by Madison Malone Kircher
The funny thing about being in a long distance relationship in the age of coronavirus is that, in theory, nothing has changed. You’re still far away from your partner, unable to see each other IRL on a daily basis. Your communication relies heavily on phone calls and FaceTimes.
The reality is, of course, a little more complex. You’re…well, still far away from your partner, unable to see each other IRL on a daily basis. Your communication still relies heavily on phone calls and FaceTimes. But now you have to contend with an onslaught of bad and scary news from all corners of the globe. As if dating wasn’t hard enough already!
“We were already pretty proactive about staying in touch, so coronavirus didn’t change the frequency of our communication as much as it did the content,” my friend Abby, 25, told me about her long-distance relationship of three years. Abby’s a law student in the United States, while her girlfriend has been traveling for the last six weeks, most recently in New Zealand. (Her girlfriend is heading back stateside, but they’ll still live on opposite sides of the country when she lands.)
“We had to get comfortable sharing ‘Big Feelings’ with each other much more quickly than I think we otherwise would have.”
That’s actually a healthy strategy, according to Rachel Sussman, a therapist and relationship expert. She suggests framing the need for these intimate conversations as “an opportunity to challenge yourself.”
“Set a virtual meeting and each of you make a list of things you would like to discuss,” Sussman said. “My husband and I had a serious financial discussion last week exploring what may transpire if either of us loses income…These are hard conversations to have, but they brought us both peace because now we have a plan.”
Planning is also key to maintaining a long-distance relationship. Knowing when and how you’ll communicate with your partner can help ground you. “We’ve been talking on the phone every night before bed, more FaceTimes than usual,” Tori, 26, said. She’s based in Texas while her boyfriend is in Colorado. “He calls me on his lunch break since I’m lucky to have a job where I can work from home. We send ugly selfies and pictures of dogs and funny memes and, of course, the occasional nude.”
FaceTiming is no time for coyness, Sussman says. You shouldn’t expect your partner is going to be able to read your mind — actually, this is just generally good advice even if you and your significant other aren’t separated by thousands of miles — if you don’t tell them, truthfully, what’s on it.
“Nuances can be missed,” she explained. “Be clear with your thoughts and feelings when speaking and don’t assume anything. If you are unsure of something, ask a question, like ‘You seem down today — is all ok?’ or ‘You said something in text today that seems like you’re upset with me. Can we explore?’”
It’s also totally fine if you find yourself needing to be alone more than you might have before, because…[gestures dramatically at state of the world]. “Many people need this. Introverts, especially, crave this,” Sussman said. “If you are working from home in a small apartment, make a schedule for some alone time. It’s perfectly ok to ask for this.”
Both couples I talked to said the hardest part is the uncertainty of knowing when the next time they’d actually get to see each other would be.
“You may have to go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, sadness, acceptance,” Sussman said, of couples coming to terms with this new reality. A positive attitude — bolstered by the knowledge that not traveling to see each other is, quite literally, saving people’s lives — can help.
“There’s beauty in doing long distance…getting that precious time to just talk and get to know each other. I think both of us have become better listeners because of it,” Tori said. “We’re scared about a lot of things: our health, our jobs, our families. But I think if anything comes out stronger after all of this is over, it’ll be our relationship. I’m not scared about that.”
On Bumble, you can still swipe, match, and date virtually — safely and confidently. Check out the Video Chat and Voice Call features within the app!