Making Long-Distance Relationships Work Through The Pandemic

Making Long-Distance Relationships Work Through The Pandemic


Jan. 20 2021, Published 3:00 a.m. ET

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Trips to Cones Artisanal Ice Cream in Greenwich Village turned into out-of-sync virtual movie nights for a pair of young New York lovers. 

24-year-old Laiza Padilla and her boyfriend, Michael, started dating in September 2019, shortly after meeting through a mentorship program they both worked for. Their days included leading the program after working their respective 9 to 5 jobs and occasionally grabbing lunch or ice cream together.  

Before quarantine started, the couple worked a mere five-minute walk from each other. The pandemic forced their offices to shut down in March. Now, they live an hour and a half away and are unable to frequently meet in person due to safety concerns. 

Getting Used To A New Rhythm

Between work and family time, the couple’s schedules rarely lined up. Padilla felt that little by little, the daily routine they created together crumbled as they adjusted to “the new normal.”

“I just feel like we’re living in two separate worlds,” said Padilla.

They are one of many couples who were forced to go long-distance when quarantine hit.

22-year-old Jemma Serre and her boyfriend, Ben, went from spending nearly every moment together at college to living in two separate states. 

The couple met in class their freshman year at St. Olaf College in Minnesota and started dating within two weeks. Their three-and-a-half-year relationship became long-distance when their campus shut down in March. Serre returned home to California while her boyfriend returned to Kentucky. 

For them, the hardest part of long-distance was not having a clear date for when they could see each other again.

“We knew it was coming but we didn’t really realize how long it was going to be,” said Serre.

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getting used to a long-distance relationship

A similar issue arose for couples who were already long-distant well before the pandemic started. 

33-year-old Rachel Guldin and her partner, Will, spent four years of their six-year relationship apart. Though they were used to the distance, they no longer had the security of knowing when they would see each other next.

“[The pandemic] kind of changed the way that we had to get used to long-distance,” said Guldin. “There’s no such thing as, like, a quick weekend anymore where I fly down or he flies up.”

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Working Together To Make Relationships Last

When it came to the most important aspect of making a long-distant relationship work, solid communication took priority. 

22-year-old French student Elise Lu felt frustrated during the early stages of her long-distance relationship, especially since she and her boyfriend, Paul, had to part after only 15 days together. 

She met him while studying abroad in Singapore. When the country went into lockdown in March, Lu returned to France while her boyfriend stayed in Singapore. The couple struggling to keep up with one another.

“It was kind of a personal test,” said Lu. “At first, there were a lot of fights and we had to learn to adjust.”

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The couple is now nine months into their relationship. To strengthen their bond through the pandemic, they set aside one phone call each month for an emotional check-in. During these phone calls, they talked about how they thought the relationship was going and any grievances they wanted to work through. They also talked about ways to improve their relationship. 

“At the start, I would end up crying,” said Lu. “Now, I look forward to these meetings.”

making long-distance relationships work
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All four couples used unique routines and rituals to stay connected despite the lack of physical meet-ups. Guldin and Leonard spent evenings together playing “Magic: The Gathering Area.” Similarly, Serre and her partner spent time building a farm together on “Stardew Valley.”

Serre also purchased Bond Touch Bracelets for herself and her partner, which they used throughout the day to indicate that they were thinking of one another. 

Padilla showed this sentiment to her partner by honoring his love language of words of affirmation and sending him letters to keep him motivated and inspired.

All relationships face obstacles. Guldin says it’s important to allow partners to make mistakes, especially during an event as stressful as a global pandemic. It’s okay to lower expectations of having an Instagram-worthy love life as long as partners collaborate to make the relationship last.

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By: Bareerah Zafar

Bareerah Zafar is a Seattle-based journalist who turned her high school reputation of "angry brown girl" into a career in writing. Her work focuses on intersectional stories covering lifestyle, travel, identity and social justice. When she's not writing, you can find her in a cozy corner snuggling with her cats and a book.

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