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Note: This is a guest post by Avani Mehta of Avani-Mehta
And Ever Has It Been That Love Knows Not Its Own Depth Until The Hour Of Separation. – Kahlil Gibran
As if it was not difficult enough to have a happy and successful relationship, some of us have to manage with long distances as well. The one we love is apart from us by miles, states and sometimes oceans. Whoever said that “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” surely hasn’t shared the entire version. Otherwise there would have been a mention of – Absence makes heart ache for the loved the one, it makes heart cry.
As I bid farewell to my husband 4 months after our marriage, I didn’t know that fate had around 2 years of separation in store for us. But soon, 4 months became 8 and 8 became 12 and … Suprisingly, these two years went like a breeze. Without mega fights, without being miserable and more importantly with us being crazily in love with each other as ever before.
A friend of mine asked me some weeks back that how did I manage to have a happy and successful long distance relationship with my spouse for over a period of two years, how did I survive the separation. And I had no answer then because we didn’t have to work much on it. However the question got me thinking.
And I realised that having a happy, loving “long distance” relationship and having a happy, loving “close proximity” relationship isn’t really that different. Both require their own set of adjustments; but in all, nothing changes. The needs are still the same – to love and be loved, to connect, to cherish, be friends and be there for each other.
So, let’s get started …
Do Long Distance Relationships Work?
Yes, they do. They work as well or as poorly as any other relationship. Being physically separated seems to have very little or no impact in one way or other on the relationship.
The key is to stay positive, stay optimistic. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that long distance relationships don’t work. The assumption that long distance relationships don’t work is enough to sabotage it. Moreover, the question to ask is not whether long distance relationships work, but whether you want to make it work. Are you willing to put in the effort required to make it work?
Ok Then, What Kind Of Effort Is Required To Make It Work?
A long distance relationship is different from a close promixity relationship because your partner is not physically present with you. This changes how you communicate and stay in touch with each other. This provides with a challenge to be a part of each other’s life inspite of the distance.
You will be required to put in effort to re-learn some of the ways of communicating and staying in touch with each other, to re-learn how to be intimate with each other. There are a lot of non-verbal cues which we take for granted such as body language, facial expressions etc which work like a window to the heart of our loved ones. These cues will be present in a different form since your mode of communication will change. You will have to learn these new cues and learn to be more expressive verbally to make up for the cues lost.
How To Have A Happy And Successful Long Distance Relationship?
There are only two factors that contribute to having a happy and successful long distance relationship. While these seem very simple, don’t under-estimate either of them. The two factors are:
1. Be Happy
A “happy you” can bring a lot of happiness in lives of your loved ones. A “unhappy you” cannot do so. So focus on your happiness. As you begin to stay happy, this happiness will automatically reflect in each and everything that you touch.
Can I really be happy? I mean, Is it allowed to be happy in times of separation?
A lot of us think that we “should not” or “can not” be happy. After all, our partner is away from us, what right do we have to be happy. What would people think if we are equally happy with and without our partner? Wouldn’t that then be proof that I don’t love my partner a lot?
Nothing could be further from truth. Of course you can be happy. Being happy is your right; and no event, no person, nothing in this world can take this right away from you. Yes, separation does cause pain and longing for the loved one but there is no need to be sad and look unhappy just to prove your love. Love simply is, there is no need for you to prove your love to anyone, let alone people.
The more you stay happy, the more your partner will be happy. For wherever your partner is, he/she would want you to be happy. And if you are not, it would be on top of his/her mind always. Your unhappiness equates to your partner being unhappy and consistently worried about you. Learn to be happy and set your partner free of a lot of heart aches and worries.
All right, I agree. But who will make me happy. My partner is not around. I am so sad. :-(
The answer in one word is “You”. You become the source of your happiness, you become the reason for your happiness. Make your happiness independant of people, make it independant of external events. Being happy is not only your right; but also your responsibility. In no way is your partner or your family or your friends responsible for your happiness. They can be a part of it, they can bring happiness in your life but still, the responsibility to be happy lies with you.
Agreed. Happiness is my Right and Responsibility. What’s the second key factor that contributes to a happy and successful long distance relationship?
2. Connect & Communicate
Converse, communicate, connect, share … there is nothing I would like to put more emphasis on that this. If communicating isn’t your domain, if you are not a very verbal, expressive person, if your partner used to listen and understand your silence till now, this is the time to update your skills. As I have shared below, being a part of each others life is now going to become one of your high priorities. And leave no stone unturned to do so. This will determine how much connected you feel with each other, this will determine how much satisfied you feel with your relationship, your conversations and life in general. This is what is going to keep you sane in times of separation.
Ok, Got it. Communicate, Communicate & Communicate! But how often? And how much?
Truly, this is something only you can answer for yourself. You will have to experiment to Find Out What Works For You and what is comfortable for you.
We used to chat for one hour everyday either early mornings or late nights as comfortable. Weekends were like dessert; with long long hours of chatting. A lot of couples chat for 5-10 mins 4-5 times a day. Some, don’t chat regularly.
Whatever you do, it’s important to Create a Routine. If we chatted in morning, then every morning without fail that will be the case. If it’s evening, then evening. Having some routine, a kind of consistency helped. It gave a sense of security, it showed that we can still rely on each other. Having a consistent time also helps in planning for the rest of the day.
No matter what routine you create, remember to Be Flexible Always. There are times when because of work deadlines, or other life events we cannot give even one hour to our partner. It’s difficult to promise when would we chat or for how much time or whether we would chat at all. At those times, we decide to live life as if there were no plans to chat. If, we both are free and get the opportunity to chat, we treat it as bonus. This frees both of us to do whatever we want with our time and helps in not building any resentments or unnecessary time bindings.
