Relationships

Absence Doesn’t Always Make the Heart Grow Fonder

Long distance relationships are tricky beasts.

A little time apart can enhance passion when you get back together because you’re so excited to see each other. You miss each other and have likely fantasised about the reunion.

However, many couples find that the thrill of missing each other soon wears off. Most of us who endure regular periods of separation for work or other reasons find it challenging. Relationship psychology confirms that’s not at all surprising.

Psychologist Mary Ainsworth 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 anxiety at separation and resentment. The stakes of closeness 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 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. 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. Being apart regularly is a legitimate strain. Owning sad feelings will make it easier to deal with them and not get caught up in shame and resentment.

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, even for work. Sometimes it can’t be done, but if it’s possible, it can give the ‘home’ partner a feel for the other’s life away.  This helps integrate your lives more on an emotional level and feel more connected to the life of the traveling partner.

Can you put a date on it?

If being apart isn’t desirable to you as a couple it helps to plan a termination date for the situation. While it’s not always possible, this is a great way for couples who are feeling the strain to have a 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 coping strategies. Don’t punish each other for your loneliness. It’s normal to feel lousy about being apart and to have bad days. Be understanding not judgmental. It doesn’t help to be hard on each other, or to expect 100% cheeriness on every 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. Sexual feelings are still going to going to rise and fall. Be able to talk about your erotic life, make some kind of plan for it to overcome the 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 life and relationships you can pick up my book Lovelands on Amazon or as a free trial on Audible.

Just BE the love that you ARE

Debra x