State Lines + Broken Hearts: The Story of My Long Distance Love Life



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By Stefanie Marshall



How many times have you taken a chance on love, or what you hoped might someday be love? How many times have you opened your heart up like a book, loose pages hanging on to the binding for dear life? How many times have you flown across the country or up the coastline for someone you desperately wanted to call home even though they were thousands of miles away? The answer for me is every damn time the opportunity has presented itself.

As a writer, I’m a sucker for a good story. So I open my heart easily, and I wear it on my sleeve like a Girl Scout patch. I give you everything I have from the beginning because I see the story — our story — unfolding in my mind. Perhaps a lot of this has to do with my love for literature and the good old fashioned love story. But for whatever reason, in my history, the story always involves a guy who lives anywhere but where I live. And here we have a brilliant plot and conflict without even trying!

I wish I were kidding. It’s become a running joke between me and my friends.

“I HAVE to tell you about this guy I met!” I gush.

“Where does he live?” They all ask, first and foremost.

I am always filled with pride and relief when I am able to say “LA!” with a smirk on my face. But it happens less often than I would like. Instead, it’s usually, “Arizona, but…” or “Nashville. We knew each other when I lived there…” or “Well, he did live in LA, but he just moved to Portland…” It’s like a sick joke the universe has been playing on me for most of my adult life.

But the story people! The story! Can you imagine? I have ridden the coattails of this story so many times, falling ignorantly and blissfully and pridefully every time. I don’t have an explanation as to why. I can’t resist it. I don’t know why these men come into my life consistently. I don’t know why I refuse to walk away from any of them. I always know it’s happening even as I’m telling my friends I’m not serious or involved. But I’m always involved. Remember — my heart is as open as the Grand Canyon. In my mind, this story is unfolding beautifully.

Before you know it, I’m on a plane. Or he’s in a car. Or we are planning a trip where we can “figure this out”. Fast forward. The distance is too much. Things didn’t feel the same in person after communicating via phone and text for weeks (sometimes months). Neither person wants to move. There’s always a reason. Sometimes there is more than one. The pseudo relationship is over. My heart is in shambles, and I chastise myself for once again allowing this to happen.

I don’t ever regret it, but I get angry at myself occasionally. I wish I could be a bit more guarded. I wish I would think back to the last time I let this happen and remember how it ended. Because it ended. I never do though. I never walk away from the chance at love. I never walk away from a good story. As you can imagine, I am heartbroken more often than your average person.

This hasn’t left me untouched. I have often worried and wondered what is wrong with me. I am the common denominator after all. I keep perpetuating the event by being an active participant. And these men are all walking away from me. Which leads me to believe, inherently, that there is something wrong with me.

I think I am great on paper. These men fall for my words and my personality. They love my free spirit and my positive attitude. They love my open heart and sass. They are enamored by the idea of me. They say and do all the wonderful things any girl would swoon over, especially a hopeless romantic like myself. Then I’m in front of them, full fledged technicolor, real life Stefanie, and they try to escape as quickly as possible.

Perhaps it’s time for me to look inward for the reasons I allow this to be my story. What am I afraid of? Who am I afraid of? My familiarity and ease with my own words may be betraying me. Do I portray myself as something and someone different on paper than in person? Am I sabotaging myself? It seems preposterous to think so as I sit waist deep in my own heartbreak over the last one. His reason for ending it was blindingly apparent even though he wouldn’t admit it to me. And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that a part of me knew he would end it from the beginning.

I’m not sure I can change a life long habit of living my life with an open heart. However, I can take steps to assure that I don’t let this happen again. I can be more attentive when those nagging friends beg me to think about what I’m doing. I can be open to what is right in front of me on a daily basis. And I can walk away from the potential of a good story in favor of the potential of something real.

When I was little, my mom was always trying to get me to color inside the lines. Now I need to remember to fall in love inside state lines.

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Stefanie Marshall

Stefanie is a writer and a hopeless romantic. Probably both because of the other. She likes her whiskey neat and her men bearded. Mostly, she's told she's the good kind of terrifying.

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