The Art (and Craft) of The Long-Distance Relationship - Friendship Lamps

The Art (and Craft) of The Long-Distance Relationship

Being away from your partner, whether it’s a case of a few hours or entire time zone differences, can be difficult. Long-distance relationships aren’t exactly a cakewalk. More often than not, challenging undercurrents of your relationship come to the surface and threaten to take over. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and you know it instinctively. 

Long-distance relationships can sometimes be a blessing. When you are forced into a situation where you’re away from your partner for a long period of time, you are likely to question things. Questions that you were always waiting to ask yourself come to the fore, and you find yourself grappling for the answers. But this might be a positive thing. 

All too often, couples find themselves in situations that they’ve worked to avoid. And it’s hardly a wonder why. The world demands a great deal of relationships in general; there’s a lot of pressure for couples to behave in a certain way based on societal demands, and this can prove to be taxing in the long run. One way to deal with this is to bury a whole lot of feelings just to keep things on an even keel, and another is to rush into things too fast. Neither of these is healthy.

With long-distance relationships, one thing that’s made clear right off is the implicit notion that both partners have to, from a literal distance, invest equally to make things work. How would one even begin to understand how to do this, when his or her partner is in another location altogether? Well, before we get into the nitty-gritty of long-distance relationships, let’s have a look at what they actually entail.

What Exactly is a “Long-Distance Relationship”?

Let’s go into this carefully, shall we? Before we get into how the category of “long-distance” is determined, let’s look at the various aspects of any healthy relationship. Couples bond emotionally. They connect. They confide in each other, share their problems. They celebrate their successes together. And let’s face it, every couple in the world has to thrash it out once in a while; there is no progress in a relationship if there isn’t honesty and transparency about the negatives - as well as the positives.

But that’s not all. Can a relationship ever truly be complete without physical intimacy? Certainly not. Couples need to have sex. They need to express their urges and enact their desires, or they risk becoming repressed, frustrated, and worse, falling into a rut. So, physical closeness isn’t just an arbitrary idea handed down by culture, which couples happen to enact; relationships are by nature dependent on the intimacy between partners. Intimacy in the truest sense transcends rationality. And yet it’s perfectly natural and rational.

When you conjure up a vivid portrait of a healthy relationship in the mind, it’s easy to understand the role that physical closeness plays. So, what exactly is a long-distance relationship? Interesting. Are we talking about couples that have decided they’re radically different and are perfectly happy even when these needs aren’t met? Of course not. A long-distance relationship is just a term people find convenient to use in situations where couples are forced by external situations - usually in the professional sphere - to live apart for a given time.

If you look around, you’ll find that just about everybody has a long-distance relationship going on in his or her life. It may be with an old friend, a business partner, or even with one’s parents. But when we speak of “long-distance”, we’ve stepped into the zone of romantic relationships. And here’s why: the aforementioned relationships - none of them - are dependent on physical closeness the way that romantic relationships are. In a normal romantic relationship, whether or not the partners are married, physical proximity allows them to express and share their innermost thoughts and feelings. And that’s what we refer to as intimacy. 

Let’s begin with the premise that all long-distance relationships aspire to be normal, healthy relationships, albeit in usual conditions brought on by circumstance. Partners only get to see each other once every few weeks or even months, and this is likely to affect intimacy. It starts with the lack of physical closeness, but can go on to cause more problems. 

That said, when couples are willing to adapt to this new mode of being, they can integrate the most important aspects of their relationship into it. Some long-distance relationships fizzle out from frustration and dissatisfaction, while others thrive and become even stronger by bringing the building blocks of emotional connection into focus. 

Can a Long-Distance Relationship Actually Work?

The simple answer is, yes. Not all relationships are the same, and that’s the case when they’ve moved into the long-distance zone as well. In some cases, the “long-distance thing” brings to light several aspects of the relationship that may have gone unnoticed otherwise. It brings into focus the commitment that each partner brings into their union. 

There’s always the danger of wandering too far down the endless road of abstractions when it comes to diving into uncharted waters like long-distance relationships. Instead, let’s explore some of the essential to-dos when it comes to “going the distance”.

  • Establish Goals 
  • Long-distance relationships are somewhat like marathons - except, the finish line here is when you’re both in the same place and cherishing each other’s company. Think of it as a battle where time, space, and distance are your allies. Once you acknowledge and accept them, you will get closer to where you want to be, which is a source of love and comfort for your partner. 

