Long distance relationships are difficult and to be honest, as a therapist I don’t recommend spending weeks or months apart if you can avoid it. However, I know first hand that life and work sometimes leave no other choice. The good news is that if you and your beloved need to be apart, there is more than Skype to help you get through it. Here’s some important things that can make a positive difference to your emotional coping in times apart.
Talk about your erotic world and how it’s going to be acknowledged, or not (!) while you’re apart. Convenient or not, sexual feelings are still going to happen when you’re apart, so what are your hopes and expectations about how you’re going to handle that without being able to touch each other? Sweeping the issue under the carpet is not always the best method of staying connected emotionally. Consider your long-distance erotic preferences as each of you may be different – you may like some beautiful pictures to look at, you may like to write or receive love letters, or a playlist with a note from your lover saying why each song is important to them. Put together some ideas for keeping romance and eroticism live between you although you are apart. If you need some tips on heating things up in the bedroom take a look at Time Hacks for Sizzling Sex for some ideas.
Share as many details as you can of the what it’s like where you are if you’re somewhere that your partner’s never been. It helps keep things real if the partner back home can form a mental picture of what it’s like where their beloved is, and what daily life looks like while you’re not together.
Plan for catch ups with friends, extra self-care and fun if you’re the one ‘left behind’. It’s so easy to feel down and left out if you’re the one who always stays home when your partner travels. It can help to have some plans for looking after yourself extra well when you find yourself alone and getting sad. When a trip is being planned, start planning for a rich home life during that time with equal attention.
Know your vulnerabilities – if feeling rejected or abandoned is something familiar in your emotional history then you may be the type of person who takes temporary separations extra hard and feels insecure and more distressed than you feel you should. This can also be confusing to a partner who doesn’t share the same emotional background. It can seem like an over-reaction to time apart. So it’s important to discuss, acknowledge and be nonjudgmental with each others’ vulnerabilities to help each other cope better. You can read more about why being apart can be a struggle and how to cope in Absence Doesn’t Always Make the Heart Grow Fonder.
Keep a daily sense of connection in ways that work for you. We all have different styles, E.g., I like to express myself in writing. Sometimes when my husband’s away I have a draft email open in my phone and I add random thoughts and laughs and experiences of the day as they come to mind or when I have a quiet moment, then at the end of the day I send it to him so he gets a synopsis of my mind and heart for the 24 hours. He enjoys it. I just call each email by the day, Monday, Tuesday etc.
When you have to plan to be apart regularly, be sure to spend as much time planning for being together too. Create stuff to look forward to together, even if they’re quite small things. Just make sure they matter to both of you. Couples form a micro-culture – a little world of their own and when you’re apart you miss that whole couple world almost as much as the person you share it with. Celebrate and plan for getting it back every time.
Have clear goals about why you need to be apart and an understanding of when you’re likely to be able to spend more of your lives together in the long term. Having a bigger-picture shared perspective to work for and a future to focus on when you’re feeling alone or down is a great help.
Finally, be prepared and understanding with one another when resentment hits because if you’re normal, it probably will at some point. Understanding that absence does not always make the heart grow fonder is important because sometimes, being apart just pisses people off. It can make you sad and angry to repeatedly find yourself alone when you’re in a relationship. Your head knows that there are good reasons for being apart, that you love each other and will be back together again, but your heart and gut are still miserable and pissed off with the situation. That’s just how people are and you need to be a little patient with one another if and when separation tension happens.
My final note is that technology is a great friend for distant lovers. Just be mindful of what you post so you don’t exacerbate feelings of being left out of each other’s world!
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Just BE the love that you ARE.