Long Distance

While many couples will be dining in at restaurants or watching a movie from the comfort of their home for valentine's weekend, other couples will celebrate the day with a FaceTime call.

Although a long-distance relationship is less than ideal for many people, some UA students have found it worthwhile to juggle normal college responsibilities and local social lives with a long-distance significant other.

Peyton Lawhon, a sophomore, is a management major, a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity and works five days a week at the agriculture department’s Altheimer Lab on campus. Lawhon is also balancing a long distance relationship. His girlfriend of two years, Mallory Owens, is an eight-hour drive away at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Lawhon and Owens were not always sold on the idea of long distance. Despite growing close during their senior year of high school, they convinced themselves it was inevitable that they would make it official."Lawhon and Owens are dedicated to seeing each other regularly despite the distance. The couple plans their trips several months in advance to ensure they visit each other at least once a month, he said.

For Caden Whittington, sophomore, her relationship started as long-distance when she started dating her boyfriend while at separate colleges, she said. Whittington met her now boyfriend Erik Cumley, who attends Concordia University in Lincoln, Nebraska, when they were in highschool but they did not start dating until freshman year of college. Despite the distance and the pandemic striking the U.S. a month after they started dating, they were able to strengthen their relationship, Whittington said

“I was going through some emotional things and a lot was going in my life,” Whittington said. “Him seeing me in that difficult state while he was also going through stuff, I think, helped us realize that this person needs to be taken care of. And we see (one another’s) weakness right off the bat, and I think that was really helpful.”

COVID-19 took a toll on some long-distance couples’ plans by limiting their abilities to travel. Despite the restrictions, Lawhon said he thinks this is the perfect time for long-distance relationships, because online classes offer greater flexibility. The pandemic gives the couple a chance to extend their visits to a week at a time, instead of a weekend.

“That instant feeling when you get off the plane to see them, your whole body is like ‘let’s go,’” Lawhon said. “It’s the best feeling ever. The reason that we love long distance, I think, rather than if we went to the same school, is because of that reason. It just feels like you’re starting something new over and over again.”

For Izzy Hankins, a freshman, the pandemic has negatively impacted her relationship, she said. Her boyfriend, Thomas Christianson, is a senior in high school who hopes to attend the UofA this fall. Because Christianson is still in high school and his parents are cautious of the pandemic, it is harder for him to visit, Hankins said.

Hankins and Christianson are from Dallas, and were best friends for three years before they started dating, Hankins said. This is not her first time in a long-distance relationship, and Christianson finds it harder to manage his time than she does hers, she said. Hankins thinks communication to be key in any relationship, so the pair sets aside time every night to talk via FaceTime.

“I would advise others in long-distance relationships to make time for each other, despite how busy you are,” Hankins said. “Just try to talk to each other as much as you can. One phone call a day makes a big difference.”

Similarly, some of the hardest things during the beginning of Whittington’s relationship was building trust, she said. To alleviate any potential tensions, Whittington and Cumley set aside time every two weeks to check in with one another and talk about things they could work on in their relationship, she said.

Christianson attending the same school as Hankins next year is a light at the end of the tunnel for the couple. Hankins said that knowledge motivates them to push through the challenges.

Whittington plans to transfer to University of Nebraska at Kearney in the fall for a radiology program better suited to her educational needs, so she and Cumley will not have to be apart for much longer.

“Knowing I will be with him again during summer, during breaks makes it so much more exciting,” Whittington said. “I always tell myself if he wants this relationship, he’ll put in the effort and not do anything stupid. That’s what I live by. I love my boyfriend and I don’t want to do anything to hurt the relationship that we have built together.”

Cumley traveled to Fayetteville to spend Valentine’s Day with Whittington. Whittington said they usually like to celebrate the day after, to avoid high prices and large crowds at restaurants and other date venues, but they will not be able to do that this year.

Although they are celebrating in unconventional ways, Whittington, Lawhon and Hankins are making the best out of Valentine's Day.

Lawhon visited his girlfriend a week prior to Valentine’s Day weekend and plans on FaceTiming with her the day of, he said.

Hankins plans to return home for the first two-day period of the university’s split spring break and will celebrate Valentine’s Day a week late, she said.

“If you truly love that person or feel like it can go somewhere, then stick with it,” Lawhon advises other long-distance couples. “It’s not for everybody but it can be for everybody. It really just takes trust. But if you got that, then you’re okay.”

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