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.
by Andrea Villalba
After knowing each other and being close friends in middle school and high school, it was just a few short months before I left home for college that Alvaro became my boyfriend. Most of our eight months as a couple have been spent apart. Our homes in Weston, Florida, where Alvaro still lives, are eight hours from the Florida State University campus in Tallahassee where I began college in June. Although I miss being with Alvaro, using technology to stay in touch, counting the days until we meet, and planning upcoming trips together gives us so much to look forward to every day.
Last week, Alvaro boarded a plane in Fort Lauderdale for the 90 minute flight to our tiny regional airport and the start of an adventure together! Although talking, texting and regular video chats help us stay connected, having these days and nights together was just amazing.
While technology makes it easy to stay up-to-date on the things happening in both our lives, not being together in person is very difficult. We’re a couple and best friends. Even Alvaro’s great new iPhone 4 doesn’t have an answer for being able to give Alvaro a hug, hold hands, and snuggle together when there are hundreds of miles between us. Along with much joy because of all we share, our hearts often ache from missing each other too.
FaceTime on Alvaro’s new iPhone lets him start video chatting with me wherever he is. I love that he can easily show me something cool he’s seeing and the ability to have a live conversation on the go.
I also love the freedom being in college offers to plan trips around our schedules to see each other in person. Being on my own with a boyfriend hundreds of miles away has meant learning to travel on my own too. It’s also meant getting to see Alvaro much more than we thought would be possible when I first left for school. Instead of the couple of times we imagined in between terms and holiday breaks, our adventure this weekend was our fifth time together in just about six months.
After Alvaro told me recently about the blast he had visiting friends at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, we decided we’d go back there together. We began making plans a month in advance for a weekend of fun. This time, instead of hearing about it, I’d get to enjoy the adventure with Alvaro in person!
Our trip together began with Alvaro’s arrival at Tallahassee Airport for a brief chance to revisit the world I live in while away from home. Tallahassee barely resembles South Florida. There is not a single palm tree in sight and the weather is more similar to Atlanta and other areas north of Florida than the South Florida sun and beaches we love. It was great sharing my new life with Alvaro as we explored the campus. Like in high school, I found myself getting antsy during class knowing that when I left the building I’d find Alvaro there waiting for me. The thought put a grin on my face throughout the professor’s lecture.
It was exciting to see Alvaro in person and having him meet my friends again. I was especially excited because after his arrival in Tallahassee, we’d soon be leaving for our trip to Orlando. I couldn’t wait for our travels to begin!
Although Tallahassee is more than twice as far from Weston as Orlando, I was so happy Alvaro came here first so we could travel to Orlando together. After my classes were over, we boarded a bus for Orlando. I’ve become familiar with taking long bus rides from previous visits home to see my family. I would never describe any of those trips as fun or even pleasant, but taking the bus with Alvaro was more than fun! We watched movies, laughed across the miles, and cherished each second together. I’m sure so much time apart from each other helped us both appreciate sharing even small things together.
We arrived in the early evening to the wonderful, familiar faces of friends I hadn’t seen in months. It was great to see them again. While high school already feels like a distant memory, the smiles and comfort of longtime friends and being together with Alvaro was a welcome gift.
Over the weekend, Alvaro introduced me to all the new friends he had met through his old friends during his recent visit. He showed me, in person, everything he had seen and we did everything that he had done. Every moment was a blast!
Dating long distance makes it more challenging to share experiences in life together, but there are still many ways to make it easy and more than possible to continue building a relationship when miles keep you apart. Our weekend together was fantastic. We truly cherished every single second.
Saying goodbye is never easy. On our way to Orlando, we sat beside each other on the same bus. Sadly, parting was a different story. We got on two different buses; one going south to Alvaro’s home in Weston, the other heading north to my new home in Tallahassee. Going our own way is tough, but we remind ourselves that we will soon be together again.
Times like this past weekend together in Orlando make long distance worthwhile and leaves me even more confident about the future we’ll build together. Making specific plans to meet in the future helps make the long days of texting, talking, and SKYPING easy to endure.
Although Alvaro and I miss each other constantly when we’re apart, the second we see each other, we’re instantly filled with ecstasy. Thankfully, college classes are canceled next week for Thanksgiving. I’m already counting the hours. I can’t wait until we’re together again!