Fanning the flames of your long-distance love
By Shakira Sison
The love of your life is leaving. Or maybe you’ve just met The One, but he’s from the other side of the world. You’re in panic mode because the world you’ve built with each other will have to be put on hold. After the initial shock that you will be apart comes the scary realization of the odds that are against you. Yet you’ve still decided to take the plunge.
You’ve commanded your feelings to transcend physical lines. You’ve joined that percentage of the population that finds solace in technology to keep in touch with their loved ones. A cellphone alert or social media notification could be a message from your beloved. You start to feel that phantom vibration that makes you constantly check your phone for anything new in the other world where your heart truly lies.
With the emotional upheaval any love affair already causes, the long-distance relationship (LDR) throws in a monkey wrench that adds even more tension to any union. It’s pretty hard to avoid especially because the Philippines is a country that many leave to try their luck in other lands, so we’re bound to have at least one friend, relative, or lover seek better shores. Our command of English also makes it easy to meet potential mates online.
Known as the selfie capital of the world, the Philippines leads its Asian counterparts in tech know-how and social media participation. It isn’t so far-fetched that many online friendships become online relationships, and then progress to LDRs.
What if you did decide to enter into an LDR? Whether or not it started as a face-to-face relationship that became geographically constrained, just because one’s beloved is out of sight doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t subject to the same rules, especially if you want it to last.
Here are some tips to keep the flames of an LDR alive.
1) Establish the ground rules.
Are you monogamous or is either partner allowed to date while you are apart? If you are dating others, do you discuss them with each other or is there a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy? Is dating just companionship or are partners allowed to have sex outside the relationship? These are difficult questions that need to be asked if you are to establish common ground. If they are not discussed, it doesn’t mean that exclusivity is a given. It’s more likely that one or both parties will assume it’s a free-for-all. Speak up if you’re not okay with that.
2) Have a plan.
“Let’s just see how it goes.” is a recipe for disaster if either party is serious about the relationship. Not having a plan for the future makes misunderstandings likely and leads one or both parties to disappointment. What is your plan? Does either party plan to move to be with the other, or do both parties plan to move to a new location to start their life? If so, what is the timetable? If you’re not sure what the plan is, when is the deadline to make a decision? It is unfair to leave your partner hanging about your future unless it’s a clearly stated agreement that this relationship is just for now, in which case one shouldn’t put too much weight on it and treat it as just for fun.
2) Always have the next meeting date defined.
For many long-distance couples, having a date when they’ll be together again is always a great reassurance. Having something to look forward to also prevents each interaction from being open-ended and ending with sad goodbyes. Whether the next meeting is next month or next year, a future date makes it known to both that there is a next time for your love, and that your longing for each other will end at some point in time.
3) Have a communication schedule.
Relationships that do not have the benefit of physical contact rely heavily on communication. If there is a misunderstanding, one cannot just run to the other for a hug, so this makes all those conversations very important. Set aside at least a few minutes a day to catch up. Schedule online dates. Respect each other’s independence with “alone time” days, but treat scheduled chats as sacred ground, especially since it’s all you have.
4) Be creative.
Watch movies together. Tell stories. Eat meals together, read books to each other, have drinks and chat. Involve each other in your lives. Face Time while you’re with your friends to introduce them to your partner and include her virtually in your hangouts. Take your LDR lover on a telephone or webcam tour of your daily commute, a party you’re attending, or your house. Get sexy. Use technology. There are more tools now to keep in touch than there ever was. Take advantage of the fact that you’re not just relying on snail mail like only a few decades past. These days you can pretty much be present 24/7 to each other, except for the senses of smell, taste, and touch.
5) If you have never physically met, you have never met.
No matter how intensely you feel about someone you have never physically been with, it’s best to take purely online relationships with a grain of salt until you are able to confirm your connection physically. There is a great deal to be learned compatibility-wise by standing in front of each other and being subject to one’s immediate physical response. Try not to commit to someone you have never met. If a significant amount of time passes and it still only takes the shutdown of a computer or logging out of an email account to end your involvement, unfortunately that may be all your relationship is until proven otherwise.
6) Cut yourself some slack.
Relationships are hard work as it is, what more if you can’t console your partner with a hug? Realize that you will have bad days, cranky days, and days where the distance will cause either partner to doubt what you have. Agree to never end a phone call or chat while in the middle of a disagreement. Promise to never use your communication channels to send each other angry messages or to fight. Focus on your goal, your future plan, or the next time you’ll be together. Pretty soon one day will turn to the next and you’ll once more be in each other’s arms.
Long-distance relationships are definitely not for the faint of heart, but they do come with rewards. There is something to be said about getting to know a person and having good conversations that thrive without the distraction of sex and physical contact, but that doesn’t mean it should remain that way forever. Have a plan. Good luck!
Originally published in Rappler.com, April 2014