Absence and the fond heart

I grew up with my mother, while my father was away at work. This was the nineties, and we had phone calls with my dad everyday. 

It was hard. It was hard on my mum, and it was hard on my dad, and it was hard on us kids. And it was hard when my dad finally came back to live with us too, even as it was really great. 

Being in a long distance relationship SUCKS. IT SUCKS. There are no two ways about it. It sucks, and it’s awful. 

So why do we do it? Because we love each other, and because we believe our partner is worth the wait. 

Here are some pieces of advice that might help you navigate a long distance relationship, and come out the other side. 

1.  Figure out your communication styles: some people need to talk and be in contact every day, to feel connected and intimate. Is this you? Is this your partner? Do you both like to talk, or chat? Is sex (however virtual) something you need frequently? Don’t assume these things about yourself or your partner. Talk about this and figure out what you both need, where you need to compromise and negotiate. Finding out what works for you both will be a work in progress – as it is for everyone!

2. Agree on something you both want: if you’re just long distance without a joint goal, the uncertainty and lack of immediate access can feel stressful and make any doubts you have stronger! But if you’re both thinking, in six months we’ll look for jobs in the same city or when this year is over we will get married, or even, we will have a vacation together in Goa in November – then you have something good for your future together, something to be hopeful for. 

3. Address, don’t ignore: when a couple meets in person easily, they have more flexibility to argue, and patch up together. But when you’re apart, and an argument happens – well, it’s so easy to stay angry. You’re so far away from each other. Or – it’s easy to pretend you’re not angry, to ignore it and carry on. Both of these options will just make things worse. Remember you are both in a difficult place to process a fight, to connect and reconcile. Give your partner the room to have their say, and give yourself room to have yours. 

4. Being there for emotional support: While your lives and schedules will take up your lives, you need to remember to keep each other as a priority. There will be situations where something affects you – but your partner, not being near that situation, has nothing to understand this situation but their own openness to your feelings. And it is important for them to give you emotional support at this time, and if necessary prioritise their time for you or the things they do for you, to *be there* for you. This is one of the cores of healthy relationships – you are each other’s priority, and you should be able to rely on each other in difficult times. 

5. Remember that reuniting means re-adjustment: re-uniting is weird. Suddenly this person with all these claims on you right here, all the time. You love them, and they love you. But gods, they are here in your space, in your *face*, and in a weird way you think, our relationship was better when we were far apart. Don’t panic! You haven’t wasted time and energy on the wrong person – you’re just having a dramatic rearrangement of your time, your body and the way you interact. Take this as a way to revisit the heady first months of falling in love with your partner. 

Being in a long distance relationship sucks – but for you and the person you love, it can be a beautiful, wonderful way to ensure that you keep hold of your love and happiness, instead of letting something go too soon.