Being apart teaches us how to be together.”– Unknown
With many people travelling for work, studies and business, and others finding better opportunities abroad, long-distance relationships are no longer ‘anomalies’.
Whether it is with a romantic partner, friend, or family member, chances are you are in – or, at some point, will be in – a long-distance relationship with someone you hold dear.
Like all relationships, long-distance ones come with their fair set of challenges.
Knowing what these challenges are and how to overcome them is key to making your long-distance relationship with a loved one thrive.
So, what are the common challenges people in long-distance relationships experience?
1. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)
When a loved one is separated from you by miles of distance, you are likely to experience FOMO: fear of missing out on memorable moments with a loved one or opportunities to spend quality time with them.
2. Jealousy and insecurity
It isn’t uncommon to sometimes feel a bit jealous and insecure over your loved one bonding with and getting closer to others.
Being apart from your loved one can trigger feelings of anxiety as you worry about things like their health, safety, the type of company they keep, etc. Thinking about worst-case scenarios as well as hypothetical situations that are unrealistic and unlikely to occur can exacerbate anxious feelings.
It is normal to experience bouts of loneliness when you are away from your loved one. Missing your loved one and longing for more face-to-face interactions or physical contact can certainly be challenging.
5. Financial strain
Travel-related expenses – be it flight or fuel costs – are typically high in long-term relationships and can quickly add up the more you or your loved one travel to one another.
6. Unrealistic expectations around face-to-face meetings
Our everyday interactions with loved ones predominantly involve mundane things like buying and unpacking groceries, sitting in front of the television after a long day at work, and debating whose turn it is to feed the dog. In long-term relationships, however, the expectations around face-to-face meetings are often unrealistically high. Romantic partners might expect lots of magical romance and steamy sex. And family members might expect plenty of picture-perfect bonding sessions and family outings.
Having high expectations can lead to disappointment and resentment when a loved one’s visit doesn’t quite live up to what you had in mind.
Here are some tips on how to overcome long-distance-related relationship challenges:
1. Decide how much communication is needed
People have different communication needs; some need more communication to feel connected, and others don’t need as much.
Discuss with your loved one how much time each of you is able to spend texting and chatting over the phone (through voice or video call). Take into account possible changes in communication preferences that may crop up in response to life’s demands. For example, your loved one may be working on a big project at work and may want to communicate less until that project is complete.
2. Respond to emotional calls
An emotional call is an attempt to connect with your loved one. It poses the question: ‘Are you going to be there for me?’
While you may not be physically present to offer your loved one a hug or shoulder to cry on, you can still be there in other ways. For example, if you set aside time to speak to your loved one over the phone, make that a priority. Choose to be fully present and attentive over the phone.
And if your loved one has something important going on the next day (perhaps a presentation at work or an exam), remember to send a ‘good luck’ message and ask them how it went.
3. Support your loved one’s highest values
As time passes, people grow and mature. You and your loved one can remain connected by supporting each other’s highest values (things that are most important), no matter what they are and how many times they may change over the years.
If, for example, your loved one’s highest value is travel – which often disrupts your scheduled chat time – reflect on how that is actually serving YOUR highest values. Ask yourself: ‘How is the disrupted chat time benefitting me?’ Perhaps you now have extra time to devote to your work or a favourite hobby.
4. Find activities to do together (remotely)
While you may have grown accustomed to doing many things independently, it is important to identify activities you and your loved one can do together. Doing activities together can help you both feel more connected to each other.
Here are some examples of remote activities you both can do:
- Playing online games
- Watching the same movie or series while chatting on the phone
- Preparing and eating a meal together over video call
- Taking up a new hobby together
- Doing chores together over voice or video call
5. Learn to address concerns both remotely and face-to-face
When you and your loved one are miles and miles away from each other, it can be tempting to put the concerns you have on the back burner until you can speak face-to-face. However, this can create a cycle of avoidance, where neither of you is able or willing to address concerns even when you do see each other face-to-face.
Speaking about concerns as and when they crop up (be it over the phone or face-to-face) is key to maintaining the health of your long-distance relationship.
6. List the benefits of having a long-distance relationship
It can be painful to focus on all the things you cannot do with your loved one who is away (the drawbacks of a long-distance relationship). But you can shift your perspective and choose to see the flip side of the coin: the benefits of a long-distance relationship.
7. Budget for travel
You can ease the financial strain of travel expenses by budgeting for it. Decide how much money you are able or willing to spend on travel, and be sure to set aside that money. Consider it an investment in your relationship with your loved one.
8. Set realistic expectations around face-to-face meetings
Remember that life is made up of both mundane and magical moments; you can make them ALL count by being fully present and grateful.
Manage your expectations around face-to-face meetings by accepting that they will consist of both magical and mundane moments.
So, how do you feel about long-distance relationships now?
Do you think you are now in a better position to manage them?
I am personally in a long distance relationship with my youngest son, who is studying in London and many weeks my husband is in Johannesburg at his business, while I stay in the Winelands. I experience the impact of LDR (long distance relationships) on a daily/weekly basis. My own challenges with it prompted me to write this blog.
Drop me an email at email@example.com or WhatsApp me if you want the long-distance relationship(s) in your life to thrive and would like some guidance. You are also welcome to share with me the LDR you are experiencing and how it is for you. We are in the same boat.
Whether you are in a long-distance relationship with a partner, child, parent, or dear friend, I know how important it is to feel connected and in touch with the special person(s) in your life.
Have a chat with me, and let’s see how we can make your desire a reality.
From my heart to yours,