Hi, hello or nice to meet you.
A few simple words and phrases to start a conversation with a stranger, but not the words that sparked the long-distance relationship of Molly Bertz, a current Kansas State student and Missouri native.
Bertz, sophomore in agricultural communications and journalism and animal sciences and industry, has Facebook and the National FFA Organization to thank for that.
In July 2014 at a Missouri FFA camp, Bertz interviewed for a camp officer position.
Alex Haun, senior in agriculture business management at the University of Central Missouri, was in charge of the interviews as a past Missouri State FFA officer.
“The first thing he said to me was, ‘Molly Bertz, Facebook says we should be friends,’” Bertz said.
Facebook’s “People You May Know” suggests to users other people they may know based on mutual friends, work and education information, imported contacts and other factors.
What Facebook did not say was “People You May Be In A Long-Distance Relationship With.”
Commuting from the start
Bertz and Haun started dating that July while living 45 minutes away in their respective Missouri hometowns.
Before Bertz left Missouri in the fall of 2015 to attend K-State, the couple had to discuss what an even longer-distance relationship might look like.
“Alex and I discussed that the other person’s happiness meant more to us than if we were the specific individual providing that happiness,” Bertz said. “If we came to a point where that changed, it would be hard, but I’ve found such a friend in him that I couldn’t be anything but happy for him.”
Haun said their long-distance relationship makes for a unique experience with great challenge, especially because of their goal-driven mindsets.
“The weeks are long, but it makes the time together that much more fun and meaningful,” Haun said. “The biggest challenge must be the fact that we are both so goal-driven and dedicated to other things as well as each other. It causes us to travel and attend many other functions, usually in different states … but with a little understanding from each of us, we make our busy travel schedules work for us and make time for each other.”
Bertz said because both of them are busy, it is easier to be understanding and flexible.
“Thankfully, we are both busy and value each other’s commitments,” Bertz said. “We remind each other a lot that we only have a short time of our lives that we can spend in college, but have the rest of our lives to spend together. We don’t want to keep the other person from missing out just because we haven’t seen each other in a while. We value our time that we do get together and try to make the most of it. I think having the mutual desire to see the other person happy regardless of how is what makes long distance relationships work.”
Just as technology marked the start of the couple’s relationship, Haun said it also helps them stay connected and updated in each other’s lives.
“We stay connected like every other couple in their 20s,” Haun said. “Maybe a phone call a couple times a week. With a crazy start to the spring semester, it’s been less than constant, but I also think that comes with maturity and growing older and closer. We don’t need to be in constant communication because we trust each other and know if there is a problem, we will let them know.”
Bertz said they text a lot and usually have the time to talk over the phone about once a week.
“Lately, we’ve been lucky to send a ‘Good morning, have a great day,’ before the day is over,” Bertz said.
Bertz and Haun also try to see each other in person every two to three weeks.
“In the fall, I go home quite a bit because it’s harvest, so he can’t leave as much, but in the spring he’s able to come up to Manhattan every few weeks before planting starts,” Bertz said.
Loving from a distance
For Valentine’s Day, the couple will not have the opportunity to see each other.
“We will be apart since we both have school on that day — 180 miles away — but I have a trip planned to visit the Little Apple the next weekend,” Haun said. “We will celebrate then, but generally we are pretty relaxed about holidays, so it’s not a huge deal that we won’t be together.”
Bertz said they are minimalistic people, which makes it easier to know they will not be spending the holiday together.
Bertz said she has gained a “significant amount of respect” for Haun through their long-distance relationship.
Haun said a long-distance relationship with Bertz has helped him get through college while growing their relationship.
“It gives us an opportunity to grow stronger as individuals during these difficult and stressful times in college and know you have someone who believes in you and to encourage you when you think all is ruined,” Haun said. “I have a pretty cool girlfriend and (K-Staters) are awful lucky to have her as (their) classmate and fellow Wildcat.”
“Risking it for the biscuit”
Both Bertz and Haun said their relationship is not perfect, and they hope people realize that long-distance relationships are not for everyone, but if the relationships are right, they will work.
What started as a Facebook “People You May Know” suggestion has led to the occasional Instagram post showcasing the couple’s relationship.
“Besides my occasional Instagram post, we’re not usually super verbal to others about our relationship … Alex and I’s relationship isn’t perfect, and I pray no one sees it as such … but what we’re doing works for us,” Bertz said. “Sorry if it’s sappy. I like him a lot.”