When the University first sent us home in March of last year, I knew my girlfriend and I would likely not be able to see each other until maybe the summer. But as cases soared and COVID anxiety weighed heavier, summer turned into fall and fall into winter. Before I knew it, we were nearly a year into our relationship with just four months having been spent in person.
Entering lockdown and isolation while in a new relationship was not easy. As we were each trying to maneuver the pandemic, Zoom classes, internships and generally living back at home with family, we were still trying to get to know each other and learn who we were as a couple. Our relationship was tested in every possible way. At one point, we even had to take a short break because of mental illness and the stress of quarantine.
But what helped us hold onto our relationship was not just love or sheer willpower – it was communication.
It’s a cliché to say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, in our case, it did – but it didn’t do so on its own. When the only way for you to be with your partner is through phone or computer screens, it is absolutely necessary that you learn to communicate with them. It takes a lot of work, vulnerability, tears, time, understanding and constant conversation. For us, it looked like sharing every part of our days, telling stories about funny things someone said in class, calling during meal times, virtual picnics and simultaneously watching movies over a computer screen together.
Wanting to be with someone can only get you so far – especially during a pandemic. You have to put in the legwork, show up every day and show your significant other that you are in this relationship to win it even when it seems like the world is ending. If you would not be able to last nine months or a year apart, you have to ask yourself the serious question of why you are in this relationship in the first place. And for the sake of communication, you need to ask your partner that, too.
We are now in the same city and only 15 minutes away from each other, but our relationship still carries the weight that almost nine months apart leaves you with. We feel the uncertainty about the future, fear of the ever-present pandemic and a complete gratitude for every second we get to spend together. And for every rough patch, we have learned to talk it out and navigate it together.
College relationships are sometimes looked down upon or scoffed at, especially when people our age are so young and entering such a variable economy. But during an especially uncertain time, I do know one thing – our relationship was made stronger from our time apart and will grow even stronger from our time together. All it takes is communication.
Hannah Thacker, a senior majoring in political communication, is the opinions editor.