Sustaining a Long Distance Relationship During a Pandemic

By Kelly Lundberg


Never did I, nor anyone, let’s be honest, think for one minute that when the world went into lockdown it would take months, even years to see loved ones again.


Back in March 2020, I was one of those travellers who missed the last window of opportunity to get one of the last flights out of Dubai and into Scotland. With my Emirates, then a rescheduled British Airways flight cancelled Dubai went into its first full two-week lockdown.


Graham and I had been dating for eight months. We had been sharing the travel to and from Dubai and Scotland in our first months of dating long distance, it was working well, or so we thought! Everything, however, was about to change.


We had just parted after our first holiday the Maldives, Graham staying on the flight back to the UK whilst I disembarked in Dubai, with plans to travel back to the UK in a couple of weeks. Whilst in the Maldives, the hotel manager and staff commented that the resort was unusually quiet and many of their regular client base were not travelling. Cancellations, they said, had been mounting due to the growing fear of Covid-19.


I do recall quite vividly that on the flight back to Dubai from the Maldives seeing one lady furiously wiping down her seat, table and seat belt. At the time I thought wow that’s a bit extreme. Little did we know what lay ahead for all of us and what the world would look like a mere four weeks later.


Our relationship has always been long distance since the outset, and we are committed to this kind of relationship whilst we work out where we can be together more permanently longer term. Reconnecting on a dating app whilst I was back in Scotland on one of my previous trips, is where it all began. Graham and I actually were at the same school back in the 90’s. We never dated, but we did share a kiss at our high school prom, but after leaving high school we never saw each other again till 21 years later. That’s a story for another time though!


Pretty quickly on reconnecting and dating over the miles, we developed some great routines. Fortunately for us they were well in place prior to lockdown and life in isolation. Technology became our second best friend. I can honestly say that there hasn’t been one day in the past two and half years that we haven’t spoken on the phone or on facetime.


Some days work better given our work commitments, my week starts on a Sunday and it’s often my busiest day whilst his starts on a Monday. Midweek check-ins tend to be a quicker and depending just what we have on our calls can be anywhere between ten and thirty minutes. Without exception, no matter where we are or what we have on we always voice note and send several what’s app messages thought the day.


We make every effort, even over long distance to do things together. Saturday is our “Date Day” where we make an exception to break the functional norm. We make much more of an effort, sometimes we will dress up, crack open a bottle of wine, order the same food (usually pizza) and eat together while we chat on FaceTime. Board games proved a good way to sustain the fun for a while, that was until Graham kept winning at Monopoly all the time. It’s not uncommon for our ‘online dates’ to last up to three hours and at least one if not both of us a little tipsy ☺


Two months became three, three became four and whilst Dubai slowly started to return to normal the UK was still very much in lockdown. We celebrated our first anniversary on zoom and continued to keep each other spirits up. So many people around that time commented on how lucky I was to have alone time, not home school, but there are two very different sides to this narrative as well. Alone time is great, sure we all need it, but not for months on end.


Then finally we got the news, international travel was open. After six months of being apart Graham made it out to Dubai. I confess I was nervous about seeing him again, after being apart for so long. Would it the same as before? It was even better that I ever imagined!


For most of the second half of 2020 proved to be little better with travel restrictions and stop and start lock downs. I was one of the lucky ones, I did manage to make it back to the UK for my 40th in the October, the first ten days I spent in quarantine in Edinburgh before I was ablet to get out and about, but we were together at last. in quarantine. Little was open in any case with bars, shops or restaurants still heavily restricted under covid regulations. Graham also managed to make it back out to Dubai for Christmas.


Leaving Graham at Dubai airport that Christmas to return to the UK we never envisaged the third lockdown, and that it would be another five months before we saw each again. Whilst we knew we could manage the distance having done it once before, there was no gloss to make this next five months any easier.


Our focus has always been on our quality communications. Our goals have always been aligned. The end game to be together again and we knew that we had to work together to get through the hardship of long-term separation, rather than feeling that things would never end. The moment one of us feels disconnected or perhaps something hasn’t landed well in a call or a what’s app message we bring it up straight away. We don’t have the luxury of utilising other senses to pick up on things, so nothing festers and I genuinely believe we talk more than many couples who live together full time.


Although technology has been our friend, we have never relied solely on technology to keep us connected. There is nothing more special than receiving something tangible over distance to make us feel cared for and thought about. Quite by chance a Christmas gift from a friend brought about this little but significant change. A card game called ‘One Moment’ gave us the opportunity to ask each other questions, 365 to be precise, that began to reveal new and interesting things about each other. Once a month we played this game on our date call and found little gifts winging their ways to each other.

One Saturday I had a bottle of wine delivered to him ten minutes before our date call so that he could enjoy the same bottle that I had to hand. Another time I called his favourite pizza place, asked for delivery and for a message to be left inside the box as a surprise.


When Graham was sick (not covid thank goodness) I got Deliveroo to deliver soup and some sweet treats. That said it really is much easier for me to get things delivered to Graham in the UK. A cute card that Graham sent me to Dubai took over a month to reach me. Another time Graham remembered that I had said my drinking water whilst on the run out and about was warming up with summer hot on my heels. Amazon delivered for him a cooler flask to keep my water cool. It really is the little thoughts that have truly made the biggest difference. It helps us stay constant in each other’s lives to makes us feel we are close, even when the miles do not allow us to be.


There is no doubt about it: long-distance relationships require some sacrifice. Many people ask why we don’t you just move, or why can’t Graham move to Dubai. The answer isn’t that simple. We both have a life and jobs which in this market environment are more than a little unstable. We are moving forward together but neither of us think a permanent move is right for either of us just now.


That doesn’t mean our lives are on hold. By reframing every situation as a positive and believing in it we make things work. We appreciate each other and our time together and when we are together we make most of every moment. Sure, it takes scheduling to the ninth degree but sometimes but great plans and experiences means we leave each other with even more amazing memories. The summer of 2021 saw me spending seven weeks back in the UK. Finally, we have been able to do all the normal things we both craved.


The world is changing is many ways, the way we conduct our relationships has had a massive shift. A Recent US research study published in Match this October indicated that 51% of respondents were more open to a long-distance relationship than in previous years post Covid.


Is a long distant relationship ideal, no far from it, but we are making the most of it, there are many pros to having your own space, then getting together to do great things. Knowing we have got through this has just made us even stronger. Making any relationship last is built upon great trust, we know that we can count on each other in ways big and small. Over the miles we truly understand each other and make the committed time to spend together. Graham listens to me in ways that make me feel heard and understood and I know without a doubt he feels the same way.


On one of most recent travel posts I made the comment that you have to just find that groove that works. So often I believed that you must commit to one thing or another, that you have to compromise or confirm to expectations. On our journey with our long distance relationship, I have come released that I am happy because together we are honest with each other, we communicate freely and we implicitly trust in our future together by having the most amazing times together.


Isn’t that what anyone would want?


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