Distance means so little, when someone means so much.

An insight into Long Distance Relationships

“They gave each other a smile with a future in it.”- Ring Lardner

Falling in love may not be that difficult. What matters the most is how to make the relationship happy, healthy and successful throughout. Romantic relationships are important and fulfilling for our happiness and wellbeing. According to a study, Harvard study of adult development, conducted for 75 years, it was concluded that good relationships keep us healthier and happier, and it is the quality of your relationship that matters not the number of relationships, friends etc.

Relationships helps us define who we are. One such relationship is long distance romantic relationship. Long distance relationships were not so easy going in older times. However, with more technological advancements nowadays we fall in love even at a distance. It has become easier to keep contact and establish relationships even without meeting the other individual in person. Long distance relationship comes with its own set of difficulties. It is no secret that long distance relationships are not easy to manage. In order to understand and overcome the difficulties, we need to understand why do we get involved in relationships at first place. 

Self-awareness is a very important aspect to make a relationship work. Let us be a little self-aware first. Firstly, find out what are “my needs”? But be aware that what we need is different form what we want. A need is a condition required for human life. And want is simply what we prefer to have. Needs can be divided into 3 broad categories- physical (oxygen, physical safety, water), psychological (pleasure, security, self-esteem, identity, security) and social needs ( affiliation, intimacy, acceptance, attachment). For instance Food, self-esteem, security are needs and having pasta, wearing makeup, doing exercise and buying property are the things we would want. Having an understanding of our needs as well our partner’s needs make the process of communication and mutual understanding easy and healthy. 

There are several challenges in a long distance love. Some of the problems couples face in romantic relationships at a distance are:

  1. Travelling

Financial strain due to travels is a real challenge. You or your partner might not be financially stable to travel the distance often and this might cause a drift between the couple of either of the partner is not understanding. Also, different time zones, weather and activities are some challenges. Deciding when to go and meet your partner in person sometime becomes challenging. Often the time clash proves to be a difficulty. It might be the case that the date and time you choose to meet up might not be a convenient time for your partner and this could cause drift in the relationship.

2. Conflicts 

Conflicts are not specific to long distance relationships but they are part of every relationship. Distance add new problems to the mix already existing. Major reasons for conflict to arise are miscommunication, spending less time together, forcefully doing something for you partner. Another reason could be that the effort to keep the relationship going is many a times one-sided.

3. High expectations/ unreasonable expectations 

You tend to fantasise the time when you will meet you partner in person and in physical proximity. Maintaining high expectations most of the time end up in creating differences if those expectations are not met. Sometimes the expectations are unreasonable which not only affects the person who has these expectations but the partner is also affected which created a sense of pressurisation.

For example, it’s Valentine’s Day in two days and Anna (lives in Delhi) asked David (who lives in Bangalore) to come and visit her. David tried to explain Anna that he has to take his mother to the hospital for an ongoing treatment on that day and it might not be possible to travel all the way. But Anna is not ready to understand and is demanding him to come and meet her anyhow. This leads to conflict between the couple. 

What would you do if you were Anna or David?

4. Trust 

Trust is probably the most common problem. Partners in long distance relationship are more prone to mistrust. The lack of trust many a times leads to partners growing apart mentally, and this cause more harm than physical distance. Cheating is another common worry in a lot of long-distance relationships. Some major reasons that could lead to cheating could be lack of loyalty, loneliness, unmet sexual needs, and lack of emotional connection. 

Managing long distance relationship and the conflict.

1. Most of the issues in any relationship not only long distance relationship arise from lack of communication and miscommunication. Both the partners should be able to express and understand their own as well as each others’ needs and emotions. The capacity to listen and understand can often be more important than the expression. Communication is never a one way process. It is not just about conveying one’s message but also about listening and understanding your partner’s needs and emotions.

Trust is developed in part through understanding the other party. Careful listening is important element in building trust. Another key element to receive messages properly in communication is signifying acts. Signifying acts are one’s behaviours/actions that can convey implicit or explicit messages. An example of signifying act could be showing affection to your partner by sending him/her flowers he/she loves just to let him/her know that you were thinking about him/her.

The ability to communicate the facts, ideas, needs and emotions (expression) is as much important as receiving in communication. Make sure you assess both your own and your partner’s needs and work towards a solution that match with each. 

2. Major reason behind the conflicts is unmet needs. Proper communication could help overcoming and avoid the conflicts. Some other things that can help in managing differences and conflict are: 

  • Creating a win-win situation. 

Coming to a negotiation or decision that benefits both the partners could help managing differences. A simple example could be, your partner is free around 5pm and wants to video call you at that time but you get free around 7pm. This is leading to arguments between both of you. You might feel he is not respecting your work and time. This could be solved by fixing a time to video call which benefits both of you and make your partner understand how important your work is and you can’t skip your work to talk during that time unless it is urgent. 

  • Try to maximise the similarities

If the differences are too much, taking about you me childhood experiences and trying to maximise the similarities could help. Find a common ground explore the similarities. Try considering the differences as something new to learn about each other. 

3. Another reason behind conflict and differences in long distance relationships could be lack of intimacy. Not just physical intimacy but emotional intimacy also. This lack of intimacy could be due to fear of intimacy. Some people are afraid of opening up or connecting on an intense or deep level. Intimacy can open us up to potential hurt, shame, guilt trauma or sadness. Here are couple of suggestions if you are looking to build intimacy. 

  • show support! When your partner knows that they can rely on you for support during times of need, trust will follow. 
  • Maintain your own personhood and individuality. Creating a ‘safe space’ between you and your partner helps. This space should be conceptualised in an open conversation to make sure that you and your partner are on the same page. 
  • Consider your and your partner’s goals. If either of you are mainly seeking stability and comfort, pursuing high degrees of intimacy may prove difficult. This is because growing intimacy entails exploring each other’s dark sides and undergoing some forms of transformation. 

The journey of long distance relationship can be challenging at times and will likely have a significant on your personal self.