Spending the equivalent of two months, or 1,460 hours, on the phone with your significant other over a period of just six months seems like an eternity. For CJ Charfauros and Malia Hui, both UP sophomores, this was a necessity.
This past year more than ever before, couples have had to find new ways to connect, thanks to the distance created by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and school going online. Zoom, Facetime, and Netflix Party have become the most important ways we can connect with one another, especially to those we hold most near and dear to our hearts. This Valentine’s Day, we are reminded that romance can blossom despite the physical distance we are feeling.
Charfauros and Hui met in November of 2019 at an off-campus party. They didn’t speak much again until August of 2020, while both were staying at home due to COVID-19, when Hui sent Charfauros a DM to ask how he was doing. From there, the messages kept coming.
Charfauros was in Guam, while Hui was in LA. This created a 20 hour time difference.
“We were on the phone for 10 plus hours a day,” Charfauros said.
The couple began falling asleep on the phone, as Charfauros had to adjust his sleep schedule to be able to attend online classes during the fall. The time spent talking and being together, over Zoom, Facetime, and WhatsApp, helped bring them closer despite their physical distance.
“I feel like it got serious really fast,” Hui said.
Long distance relationships are challenging, but Charfauros and Hui agreed that the unusual beginning to their relationship had its upsides.
“I think the biggest positive for me was it was just based off of personality for the whole six months,” Charfauros said. “There's nothing physical or anything, we're just talking. We got along really well so it was really solid from the beginning.”
Julia Weinand, a junior, and her boyfriend, Jacob Nguyen, a senior, also began their relationship over long distance during quarantine. They agreed that the getting-to-know-you stage was positive despite being unable to be together physically.
“I definitely felt like I got to know Julia more as a person first,” Nguyen said. “Our beginning chats were just about things we liked and things we didn't like and just connecting in a different way.”
Weinand and Nguyen first met when classes were still in person last spring, thanks to a mutual friend. However, they didn’t kindle a romance until fall semester, when they had an impressive five classes together. Weinand was in Portland, while Nguyen was at home near Seattle. In September, when a Zoom link for one of their classes wasn’t working, Nguyen reached out to Weinand on Facebook to ask if she was experiencing the same trouble. From there, a long distance romance grew.
The occasions when they get to see each other are few and far between, but the couple likes to spend that time together baking. Nguyen’s sister is a nurse, and since shutdowns began, he has tried to bake something for her floor of the hospital every week. Getting to include Weinand in that tradition was just icing on the cake.
“Something that my mom said when she met Jacob was that it was a match made in heaven, because he likes to bake and doesn't like sports,” Weinand said.
The common ground these couples found, despite not being able to touch, have built strong relationships from behind a screen.
When asked for advice for other couples trying long distance, Hui said spending quality time helped to close the distance.
“Julia introduced this concept to me, this term called parallel play,” Nguyen said. “We just have Zoom open while we're doing other things, just so that it's almost like you're in the same room doing your own thing.”
This theory is actually based on childhood development theory, where children play adjacent to each other, but do not try to influence one another's behavior. It is a way of socializing, of just being together, without the exhaustion that comes from interacting. Weinand and Nguyen agreed this method helped them feel close without the pressure that comes with constant phone calls.
Now, both couples look forward to closing the distance for Valentine’s Day. Weinand and Nguyen will get to spend the weekend together, while Hui and Charfauros get to spend as much time as they want together, now that they are both back in Portland for spring semester.
Hui and Charfauros say that with the right person, closing that distance can be easy.
“I felt like we got really really close over quarantine so when we saw each other in person, it felt the same, that the only difference was we can physically touch each other,” Hui said. “I would say that like long distance with him didn't ever seem hard.”
Mia Werner is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Havi Stewart is the Living Section Editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at email@example.com.