Three couples who have been pushed into indefinite long-distance relationships describe how they're getting by during the pandemic

Three couples who have been pushed into indefinite long-distance relationships describe how they're getting by during the pandemic
© Associated Press A couple kiss, at the Barcelona airport, Spain, Thursday, March 12, 2020. Associated Press
By Julia Naftulin, INSIDER

  • As cities and towns around the world enforce stay-in-place orders and lockdowns, long-distance couples have to grapple with indefinitely postponed meetups.
  • For others, the coronavirus has forced them to become long-distance against their will, putting an unanticipated strain on their relationships.
  • Long-distance couples told Insider that the coronavirus pandemic has made them feel defeated and anxious about their relationships.
  • * Some names have been changed to protect anonymity.

Charlotte*, a 31-year-old New York City resident and public relations executive, was excited to finally see her husband.

After three years of Charlotte living in New York while her husband lived in Germany, his Green Card Application had been completed and finalized, and their long-distance relationship was about to end. But then, the coronavirus pandemic happened.

"For something that was finally within reach for us, it now seems like a distant memory. The timing for when he can finally move to New York is all very much TBD," Charlotte, who asked to use a pseudonym to protect her privacy, told Insider.

As cities around the world enforce stay-in-place orders and lockdowns, couples like Charlotte and her husband have to grapple with indefinitely postponed meetups. For others, the coronavirus has forced them to separate from their partners against their will, putting an unanticipated strain on their relationships.

When a long-awaited reunion gets pushed back

Three couples who have been pushed into indefinite long-distance relationships describe how they're getting by during the pandemic
© anyaberkut/ iStock

Charlotte and her husband met through Tinder in 2016, when he was completing his business degree at Cornell University in upstate New York and she lived in New York City. Once they finally met for drinks in person in Brooklyn, Charlotte said she knew she'd found her soul mate. They continued to date and eventually got married in February 2019.

But without a visa to stay on, Charlotte's husband had to move back to Germany, so they continued the relationship long-distance and visited each other as much as they could.

They communicate regularly, and share everything with each other, but never really got into FaceTime and preferred phone calls and texts. Charlotte said she felt pressure to look a certain way on FaceTime, which created additional stress around the communication method.

But since the coronavirus, they've become more open to it because they don't have any other options.

"Funny enough, as awkward as I feel it is at times to do a FaceTime chat, it does make you feel more connected with the person at-hand," Charlotte said.

"It has helped pass the time in-between times we get to see one another. I used to feel like I had to get myself 'together' when I'd FaceTime with my husband, but now I deem it as part of our day-to-day life without there needing to be frills or any form of filter, if you will."

A couple forced to become long-distance

Three couples who have been pushed into indefinite long-distance relationships describe how they're getting by during the pandemic
© Apple

Tessa, a 23-year-old with family in Tennessee, is studying for a Master's degree in Galway, Ireland, but recently made the heart-wrenching decision to go back to the United States, leaving her Irish boyfriend of two years behind.

She had met her boyfriend when she first moved to Ireland, as an undergraduate studying abroad.

"One date quickly turned into three and before I knew it we were talking every single day without fail. When my program had ended he spent one of my last days in Ireland with me," Tessa said. They continued to stay in touch over social media and phone calls, and even took a road trip together, then Tessa returned to Ireland for her graduate program and that's when their relationship was really solidified.

On March 14, Tessa heard American universities with undergraduate study abroad programs were instructing their students to head back to the states. Although Tessa didn't fit that criteria as a public policy graduate student, she decided it was best to go back to the states.

"I had to weigh my options and question what was safer for me," Tessa said. "What if I got sick en route back home? What if I got someone else sick? What if I was stuck abroad and borders closed? It resulted in around 15 to 20 phone calls a day with my parents and very little sleep for about three days."

Tessa said two factors ultimately led to her decision to leave her boyfriend in Ireland. First, she had more comprehensive healthcare coverage in the United States, and second, her two Irish roommates were nurses treating COVID-19 patients and she didn't want to risk getting ill.

"The day I realized the severity of things in Ireland and learned that my university would be shutting down, I called him after having a panic attack. He was in Dublin at the time," Tessa said. "A few hours later, I heard a knock at my front door and he was there. It was an incredibly difficult decision to leave him, but he supported me wholeheartedly in doing so. He kept my best interest in mind which I value dearly."

On March 16, Tessa's boyfriend drove her to the Dublin airport and they said their goodbyes.

"I think that the uncertainty of it all is the hardest," Tessa told Insider. "I know that it is in my best interest to be back in my home country with my family, but saying goodbye to someone I love, even if just temporarily, is incredibly hard. I spent my last few days in Ireland with him. We tried to reassure each other that things will be alright, but I still worry nonetheless."

Tessa said the five-hour time difference between them has been one of the biggest obstacles to keeping up communication, though it helps that her boyfriend has been so supportive of her decision to go back.

But the uncertainty of when they'll see each other next worries her. She feels they would be normally equipped to deal with a long-distance arrangement, but this is a unique situation.

"I have no idea when I will be back in the home I built in Ireland with him, which in times of worry can feel defeating," she said.

A long-distance couple who rely on regular trips together are having to indefinitely postpone their meet-ups

Three couples who have been pushed into indefinite long-distance relationships describe how they're getting by during the pandemic
© Westend61/Getty Images "Funny enough, as awkward as I feel it is at times to do a FaceTime chat, it does make you feel more connected with the person at-hand," Charlotte said. "It has helped pass the time in between times we get to see one another." Westend61/Getty Images

Even couples who were in long-distance relationships before the pandemic are struggling with the sudden change.

Ava, 27, lives in Eastern Europe while her boyfriend lives in the United States, and that's been the case for the entirety of their two-year relationship.

They met through a mutual friend when he was visiting Ava's hometown during vacation, and although they had no intention of getting serious, they kept in close contact following that meetup.

"It didn't start as dating at first. We were just really infatuated with each other and ended up not talking," Ava, who works in advertising, said. "Then we decided to see each other and started taking trips to each other, which made it more of a relationship than it was before. It started as a fling which turned into something we didn't want to stop pursuing."

Normally, Ava, who asked to use a pseudonym for privacy reasons, and her boyfriend would see each other every couple of months by planning a trip together. But now, the reunion trip they were planning is indefinitely on hold.

"I would say [the coronavirus pandemic] has affected us tremendously. Traveling is a huge part of our relationship so we are preparing for the idea that we may not be able to see each other for another four or five months, which does put a little pressure on us," Ava said.

Long-distance couples are excellent communicators, but still have trouble with coronavirus-related separation

The key to a successful long-distance relationship is staying connected despite the distance, according to relationship experts.

Although Charlotte and Ava are seasoned communicators, the pandemic has still affected their relationships.

"While I do think FaceTime is better than nothing, I don't think there is any comparison to being able to share a laugh together in person, relax on a couch with one another, or cheers with some bubbly at a great bar," Charlotte said.

Ava said she and her partner have always used WhatsApp, FaceTime, and shared playlists and memes as a way to feel connected, and that these methods have become even more important during the pandemic.

But for Tessa, who has never spent much time apart from her boyfriend, this is new territory. She's confident they can make do, but she is concerned about the inevitable tension that distance brings.

"I love to joke with my boyfriend about him being a grandpa because he is definitely an old man trapped in a 24-year-old's body. He is not very keen on using his phone constantly and he only purchased data for the first time in his life six months ago," Tessa said.

"So that will pose a challenge as well. I do not mind connecting through our phones, but we both prefer seeing each other in person. Our love language is quality-time or touch, and it's difficult to obtain that when there is an ocean separating you."


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