    What are the sacrifices you’re willing to make? Are you able to make them without feeling any bitterness or resentment towards your partner? What prompted you to make certain decisions? We recommend that you ask yourself these questions before you bring them up with your partner. Establishing goals often involves making sacrifices. So you need to ask yourself, what are the sacrifices you’re willing to consider in order to make this work? 

    Many couples have reported that they’re happier in a relationship when their individual goals are clear to them. Yes, sometimes it seems heartless to break off a relationship just because the other’s goals aren’t aligned with yours, but in the long run, that strategy seems to work. 

    On the other hand, you’ll find that once you make your goals clear to yourself, and eventually to your partner, they’re already aligned with the way of life that you both have planned for yourselves. Sometimes, all it takes to bring you closer to your partner is to let him or her know where you see things going with regard to the relationship. 

  • Meet Each Other Consistently
  • If you are able to meet each twice a month, in spite of your circumstances, it’s great! If not, try and figure out exactly how often you can meet, but ensure that you’re consistent. Remember, relationships are in essence a commitment between two people. So, texting through the day to let one another in on what’s going on is great, but it is no substitute for physical closeness.

    If it's not practical to meet, you need to find a way to bridge this distance, and technology is a great way to do this.

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    Many couples have reported that Skype is great in the first few months of going long-distance but it starts to get frustrating after a while. After all, what’s the difference between having a relationship with a confluence of feel-good information coming at you virtually, and an actual person? Physical contact matters. When you choose to meet each other regularly, even if that’s once in a few months, you are able to make sense of everything that you’ve brought forth in the relationship virtually. And this is no small thing.

  • Explore Your Interests, Solidify Your Independence
  • It is to the detriment of a relationship that one of the partners loses his or her individuality pining for a pipedream. This is so critically important to understand. Relationships aren’t set in stone; they’re dynamic, and each partner has a role to play in a journey that unfolds over time. When one partner is so invested in the future of the relationship that he forgets to pay attention to what’s going on around him, he is likely to bring that same attitude to the relationship and ignore the needs of his partner. 

    It really helps one’s development to engage with one’s friends, family, career opportunities, and eventually adapt oneself to diverse environments. And in this sense, long-distance relationships play a critical role. When you have ample time to explore new horizons without your partner there with you physically, you are presented with several opportunities to nurture your individuality. There is no need to shy away from your own interests - enjoy them; become exactly who you were meant to be. And your partner will secretly thank you for it. You may even take up activities that you would have missed if not for the situation you;ve been thrown into. 

  • Touch the Sky(pe) 
  • There’s no way around it: you’ve got to be present on Skype or any other “long-distance solution” that presents itself to the human race. It can actually turn out to be quite exciting. Do you remember back in the day when you would tune into a particular channel on the television at a particular time to catch your favorite show. Well, you can leave that safely behind and tune into your relationship, your future! Today, there are so many things you can do on Skype that superbly forge what real connection in those events would be like. We needn’t even get into the details, but you know what we’re talking about.

    When physical intimacy is off limits because of an external circumstance, you can always turn to Skype. It takes a little imagination, but you can always dress for the occasion and be there for your partner in the way that it counts. But it isn’t limited to that, you get to play both host and guest as you run something of a talk show to catch up on all that you’ve missed out on in your partner’s life!

  • Walking the Extra Mile From Afar
  • You know what’s incredible about long-distance relationships? You can let your partner know just how much you care by putting in extra effort into your connection that you might not have felt the need to otherwise. 

    Here’s an idea: think of a gift that your partner would like - better, ask her what she would love to have in a given moment. It may be a dish, or something you couldn’t have thought of yourself. You can order it from where you are and hit her with a surprise! There’s nothing that makes a partner feel more cherished than to be thought of when they’re least expecting it. 

    There are things that you can’t do for your partner just because of how separated you are from him or her by distance. But when the door closes, another one opens, right? When you gift your partner something to remember for the rest of his or her life, and that too, from a distance, you go beyond showing that you care. It goes beyond gratitude. It means you are moved by the relationship, and you want to share the same feeling with your partner. 

    Navigating the Stages of a Long-Distance Relationship

  • The Beginning of Seeing Each Other Long-Distance 
  • When two people have already settled into a committed relationship that’s built on the security of physical proximity, moving into the “long-distance” zone can be disconcerting. When you are with a person in real life, you connect with them. You get a glimpse of their body language, the way they respond to your expression of who you are, and vice-versa. You also develop a good understanding of your areas of comfort, and look at some of the others that can be further developed. Needless to say, they are going to have to face a number of challenges along the way; but it doesn’t need to invite frustration and disappointment.   

