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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Long-distance couples make it work on Valentine's Day

EXPERTS, COUPLES STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATION.

By CRISTIN COMISKEY, Alligator Contributing Writer

Last Valentine's Day, Curt Siegmeister highlighted all the words in a Merriam-Webster dictionary that reminded him of his girlfriend and renamed the dictionary "All the Words that Remind Me of You."

He set up a candlelit dinner with two champagne glasses filled with her favorite drink, green tea, and burritos from their favorite place to eat, Moe's Southwest Grill.

However, this year, Siegmeister and his girlfriend, Amanda McDonald, will be apart on Valentine's Day.

Siegmeister, a finance sophomore at UF, and McDonald, a marketing sophomore at Florida State University, have been in a relationship for four years, two of which have been long distance.

They're not alone.

By the time students finish college, about 60 percent to 80 percent will have had a long-distance relationship, explains Dr. Gregory T. Guldner in his book "Long Distance Relationships: The Complete Guide."

The 19-year-olds said communication has been the key to their long-distance relationship. Four years after their first date, they still talk on the phone three to four times a day.

"Sometimes, I get the most precious little love messages of Curt professing his love to me while I'm in class," McDonald said in a phone interview.

It does not matter whether a couple spends Valentine's Day together, said Kim McCall, UF professor of interpersonal communications. A commitment to each other and constant communication is what matters, she said.

For example, McDonald and Siegmeister take turns making the two-hour drive to visit each other about twice a month.

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"It's kind of fun being in a long-distance relationship," McDonald said. "When he's here, I get to show him off to my friends, and when I'm there, he gets to show me off to all his friends."

McDonald started her second year at FSU on the wrong foot when she realized accounting was not the right major for her. Siegmeister would console her over the phone.

One night after crying on the phone with him, McDonald heard a knock at her door and was surprised to see Siegmeister standing before her.

He had driven to Tallahassee to give her a kiss, even though he had to drive back that same night to go to class the next morning.

"Sometimes I feel like our relationship is a little fairy tale," McDonald said, "and that you have to pinch me to wake me up."

For some couples, long-distance relationships can be challenging. Making it work takes unlimited text messaging and free nights and weekends, said Anthony Bonaventure, a UF alumnus who lives in Miami.

Bonaventure averages eight calls a day with his girlfriend, Farida Reyes, a public health graduate student at UF.

"Once, I broke my phone, and I thought my world was going to end," he said in a phone interview.

Bonaventure's job keeps the couple separated by about 10 county lines. He works as an assistant video coordinator for Florida International University's football team. But while work and school keep the couples separated on special occasions, neither is worried about their relationship.

"It's going to be a little bit depressing, but it won't affect the strength of our relationship," Bonaventure said.

However, distance proved to be an obstacle when the 23-year-olds, who recently celebrated their four-year anniversary, had to weather a few storms. In November, Reyes suffered a heart attack and Bonaventure was 350 miles away.

"It was pretty nerve-racking because I'm so used to being there for her and being her protector," he said.

He sent her a dozen yellow roses - a change from his traditional red bouquet - and told her over the phone that everything would be OK.

"He's everything that any girl could ask for. He's amazing," Reyes said, smiling. "I would say he's perfect, but I don't want it to go to his head."

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