I often joke to my boyfriend that we've never had a "normal" relationship, even though I know there really is no such thing. I mean this in the simple sense that we've always been long-distance, and we recently transitioned from that to living together.
I couldn't be more excited. Quinn and I met in college in Milwaukee, but didn't start dating until after I'd graduated and moved back home to Minnesota. We started dating during his senior year, taking turns making the five-hour drive and seeing each other about once a month. COVID-19 hit in March, just a few months before he graduated, and with so much uncertainty around the disease and its spread, there was a difficult period where we weren't sure when we would see each other again. We finally decided that since we'd both been working or studying from home, it was safe to visit, and have traded off the drive ever since.
Moving to Boston was a massive life change. I loved him, but I was scared.
The one silver lining of the pandemic was that, since we were both working from home (me for my 9-5; him for either school or his summer internship), our visits were no longer limited to the weekends. When we visited, it was for a week at a time, and that time together was always incredible. Despite COVID-19, spending more time together than we ever had before made it a somewhat decent summer.
And then came the fall, and with it a moment I'd been equally cheering and dreading: Quinn moved to Boston to start grad school. We'd known this would happen early on in our relationship (as soon as we'd started dating, really), but that didn't make his departure any easier. Instead of being 300 miles away from me, he would be 1,300. And while we were used to long-distance, that was when I had known I could jump in my car and see him. Now, our visits would require a negative COVID-19 test (required for entry to the state of Massachusetts) and a masked plane ride.
Over his first semester, I visited him twice, for four weeks each time. I helped him furnish and settle into the apartment we'd picked out together - the plan had always been for me to move there, and I viewed these visits as trial runs. I knew that I loved him and loved spending time with him, but I'd never been to Boston, and the longest time we'd ever spent together was a week. Growing up in a Catholic family, I'd never pictured myself moving in with a partner before marriage, and since graduating, I'd been living at home to pay off student loans. It wasn't easy for my parents to accept that I was leaving home, and it didn't help that I was moving in with a guy who had yet to put a ring on my finger. In addition to the struggle with my family, I didn't know a soul in Boston, and I'm a major extrovert. I knew COVID would take care of that problem temporarily, but Quinn was in a five-year Ph.D. program. In short, moving to Boston was a massive life change. I loved him, but I was scared.
Our trial runs did so much to help with that feeling. While I'd worried about just about everything — sharing a smaller space, working back-to-back in the living room when we both had conference calls, learning to split household chores - it was honestly perfect. We didn't fight often and we learned so much about each other. Not only did we discover how well we lived together, but those trials runs strengthened us as a couple and improved our communication, too. Within the first 24 hours of returning home, I'd moved my next visit up a whole week.
In some ways, the pandemic has necessitated living together, and in other ways, it's facilitated it. Flying halfway across the country once a month isn't sustainable during normal life, and certainly doesn't feel safe during COVID-19. I was putting myself, my boyfriend, and my family at risk with every trip. And when I returned home and realised that I could either see a few select friends outdoors during a Minnesota winter or live with my best friend in the world, the choice was easy. And thanks to COVID, which is something I never thought I'd type, I was able to learn that through those extended visits. I was able to see how wonderful it is to spend unlimited, unstructured time with someone you love, without dreading the end of the weekend when one of you has to leave. I'm able to move across the country and keep my job, and I was approved to work remotely, permanently, which I was directly told wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for COVID-19. I know how extremely lucky I am for this, and I don't take it for granted for one second.
A few of my friends asked me how it felt, going from long-distance to living together. My answer? It's incredible. After so many months of distance, it almost feels deserved. We might be starting our lives together in the middle of a pandemic, thousands of miles away from family and friends, but there's no one else I'd rather spend this uncertain year with than my roommate, favourite person, and best friend.