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Oceans Apart, But Close at Heart

Oceans Apart, But Close at Heart

Lovers planning life from a distance

With the space between ourselves and our loved ones growing enormously, the topic of long distance relationships has been on my mind. I’ve previously been in a few LDRs for good chunks of my life. As I went to college in Los Angeles at the ripe age of seventeen, leaving my mum in Macau, I quickly grew an understanding around the importance of withstanding and maintaining relationships from a distance. Furthermore, as the years went on, I maintained more of my close friendships as we went our own ways exploring different cities meeting us with unique jobs and experiences. It wasn’t necessarily hard for me, as it was something that just had to be done. I needed work, but I also needed and wanted to upkeep my closest relations.

That’s the main takeaway from all my life experiences and all the couples I’ve come across who have been in long distance relationships – that if there is a will, there is a way. A big influence on myself knowing I could make LDRs work was watching one of my closest friends Camilla, meet her then boyfriend in high school in Macau. They were a couple of years apart in age and grade at school, and once Daniel graduated before Camilla, they made the decision to continue dating. I recently spoke with them both about their relationship and how they made it work so well for them.

They started dating approximately in 2010, and at 11 months within their relationship they began long distance dating. As a couple, their journey has definitely been the definition of modern love.

Daniel, who introduces himself as a husband and engineer, explains, “our relationship is very unique, we’ve spent probably more than half of our relationship apart. It means we have to communicate a lot – our relationship only works if we communicate properly, especially when we’re away.” Camilla, a registered nurse, agrees and says:

“Having trust in each other was important. Even though we were only dating for 11 months at the time we decided to do a LDR, we saw worth in our relationship despite the challenges of distance, and as cheesy as it sounds, we knew we wanted to be with each other. There was no one else I could imagine my life with.” As individuals both heavily involved with their own demanding careers, finding the balance and passion to make a relationship (let along a LDR) work, is inspiring. Despite both of their eagerness to make the relationship work and grow, the desire to make it work doesn’t make the reality any easier.

It’s not just the distance and the different time zones. If your significant other isn’t around, they are’t there when you come home and want to share news with them. You can’t hug them to celebrate a good day, or to be physically comforted when it was bad. There’s so many levels to why long distance relationships can be hard (or not for everyone.)

We discussed Love Languages, as I feel this is such a key lesson for couples (and individuals) everywhere. You can take the test here, which after a set of questions, outlines what your most important needs are in a relationship. Perhaps your priorities and needs are mostly met via receiving gifts, or through physical touch, or maybe you feel most validated when your partner verbally confirms their love for you, etc. Camilla and Daniel took the test and found their Love Languages respectively were quality time. Something that they definitely would have had to adapt to during long distance. “we had great technology while doing LDR. We talked almost every day, even if it was just 10 minutes- it was enough.”

Camilla and Daniel both are from diverse backgrounds and have always grown up in multicultural spaces. Camilla is Malaysian Chinese, and Daniel is Brazilian.

“So I think for sure one thing that makes our relationship very different from generations before us is that we’re interracial. That hasn’t happened before in my family.” They see the differences that both sides of their parents emit but feel grateful for being able to bring both cultures and traditions together in harmony.

Both Camilla and Daniel grew up partially in Macau and now are based in Las Vegas, where they’ve gotten married, and soon are welcoming a beautiful baby boy in January. To arrive at the point of peace and stability that they’re in now, they say that good solid communication is the most important thing in their relationship.  “Daniel is definitely the most patient person I know. He’s changed me for the better – he’s made me realize that being open and honest during an argument is key to an understanding, patient, and loving relationship. Whenever we hit a hurdle, we try to talk through it, understand each other’s perspectives/opinions. We don’t always have to agree on everything 100%, but listening to each other is a way of having respect for each other. And to make it a point to apologize when one is in the wrong. We also make it a priority to place God in the center of our relationship!”

Illustration by Natascha Baumgärtner

When modern love and modern relationships are discussed, it’s hard to imagine our parents understand what we’re going through. Perhaps because technology wasn’t at its prime when our parents were dating and snail mail was more common. However, uniquely, Camilla shares that both their parents went through something very similar. “Something we always talked about was – both my parents as well as his have also gone through long distance at some point in their relationship. As cheesy as it sounds, long distance really does work! We’ve both seen it work in both of our parents’ relationships! What’s different about our relationship from theirs though, is that they definitely did not undergo LDR so early on in their relationship the way Daniel and I did.”

“We had countless people telling us it wouldn’t work, etc. which was a little daunting and a little discouraging. But the feelings I had for Daniel were real and I knew we would come out stronger at the end of it- I knew we’d somehow prove people wrong.”

Daniel says that by knowing each other for so long, they understand and can pinpoint each other’s imperfections, but love each other regardless of them. “We’re generally really forgiving and really accepting of each other’s problems and flaws – it doesn’t mean that we want those flaws or that problem – but we love through it.”

A key point of modern love is that now more than ever, we as a generation are keen in ensuring we know our heritage and that our future children know where their heritage stems from.

“One of the similarities in our different backgrounds/cultures is definitely the importance of family to us, and I love it. I love how both Daniel and I want to involve our families into our lives (as well as the baby boy’s) as much as we can. I want our baby to grow up knowing his grandparents, aunts, great-grandparents, etc. We want him to learn our languages (Cantonese and Portuguese) so he can speak with our families.” It seems apparent and appropriate that in a society where so many of us are displaced, or third culture individuals, that we find it so key to incorporate our mother tongues, foods of our culture, and traditions.

Beyond the hardships and tribulations that come with long distance love, Camilla and Daniel make it clear there’s so much to be grateful for, happy for, and plenty to look forward to. A tone of optimism and faith strongly elevated the interview – and their relationship! No longer are we stuck in a time where we can’t make things work (especially if we want them to). Particularly with the endless possibilities of technology. Skype, Zoom, iMessage, Facetime, Instagram, etc, we’re spoilt for choice. “Definitely do not give up so easily. Compromise in situations where doing so will lead to a stronger relationship and a possible deeper understanding of your partner. Arguments happen in any relationship, being able to admit that you are in the wrong and apologize when necessary is vital to keep that relationship healthy. And in cases specific to [long distance relationships], it’s so important to be on the same page regarding what both of you want out of the relationship, and where both of you see the relationship is heading. Committing to each other in an LDR is an obstacle that can certainly be overcome if you are willing to put in the work (communicating openly, staying trustworthy) and if you feel that your partner is worth it. Speaking from experience, long distance was one of the most challenging things I had to go through, but so worth it when I finally got to be with Daniel.”

Envisioning the future, making plans for when you will see each other is so crucial especially when at a distance. For Camilla and Daniel keeping an optimistic, mindful, and hopeful outlook, has led to their blossoming marriage, the quickly approaching birth of their baby boy, and their newly built home being finished in 2021.

No doubt this has been a long and lengthy journey for both Camilla and Daniel, but it was one that brought two individuals together through hardship, obstacles, and time, to finally experience the joy of true, modern love. And there’s nothing more modern than understanding there’ll be hardships and unknown paths, but that our possibilities are endless and empowering, and still making the choice to push through it all.

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