Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.
Lately, I've been exposed to a number of long distance relationships. It's really hard to maintain a good sense of togetherness long distance, especially when not seeing each other often or much.
One key is communicating well and frequently over the phone, the internet, or whatever way they've worked out. For some people, that's hard because they communicate best nonverbally, with a gesture, physical affection or just by conveying a comfortable sense of togetherness. Those partners may do best by caretaking behavior around the house, little favors, gifts and going out of their way to please. They can't do so over the phone. Sometimes, they even don't like to Skype or it may not even be convenient or possible.
When good, frequent, loving communication, especially with visuals, exists, there's the best chance of continued closeness. In one case, the daily texts are mispelled and poorly formed gramatically which totally irritates the well-educated recipient, who isn't close enough to her boyfriend to appreciate his endearing vulnerability and good heart. But, if the couple fights or argues much over the phone or internet, there isn't a good opportunity to make up well, and it's easier for hard feelings and emotional distance to grow. In another case, the partner just doesn't have much to say because he lives "a boring life." However, their love is good. In another case, the conversations are stimulating and fun and the mutual appreciation serves as an aphrodesiac for the next time they get together.
Another key is making sure that the passion and sexuality they share when they are physically together is strong enough that those feelings, memories and the bond they create biochemically (the glue that makes love different from like) lasts through the apartness. What I mean is that there's something there that is so potent that it makes up for the infrequency of physical togetherness or sometimes even the poor long distance communication that occurs between visits.
Then, the most powerful key is longevity of the relationship. When their identities are woven together by years of experience, even if it's not all good, the relationship can endure long distance, though its form may change over time. Whether or not it remains intimate or what type of intimate will depend on their life circumstances and choices, what transpires when they're not together and how much they really want each other. Especially, friendships can withstand long periods of time apart with little communication, as anyone can attest who hasn't seen a good friend for decades and then gets together as it's "as if we just saw each other yesterday."
Here are some clues as to how to maintain a desired relationship long distance:
1. Check to see if the timing is good before engaging in conversation.
2. Don't criticize, complain or try to control long distance. No bossiness allowed. Offer advice or suggestions only if they're requested.
3. Share good times and successes but balance them with reminders that you miss and need the other person, so he/she doesn't feel superfluous.
4. Better to have a good short contact than an artificially-prolonged one in which one person wants to hang on and the other wants to go about his/her business.
5. Chose not to care about how verbal or not the other person is; just appreciate that he/she wants contact. Focus on process over content.
If the relationship is in trouble, it's best to work on it together, not long distance. Whether the relationship is strong or not, if long distance is required, as by work, or desired sometimes, as by travel or lifestyle choice, the relationship isn't doomed. It just may need more persistent care.
Thanks. Jackie Sallade
Published in Self Help Now: A community blog