Love in the Age of Skype

How do you spend 24 hours a day together for two years and remain happily married…let alone sane?

The answer to that oft-asked question is the stuff of a future blog series. In the meantime, I remind people: “It wasn’t always so.”

There was a time when Dan and I were separated for 27 months. He was in San Francisco and I was in Estonia. And that was before Skype.

Pre-Skype Days

In those days, inexpensive, high quality internet calls weren’t quite a reality. Regardless, I could only manage dial-up internet in my little Estonian Soviet-bloc flat. So Dan and I emailed constantly. We even exchanged letters and postcards (gasp! Remember hand-written letters?) – stacks of which stand as a testament to relationship endurance and remain packed away for posterity.

Dan also scoured the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown for phone cards. Even with the cheapest of cards, the price of international calls to Estonia was still moon-like. But he still managed to call me twice a week. (He jokes that we could finance another year of travel with what he spent on calls during those two years.)

Perhaps the communication skills we developed during that time explain “how do you put up with each other 24/7/365?” as much as they account for “how did you manage to be separated for so long?”

Enter Skype: The Remote Communication Aid

We use Skype all the time on the road to keep up with family and friends. It’s also our lifeline to follow up with our bank or chat with someone about a project.

Recently, I’ve come to appreciate its role in long-distance relationships.

Because of another lingering project that Dan hopes to launch before we depart for Guatemala, he and I have spent the last two weeks apart – a rarity in our two-plus years of travel. Although we are not physically together at the moment, there’s still continuity…thanks to Skype. It allows us to chat, talk and exchange files seamlessly, all for free.

In the morning, I check to see if he’s “green” (picture-green) and I send a message to say good morning. Before going to bed, I give him a hug and a kiss, the Skype way.

Skype HugSkype HugSkype HugSkype HugSkype HugSkype HugSkype HugSkype HugSkype HugSkype HugSkype HugSkype HugSkype Hug

I find myself laughing each night at those silly little rotating huggie bear emoticons. Cheesy stuff perhaps, but I enjoy going to sleep with a smile.

Skype is no replacement for being in one another’s company and it doesn’t change the fact that we’re apart. I would still prefer a real hug to a virtual one any day. But a huggie bear hug will just have to do…at least until next week.

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  1. says

    Audrey- I LOVED this! Like you and Dan, Francisco and I are pretty much together 24/7/365 (and you’re right– we could maintain an entire blog on that subject!), and when we’re apart, we really feel each others’ absence. Skype has been a major help to us–and since we both have webcams, we can actually feel like we’ve got the next best thing to being together– all for free!

  2. says

    What a great post! Skype is our lifeline as well. I don’t know what we’d do with out it, an ex-pat necessity. I always find relationship journeys so interesting. My husband and I spent the first 2.5 years of relationship long distance although we never had to go 27 months apart! :) We are comfortable being together all the time and being apart for extended periods. Whatever our current situation, it always seems to work. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  3. says

    Hi Audrey,
    I just read this to Steve and we both chuckled. Can you imagine what PC would have been like if you had a webcam?? I will always remember Steve having a mobile phone before me-can you imagine! Living in Seattle without a mobile in 1999! Anyway, you made my post today easy. I linked to your entry:) Happy Valentines Day to you and Dan. (kiss kiss)

  4. says

    You and Dan are some of the only people who really “get” how I feel about getting to be with Chip all the time. As you know, we spent the first three years of our relationship apart (though not quite SF-Estonia apart, I admit), and after that experience, I just have no desire to spend extended periods away from each other. I feel the absence keenly! (And I still have a tear-up reflex upon entering any airport.) Though it’s probably obsolete now, I always thought that we should have founded TFSA (This F*-in Sucks Anonymous), a support group for people in LDRs. We could have negotiated long distance rates and airfares and had conventions where nobody ever left their hotel rooms. *grin*

    It coulda been bigger than Facebook!

    Thanks for sharing, and Happy (late) Valentine’s Day!

  5. says

    Thanks, everyone! I’m glad you enjoyed this post and could relate. I don’t have a webcam yet…but after reading a couple of these comments I’m thinking that maybe I should get one.

    I’m smiling in that all the people who commented were women…what does that say?

  6. says

    Ok then, let me add a comment from a guy as well :) As one half of a Danish/Maltese couple living in Prague/London I live part of my time the world of Skype, MSN and google’s chat. We use them all interchangeable however I prefer to talk on Skype (because of the quality) chat on MSN because of the emoticons or on Google Chat because of the searchable records of previous conversations.

    I’m pretty sure we could not have done our relationship without these tools to keep in touch which we usually do throughout the day with small greetings and chatting/talking in the evenings.

  7. says

    I spent a grad school semester in Hanoi, long before Internet was accessible throughout Asia. Jerry called me a couple of times until slapped with a $400 phone bill. Then he started faxing me, which was the cheapest and easiest form of communication back in the day.

    Although right now I’m on one end of Thailand and he’s on the other, we often have a 24/7 situation similar to yours. When we’re at home in New Mexico, having a house with a huge yard and a work shed helps a lot.

  8. says

    They think you’re crazy? Linda and I have been living out of each others pockets since we started travelling over 3 years ago. At times it has felt strange if one of us goes to the shops without the other…it’s certainly possible to spend all your time with your spouse and still enjoy their company without getting mentally sick. Really.

  9. says

    Yay, a couple of men commented, too!

    @Michael: I don’t know about all the emoticons on MSN, so maybe I should check that out for the next separation. It’s the little things – a short note here and a quick comment there – that make a difference when you’re physically apart.
    @Karen: Long-distance relationship via fax! That’s a funny thought. I haven’t tried that one but I completely understand your need to communicate and finding whatever way was affordable and manageable.
    @Craig: We are able to spend almost all of our waking hours together, be business partners and stay happily married, but that approach doesn’t work well for every couple it seems. It can get tough when the guest room is barely bigger than our bed…or we haven’t slept properly in days…or a project isn’t going well. But the benefits of sharing this experience and learning about and from each other certainly outweighs those times.

  10. says

    For me, long distance relationships never worked. With my loved one of 6 years, we are now living together 24/7 for the last 4 years, traveling the world together and they were certainly the best 4 years of my life so far. Lot’s of people can’t understand that and tell me about distance and needing space and so on. Poor them, they don’t know what they miss with the right person! 😉

    Cheers from Goa,


  11. Imelda says

    Hi Audrey and Dan, the happy couple:-)!
    That skype thing is really a cheesy and a great thing as well! All the emoticons and almost-for-free connection make you enjoy and appreciate this era of communication.
    Nice to follow your stories again, especially about how you both cope with reality.
    Prague is getting warmer and sunnier now although snow is still everywhere:-).
    Stay cool there !

  12. says

    @Chris: Sounds like you certainly did find the right person! Enjoy Goa and the rest of your adventures together!
    @Imelda: I have to admit I do sometimes miss a hand-written letter, but I still marvel at what skype and other technologies allow us to do…essentially for free. Thanks for reconnecting and I hope spring comes soon in Prague!
    @jennannej: We find that Skype hasn’t taken off as much in the United States as it has in other countries. Perhaps it’s because so many cell phone plans have free minutes that they don’t see the point. When traveling internationally, it’s a lifesaver.

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