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Love in the time of coronavirus

Sophomores Sydney Herrick and Simon Foster met in Peabody Hall their freshman year where they lived a few doors down from each other. A lot of people on their floor formed a close-knit friend group, but Sydney and Simon started talking to each other more and began dating in February 2019. 

Their sophomore year, their friend group formed its own Living Learning Community so they could all live together again. In Stonebridge Hall, Sydney and Simon’s rooms were practically right across from each other.  

Right now though, the two are more than 1,000 miles apart — Sydney at her parents’ home in Austin, Texas, and Simon in Chicago. 

At the end of March, as in-person classes were canceled and residence halls closed, they had to face the reality that their time together in Oxford was being cut short. Sydney spent about a week at Simon’s house in Chicago before going home. She left on his 20th birthday, not sure when they would see each other next.

“The uncertainty of when we'll see each other again is upsetting,” Sydney said, “but I will say, obviously a year in, our relationship is much stronger. We know each other a lot better and how our relationship functions and stuff like that, so it's not as difficult being apart in the sense that we communicate well, but it sucks because we want to be together.”

In the meantime, they make sure to FaceTime each other consistently but usually not every day. 

“Especially in quarantine, there's just not a lot to update the other person on because we're doing the same thing every day,” Sydney said. “So there's not a lot of exciting news to share. So in a way, I think it's nice to kind of have a gap between that when we have long FaceTime calls or whatever.”

While they both believe the distance helps strengthen the relationship, that doesn’t mean that the distance doesn’t suck, too.

“If anything, it's made us able to trust each other a lot more to some extent, because we aren't able to see each other 24/7,” Simon said. “That kind of makes it more justifiable, but like, it still hurts every time.”

Sydney hopes that once it’s safe, Simon can visit her in Texas, since she is more often over at his home in Chicago because it’s closer to Oxford.

“My parents said there's a make-up ticket waiting for when everything comes down and they're just gonna fly him down,” Sydney said. “But when that will be, who knows?”

***

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For sophomore Erin Bingaman and senior Christian Carey, the pandemic-induced distance is only the beginning. 

The couple met on Tinder about a year ago and have been dating since September. With Christian being a senior, they both knew they were going to have to cope with being apart when he graduated and moved out of Oxford. They just weren’t expecting that happening so soon.

“When we were moving into quarantine ... I was like OK, it's March, I have March, April, May, so we've still got a lot of time together, and then suddenly, we had no more time together,” Erin said. “I think that there are a lot of other couples in a similar situation where it's just creating this unexpected timeline much sooner.”

Since they started dating, the longest they have ever been apart is this past winter break, and even then, they visited each other twice. Feeling disheartened at the beginning of quarantine, Erin Googled, “What to do in a long-distance relationship to keep the love alive.”

“I found this website, it's called ‘loving from a distance,’ and it literally looks like it was built when the internet first came out,” Erin said. “It's so corny, but like, there's actually some really good ideas on there.”

One of the ideas she got from the site is starting a journal that they pass back and forth to each other. After filling out some of the pages with photos and memories, Erin mailed it from her home in St. Louis to Christian in Springfield, Ohio. 

They’ll also watch Netflix together while FaceTiming,counting down so they can press play at the same time. Erin got Christian into TikTok. He’s trying to get her into video games. 

The two reunited at Christian’s Oxford apartment for a few days in late April, making sure they had both been quarantining at their parents’ homes in the weeks prior. They had been apart for about five weeks — the longest they had ever been apart — and were both nervous on the drive to Oxford. It felt like the first date again, jitters and all.

They were able to pick up right where they left off and spent the weekend laughing and enjoying each other’s company. 

“We hadn't seen each other for so long that it made everything really fresh again, which I say that, but it didn't feel like our relationship was stale at all,” Christian said. “It was just exciting to get to see Erin again. She's 100 percent my best friend … and having her physically be there was such a refreshing feeling.”

Christian gave Erin the journal to take back home with her.

Though they don’t know exactly when they’ll get to see each other again, Christian’s post-grad job is taking him to St. Louis — a position he accepted even before dating Erin. The distance isn’t exactly easy, but they’re getting used to it.

***

While some couples have found themselves separated by state lines and time zones, others found themselves merely across the dinner table. 

Junior international studies major Olivia Snyder had plans to visit her boyfriend, Will James, for spring break. He graduated from Miami last May, and lives in Madison, Wis., with his two brothers and one of their friends. 

Will was then going to drive Olivia to Springfield, Ill., to meet her parents for a family friend’s wedding. When the wedding was canceled due to coronavirus, Olivia got stuck in Madison. 

But she’s been pretty happy being stuck there.  

“Because I was abroad last semester, it kind of feels nice to be able to make up for lost time,” Olivia said.

She and her boyfriend celebrated their two-year anniversary on March 25. During his senior year and her sophomore year, she spent a lot of nights at his apartment, so they already had a sense of what it would be like to live together. The circumstances make it a bit different, though.

“Because of quarantine, it’s kind of like being on house arrest because neither of us are like leaving the house ever, so we're definitely around each other like a lot more,” Olivia said. 

Will has been working at home, and his job keeps him busier than Olivia is with her schoolwork. For her, it’s been hard to constantly be in the same space but not be able to hang out with him all the time. Though in other ways, seeing him work has made her feel closer to him. 

“I can tell that there's things you can't really communicate over FaceTime, like about how your day was, so being here in person has kinda given me a new insight to that as well,” Olivia said. 

She likes to be there for him in small ways like making him coffee or lunch. Especially now, she’s glad she and Will are together in person to be able to comfort one another when they’re feeling down. She’s also enjoyed the company of Will’s brothers and housemate, even if they play a lot of video games. 

“It's also been nice having this network of people, with his brothers and his housemate, to spend time with them and talk about stuff and also just to hang out,” Olivia said. “I am really grateful I did end up getting stuck here because I get to spend time with these people.

In May, Will is driving Olivia to Indiana to meet her parents so they can take her back home to Dayton to get her wisdom teeth taken out and help her move out of her Oxford apartment. Her parents are planning for Olivia to continue to live with them afterward, but she’s not so sure that’s what she wants.

“I've been [in Madison] for six weeks — I have a routine, I know where everything is in the house, it has become like a nice space for me,” Olivia said. “So I’m worried about how going home and like going back to my parents again will disrupt that routine. So I don't know, I might just book a flight and come right back after I get my wisdom teeth out.”

@maya_with_a_y

fentermc@miamioh.edu

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