said.
But when he came to visit her in Brooklyn, the relationship took off at lightning speed. Over the next two and half years, Witkin and Traison spent every other weekend on the bus. “We basically spent all our time on the bus,” she said. “We were loyal bus customers.”
A year ago, Witkin moved to Philadelphia for work, and Traison decided to join him. They got married earlier this month.
“I’d say we’re self-described very intense people. So that jumping in headfirst matches who we are and how we exist in the world. That intensity just worked for us in a way,” Traison said.
Being together can be harder than being apart
In an LDR, the weekends are about togetherness, but the week is about freedom.
“There are some people who really treasure their own personal space and their alone time, but love having someone else to check in with and share everyday experiences,” said Emma Dargie, a researcher at Queen’s University in Canada who led a study of 243 men and 474 women in long-distance relationships. “Then they can still be able to have your apartment exactly the way you want it to be, and go out with friends when you feel like it.”
In 2009, Assol Abdullina was 25 and met her boyfriend in the District. They dated for six months, then he got a job in Manhattan, and they kept seeing each other.
“I had the whole week for myself,” she said. “But the weekends were so nice, because the weekends we would just be together, dedicated to each other. And it was fun going to New York. It was like little vacations every other weekend.”
After a year of long distance, Abdullina lost her job, married her boyfriend and moved to New York. When they combined their lives, Abdullina found she didn’t agree with her husband’s worldview as much as she thought she did. It turns out only seeing each other on weekends had created a honeymoon-like atmosphere.
“It wasn’t a daily routine,” she said. “It was always like a little holiday. We were always at our best, and we were always missing each other. We did not really learn about each other the same way.”
Abdullina got divorced. She stayed in New York and met someone new. They dated and are now happily married.
Know when enough is enough
“I don’t think I could go through it again,” Alicia Angeles said of her long-distance relationship.
Angeles and her boyfriend, Omari Morgan, grew up together in New Jersey and were each other’s prom dates before separating to go to college. After graduating, they decided to date again. But Morgan got a job in the District and Angeles got one in New York City.
“I tell everybody that it’s horrible,” she said. “People will say, I met this guy, but he lives in Chicago. I say, ‘Do not even speak to him.’ ”
They spent 2 1/2 years apart, visiting every other weekend, talking on the phone every night, and she even wrote a couple of love letters.
“I could have been like, ‘I’m free, I’m in D.C., new city, she’ll never find out about anything,’ ” Morgan said. “But at the end of the day, she’s the person I wanted to call and talk to.”
But their separation was open-ended, with no end date decided. After about a year, Angeles said Morgan had to move — or else.
“The reason I brought up the ultimatum in the end, I was starting to feel single,” Angeles said. “I just have a person to talk to on the phone, not a boyfriend.” Morgan recently moved to New York.
Dargie said the university’s study showed the No. 1 factor for having a successful LDR was a sense of certainty.
“It’s not just the distance itself, it’s not just the number of times you’re seeing your partner,” Dargie said. “Any sort of concrete time point seems to be a positive thing. It’s better than having that constant open-ended shrugging of the shoulders.”