The pandemic stranded this couple 4,780 miles apart. That’s when they knew they had to be together for good. - The Washington Post
“That was the hard part. If you know it’s going to be six months, you can mentally prepare,” Sam chimed in from beside her on their couch. Researchers suspect that long-distance relationships are more common nowadays than they were 20 years ago, as remote communication is cheaper and more efficient. But even with the help of texts, emails, FaceTimes and Skype calls, long-distance relationships like Sam and Shifra’s faced a new obstacle in 2020: Pandemic-related travel restrictions around the world wiped out months’ worth of plans and decimated morale.
Some couples saw relations deteriorate and eventually break down under the strain. Others simply canceled reservations, postponed plans and did their best to cope with the disappointment. Sam and Shifra, though, found that the time apart made them more certain than ever that it was time to commit to each other — and to being in the same place — forever.
It started simply enough, at a bar in Manhattan’s Alphabet City. Sam and Shifra exchanged what they think was probably Snapchat handles (it was, after all, 2015). She invited him to a work event. He invited her to a Super Bowl party. Shifra, who is from India, was living in the United States on a student visa, and by the time it expired a year later, they were inseparable.
Separate they did, though: Shifra returned to her family’s home in Bangalore while she applied to American graduate schools, and Sam packed up his New York apartment and moved west for a job in Los Angeles. In the summer of 2016, Sam was visiting Shifra’s family when she received her acceptance letter from Virginia Commonwealth University, and they spent the next two years visiting each other on opposite coasts.After graduating in 2018, Shifra moved into her own place in Sam’s neighborhood. But their brief, blissfully convenient year as a short-distance couple came to an end on June 4, 2019. Shifra got an email saying her company could no longer support her work in the United States. Her H-1B visa application to stay in the country was being rejected.Devastated, Shifra spent that afternoon dodging Sam’s phone calls. “I thought this would break us,” Shifra remembered. “I thought I would have to go back to India, so I [was] like, ‘I’m not going to ask him to, like, move to India.’ ”
Shifra called her father, though; then her father called her sister, and her sister called Sam. Sam kept on dialing Shifra’s number, and when she finally picked up, through tears, she told him she didn’t know what the news meant for their future.Sam didn’t miss a beat. “He was like, ‘I’ll just move with you,’ ” Shifra said. “Like, without a hesitation.” Sixty days later, the two had given away or sold most of what they owned. They moved to Singapore, where Shifra transferred into one of her employer’s overseas offices.
At the time, “people asked us, ‘You’ve already been together for so long. Why don’t you just get married to stay in the U.S.?’ ” Shifra remembered. “But it felt like a cop-out. That would have been a decision based out of fear of leaving versus, like, a decision out of love for each other.”In early 2020, after finding Singapore was not quite their style, Sam and Shifra decided to try another city they had been eyeing: Amsterdam. They made what they thought would be a quick stop in Bangalore before their planned arrivals in Amsterdam: He would arrive in March. She would follow in April.