Communication is key for long-distance relationships

By Cecilia Milmoe and Kiran Bond

Every romantic relationship is different. Every couple values different things, and each relationship is unique with the types of dates they go on, how frequently they see each other and how they connect.

For couples dating over a long distance, many of the typical conventions of dating can be quite different. Long-distance dating brings new challenges regarding communication and spending time together. But with enough perseverance, many have made it work.

Ashley Lucken, sophomore in LAS, started dating her girlfriend in Dec. 2019 when they were both juniors in high school. In July 2020, her girlfriend’s father got a job in Las Vegas, requiring her to move. The two have been in a long-distance relationship since then.

Lucken said at first, her girlfriend felt they should break up since she “didn’t want to hold (Lucken) back.” However, Lucken wanted to push forward.

“I was like, ‘I know we haven’t been dating for very long,’” Lucken said. “‘But I don’t see any problems with our relationship — I really like being with you. I really like the way that we work together, so I don’t think it will be a challenge. We can decide later on if this is just too much pressure for both of us, but I’d like to stay in it.’”

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In the end, things worked out. 

“We kept trying — it was hard for the first few months getting used to everything and helping her cope with moving, but we still kept that same love for each other,” Lucken said. “There were a ton of new problems, but we just kind of faced all of them one day at a time. It changed a lot, but it never changed the way that we felt about each other; it never changed our ability to laugh together.”

Lucken discussed some of the problems that arose in her long-distance relationship.

“If one of us is having a rough day … it’s a little bit hard, because sometimes you want comfort from a partner, and you can’t really receive it the same way,” Lucken said. “I have trouble with that — we both have trouble with (wanting) to be in each other’s space.”

Cecilia Guerrero, a Champaign resident and University alum, met her boyfriend at the University in Fall 2018. This January, the couple became long distance when her boyfriend moved to California for work.

Guerrero said the physical distance can be difficult to deal with.

“I really miss his physical presence a lot,” Guerrero said. “That’s something that I really enjoyed a lot. Even when we’re not actively doing something together, working on our own things in the same area, it was really nice. We don’t have that right now — (it’s) really hard.”

Guerrero added that being long distance has caused communication issues.

“It’s a lot about learning what communication looks like when you don’t see somebody every day … You have to make a more concerted effort to communicate with the other person, (and) it takes more work than being with them physically,” Guerrero said. “You have to make the time for them in a way that you wouldn’t have to if you were in person.”

Lucken said that another communication issue arises during arguments.

“Sometimes when we get into arguments, it’s a little bit more difficult because when you’re long distance, you aren’t forced to (come) face to face (with) those things,” Lucken said. “Both of you can just drop the phone at any time and just ignore each other and let the problem keep festering instead of solving it. That took us a while to learn how to talk things out and force ourselves to communicate like we normally would.”

Lucken also said that without the physical presence of her girlfriend, she can get lonely.

“I mean, nobody likes it at first. I miss her, obviously,” Lucken said. “I’m sitting here in my dorm right now, and I’m like, sure, there’s a little bit of loneliness. But it’s all worth going through.”

Jackie Chan, graduate student studying computer science, started dating his girlfriend in 2021. The two were both teaching the same course, CS 125: Introduction to Computer Science, at the University. They became long distance in 2022 when Chan’s girlfriend moved to New York for work.

Chan said the distance has made their lives feel somewhat disconnected.

“When we were in person, we would be in the same friend circle (and) the same events that are going on within the department and on campus,” Chan said. “Now that we’ve moved away from each other, she has her own friend circle, her own drama and life events. And that’s totally disconnected from the events that are happening within my life.”

Lucken also said that having separate friend groups can be difficult.

“We’re still working on learning how to have friends that are separate from each other since we came from the same friend group where we all knew the same people,” Lucken said. “Now I have friends at my school here that she’s never met before, because she doesn’t go here. She has friends at her school that I’ve never met before either. We had to learn how to step out and make new friends outside of each other.”

Lucken said technology has played a big role in her relationship.

“We actually use Zoom a lot. Obviously, the pandemic made Zoom readily available, and we figured out that it was a good system since you’re able to screen share things,” Lucken said. “So, we use it to watch movies or play online card games and stuff together. When we’re in classes during the day, mostly (we text) here and there in between our schedules.”

Lucken said the two of them are constantly talking to each other during the day, typically spending several hours straight on calls.

“It’s not always that we’re sitting there with our full focus on each other for that full time,” Lucken said. “We’ll just turn on the camera and do homework together, (or) she’ll sit and read a book, and I’ll paint or draw, just (to be) there with each other. Sometimes we’re sitting there and watching a full movie or shows together.”

Guerrero also said that technology has brought opportunities to connect.

“One of the games we both got into early on (was) ‘Borderlands.’ That’s another game that we’re going to sink some more time into,” Guerrero said. “I think that’d be really fun. Find a new show to watch together (on) Netflix watch party or something like that and connect in that way.”

Chan said that using technology came naturally to their relationship.

“We text every day, and we usually make it a habit to FaceTime each other at night and just summarize each other’s days,” Chan said. “It’s not really something that we agreed to do — it’s just the natural thing that we do.”

Lucken said that being long distance has strengthened her relationship.

“It’s made me realize that this is somebody that I want to spend the rest of my life (with),” Lucken said. “If we can have such a good relationship while not being in person, and if we both have so much trust for each other (built) up over these years … In the future, when we do get to live together, it’s going to be much more harmonious. I think we’ve developed a really good sense of trust (and loyalty) with each other.”


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