Lovebirds talk relationships for Valentine’s Day


Rachel Gamelin

MJ and their boyfriend, Kira Houston, pose for graduation photos.

Grace Gosinanont, [email protected], Arts & Features Editor

Even in the shortest month of the year, UNC Asheville students anticipate a day to celebrate their lovers, no matter what circumstances led them to each other. 

I’m really glad society’s idea of relationships is starting to be more expansive, but we still have a long way to go. People can be so judgemental about other people’s relationships when it’s really none of their business. I think if your relationship contributes to the health and happiness of all parties involved, you’re doing something right, no matter what it looks like,” said MJ Gamelin, who has been dating his long-distance boyfriend for over seven years. 

Gamelin said he has known his partner since elementary school, being best friends growing up and starting their relationship at the beginning of high school. 

“It’s a 14-hour drive. When we see each other in person, we make the most of every moment, always going out to eat and doing special things together. When we can’t be together physically, we text and call all the time,” he said. 

Regardless of the distance, Gamelin said he still finds ways to keep that connection with his partner and is firm in brushing off those that want to cast doubt on their relationship. 

“We’ve also had to deal with my parents not approving of our relationship — partially because we are both queer,” he said.

Gamelin’s parents feared his relationship with his highschool boyfriend would limit his college experience.

“I’m definitely not missing out on anything. I just remind myself that we love each other and make each other happy and other people’s opinions don’t matter,” Gamelin said. “Even though we’re far away, I am always here for you, and I’ll see you again soon.”

Arlene Rangel, who is in a similar situation with her boyfriend, said being in a long-distance relationship is a big commitment. Rangel’s story, while also in the spectrum of long-distance relationships, has its own unique quirk, as her boyfriend lives in Europe. 

Arlene and her boyfriend, Josh Sharpe after meeting in person for the first time. (Arlene Rangel )

We met on Tinder in March of 2020, and we do the whole swipe right thing and I didn’t realize it at the time, but he lived in England,” Rangel said. 

Rangel said Tinder provided a way to experience different kinds of people, and the circumstances of meeting her boyfriend fit both of their situations while in quarantine. 

“I think a lot of people are on there just to kind of see what’s on there. And if they strike gold, they strike gold, but some people may find something they didn’t know they were looking for,” she said. 

Despite the six-hour time difference between the two, Rangel said they continue to find alternative ways to spend time together, including trying to teach each other Spanish. 

“I haven’t felt strange or ashamed to show any part of my culture, nor has he. I think that’s another great aspect of online dating. It kind of lets you open up about different cultures and ways of living life,” Rangel said. 

She said finding a strong, mutual willingness to invest in the relationship at the right time makes a long-distance relationship different from a relationship where both parties are in the same place. 

“I didn’t want to pursue anything until I knew that he was interested in pursuing something as well because then it just kind of felt like time lost and, you know, kind of not really in either of our best interests. Because I knew it was something I had never done, something he had never done, making sure that we were both OK and constantly talking about what this kind of relationship was asking of the other to do,” Rangel said. 

Having met in-person for the first time not too long ago, Rangel said she remains optimistic about the future, as they have discussed in multiple conversations what their future holds. 

“I’m very excited that hopefully next year we’ll be able to live together and kind of start doing what normal couples do and get to annoy each other on a whole new level. That we got a glimpse of recently, but of course it goes without saying that I love you very much,” she said. 

However, dating apps like Tinder attract more than opportunities for long-distance dating. For instance, Grace Whitlow had an experience with a type of relationship she hadn’t had before. 

It was scary because it’s my first time dating a guy and being in an open relationship.  Something that helps is setting boundaries for each other, like no kissing your other sex partners on the lips or our bed is off limits for anyone but us,” she said. 

While the relationship is closed right now, Whitlow said something she would advise people who are interested in an open relationship is to always feel comfortable to say when they would like to close it. 

“It’s about doing what you’re comfortable with and your partner should understand how you feel,” Whitlow said. 

Even in the short time they had been together, Whitlow said a favorite memory of hers had to be when he told her he loved her, and expressed an excitement for where the relationship will go. 

“I don’t trust a lot of men, so you being the one I trust dating is kind of a big deal, but I’m happy being with you and meeting you has kind of changed my life. I love you very much,” she said. 

While these three stories only make up a small portion of the diverse relationships across  UNCA’s campus, Feb. 14 provides the same opportunity of love for everyone. 

“It’s kind of finding a good balance of being selfish and selfless because at the end of the day, you’re still living your own life but actively making the choice to live it with the people you surround yourself with,” Rangel said.