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Torn apart.
Long-distance relationships in times of trouble

Patrycja Matusiak, University of Nottingham

The moment I received a decision from my university is surely an unforgettable one. Despite being over the moon, I also had lots of thoughts running through my head. How would three years of separation impact my blossoming love? Would I still be as close to my friends? And what about my family? When having doubts about the distance, it is important to preserve the intimacy and find new ways to express your love, especially in the simplest things.


What is the better way to find the answers than by asking those who actually deal with long-distance relationships? Hence, I asked a few of them, who then provided me with their fascinating stories drawing upon the maintenance of emotional closeness in times of social distancing and closed borders.


A Brit and a Pole walk into a Spanish bar

Story of Weronika and her boyfriend, Edd, is perhaps the most unusual one of all the responses I have received. What connected the couple was history. They participated in the reconstruction of the Battle of the Ebro, the longest battle of the Spanish Civil War. Obviously, they immediately found common interests and simply fell for each other, despite their nationalities and unusual circumstances. Although right after their meet-cute, Edd had to go back to the UK, while Weronika returned to Poland, their bond has remained strong.


They talk every day and visit each other as often as their student status allows. Weronika wants to move in with her boyfriend, after finishing her degree in linguistics in Poland. She was about to board a plane to visit Edd during the Easter holiday, but the rapidly developing coronavirus situation disrupted her plans. Borders got closed. 'We saw each other by the end of February, and we have no idea when it will happen again,’ Weronika said. 'That's what hurts me the most – the uncertainty. But we are in love, so no pandemic will change that.'


Who is in the city centre? 

My friend, who was 16 at the time, organised a friend gathering. It would not sound as anything surprising except that we had nothing in common but love for the Percy Jackson series. And, the fact that we all had that one mutual friend. Almost all of us attended high schools in Warsaw, so we quickly became really close, and constantly asked that one question: 'Who's in the city centre? I wanna meet up!'

Five years later, after a few coming outs, one engagement, two of us moving away, only one thing has remained unchanged – our friendship. COVID-19 made us anxious, but at the same time, we again have more time for each other. We talk on Discord, play games together, 'go on walks' on Google Earth. No matter if we have difficult conversations or share funny memes, the presence of my friends is something dear to me, even if it is solely virtual.

Before the pandemic, we organised a meeting, where everyone except me was in Warsaw, I had joined them via the video call. It is my favourite memory connected with them, as it shows that long-distance friendships are definitely possible. Technology finally does not ‘distance us from others,’ but gives us endless opportunities to reconnect. Just be creative.


Falling asleep together

Anna met her girlfriend when she was still in Poland. They certainly had not expected that they would fall in love. At the time, Anna was choosing her dream university in the UK and Dominika lived about 140 kilometres away from Anna's hometown. Their relationship mainly developed on the Internet, through messages and phone calls. When Anna realised she was slowly falling for her friend, she decided to distance herself from this relationship. Yet, love is not easy to fool. They began dating, even though Anna left for Wales and Dominika stayed in Poland. Their love could now be described as simply blossoming. But what about coronavirus?

Anna says it is really hard emotionally, especially because she was already prepared to see her girlfriend soon. ‘We still talk, plan to visit each other. I care about her. Every night we fall asleep on the phone together. It makes it easier. It feels like she was here with me.' Anna said, 'The distance made us even closer to each other. We cannot really go to the cinema or bowling, so we talk. A lot. That's what brings us closer.’


During those difficult times, when we are often ridden with anxiety and face the overwhelming uncertainty, being in a long-distance relationship may seem even harder than before. It is then important to stay healthy, both mentally and physically. But what could we do, while staying at home? How to remain close with those we cannot meet? Thanks to widely available technology, the options are endless. Being together not necessarily equals being in the same room. Being close is not measured by kilometres. Stay at home, avoid crowds, wash your hands and preserve your health for better times. Each day and every minute at home bring you closer to your loved ones. You will eventually book this flight or hop on the train. For now – just wait patiently, and do not forget to always stay in touch with those you care about.

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