He came and sat on the edge of our table and we got talking. We ended up having a wild fling during his few days in London and then briefly saw each other again in Germany a few months later when he was on another business trip and I flew over for a dinner date.
After we said our goodbyes, things quietened down for the next 18 months and we didn’t talk much, aside from the occasional WhatsApp.
Luciano and I met in July 2017, he is from San Francisco (but with Swiss Italian heritage, hence the name) and I live in south west London. We met in a pub in Fulham when he was in the UK on business and I was having a sneaky and spontaneous afternoon drink with a friend after a meeting finished early. Neither of us should have been there, so it was a real fateful meeting.
Then, out of the blue last January, he got back in touch and somehow persuaded me to fly over to California soon after. I took a real risk going there and was terrified that it might end up being a disaster but as soon as I hugged him at the airport, I knew it was the right decision. I felt as if I had come home. During that trip he introduced me to all his friends and family and I visited him again in August. He came to London too and we spent Christmas and New Year together in California. Of course, it was hard for things not to move quickly – we were soon chatting about our futures together, marriage and babies included.
What we didn’t know was how much the Coronavirus would change everything. I was in California at the beginning of March, just before the virus escalated and it was all anyone could talk about. We managed to distract ourselves though, redecorating his bachelor pad and spending a few blissful nights away at an Airbnb in Tomales Bay, over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Little did I know that our minibreak would be the last time I’d see him for a while.
I headed home feeling anxious about what might happen but knowing that Luc was going to book flights to come to London in May kept me going. On my flight home, another passenger started exhibiting symptoms and had to be isolated mid-flight which was incredibly frightening. All of the cabin crew came down to our section wearing masks and carrying bio-hazard waste bags and we all had to fill in forms with our emergency contact details on.
This was the first time it really hit home how serious the situation was and I remember trying to get onto the plane’s Wifi to message Luc as I was so scared. None of the messages went through and then they all delivered to him at once when I landed. He called me straight away in a panic and we were both terrified. By the time I got to the luggage carousel I was in tears.
Our biggest fear was that they would close the borders and Luc kept saying he’d wished I had stayed, or that we had got married so that I could begin petitioning for a Green Card.
When the US enforced a travel ban, we were devastated. I’ve booked a three-month trip to see him in July but have no idea if things will have settled by then. I was hoping to return in October and then begin applying for a visa. I was already in talks with an estate agent to rent out my flat, and speaking to immigration lawyer, with plans to hand in my notice at work and start my own business.
My plan has always been to go to the US on a business visa so that we could allow our relationship to develop naturally and not have to rush into marriage just so that we could be together. I also have a very big (and probably very expensive) vision for my wedding and this will take time to organise! I used to work in events and now am launching a consultancy alongside a blog, so this is a field I know well and want to make it spectacular. Now however, we just wish we had gone down to City Hall and tied the knot whilst we had the chance. It puts everything in perspective.
If anything, our relationship hasn’t massively changed since the outbreak of Coronavirus – we’re already very used to being isolated from one another, it’s just a bitter pill to swallow because I would give anything to be isolated with him.
We talk every day via WhatsApp, either messaging, audio calls or video calls. It has been our total saviour. The phone and wifi network going down is my greatest fear and now if there is ever a glitch whilst we talk, I panic in case it is happening.
Self-isolation can make long-distance relationships stronger and we’re the proof. It really forces you to listen. There is, after all, no body language to read, no sex to fall back on. He can tell if I am out of sorts or feeling nervous by the tone of my voice and will just say ‘talk to me’ and then it will snowball into a really deep conversation about how we’re both feeling and when we hang up any anxiety is totally gone.
We work very hard to not be dragged down, it could be very easy to fall into a cycle of always talking about how unfair it is that we are so far apart, how much we miss each other, how long it will be until we are together. You have to make efforts to focus on the positives like how lucky we are that we found each other and how exciting our lives will be, the humour, the connection. It also makes you realise how much is left unsaid in ‘normal’ relationships, those little compliments and details.
Of course, I have my insecurities. Will he wait for me if we can’t be together physically? Does absence make the heart grow fonder or will it be a case of ‘out of sight out of mind’? I feel selfish to be sad about my situation when I’m fit and healthy but the uncertainty of not knowing if and when I’ll be able to see him again this year is hell.
I just have to hope that my flight in July will still go ahead and if not, I know in my heart that we’re strong enough to get through this.
My top tips for surviving a long-distance relationship during Coronavirus
- Communicate your feelings, but don’t be dragged down into a doom spiral. Regularly ask each other how the other is feeling but make an effort to keep the conversation positive and focus on the good, rather than overthink the bad.
- Find a routine that works for your time zones and then prioritise it. Decide when your pockets of time are that mean you can talk and treat them like scheduled diary appointments. Having this structure makes you feel more in control. Mix it up between audio and video chat, so that when you do see their face it is a beautiful treat and you really appreciate it.
- Surprise each other. He sends me flowers, I will send him books. We talk a lot about reading and it is such a thrill for me to order a book I think he’ll enjoy and get it delivered to him. Then he’ll read it and it’s almost like having a book club! We also play online scrabble and Battleships.
- Go on dates. Occasionally we will arrange an actual date, so I will get dressed up and pour myself a glass of wine and he’ll get himself a whisky and we’ll video chat like we are meeting in a bar. We flirt with each other and have a drink and you almost forget you aren’t physically together. Due to the time difference this means one of us is drinking during the day but…YOLO.
- Plan for the long term, not the short term. Right now, we can’t control the short term. We don’t know when our next meeting will be and that is too scary to think about so instead, we think about the long term. How will we redecorate his bedroom when I move in? What art will we hang on the walls? Will he move his guitar collection? What places in the USA will we travel to so I can explore my new country? New Orleans, Lake Tahoe and Utah are top of my list. I can start skiing again, and run to the beach every day. Things like this stop me from losing hope.