Long distance relationships are increasingly common among college students, military couples, and others separated by the challenges of finances, career or family obligations. While every relationship faces obstacles and complications, keeping the flame alive when you can’t see each other every day can be especially difficult.
Alvaro Lobos, 18, and Andrea Villalba, 18, were friends for six years before they began dating during their senior year at Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida. As Andrea began her freshman year at Florida State University in Tallahassee earlier this year and Alvaro stayed in South Florida to study at Florida Atlantic University, the couple joined millions of others facing the challenge of nurturing their relationships when miles keep them apart.
Alvaro and Andrea share their ongoing story.
by Alvaro Lobos
By sixth grade, my parents had decided it was time to leave Miami Dade Public Schools for a community and environment where they hoped I’d have the best chance to thrive. In the middle of the school year, we packed up our home and moved to Weston, a 30 minute drive north from the home I’d known nearly all my life to a school and neighborhood where I’d have to begin anew.
When classes resumed after the winter break, I began my first days at Falcon Cove Middle School. I’d start each day in Band Class, practicing my clarinet skills with other young musicians who’d mostly been playing together for months or more.
Andrea played the flute. Although I immediately noticed her talent, charm, and beauty, it would be six years later before she became my girlfriend. Looking back, I suspect I loved her from the first moment I saw her.
We didn’t talk until seventh grade. With each passing month, we talked more and more.
By eighth grade, I’d moved on to the saxophone. Andrea was our Band’s first chair flutist. I knew without any doubt that she was the girl for me.
Unfortunately, her boyfriend Sergio likely felt that way too. Andrea and Sergio began dating in seventh grade and stayed together until the end of middle school. While she and I talked all the time about anything and everything, Sergio was her boyfriend. I was her good friend.
When Andrea and Sergio broke up at the end of eight grade, Andrea and I remained just close friends. With neither of us wanting to risk losing a friendship that had become so important to each of us, our friendship stayed just that. We talked and talked and talked. I loved her more than I could possibly express. In fact, for the most part, I kept those feelings to myself.
By tenth grade, Andrea was dating Phil. That lasted ten months. While Andrea was dating Phil, I started dating Andrea’s close girlfriend, Sammy. I liked Sammy. We had fun together. Dating her kept me close to Andrea.
After Andrea and Phil broke up, we still remained just friends. When she began dating Jake, a relationship that lasted 11 long, painful months, I often felt heartbroken.
The break-up with Sammy almost kept Andrea and me from beginning the relationship that I hope will last for the rest of our lives. Sammy was mad and didn’t want Andrea dating me.
We became a couple this past March, senior year for both of us at Cypress Bay High School. Although we had never talked about it when we were just friends, not long after Valentine’s Day I mustered the strength to ask Andrea to be my date for our Senior Prom.
Making the leap from being the closest of friends to a couple took courage from us both. Neither of us has ever wanted to take any chance of losing the friendship that is the most meaningful in both of our lives.
Nearly a year before we became a couple, Andrea had already made up her mind about going to college at Florida State University in Tallahassee, an eight hour drive from our homes in Weston. My mom insisted I stay close to home. She wasn’t ready to let me go. Today we’re both learning to create a new kind of relationship with each other so she can stay my devoted mom without keeping me from following my dreams.
This summer, Andrea and I will be together again. I’ll begin my sophomore college year with her in Tallahassee. Until then, from that saddest of nights when we said goodbye before she left to college, we’ve used every possible tool to stay deeply connected to one another.
We still talk for hours and hours, although not as often as the early years when we could easily stay on the phone together until 4am, 6am, or through the actual start of a new day. We text constantly, SKYPE almost every night, post regularly to each other’s Facebook pages, and use our cell phones to share pictures throughout the days and nights. When we can, we meet in person, although not as often as I’d like.
From the moment I first saw Andrea’s soft brown hair and eyes that reflect Earth’s majesty, she’s always been with me. Sometimes just in my heart and mind; quite often in person.
Over the weeks and months ahead, we’ve agreed to each write about our experiences keeping our relationship growing and thriving despite the more than four hundred miles between us.
Stay tuned or subscribe to FatherhoodChannel.com to keep up with our journey.