Most individuals in relationships have not been able to go on romantic dates in quite a while due to business closures in the wake of the pandemic. Other couples have encountered challenges while seeing each other face to face in the past three months due to coronavirus regulations. Long-distance relationships have unfortunately become a reality for many in this era of global health crises. Western New York native and travel journalist, Chelsea Baron, knows this all too well.
Chelsea met her current boyfriend and United States Air Force electrician Kyle in middle school. She shared that she had a crush on him ever since they met as teenagers. After high school graduation, the two parted ways when Chelsea went to SUNY Fredonia, as Kyle headed to California for training. His work landed him near Venice, Italy. Prior to the pandemic, Chelsea purchased plane tickets to Italy just to see him and explore the city with her best friend.
"I never knew I could be so far away from home, for as long as I was, and never feel home sick — that had never happened to me before," she shared. On the plane ride home, she insisted on telling him how she felt and the two have since been officially dating for a little less than a year. Now, the young couple in their 20s is separated by a pandemic as well as the Atlantic Ocean.
Though they can't see each other yet, I caught up with Chelsea to see how she and Kyle are coping and asked for advice for others who may be experiencing extraordinary circumstances in their relationships. Here are 10 things you should know or consider about long-distance relationships:
1. What misconceptions do people have about your relationship when you explain you're dating someone in a different country?
"When someone who doesn't know either of us hears me talking about my boyfriend, they assume I'm literally dating an Italian person. On multiple occasions, I've had to explain that he's not actually from Italy, he just lives there for the time being. I've also wondered if strangers who don't know our story might think I've been catfished or roped into some scam."
2. What is the hardest thing about having a long-distance relationship? How do you overcome these challenges together?
"The hardest thing for me in a long-distance relationship is not being able to actually see him. I'm very emotional, so when I've had a bad day and all I want to do is talk to Kyle or hug him, I can't. That's really tough. I have no idea how people did long-distance prior to today's technology. If it wasn't for FaceTime, I would lose my mind. The best way we overcome this is through our communication. Missing him is a daily struggle, and some days are better than others."
3. What silver-linings do you see in your relationship due to not being able to see each other every day?
"I do think there's a silver lining to our long-distance relationship! I feel like we appreciate one another for the little things that would maybe otherwise go unnoticed. When we do get the chance to talk to each other, we cherish our conversations, maybe more so than we would if we were able to be together every day. I also think it's nice that we're able to grow ourselves individually, as well as continue to grow together. I believe long-distance is helping us build a really strong foundation for our relationship."
4. How do you guys build your emotional intimacy when you can't physically be together?
"I think our past really helps with our emotional intimacy. We have a huge amount of trust for each other. Neither one of us have questioned our commitment or are worried about unfaithfulness. I think that's also due to our longstanding friendship and knowing so much about each other. There are few people I trust the way I trust Kyle. We are also very supportive of one another. We set a lot of goals for ourselves! (Ex: Saying we want to travel to a new place every year.) While other people might hear that and think, That's too expensive," we look at it and ask, "How can we accomplish that?" It's really nice to have a supportive partner. I don't think any long-distance relationship will work unless there's mutual trust, respect and support. Luckily, we have that."
5. How do you guys like to surprise each other from miles away? Any tips for others struggling with long-distance gifts?
"Surprises are tough for us because we're constantly planning and discussing things that we want to do together. I do try to think of ways to make him smile, especially since he's thousands of miles from home. I've sent him two packages where I decorated the box in a cute way. The most recent box I sent was a sunshine box. It had a bunch of yellow, orange and red snacks, candy, gum, etc. I try to find ways to brighten his day, even if it's just sending him a random picture or video of his dog, Comet."
6. What's your preferred method of communication? What makes this better than other forms?
"We use Snapchat to communicate because that's just what works for us. I like it because we can send pictures and videos throughout the day. He'll send me stuff from places over in Italy like from where he goes hiking in the mountains and I'm able to send him videos of his dog. I'm one of those people who likes to save every conversation I have because I'll go back and re-read them. I know it's silly, but when I'm missing him and I'm unable to talk to him, I'll sometimes go back to read conversations of ours that make me happy."
7. How has the pandemic impacted your relationship?
"The pandemic has for sure impacted our relationship like it has many! The biggest impact was that it delayed Kyle's trip home. He should have been home the entire month of June, so that's been a really big bump in the road. It's hard to look forward to something for MONTHS and then have it ripped away from you. Obviously, we're not the only ones in this boat, but not knowing when you're going to be able to see your S.O. next is extremely difficult. We do our best to stay positive! Other than him not being able to come home, I think COVID actually helped our communication. We were able to FaceTime a little more often because he was off work for a little while and my hours got cut. That gave us some more wiggle room in our schedules to be able to talk more often."
8. How do you practice self-care when you can't see your boyfriend? Why is this important for you?
"Honestly, I've always been bad at self-care! I tend to take care of others way more than I take care of myself. It's been a work in progress, but over the last few years, I began to exercise and journal often. Both of these are ways I relieve stress and take care of myself both mentally and physically."
9. Do you have any family or friends who aren't supportive of your long-distance relationship? If yes, how do you handle it? If no, how do you think others in this situation can navigate a lack of support?
"Kyle and I are blessed with incredibly supportive family and friends. Both his family, my family, and our friends have been rooting for us to be together, some of them even before we were dating. The people that tend to be less supportive are those that don't know both of us well. At the beginning of our relationship, there were some people that would question me. I was asked why I would commit myself to someone if I knew I wasn't going to be able to be with them for over a year. Others questioned how I could possibly trust someone to be faithful in a long-distance relationship. Surprisingly, I was never bothered by people questioning us, but I think it's because I trust we can make long-distance work! My advice for those who might not have a great support system is to shrug the silly and rude comments off. It's bound to happen because some people just don't want to see others happy. Don't let other people's doubt cloud your judgment. If you and your partner are willing to make a long-distance relationship work, don't worry about what other people think!"
10. What is the most important thing you've learned about yourself, love, life, etc. through having this relationship?
"One of the most important things I've learned is how important good communication is! Communication is necessary for all relationships, but it's HUGE in long-distance ones. Find a way to communicate that works for you and your partner. If you need to get something off your chest, talk about it! Cherish every conversation you're able to have together, whether it's five minutes or five hours. Every relationship is different, so there's not a "one size fits all" formula, but communication is always a work in progress. I've also learned that good things take time. Don't ever give up on something you truly want to work out!"
In order to help other young people navigate unique relationship situations, Baron shared her favorite quotes that are helping her with distance right now:
"Waiting is a sign of true love and patience. Anyone can say I love you, but not everyone can wait and prove it's true." - Anonymous
"Long-distance relationships do not rely on physical love. Long-distance relationships are driven by love that inspires your heart, mind and soul." - Anonymous
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