Mr X and Ms Y, a young couple were dating each other for two years when suddenly due to career commitments, Ms Y had to move to a different city. This is a familiar situation for many couples today, as career, personal and professional growth, as well as family commitments, make them get into ‘long-distance relationship’. With people connecting online, long-distance relationships are prevalent. A 2018 survey of long-distance couples found that while 27% had never lived near each other, about 50% of couples in the survey had met each other online.
A long-distance relationship is a phase where people are geographically distanced from each other, and work to overcome the physical distance by being connected virtually. Initially, Ms Y was very apprehensive about the prospect of staying away from Mr X. Negative thoughts and the questions that people would ask her like “How can you stay away from him?” and “He will find somebody better than you!” plagued her.
The most important thing that Ms Y and Mr X did was communicate with each other. Before going ‘away’ they spoke a lot, they understood each other’s situation, perspective and promised to not breach their trust in each other. A few coping mechanisms that any Mr X and Ms Y can use to nurture a long-distance relationship are as follows:
MUTUAL ACCEPTANCE: First and foremost, accept that the person is not going to be around you physically, and also acknowledge the reasons behind getting into this phase; the variable reasons could be a job switch, financial needs, family circumstances, etc. Acceptance would make the couple sail through the phase smoothly.
COMMUNICATION: It is always suggested to talk about things with each other. Communication becomes a key aspect when people are in a long-distance relationship. However, one needs to understand that there is some leeway that needs to be given. Communicate because you feel like it and do not force yourself into it. Sharing things about each other’s day can help in maintaining a crucial connection even from afar.
USING TECHNOLOGY IN DIFFERENT WAYS: It is an excellent idea to use technology to your advantage such as making a video call, writing an E-mail, surprising through letters, online gifting to keep the spark alive in the relationship.
DOING ACTIVITIES TOGETHER: There is a need to explore and experience things together when people are in a relationship, but for some, it becomes difficult when there is a geographical distance. However, doing some activities together like watching a movie at the same time, virtually cooking together, or exploring one’s day virtually could help the couple sail through
MAINTAINING TRUST BEYOND THE DISTANCE: Even if there is a physical distance, attachment, and emotional connection can be sustained effectively. Trusting the partner becomes an important aspect of the relationship, whether long-distance or face to face. Try giving the virtual and personal space to each other, respecting, and accepting the changes. Try and avoid linking all the issues and concerns to physical distance.
Getting into a long-distance relationship is a unique phase that people go through; however, keeping in mind certain things, it can be managed effectively. As there can be times when things can be overwhelming and emotionally disturbing, self-care is important, including taking both physical and mental care of oneself.
(This article has been written by Dr Hirak Patel, Counselling Psychologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.)