Long-distance relationship during Covid-19

My Singaporean partner and I have been in a long-distance relationship (LDR) since the start of our romance two years ago. When we met in Phuket and decided to get together, we were fully aware of the challenges getting into an LDR posed; yet, we were ready to overcome them together.

Then in early 2020, Covid-19 struck, and we’ve been separated for over a year ever since. 

Coping with the distance has been difficult for us. For almost 5 full months, I was riddled with anxiety and was uncertain of our future together. 

Being in an LDR before Covid-19

My Long-Distance Relationship Almost Ended Because Of Covid-19 & Here's What We Learned As A CoupleMy girlfriend and I on a date in Phuket
Image credit: Prowd Issarasena

Before Covid-19 hit, my girlfriend and I would try to visit each other as much as our schedules allowed us to – it was easier for me to see her in Singapore as she was often quite tied down with work. Back then, aligning our schedules, avoiding peak tourist season and finding the cheapest flights were our biggest worries. 

There does come a point where travelling back and forth becomes exhausting for long-distance couples; we understood that we had to face more challenges and that going through these issues as a team was the only option for us to be together. In the end, we decided to look into an option that would eliminate the problems that came with being apart: relocation. 

After carefully considering our careers, visa options and aspirations, we decided that I would relocate to Singapore so I could pursue my dream of working overseas. I applied to countless jobs, but my plans soon got derailed by the pandemic. 

Learning to deal with miscommunication

Before the coronavirus hit hard, we would watch films together, play online video games and just try to FaceTime as much as we could, just as we do now. The main difference that came with the pandemic is that we no longer had the option to travel – the longest period we’d gone without seeing each other went from 6 months to well over a year. 

My Long-Distance Relationship Almost Ended Because Of Covid-19 & Here's What We Learned As A CoupleImage credit: Prowd Issarasena

Like others who are in the LDR boat, it has been taxing for us; Covid-19 shook up both our worlds and only amplified our emotional distress, leading to one of the most common predators in a romantic relationship: miscommunication

The combination of stress from not seeing each other and the mess of Covid-19 led to daily arguments that spanned for months starting in March 2020, when Singapore first went into lockdown – also known as the ‘Circuit Breaker’.

It was clear that the Circuit Breaker’s social distancing orders were taking a toll on her emotional well-being and that our continued separation was impacting mine. Though we continued with our regularly scheduled Netflix dates, they weren’t as romantic – now, something as small as a frozen screen would set off an argument. 

Tensions were clearly rising, as things we would once joke about together became ‘offensive’ to one or the other. 

Issues that lead to mistrust

When Singapore finally went into the next phase of the Circuit Breaker in May, my partner was relieved to have her social meetups again; this also meant I had more time to spend with my friends, as before this, I wanted to spend the time I had with my partner so she wasn’t lonely. 

My Long-Distance Relationship Almost Ended Because Of Covid-19 & Here's What We Learned As A CouplePhoto for illustration purposes only

While we were both happy to be able to socialise again, this unlocked a new problem in our relationship. While absence can make the heart grow stronger, it can also bring out our insecurities – and as irrational as it can be, it’s not uncommon for couples in LDRs to think about the C word…Is my partner cheating on me?

I frequently went on staycations with my friends to relax during this period, and on one occasion, I picked up a video call from my partner when I was with one of my close girlfriends. Understandably she was puzzled and went on to ask me about the situation.

It was definitely frustrating having to explain myself – but this wasn’t entirely her fault. She hadn’t gotten a chance to meet a lot of my friends throughout our relationship, and all the time apart and tension being built culminated in growing mistrust, which resulted in a short-term breakup.

Recovering from a breakup and starting over

My Long-Distance Relationship Almost Ended Because Of Covid-19 & Here's What We Learned As A Couple
Image credit: Prowd Issarasena

With us being stuck in different countries and separated between seas, devastation defeated my determination to regain her trust again. During our separation for several months, I confided to one of my closest friends and shared my concerns of not getting to be with my partner; I was very conflicted with the distance and how much I wanted to be with her.

My friend then smacked me with a truth bomb: “Prowd, you have a lot of problems with yourself. If you’re unhappy with the relationship, please communicate with her, it’s simple as that.” This helped me realise that I needed more patience to understand what she needed.

My first initiative was to apologise to her. I shared with her my restless feelings about being separated from each other, and in the process of regaining her trust, I often asked her for the changes she needed and I would inform share my outings with my social groups. 

On the bright side, our arguments allowed us to become closer and understand our communication patterns more whilst we’re separated by the pandemic.

Growing as a couple despite the distance

My Long-Distance Relationship Almost Ended Because Of Covid-19 & Here's What We Learned As A Couple
My partner is Singaporean and I am Thai
Image credit: Prowd Issarasena

As a multicultural couple, we face petty arguments solely based on different communication patterns and cultural differences.

Sometimes, arguments can stem from something as simple as a personal language barrier and quirks. Doing it all online-only made things more difficult.

With my partner being born and bred in Singapore, it took me a while to understand her strong Singaporean accent and Singlish phrases. She’d say things like you go where ah?” or haiyoh – to me, it sounded like she was very unhappy and was expressing this strongly, which made me feel offended. 

After many arguments, we decided to take turns to express each others’ needs and be clearer with our communication styles. Not only did this ease our concerns, but it also made me learn more about her culture – I’ve even come to understand more Singlish in the process.

Tangible tokens of love 

Online shopping has become very convenient these days. Even paying for meals through Grab Food or other platforms is possible for online dinner dates, because it can be conveniently paid through debit cards no matter which country you’re in. Your partner can choose they’re craving and have it delivered to their homes – all you have to do is pay. 

For my girlfriend’s birthday last year, I wanted to surprise her with a cake; due to the fact that it could melt or spoil it was crucial that my timing was perfect. So I tried to slyly figure out the best time for the present to arrive by asking her, “Babe, what are you doing on your birthday? Are you going out with your friends?” 

My Long-Distance Relationship Almost Ended Because Of Covid-19 & Here's What We Learned As A CoupleA Garmin watch I bought online for my partner as her Christmas present
Image credit: Prowd Issarasena

While gifts are a great way to show love, the little things like planning dates through Netflix, multiplayer games or dinner is also important. In addition to tokens of appreciation, we overcome our challenges by making conscious efforts to understand each others’ communication patterns and being transparent about our plans. 

Tip: I would highly recommend using the recipient’s contact number to track the parcel accordingly. Surprising each other with gifts is great, but you also run the chance of the package not being delivered properly – be sure to have the tracking number and that your partner is home on the expected delivery date. 

When browsing for gifts, be sure to also keep an eye out for sales and promotions; this will help you save for further gifts and maybe even visits. If you want to go a step further, you could even check the foreign exchange rates and order on days when your currency is stronger. 

Making an LDR work amid the pandemic

My partner and I have eased our LDR issues through patience and trust – this requires a lot of effort and time too. In every relationship, there needs to be genuinity in order to gain trust from the other party.

For those who are in a relationship, there is always going to be obstacles regardless of distance, race, language, or sexuality. My relationship with my partner proves that we are completely two individuals and go through these challenges together like a team. It’s important to have a strong connection with each other to go through it – even though something as scary as a global pandemic.

More on personal stories by TSL Thailand: 

Cover images adapted from: Prowd Issarasena

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