When you’re far away for Valentine’s Day

He drove his snow machine in the fresh snow creating a large message that read: “I love you, Happy Valentines Day.”

Four hundred miles away, his girlfriend, Kim Shillinger received a digital picture in her e-mail of the romantic deed. They were married the following July.

As Valentine's Day approaches, students in relationships scramble to make the day the most romantic for their partner. Then there are students who are reminded that their Valentines Day will be spent alone from the ones they love.

Shillinger, a senior of the Dental Hygiene Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage, has been in a relationship since December of 1996, mostly long distance.

Her husband, Pat Shillinger, is an engineer for the State of Alaska in Fairbanks. When they first began dating, he was finishing school in Montana. Shillinger is still apart from him while she finishes her degree at UAA.

Just because a relationship is long distance doesn't mean that romance is absent. Shillinger said that the little things can be very romantic to someone in a long distance relationship.

“When he calls just to say hi, the spontaneous trips to see me, flowers, all the normal stuff,” she said.

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Although it has been hard for her, she says it is easier this semester because she is so busy with studies.

“I am distracted with school work,” she said with a sigh. Shillinger graduates in May.

Shillinger and her husband have always had confidence that the future will bring them permanently together. She said that she and her husband are now looking forward to their home being finished in Fairbanks.

Heather Rabinovitch, a UAA public relations and advertising major, also understands being in a long distance relationship.

“It makes you appreciate your time together,” she said.

Rabinovitch was in a long distance relationship for eight months last year.

Rabinovitch remembers the pain when she would go out with friends and their partners.

“You're the third wheel with your friends,” she said.

She said it was also hard because you want to know what is going on with your partner at all times.

“I had very expensive phone bills,” she said.

Rabinovitch says that being apart helped to become more in tune with her boyfriend.

“It forced us to get to know each other better,” she said.

Rabinovitch reminds lovers to be creative this Valentines Day.

 “Spice it up,” she said.

Rabinovitch and her boyfriend, Steven Volz, are still together. They stuck with it. That is what Rabinovitch believes to be important for someone in a long distance relationship. “The knowledge that you will be together someday,” she said.

Bre Osborn, a sophomore at UAA, may need some of that advice. She is far from her boyfriend, Jason Gill. Osborn just met Gill right before she moved up here from Seattle. Gill resides in Georgia. However, the romance is not lacking.

Gill has already written her five letters. “He's really sweet,” she said. The letters explain his longing to see her again and his affection for her.

Osborn's long distance relationship has been hard because they had just started their bond together when she left. She said that not being able to see him is the most difficult part right now.

“It is hard because I can't have that physical relationship,” she said. She yearns to be able to look in his eyes, go to the movies and spend time together.

Osborn believes that it is important to share what is going on in each other's hearts. She said, “Share your emotions through friendship and love.”

G. Donald Maloney, chair of the UAA Psychology Department, understands how demanding these types of relationships can be, because he has been in one.

Maloney was only able to see his wife in Ohio every eight weeks for a short visit while he was in Europe. At that time he could only communicate with her by telephone or by writing letters.

“Today you can keep things alive more with communication,” he said. “Today we have e-mail, virtual cards, and ways to even see each other while talking from a distance.”

Maloney urges those in a long distance relationship to do something special or unique this Valentine's Day.

“Send a photo. Be playful. Share something special,” he said.

Maloney considers the concept of long distance relationships to be interesting.

“People can grow from these and other relationship situations,” he said.

Maloney said that those involved in a long distance relationship learn to trust their partners more. They deal with loneliness better.

Maloney said that a long-distance relationship must be beyond that physical presence. You must have confidence and good communication skills.

“It can strengthen a relationship a lot,” he says. “It is an opportunity for a stronger relationship. It can form a stronger bond.”