Sooner or later, there comes a time when a tough decision has to be made by many couples: Quit the job, uproot self, and move to where the significant other has taken up work? Or live apart and make it all worthwhile somehow?
With changes in economy and the social fabric, today’s life-partners are seriously considering long distance relationship [LDR] to balance all their commitments and yet be functional as a cohesive unit.
While there is no sure-fire way to guarantee success in any endeavour, LDRs can be managed efficiently when handled with thought and dedication.
- Are you ready? First thing to consider: Is this what you both want? If the answer is not a strong ‘yes’ from both parties, it means you will be better off exploring other options.
- Set an end date. Once both are on board, agree on a foreseeable end date. Knowing that this arrangement is for a finite period—be it 6 months or 2 years—and counting down the time apart will ease the transition.
- Communication is the key. In the age of Skype and smart phones, communicating daily should not be a problem. Speak to each other, but also arrange for video chats, to see each other, even if virtually. While there might be some truth to the old adage that absence makes the hearts grow fonder, putting it to test should not be part of the game plan.
- Share common interests. You don’t have to be under the same roof, or on the same time zone, or the same continent, to share your interests. Play that online Scrabble against each other. Be it sports or TV shows, movies or music, set aside a time to pursue common interests and share your thoughts. Was that game lame? Was that movie amazing? Why? Use web chats and cell phone calls to talk passionately about your interests as if you have experienced it together. Pursue your common interests, even if separately.
- Be available for each other. There’s nothing as frustrating as picking up the phone for a heart-to-heart with your loved one and getting the voicemail over and over. Make it a point to return that missed call right away. Procrastination is the thief of time, they say. It might also be the thief of happiness and harmony if allowed to reign unchecked. Set a time, preferably the same day, for returning that call you should have taken. And, always make yourself available to take that long-distance call from your mate.
- Trust and give some space. While being available for each other is vital, at the same time, giving each other some space is essential. No demands, no set-in-stone expectations. Try not to be controlling and petulant. Be flexible. Understanding is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. Curb the tendency to indulge in what-ifs and finger-pointing—it is unproductive. Express your concerns clearly without resorting to arguments across miles. Remember that if your significant other has always been economical with words and not prone to animated conversations in person, s/he is not going to change overnight just because the LDR suddenly demands this new persona. Accept and trust the one you’ve chosen to partner with.
- Meet half-way, often. Communicating daily is fantastic, but can only go so far. Human beings crave contact. Therefore, plan to meet as often as possible. Choose a halfway spot for the rendezvous, if the distance is too much for one person. What if it is across continents? Save up for that trip and spend the two weeks of vacation savouring the company and reinforcing what keeps you together.
- Leverage the positives. Rather than focus on negatives of LDR, use it as an opportunity for some self-indulgence and self-improvement. Watch that horror movie you can’t enjoy with your partner as s/he can’t stand it; volunteer at an orphanage or animal shelter; take up a new hobby—you’ll have something to ‘surprise’ the other when you meet. Not only will this help fight the loneliness, it allows for a sense of accomplishment in simple everyday things.
- Prepare for the financial pinch. Plan ahead for the extra expenditure that LDRs incur. As with any relationship, financial discord can start tearing you apart. Sign up for those frequent flyer miles, get that deal for the phone calls, set aside a fixed amount in the budget for making the choices needed for this arrangement to work.
- Reiterate your goals and future plans often. Don’t consider this a holding-pattern, hoping that normalcy would re-establish itself as planned on the end date. This is a chosen way of life for the present, so make the most of it. Support your common vision of the future and consistently affirm your commitment to it.
Relationships, much like children, need a lot of TLC. Engage in activities that foster a sense of togetherness. Yield to the inner poet and write that couplet [or, ode!], or a simple note, and snail-mail it. Add a little something to personalise the note to let the receiver feel your presence. Simple acts can become precious. When interactions are not cluttered with day-to-day domestic chatter, what you have to say becomes that much more important, so, speak up with kindness and warmth. Before you know it, that end date will loom up and you’ll both have breezed through a tough phase in life, coming out wiser and closer, with a smile to boot!
This was first published in the April 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.