    The first few months of a long-distance relationship can be just as exciting as it is unsettling. Firstly, you are most likely moving communication into the virtual sphere, so that comes with its own set of perks. You can fix a time each day to spend with your partner on virtual call or camera, and before you know it, you will have developed such a camaraderie that you dive right into the flow of things. 

    This is the phase of transition. There are a lot of couples that find this stage extremely difficult, mostly because it’s too much of a change from their usual ways of doing things. Look at this way: if, for whatever reason, things have become too routine in the relationship, you can actually use this transitional process to rekindle the romance with your partner. Make a list of all of the things you used to do in the beginning of your relationship, and do them again - maybe slightly differently - online.   

  • Getting to Know Each Other Once Again Through the Lens of “Long-Distance”
  • Romantic relationships are complicated. We start out with the best intentions, and in doing so, we may even exile parts of our own individual personalities by labeling them “bad” or knowing that they may stir up uncomfortable feelings in others. In a normal, healthy relationship, each partner lets his or her guard down over time and does his bit in bringing the relationship to a place of authenticity. Without authenticity, a relationship cannot flower and flourish. 

    If circumstances have brought the long-distance equation upon your relationship, and you still have things to work out between each other, this may be the universe’s way of saying, “Hey, now’s the time. Do it!”. We don’t always get second chances in life, so it’s really beautiful when partners can turn every challenge in their relationship into an opportunity. And developing a healthy relationship within the frame of long-distance communication is certainly one such opportunity. When you have less time to spend with each other, you boldly meet the realization that every moment is precious. 

    Here’s another tip that might prove to be critical: catch yourself when you begin to idealize your partner. When you are separated by time and distance, doubts and concerns creep in every once in a while. It’s easy to fall into the trap of countering them through fantasy. But in all seriousness that can be a bad road to get on. There’s no overstating just how important transparent communication is. When you have precious little time to spend with each other, it’s all the more important that you are honest about where you’re at. And when you are, you’ll find that the moments of pleasure in each other’s company just multiplies.  

  • Making the Long-Distance Relationship Work
  • Yes, as we’ve just established, honest and transparent communication is important. But there’s more, of course. Many couples find that when they talk about their long-term plans and goals, and chart out their journey together, they are a lot happier. So, it’s not just about being honest about your joys, worries, doubts, successes, and fears, it’s also about figuring out exactly where the relationship is heading

    Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself and your partner: how long are we prepared to keep this long-distance? What are our plans after? Should we make concrete plans to live together at some point in the future? These aren’t questions that you can expect answers to fall in from the skies to close in a jiffy - they take time to address, and a range of external situations to consider as well. 

    But before you go too deep into the long-term plan, you could easily figure out the best possible ways to make each other’s visits more frequent. As we’ve already discussed, physical intimacy forms the bane of romantic relationships, so you want to be able to spend as much time together as you possibly can. There isn’t a thing in the world that can truly replace the human touch of your partner in a relationship. 

    Happiness in a relationship needn’t be a lofty goal, it’s just a natural consequence of things falling into place and your being comfortable in each other’s presence. The long-distance zone can be a blessing if both partners are able to visualize the larger picture together. 

  • Ending the Long-Distance Relationship
  • In the context of human relationships, the word “ending” can sound rather negative and a bit harsh. But here, we’re simply talking about a long-distance relationship coming to its natural end. The way this phase plays out depends entirely on your circumstances, how you’ve made the long-distance relationship work, and how you want to take it forward. 

    But look, we know: things aren’t that simple. Most individuals have at least a vague semblance of how they want their future to turn out, and while they actively work towards it, sometimes life can just throw something else at you. When you move to a different location, there’s a good chance you will have revised your life plan. And it’s no different when the long-distance relationship comes to an end; whether or not you choose to remain together - maybe you need time to work things out on your own, maybe your love has just grown stronger - one thing is clear, things have to change. There is no alternative to change. It’s inevitable, and it is what keeps life flowing, no matter the direction. 

    So, what happens when a long-distance relationship ends? Well, you move into the next phase of your relationship? You move in together. Or you solidify your commitment to each other by getting married. Or, if things don't work out, you move on in your life and look back fondly. Whatever it may be, the long-distance zone will have had a lasting impact on your connection with each other. The way it ends depends largely on how you’ve been able to navigate the unfamiliar terrain. 

