‘Long-distance is hard’: Students describe how COVID-19 impacted their relationships


TPN File Photo

A couple watches TV together.

By Leanna Chae, Staff Writer

Kenn Donahue, a junior computer science and digital narrative & interactive design major, said the COVID-19 pandemic added barriers to his relationship that he never thought to consider. These include making sure that both he and his girlfriend are healthy before seeing each other in person to ensure the safety of each other and their families.

“COVID has definitely made an impact on our relationship,” Donahue said. “Whenever one of us gets sick, we do our best to not see each other in person as to keep both of our families safe.”

Many have been forced to face challenges during the pandemic and romantic relationships are no exception, with many couples needing to find new ways of navigating through life together.

Donahue said the pandemic made it more difficult to see his girlfriend, who lives five hours away.

“She lives in southeast PA near KOP while I’m here in Pittsburgh. It makes it tough during the school semesters since neither of us can really take time out of our schedules,” Donahue said. “During the pandemic, that’s just made it harder because of shelter-in-place plans that each of our universities has.”

Matea Juric, a first-year pre-pharmacy student, said her relationship benefited from COVID-19 because it allowed her boyfriend to come back home early after his hockey season abruptly ended.

“Most of my pandemic experience was spent with my boyfriend. During this time, my relationship was incredibly positively impacted,” Juric said. “Even though this pandemic has been a terrible catastrophe, it was able to strengthen my relationship with my boyfriend. Both of us being home made things much easier for us, and for that, I am grateful.”

Like many couples, Juric had to experience hardships and limitations when she was not able to see her boyfriend, especially when health became an issue. Juric said her boyfriend’s exposure to the virus in 2021 prevented many opportunities for visiting one another.

“On multiple occasions, there would be times I wanted to visit, or he was planning on coming home, but we were unsure how to proceed due to his exposure to the virus,” Juric said. “Tests were hard to get, so these times were rough. So, in essence, there is a balance because he was able to come home during 2020 but then had to deal with potentially catching COVID in 2021.”

Despite not having the distance barrier, Sarah Nackman, a junior French major, also had obstacles to overcome during the pandemic. Nackman said she prioritized her mental health in order to have better communication with her boyfriend.

“I have a strong relationship with my boyfriend, but at times, it was strained due to miscommunication, distance and personal issues. I had to juggle my own mental health as well as be a present partner, which was something that was specifically harder in the pandemic,” Nackman said. “I do realize, though, that my relationship is stronger because of the developments made through conflict and resolution.”

Acknowledging the obstacles the pandemic forced upon many couples, Pitt provides couples and relationship counseling. Along with utilizing counseling services, many couples seek other advice to make their relationship work. Nackman said communication is crucial for every relationship to remain successful, and that it’s necessary to be more aware of the well-being of others during unprecedented times.

“Communication is key. Recognizing that the pandemic is hard on everyone is important in all relationships, platonic or romantic, and when issues arise, talk it out and validate your partner’s feelings,” Nackman said. “However, don’t neglect your needs, feelings and desires.”

Donahue said reminiscing on happy memories and staying connected to your partner will help keep the relationship strong.

“Some advice I’d give for couples struggling through the pandemic is to remember that you’re happy together,” Donahue said. “Even if you can’t go out as much as you want or be in person with each other like you would want, you can still always talk to them, and that time away from each other just makes the time you spend together that much more important and memorable.”

Juric said despite the difficulties of the two years, she grew to value her relationship, making it stronger in the process.

“The pandemic has honestly made me appreciate my relationship more and taught me not to take small moments for granted,” Juric said. “Even though long-distance is hard, it proves worth it. Distance does make the heart grow fonder.”