It's Valentine's Day and I'm alone. But I do have a boyfriend. He just doesn't live in the same country as I do. Let me explain.
A couple of years ago, I was strolling along a moonlit street in the Old City in Quebec. I looked over to the kind, intriguing Quebecois I'd just enjoyed dinner with for the first time. Our first date went as well as it could have, all things considered, but one thing was bugging me.
"You know I'm leaving at the end of the year?" I asked. "So this can't be anything serious."
"Yeah, I know," he replied.
I was four months into my year of study abroad as part of my International Studies degree. Spreading my wings in a foreign country had emboldened me to say 'yes' to things I would never say yes to at home, such as going out with a stranger with no expectation of a long-term relationship.
I was basically asking for heartbreak.
Eight months after that first date we were still together, surprising even ourselves by how the relationship had progressed. We couldn't bear the thought of breaking up. Not yet.
Getting on that plane (the first of three planes actually) was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life. Leaving him on the other side of the world really felt like I was torn in two.
Returning to same old Sydney felt like a real step backward in life. It was also a step backward in my relationship. I went from seeing my boyfriend nearly every day in person to seeing him through a screen from the opposite side of the world.
I tried my best to pick myself up and keep going with my projects at home with loads of support from my family and friends. We also planned a trip together so he could visit Australia for the very first time. A Quebecois willing to take time out of the Canadian summer for another round of winter -- I took that as a sign of commitment.
We've managed the distance surprisingly well. Technology is our lifeline. I honestly don't know how long-distance couples survived before the advent of Skype and instant messaging. We call each other nearly every day and constantly message back and forth. We probably know each other better than many couples living in the same house.
Thanks to technology, we've been able to keep each aspect of our relationship going as much as possible. We sometimes Skype while cooking dinner and even watch the same show simultaneously on Netflix while texting our reactions. We're lucky enough that Facebook voice calls are cheap and reliable enough that I can call him on the train home, or any time of day really.
While we've been able to manage the distance for over a year, I would not exactly recommend this situation. There has to be an end goal. The times when I feel loneliest often surprise me. In the middle of a party or on a weekend away with friends, I'll wish he could be there to have fun as well. The lead up to Valentine's Day is especially tough when marketers are constantly shoving in your face the idea that you should be spending up on roses and having a romantic date with your special someone.
putting in an online order with a florist that delivers to their location is an easy way to surprise your partner overseas and doesn't take much planning.
So how does one survive V-day in a long-distance relationship?
To start with, putting in an online order with a florist that delivers to their location is an easy way to surprise your partner overseas and doesn't take much planning. If you know their family and friends, you could ask for a bit of help to carry off a little surprise. And if gifts are your thing, an e-voucher for an experience they'll love is an instant solution. But in a high-tech world, low-tech impresses the most. A handmade card or handwritten letter in the post is a thoughtful way to keep the romance alive.
And you can still have that cute Valentine's dinner together, thanks to Skype. The tricky part is arranging a time that suits both time zones -- you're just going to have to compromise here. I'll be having an early lunch while he's having a late dinner the day before. It might mean that Feb 14 won't work for your schedules, so a weekend date could work nicely. To make it more like a 'date', pick out a recipe that both of you will cook and pair it with a nice wine. It's got to be a bit different from every other Skype chat. Dress up, set the table, switch on Skype and enjoy your e-date.
So today I'll be putting on make-up and a nice dress, he'll be in a good shirt, and we are going to cook the same pasta dish together. We'll call each other on Skype and share a meal, just like we would like to do if we were in the same country. Then we might watch a movie 'together'.
Valentine's Day at a distance doesn't have to be depressing. After all, it brings us one day closer to being together again.