What are the options available to talk to each other?
Thanks to technology, there are lot of options available. Yahoo chat has been our favourite with GTalk as back up if Yahoo Messenger starts giving trouble. Webcam seems like a god gift whenever there is a desire to see each other. Sometime later we installed VOIP as well. That gives a phone in India US number. We could talk long hours with help of this since my spouse is charged of calling a US local number. Apart from these, we also conversed via emails, mobile and SMS. Use of these were very short. To give short updates or whisper sweet nothings. But they sure make up your day. A lot of people online vouch for snail mail – actually write and post letters. They claim writing brings out their creative side and brings romance in the relationship.
What About The Times When We Fight?
There are some really simple rules to fighting:
- It is okay to fight
It is all right to fight and argue. Supressing feelings is not healthy. We might think of trying to save our partner from a bad day or some difficult times. But often, supressing feelings can become long term and totally unhealthy. Whenever these feelings blow up, things will be more unpleasant than one can imagine.
- Fight fair
To fight fair simply means to fight about what is currently bothering you. Not to bring up past, not to bring up other issues at the same time. Not to make generalisations, not to play the blame game. Focus on the issue and resolve it. Always remember it is not you against your partner. It is you both together as a team against some problem. If one of you tends to bring up past or issues other than the current one, allow the other person to correct you. You can simply list down other issues to solve “after” this one gets solved.
- Fight over phone with webcam on
It is very easy to misunderstand when we are fighting with each other. Often what is said and what is understood is quite different leading to additional problems. Do yourself a favour, fight on phone with webcam on. Voice and face both give cues to what you are trying to say. They help connect with each other. Use them to your advantage.
- Use your sensibility and maturity at all times while fighting
No one gets to bang the phone down. No one gets to avoid communication. Stay sensible and matured. Fighting itself is painful for both. Do not make it more painful by trying to avoid or punish your partner. This is one of the drawbacks or advantages of long distance relationship. You don’t get to do any of these. Your partner cannot come running to you to make things all right.
- Improvise your fights
While fighting, there will come a time when you are not sure of what to do exactly. Should you argue back, should you simply listen, should you take the practical stand and solve the problem or should you be emphatic and understand your partner’s feelings, should you give space to your partner and give some time to sulk or converse till things get sorted. These options are really confusing. Hence, after the fight is over, pick up these moments and choices you made and ask your partner, that the next time something like this happens, what should you do. Remember what your partner says and apply next time – things will be easier than last time because of this.
What Is The Greatest Difficulty Faced In A Long Distance Relationship?
The greatest difficulty that couples in a long distance relationship face is to be a part of each other’s life. Important issues and emotions still get shared but small things are missed out. A funny event that happened in office, your little adventure while grocery shopping, a mail that touched you, updates of a friend who called, a penny of your thoughts for the day – these seem irrelevant and unimportant on their own. Moreover, after a week they lose their importance. But when shared daily, they create a sense of inter-relatedness. They make others feel as if they are a part of your lives. Establishing and maintaining this inter-relatedness is the greatest difficulty that couples in a long distance relationship face. [COMMUNICATE !]
What Is The Biggest Mistake Made In A Long Distance Relationship?
As mentioned above, establishing inter-relatedness is very difficult; some couples go over board with this and stop their lives to be able to stay in touch always. They stop socialising, stop meeting friends and family, stop all outside activities – basically put life on hold for conversations with their partners. Not having a life of their own is the biggest mistake that couples in a long distance relationship make.
Having a social life is a must. Maintaining contact with family and friends, those who love you is important. Each of us has a need to talk to loved ones face to face, to touch, hug, share smiles and know we are cared for. There is no bigger mistake that ignoring this need, ignoring ourselves. While we do so for a better relationship, isolation by no ways can help a relationship grow. Life simply cannot be put on hold for anything. [BE HAPPY !]
What Are The Dos And Don’ts ?
- Enjoy your life. Have fun. Make new friends, form new hobbies, spend time with friends and family. Make best of the time available
- Share your feelings.
- Create a strong support system.
- Trust your partner unconditionally, don’t be suspicious.
- Respect each others time. If either wishes to spend time with friends or family, honour the wish. Family and friends form as much a part of your partner’s life as you do.
- Do not sweat the small stuff. Learn to let go.
- No matter how frustrated you are, remember that this too shall pass away; this is not how it is going to stay forever
- Do get all mushy and romantic
- Don’t forget to have fun together
- Have a common hobby/passion. Ours was investing in stock market and making money out of money
- Plan for the times together. Spend a day or two exclusively with each other when both are in same town. We used to go on a 2-3 day short vacation everytime my spouse returned back home (once in every 4-6 months).
Honestly, How Difficult Is This Going To Be?
Staying apart from loved one is always difficult. Nothing can replace complete presence of a loved one in our life. Even if you apply everything mentioned above or anywhere else, you will still miss your partner very much, you will still remember your partner everytime you go out, everytime you see something great. Everytime you see something which brings out a ‘wow’ from you, you will terribly miss your partner and wish there were here to share this. And missing is good. Missing your partner simply means you want him/her to be with you. Staying away from loved one will always be very very difficult.
But the point is, your relationship doesn’t have to be difficult. Inspite of all the distance that comes in between both of you, you can still be an important part of each others life, you can still love each other like crazy, you can still share all your small titbits with your partner, you can still have a happy, loving, fulfilling, successful relationship. You can still have a fantastic relationship – just the way you want.
Avani Mehta is a passionate student of life. She maintains a personal development blog at Avani-Mehta. For those who are reading her articles for the first time, you can begin by reading The Best of Avani-Mehta. You can subscribe to her blog by RSS or Email.
This article is part of August 2008 theme: Relationships
Photo by batega