It seems common-sense to think physical distance will make people feel further apart from each other. But our distance only made our relationship stronger. And in the end of the day, it made us grow as a couple.

I remember the day I “met” Francisco as if it was yesterday.

We had a weird start, at least I thought it was at the time. A start that I won’t be very proud to tell my kids one day. But that’s life and I don’t regret a thing.

We met through Omegle when I was 14 and Francisco was 20. Ironically, he was the first person that I got connected with and we immediately started talking. We knew from the beginning the age gap was going to be a much bigger problem rather than the three-hour ride that kept us away from each other.

Still, something kept us connected. I speak for myself when I tell you that, the first time I heard his voice, I felt safe and not so lonely anymore.

Keeping it all a secret

At first, I kept everything from my overprotective family. But we would speak all day and make calls that lasted the whole night. We talked about everything and nothing, avoiding what we knew we had to face: feelings.

We fell asleep on skype. We asked random questions to each other. But the truth is, Francisco was in college, I was in the ninth grade. He was 20, I was 14. And he was from Lisbon, I was from Porto.

We had no cards in our favor.

But as I’m writing this, I’m looking at a picture of ours 4 years later. So we did something right.

If I was to write about what happened from the day we met until July 2018, this would be a way longer post.

To sum it up, we were scared.

We would only see each other every 2 months or so, not because we were super far away from each other but because we were in completely different stages of our lives. I was 14 so, naturally, my parents wouldn’t let me travel alone. We were friends, not only friends but that’s what we thought we could be.

Anything else seemed impossible.

We were both insecure and the odds weren’t in our favor

In July, we reached to a point where things weren’t working.

We would fight every night on the phone. I was clearly starting to get affected by the whole “friends” thing. I knew nothing about his life there and I didn’t have to because we weren’t dating - and that started to get in my head.

I remember one day, when I was with him in Lisbon, desperate and wrapping my mind around the fact that our relationship would end up there because this whole “friends” thing wasn’t working for me. Either we were friends, like actual friends or nothing.

We had had such good times, we had such good memories - we deserved more than this.

Honestly, at that point, I was starting to think I deserved more than just “friends”. To my surprise, Francisco came to the hotel where I was staying the next morning and said we should give it a try. I was happy but confused.

Why now?

I still don’t know, ask Francisco.

A "Trial Period" to grow as a couple

I call what we had then our trial period, I think it’s funny. And after that, we ended up dating. That day, he took a big step to help us grow as a couple. It's something that comes along with the fun package of dating a younger girl: telling the parents!

A mature conversation with the parents of your fifteen-years-old girlfriend?


Now it begins: as parents (I’m trying to put myself in their shoes because they’re not the bad guys, not at all), they were concerned that I was too young to date Francisco, that I wouldn’t cope well with distance – but they helped with that.

Basically, I think no one believed that we would last. It’s complicated to be in a relationship where no one believes in you.

I always believed though. I know I’d go through anything to be with him, and I also know that Francisco wouldn’t let us go so easily. I mean, when he faced the possibility of me being done with “us”, he came around, right?

When we started dating, the first issue that came along with distance, was not knowing what’s going on in Francisco’s life. That damaged our relationship a lot, because I was insecure.

I had no reason to doubt him, but he’s not the type of person that shares a lot, unlike me. So more than the distance itself, my anxieties and insecurities started to interfere with our relationship in an ugly way.

He was older, in college and I was 300km away every day

The problem is, me and my family are very close. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of friends so I would go to my sister or mom when I had problems, and they didn’t want to see their sister/daughter crying.

They became defensive.

And normally when family gets involved, it gets more difficult. They are everything to me. So one of my priorities was always making sure that the four of them would get along.

They do now.

But that took some years, tears and effort on both sides. Along with the age gap, came having to be with him with my family around. That means, they spent a lot of time together, a recipe for disaster.

We thought we were communicating to deal with these two problems. But we weren’t. Or if we were, it wasn't in a healthy way.

That’s one of the things that was almost the cause of us possibly ending.

Collage by Catarina Gomes

How do you grow as a couple when you're facing insecurities and family opposition?

I think insecurities took like two years to get over with because I’m an anxious person in general. That takes us to another thing that is worse than distance: dating and dealing with mental health.

This last year, having to deal with a pandemic, my mental health problems would sometimes get all over everything.

For a while there, I thought we wouldn’t last. But then again, I was in a very depressive state of mind so I guess that’s normal.

I couldn’t think or deal with any fight.

We couldn't grow as a couple.

But, still, we had stable phases in between of shaky periods, as any couple would. And for a long-distance relationship, being together every two weeks, we were really lucky.

Even though my parents were kind of against us, they still helped when it came to us being together.

During the summer of 2019, things were calm, and we had such a great time in his hometown – where my dad and sister worked at, at the time. So me and my mom would be there frequently.

We had such a great time every moment we were together.

Still, goodbyes would be always difficult.

That summer, we bought our Bond Touch bracelets

They arrived on my last day in Lisbon, so we got to set them up together and on the trip to Algarve, we were just sending random touches here and there.

Then we created our codes and they genuinely helped.

As I wrote earlier, being anxious and insecure, sometimes a little reminder that he was there, that he was safe, helped me. That’s how Bond Touch has always been a tool for us, a good one.

Even if we were mad, sometimes feeling that “I love you” code on my wrist was comforting.

From 2019 until 2020, things were getting way better. We were seeing each other frequently, he spent part of Christmas with us, we were all getting along.

There’s no better way to put this: then Covid happened.

We were apart for two months, at first, and things started to get way worse than when we weren’t dating.

I needed him – I was facing daily panic attacks and mental issues - but he couldn’t travel. It was a whole situation that every LDR couple went through.

One thing is knowing you can get to the other person whenever you want, but it gets bad when you know there’s literally nothing you can do. We felt that a lot during lockdown.

As we spoke, we were starting to see how different we were and suddenly, that became a problem too. I think that all unsolved issues started to come up every week or so, and we were never able to solve them.

In March 2021, we broke up

But it was only for a few hours. This couldn’t be it, right?

I knew we hadn’t done everything we needed to do. So, the number of hours we were broken up, we doubled them later on a FaceTime call with a list of everything we felt like we needed to solve and put in the past.

So, we did.

And I’m so glad we did it, because we never once fought like that again. We were finally able to solve our problems.

We communicate better, we deal better with distance - we are a lot more confident in our relationship, and so we don’t always fear losing each other.

I'm really glad I got to know Francisco.

Sometimes he is a pain in the ass, but aren’t we all?

He's one of the best things that has ever happened to me and I'll never be able to thank him enough for the good memories and for the love we have. This post wasn’t about our memories and happy moments, but we have them, more than we think sometimes.

Despite everything, age gap and distance, we're here, happy.

To grow as a couple, we overcame every obstacle that we faced

We were able to go through them and let them in the past so that we could be happy. I think we learnt a lot from our relationship. It all helped us grow as a couple.

So I wouldn't want it any other way (I mean, just him closer).

Writing this, going through us again, made me realize how we grew up together.

I mean our faces look older, but we are different now, and more stable.

I’m happy I wrote this. Take us for example, we literally could have broken up two years ago, but we did everything we could to stay together.

Distance is tough, but there are bigger problems and those are the ones you should focus on. If you have a stable relationship, built on trust and happiness, distance will just be a bump along the way and not a reason to break you up or not let you even begin.

I wish someone had told this to me and Francisco in 2017.

Helena João