Set your heart aflutter with our series “Love Stories,” which features unique couples whose tales will inspire you to celebrate and #ShareYourLoveStory this Valentine’s Day. This love story shows a couple’s devotion despite distance and life’s challenges.

While absence may make the heart grow fonder, it’s not easy. Brandon Reyes and Jonathan Calixto can testify to that: They’ve been doing the long-distance-relationship shuffle for four years now.

Ironically, Brandon had just accepted a job and moved to Virginia when he met New York City-based Jonathan through a dating app. He was back in Manhattan visiting grad school friends when he happened on Jonathan’s profile, and they arranged to meet up.

While the initial attraction was physical based on their photos on the app — “His smile was very infectious,” Jonathan says — they quickly realized they were perfect together. “The conversation was so natural,” Brandon says about that first meeting. “We found we shared so many interests just talking.”

Celebrating differences

Photo of a couple celebrating their love story despite their long distance relationship.

Brandon is a forensic scientist, and Jonathan is a freelance editor and host who covers all things fashion and LGBTQ. “We’re like polar opposites,” Brandon says. “We’re yin and yang, but we mesh really well together.”

He says they are both passionate about their careers and admire that in each other: “We both respect our hustle, our drive to be successful.”

Working from home meant they could travel between Virginia and New York to be with each other every now and then when their work schedules allowed. And that mix of being apart and together, they say, was a silver lining. “Quarantine was a make or break for many couples,” Jonathan says, “but it allowed us to be creative, to connect on a different level.”

That’s not to say there weren’t challenges, though, having to inhabit the same small apartment. Jonathan recalls recording an interview at home and asking Brandon to be quiet for a few minutes. The next thing he knew, Brandon was vacuuming, saying he was bored…

For his part, Brandon says, “We learned that we cannot live in a one-bedroom apartment!”

Keeping the spark alive

When they are apart, the pair make an effort to keep their relationship fresh. They arrange virtual date nights, order food for each other, and then have dinner together, watch favorite shows at the same time, and send cards and care packages as well as little gifts. “These are all just another way to get to know each other,” Jonathan says.

A united front

Their love for each other has strengthened them not only individually but as a couple as well. One powerful example: Each felt comfortable telling family members that he was gay once he had the committed support of his partner. “Being with Jonathan gave me the courage to finally open up with my family about my sexuality and my relationship status,” Brandon says.

Jonathan agrees: “While I had come out to my parents during my collegiate years, I never came out to my cousins, who are like siblings to me because we grew up together.” After he and Brandon had been dating for a year, he told them he was gay in a group chat about planning his birthday brunch and that he was inviting his boyfriend to celebrate with them.

“I let them know that if they felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to attend anymore, I totally understood,” Jonathan explains. “Immediately, everyone responded with support and celebrated Brandon and me, even without meeting him. I realize now that it was the bond Brandon and I had formed in a short time that made me comfortable to come out to the rest of my family, knowing I had his support, no matter what.”

The couple wants to build on that bond and continue to strengthen their relationship, and they are hopeful they’ll get to do that soon in closer proximity to each other. Brandon is searching for a job in the Northeast, so they are looking forward to enjoying life together — in person and all the time — before too long.

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Joanne is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She's been a storyteller all her life, and she loves sharing glimpses into people's lives. Her writing has been published on and in Mission magazine.

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