Long Distance Love


Armani Moore, Staff Writer

The ringing of FaceTime sound effect plays at moderate volume as TJ Willis, 19, grasps his phone, patiently waiting for his girlfriend, Alexis Powell, to answer. “She always answers at like, the last ring.” TJ snickers. And does he know his girlfriend, because right before the ringing is about to end, Alexis answers. “Hi,” she draws out and says warmly, followed by a demand, “Don’t add those extra I’s in, I don’t want to come off as ‘too bubbly’”. 

TJ and Alexis engage in one of their daily calls; one of their few video calls. “We talk on the phone all the time, like every minute we can. Even in class, when we can get away with it,” Alexis begins, “but video calls? I feel like we rarely ever have them, which I guess is what is hard. I feel like I forget what he looks like sometimes.” She laughs. Her boyfriend concurs. “They just seem harder to ‘schedule’, and I hate using that word when it comes to my girlfriend,” TJ remarks, “but when she’s a million miles away from you, have to.” 

That hyperbole can be reduced to fact by changing it to 737 miles. California, where TJ lives, is that exact distance from Arizona, where his Alexis live. The two have been dating since August 2018, and the dynamic of their relationship was drastically changed by August 2019. TJ had been accepted into San Diego State, and at first, the couple thought they would only be a few towns away from each other.  

“I was like, ‘Oh I’m going to see him every weekendI’m going to drive down there all the time until I graduate and go to a school in San Diego.’” Alexis, who is a year younger than TJ, said, staying behind in Fresno as TJ started his first year at SDSU. That was, until she got accepted into the University of Arizona after graduating, but not into any California schools she was excited about. 

“I remember she was really upset about it.” TJ says, “She even talked about just not going to college at all, but luckily her parents and I were able to talk her out of that.” Alexis scoffs on the other end of the call. “I would have if I really wanted to, I’m stubborn.” TJ continues, “When she finally agreed to going to Arizona State, I hadn’t really realized she would be so far away from me until that point. I got scared and panicked and started letting our relationship be dictated by statistics I found online.” 

Some of those statistic were reasonable grounds for alarm. Such as, according to academic research, the report that 37% of long-distance couples break up within 3 months of becoming geographically close. Or that only 60% of couples make it through the long-distance phase. All the bad stuff.  

“I’m a worrier, so that was all concerningat first.” Alexis recalls. “But, like TJ touched on, we couldn’t let our relationship be dictated those worries and doubts. We had to at least give it a try.” 

And try they did. The couple sent each other care packages littered with letters and communicated digitally whenever they can. It was easy for them at the beginning. Until they hit rocky waters, but different ones compared to those of every “normal” relationship.  

“I just started getting jealous.” Alexis jokingly says, but TJ gives an expression that suggests he was put through the ringer. “It’s like, when everyone except you is around your boyfriend, you just start overthinking. You start thinking they might want to get closer to someone they’re physically around and they’ll leave.”  

“But I didn’t think or want that at all.” TJ chimes in, his phone now being stood up by the pop socket attached to it. “At first it was hard to convey that, but I totally understood how she was feeling. It was hard to manage at first. 

So how are they managing to maintain their relationship now? 

“It’s gotten a lot easier because I’ve gotten a lot more confident in what we have. We’ve been together for a while now, and I still have those same feelings I do for him. Even with COVID (-19), I’m just happy knowing he’s safe and healthy. It gives me peace of mind.” 

“And same for me.” TJ agrees. “She’s family to me, so making sure she’s okay is always my main priority.” 

Going forward, the couple agrees they have a solid foundation for their relationship. “We both like each a lot, like, a lot.” Alexis laughs. “And when you really care for someone, you’ll do whatever it takes to be with them. Even if that means not being there physically with them. 

As far as their advice to those who may be in a long-distance relationship, or are considering being in one, “Make sure you’re ready, and if you’re not, tell your S.O. that. It can be a long, emotional journey, but if you are willing to make the sacrifice needed, everything will be alright and at the end of the day, your relationship will get stronger.”