Love in different time zones

Long distance relationships in the Zoom-age. Do they have any chance of survival? Lundagårds international student life columnist, Catalina Ordoñez, writes about the difficulties – and surprising rewards – of keeping love alive during lockdown.

Imagine you had a very long day. Probably you’ve been working all day on your assignments, some things went wrong, now it’s getting late and you’re going home. You prepare some dinner, pour yourself a glass of wine and talk to you partner for hours about each other’s day. That person didn’t really do anything special, your problems aren’t magically fixed, but somehow you feel much better.

Would the situation be the same if that person would be talking to you through Zoom, instead of sitting next to you? In theory, the circumstances are the same. You can still look into each other’s eyes, unburden all your feelings, and share the same inside jokes. However, there is a unique power in the physical presence of a loved one, that comforts beyond words. And after more than a year without being together in the same room, the presence of my husband is longed more strongly every day.

Maintaining a long distance relationship has been one of the few things that has lessened my experience as an international student. The pandemic has been hard for everybody, but being a foreigner in a strange land, separated from my partner, has made it even tougher. Being miles away from my husband only gets worse during winter when the best plans and holidays are typically enjoyed as a family. On those cold dark days, I miss him the most.

8.280 kilometers and seven time zones separate us, which makes scheduling seem like rocket science. The efforts to find moments to share are demanding, but we survive in constant unsynchronized lives. Technology helps us to coordinate online dates, squeezed in during gaps where my day is coming to an end and his is barely beginning. Among Netflix parties at odd hours, long videocalls, and constant messages we have managed to keep the magic and love alive.

Although, it has been harder than I thought, we have handled it better than I expected. I must admit I feel more confident about us; it is as if we have reached another level. I believe there is a lot of significance when you get such an understanding of each other that you can recognize and support the ups and downs of your partner under these conditions.

Adapting routines to maintain a strong emotional connection takes much more than love. It requires dedication and commitment to think about your partner without selfishness. And above all, it requires creativity to know how to adapt to any situation and to find commonalities beyond the evident. We have discovered, through mistakes and successes, digital versions of surprising each other, give presents, and share intimate details of our daily life.

Seeing the big picture of everything we have been through this year gives me a bittersweet feeling. I am proud to know that we have come this far and that we remain strong together. At the same time, it makes me miss him more intensely.

But if your home is where your heart is, then my home is not here. My home is in Colombia, waiting for a miracle to end this pandemic, that allows him to travel to Sweden, where his home is.