On Love

Dating a guy who lives in another country comes with a unique set of hurdles. Like meticulously planning weekly video calls to accommodate the time difference. Or having slow, simple conversations to ease the language barrier.

It's also an adventure. A chance to intersect travel and love. To learn about a new culture. To indulge in new tastes. To stumble over a new language.

But it comes with a lot of questions. "When will you see him again?" people often ask me.

"How often do you see him? Will you eventually move? Will he move?" And then there's the ever-popular, "Why do you love him—this person who lives an ocean away?"

It's my own fault for maintaining a close circle of mostly journalists. The questions flow freely.

For my part, though, I've always had trouble with that last question. It's a good one. Why do I love this person, who lives a 12-hour plane ride away, when it would be so much easier to love someone closer?

Of course, I can rattle off with ease the traits I love about my boyfriend. Like the thin crease above his upper lip that deepens when he smiles. Or the space between his two front teeth. Or the easy way he makes me laugh. Or even the way he dances, bobbing his shoulders to the music.

But I don't know that these are the reasons I'm in love. After all, our first dance wasn't until months after I already knew how I felt. But today, while deep in a book about love and sexual preferences and why we like what we like, I came across a quote by William Faulkner. It read, "you don't love because, you love despite."

It immediately resonated with me. It's the answer that's been on the tip of my tongue every time someone asked me to explain why I love who I love.

In a too-connected world where people use dating apps to find "their person," I think people are confusing real love with a manufactured image of the emotion. People often have an idea of what they think their perfect partner is like. Maybe he's tall, with a great job, strong jawline, white smile and a mental repository of all the best places to dine. Maybe he's traveled all over the world. Or, maybe he's a home body. Maybe he's short. Maybe he's a dad. Maybe he's not.

And while I think it's great to have an image of what works for you, I don't think a job or a hair color or a lone hobby are ultimately going to decide whether you fall in love. Because I don't think you fall in love because of those things. I think you fall in love for reasons you can't explain and then you justify it by talking about the way your partner takes care of you when you're sick or listens to you after a long, hard day. And then I think you continue to love that person despite the weird, nagging habits you discover while loving them. Like the fact that they snore. Or that they're always late. Or that they don't really travel at all. Or that they're a night owl and you're an early bird. But maybe you love them so much that sometimes you're also a night owl. And maybe sometimes your partner gets up early with you. And maybe other times you just lose track of time altogether.

To me, that's love. It doesn't follow logic. It doesn't consider time zones or language gaps or even personal preferences. It's a feeling you get in spite of those things. A feeling you wouldn't change because it replaces the image you had with an even better one.

So when people ask me why I love my partner, I still really don't have an answer. I just know that I'm happy to have found someone I love despite the distance and the language barrier. And I'm glad he loves me, too.