Absence Doesn’t Always Make the Heart Grow Fonder

A little time apart can enhance passion when you get back together because you’re so excited to see each other and you’ve had a while to fantasise about the reunion.

However, many couples who’ve tried to sustain the excitement of a long distance relationship indefinitely find that the thrill soon wears off. Most of us who endure regular periods of separation for work or other reasons tend to find it very challenging – and science tells us, that’s not at all surprising.

Decades ago, psychologist Mary Ainsworth and colleagues documented separation and attachment mechanisms in young children. Although given good care, children separated from caregivers for a few nights while their mothers were in hospital tended to show not only anxiety at separation, but resentment and even anger at their mum when she returned. The stakes of maintaining proximity to a caregiver for an infant are literally life and death and Ainsworth confirmed that the need for close bonds to be maintained is hardwired in us. Further, although our attachment needs develop and lessen as we become adults, later researchers found that to some extent, attachment needs carry over into our adult romantic relationships. The same intense longings felt in childhood for closeness and security re-emerge with romantic partners. It’s no mistake that we may call a lover “baby”.

Although as adults we can survive separations from partners – repeated and sustained separations can tend to bring out the primal fears of insecurity, abandonment and resentment. The little kid inside us has trouble understanding why we’re alone so much after a while. In short, long separations can make us feel…well…childish!

Of course as adults, it’s up to us to soothe and calm the anxieties of the little kid we once were, rather than let that part of ourselves rule. The first step is to accept that even for the most mature and self-sufficient amongst us – irrational feelings of resentment and anger at a regularly absent partner are normal, especially when the rollercoaster of times together/times apart is getting you down.

Here’s a few strategies that I’ve used myself for making long distance love work and preventing resentment and frustration building up.

Own your feelings

Accept that it’s part of being human to sometimes feel miserable when your partner’s away and know that feeling that way doesn’t make you a cry baby or any less self-sufficient. It’s 100% normal to have some bad days when life entails repeated or long-term separations from your partner. It’s right to need and seek security through physical closeness in intimate relationships and being apart a great deal is a legitimate strain. Owning sad feelings will make it easier to deal with them head on and not get caught up in feeling ashamed of them or resentful of your partner.

Travel together whenever possible

It’s a good way to stay closely connected to each other’s worlds if you can go together occasionally on the regular trips away instead of separately, even for work. Sometimes it can’t be done, but if it’s possible, it can give the partner who normally stays at home a much better feel and appreciation of what life is like for the away partner. This can help integrate your lives more on an emotional level and help the partner who doesn’t travel as much to feel more connected to what’s going on in the life of the frequent traveller.

Can you put a date on it?

If being apart a lot isn’t desirable to you as a couple it may help you both to think ahead and plan a termination date for the situation. While it’s not always possible in every situation, this is a great way for couples who are feeling the strain and never meant for the situation to be permanent to have the end in sight and a definite goal to look forward to. An unclear time-frame for the future is more likely to feed anxiety and resentment.

Don’t punish each other for having to spend time apart

If the time apart isn’t working for you as a couple then you have to look at other options or use strategies such as these to deal with the situation until you can improve it. Don’t punish each other for your struggles in the meantime. It’s normal to feel lousy about being apart and to have bad days when you’re lonely and frustrated. Be understanding not judgemental – it doesn’t help to be hard on each other or to expect 100% cheeriness on every long distance call.

Acknowledge your erotic life when you’re apart

It’s vital to still connect erotically when you’re apart, especially if it’s for long periods of time when sexual feelings are inevitably going to rise and fall. Be able to talk about your erotic life, make some kind of plan for it to overcome the distance and separateness. Will you email, Skype, send beautiful pictures, or maybe write erotic words to one another?  If so, how often? What works best for each of you to feel loved and special to each other erotically even from far away? If you need some help with spicing up your erotic repertoire you might like to try my free online couples mini-retreat. You can do it together or apart entirely online in your own time and reap the benefits when you reunite!

Remember your beginnings

One of the happiest strategies most couples can turn to under stress is to remember how you felt at the start of the relationship. Tuning in to how you used to dress up for each other to go out, switch your energy on, plan fun new things to do together on dates – those memories can remind you to embrace fun and excitement again when you see each other and plan for it when you’re apart. I wrote more detail on how you recapture great times in Time Hacks for Sizzling Sex.

I hope this article has helped. If you’d like more on improving your relationship and feeling closer and more passionately connected you can get my free eBook Hot Devotion here.

Just BE the love that you ARE

Debra x