What My Boyfriend & I Have Learned From Our COVID Long-Distance Relationship
The last time I was with my boyfriend, Enric, was on March 14, 2020.
He had come to visit me because there was talk that the city of Manila would go into lockdown for COVID-19.
The talk was true--the city went into lockdown the next day & I haven't seen him since.
At the time, we had no idea that was our last day together for the extended period of almost 10 months (& counting!).
We shared our last hug, kiss, "I love you" in person, & thought we would probably see each other within the next month or two.
Well, two & a half months of lockdown went by in the Philippines, & then for the summer I flew back home to be with my family in the states.
The summer came & went, & we hoped we would be reunited when my teaching job started up again in August, but foreigners were not allowed back into the Philippines so I taught virtually from my family's farm in Iowa during the night to be on the Philippine time zone.
The first quarter of the semester went by, then the next. Now, here we are with my Christmas break almost over & there is still no news as to when I will be returning to Enric & my home in the Philippines.
New obstacles are even arising as the world faces the reality that the COVID-19 virus is mutating into different variants that are popping up around the world.
The Philippines currently is not letting Americans back into their country once again.
So, that's our story in a nutshell. To top it off, you add my mental health struggles & Enric's extended stage he went through without employment compensation due to COVID, & you have a really interesting environment for a relationship.
Back in December, we celebrated the anniversary of our first year together (virtually, of course). We both spent some time reflecting on this first year, specifically the majority of the months that involved separation due to COVID.
Here are our individual thoughts on what we have learned thus far:
Compromise: Since Enric & I are living in different parts of the world, we must be able to implement the practice of meeting each other halfway, or else things between us won't work. We have been living in different countries with different time zones (I'm in my own time zone as a mix between the U.S. time & Philippine time). We realized we had to make the most of the free moments we were given to talk to each other, & also give the other person space when it was needed. There are several nights, when my depression & anxiety are at their worst, that I have to end the call or tell Enric I'm too sad or overwhelmed to speak. Some nights I just cry to Enric on the phone, feeling utterly helpless by the deep sadness I felt down in the core of my being, & he would just let me cry & be there for me. Some nights he cries. Some nights we also cry together. But we always make it through & that's because we listen & have tried to meet each other halfway.
Trust in God Together: Each night we take turns praying. This is our consistent time with God together, & even though everything else in our life is crazy & unstable, at the end of the day we know God is there & that we would approach Him together. We have tried our best to keep Him at the forefront of our relationship, & this is always going to be a work in progress.
Involve the Other Person in Your Day: This seems little, but it makes a huge impact. As Enric & I live out our days separately, we try to involve the other person as much as possible, as if they were there also. You can ask any of my family members, I'm always taking pictures of my meals or videos of shenanigans of life on the farm to send to Enric. Enric does the same for me, & it feels like he is always thinking about me which means so much.
Make the Extra Effort: Over the course of our COVID separation, we have missed out on many big events for each other--birthdays, holidays, monthsaries, anniversaries, etc. Enric & I have found ways to express our love for each other by sending packages back & forth, having special virtual date nights, writing virtual love letters, social media posts, the list goes on...All of these things take extra time & effort, especially with the time difference, & I feel so secure knowing that Enric goes the extra mile to make me feel his love from far away, & I do my best to make sure he feels the same.
Make Time to Connect Daily & Consistently: With being apart this long, we have missed out on countless hours that a normal relationship would include. So in order to keep our relationship strong & healthy, we've had to dedicate a specific time each night that we will talk to each other. This consistency in our communication has made a portion of my life feel stable & secure. Even if everything else about my day feels awful, I can still look forward to hearing Enric's voice & seeing his face at the end of the day, which has been my glimmer of light.
Comfort Each Other: I grieve for our relationship each day. All of the hours, days, & months we should have had together. All of the future plans we could have made by now. All of the times we could've been laughing together, hold hands, sharing a hug or a kiss...We've learned to be transparent & real with our feelings (still a work in progress) when it comes to how we are feeling about the long-distance. We express our anger at the world, our sadness, our pure frustration that we can't see the light at the end of this tunnel yet. We have to accept what the other person is feeling & validate it. Then we always bring it back to our love & however long this stage seems, it is temporary & God is in control.
Continue to Grow: Our relationship isn’t on pause just because we’re not together in person. We can still have arguments & times when we're upset with the other person. Trust me, we have had our difficult moments--all healthy relationships do. This is still time for our relationship to grow. We've had the hard talks & managed to work through them. We've asked each other deeper life questions, & even though this long-distance relationship has been incredibly hard, God has blessed us with how deeply we have grown to know & love each other during this stage. God has truly used this trial for our good in that way.
"Getting into a long-distance relationship is really the best but at the same time not the best. They are harder than they seem. However, they are rewarding.
It is the best because it can help strengthen the bond that goes beyond the physical between you and your partner, because you have more time to talk to each other about yourselves and about each other, it teaches you to appreciate the time together that most other couples get every day.
I've learned to APPRECIATE the time--even the small talks, the quick morning calls, sneaking out from work to message your partner. You really value the small things; they give you something to hold on to while you are apart, whether its two hundred miles apart or two thousand.
You learn how to be PATIENT and take time to wait. It's actually tiring, but when you really love someone waiting becomes natural. Waiting for the day to see and feel each other is something LDR couples look forward to. I become more patient to wait for the right time and when that time comes it's the best feeling that you could ever imagine.
TRUST is one of the biggest factor in a relationship. This is more powerful than love because you can't love without trusting. Trust is really a fragile feeling that needs to be valued and needs to be taken care of by each and everyone.
You learn how to PRAY hard and to trust GOD in everything. You become closer to Him. I seldom pray for myself but I make sure I pray for everyone and my girlfriend. I became more SELFLESS; my partner's happiness is my happiness, too.
If you really love someone, distance is not going to tear you apart, because you are not going to let it. Simple as that. Period."
As you can see from our lengthy responses above, long-distance is incredibly complicated.
I know there are countless couples in the world right now who are facing our same situation, & unfortunately some have experienced the heartbreak of ending their relationships due to the hurt these situations can inflict. There is absolutely no shame in that decision, for each relationship is different, & if that is something you have experienced, my heart goes out to you because I cannot imagine how hurtful that must be.
If you're reading this & you're currently experiencing a long-distance relationship, whether from COVID or just life, then I feel for you as well & I hope Enric & I's thoughts will be beneficial in some way. We aren't perfect but we have learned many things in our year together.
It's amazing what having love for another person can bring you through. My prayer is that God will bring us through to the end of this stage soon. But with everything, it will be in His timing, not ours, so we will keep praying & working to grow & love each other more in the meantime.
Mahal ko (my love), I'm still reaching out for you daily until we reach the moment when your hand will be in mine again.