Carrie Harshberger hasn’t seen her husband in over a year.
They were together last on Jan. 1, 2020, blissfully unaware that the COVID-19 pandemic was about to hit, making it near impossible to see each other.
“It has been horrible, absolutely horrible,” Harshberger said.
She lives in Saskatchewan and her husband, Joe, lives in Delaware.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, Harshberger is anticipating yet another lonely holiday.
“We’ve never had any occasions like that together other than Christmas,” she said. “It was bad enough missing our first wedding anniversary together (in September).”
Normally, they’d see each other three times a year. Travel is strongly discouraged, and Harshberger said saving up enough vacation days to quarantine in the U.S. and Canada for a single visit would be challenging.
“We always had hope because we always looked forward to the trips,” she said. “Now, we don’t even have that.”
Harshberger hopes to move to Delaware by the end of the year, but said the pandemic has slowed the immigration process.
While their relationship has been strained at times, Harshberger is confident they’ll power through the pandemic.
“If your relationship is strong enough, you will make it through,” she said.
They rely on video calls, making dates out of mundane tasks like grocery shopping.
Saskatoon therapist Cindy Deschenes said carving out quality time for each other is the key to successful long-distance relationships.
“When you start to become disconnected, it starts to really drive… a divide between two people,” she said.
“This is a great opportunity to take it back to basics with you and your partner.”
Taking time to ask meaningful questions to prompt deep conversation can help couples strengthen their friendship, she said, which is at the core of strong relationships.
Deschenes and her current partner were long-distance for a year. She said they read and cooked together over video chats and occasionally kept each other on the phone while they slept.
“You have no choice but to be creative,” she said.
Deschenes said she found writing each other letters was particularly helpful.
“Even one page goes a long way because what it does is it communicates, ‘You matter to me,’” she said.
“It’s really about taking the time to just let the other person know that you are thinking of them.”