  • Forming a Deeper Connection After Going ‘Long-Distance’ 
  •  It may seem hard to believe, but many couples report that the challenges of a long-distance relationship helped them grow by leaps and bounds both individually and together. Indeed, some even come to believe that it may have been the best thing that ever happened to them. Of course, the opposite could play out as well. Just as many aren’t able to cross this particular hurdle, and it isn’t hard to understand why. Long-distance relationships are challenging, as we’ve seen, and they don’t come with instruction manuals. There’s no one-size-fits all solution to problems in human relationships.   

    Let’s assume though, that you have been able to overcome the challenges that your particular situation has thrown at you. Now it gets quite exciting. You have been able to integrate the difficult aspects of the relationship that have come up in the long-distance zone. How are you going to take this forward? How far can you travel together in a given moment, with the arc painted across your days spent in isolation together? 

    When the fog clears, you’ll find that you can look quite far ahead into the horizon. You may come to realize that your long-distance relationship - in the greater scheme of things - was really just a conduit to help you cross over to the next stage. If you’re in a loving, committed relationship that needed a gentle push into something you couldn’t understand before, you may find that you’re already where you need to be. If you’re married you may choose to renew your vows. What’s clear is, you’ve moved into the next phase of your relationship - and a hearty celebration is in order.

    Which Stage of the Relationship Are You and Your Partner Navigating?

    No matter how far into the relationship you and your partner are, effective communication just works. If you’re just about entering the long-distance phase, you might want to go easy on lofty dreams and settle instead on long-term goals that you can work towards. Here are a few questions you can ask each other: where do we see ourselves in a couple of years when this phase is over? How frequently are we going to be able to see each other? Are we going to live together at some point?

    If you’re already well on your way to making a long-distance relationship work for the long haul, it really helps to reflect regularly on its strengths and challenges. How well are you getting along? Has the long-distance phase turned out the way you had envisioned? If not, where do you believe it has fallen short? Journaling helps you take stock of your daily reflections, and gives it a framework within which you can explore different aspects of the relationship from your side. 

    On the other hand, it’s equally important to understand your partner’s side of things. How is she experiencing certain aspects of your relationship? Are they in line with yours? If not, where is the disconnect, and how do you move forward? Wonderful things can arise out of seemingly tense situations when you are able to visualize the larger picture and develop a clear path out of them. Needless to say, you need to keep checking in on your partner. 

    Boldly Entering a New Era of Human Connection 

    Let’s face it, gone are the days when couples would spend half their time worrying if they’re doing the “acceptable” thing by society’s standards, and the other half desperately trying to make things work. We’re not suggesting for one second that relationships weren’t beautiful in the bygone era, not by any stretch; on the contrary, there’s a romance to the old way of doing things that still rings true. And it always will. I mean, you’d have to be foolish to deny there’s a charm to old-fashioned ways. 

    And, yes, you needn’t do away with that aspect of the relationship. You can derive copious amounts of satisfaction from enjoying each other’s company within a comfort zone, but you might find new treasures as you explore new horizons. One of the most fascinating things about long-distance relationships is that it makes you revisit your notions about what nurtures human connection. 

    Look at this way; can you touch the deepest layers of trust and intimacy in your relationship that, even virtual connection - on skype or any other platform - instantly transforms into something real. To an old-fashioned romantic, that might seem almost sacrilegious. But for someone who is looking to successfully navigate the long-distance sphere, it might just be the key to unlocking new doors. 

    Many couples have reported that, in spite of early troubles with trying to connect with one another virtually, they have gone on to form strong bonds that gave them something they were lacking earlier. Following what we discussed earlier about turning every challenge into an opportunity, these couples have managed to understand their relationship from a new vantage point. 

    Looking at a thing from multiple angles may imply a kind of trouble detachment, or worse, a form of neurosis - but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, a partner can look at things from a slightly less emotional point of view, while at the same time feel him or herself flowing with love, empathy, compassion, and consideration for the other. Long-distance makes you look at different aspects of your relationship from a completely different angle, because you are forced to reckon with the fact that there is no physical contact most of the time. 

    Technology can be both a powerful tool and a wayward distraction. It really comes down to what you make of it, how you choose to use it, and how far you go with it. For instance, you may spend many hours of the day texting your partner on WhatsApp, sending out little love notes - but when the time comes for a skype call, you may feel tired and not up to it. Pretty soon, this becomes a routine in and of itself, and your partner is left frustrated and dissatisfied. What do you need to do? It’s only too obvious. You need to get on Skype and be completely present. If you can't, use Friendship Lamps to communicate succinctly and in a non-intrusive manner.

    When we speak about presence in a relationship, we are essentially understanding our roles as active listeners, consolers, and even close friends, to our partners. It’s easy to overlook just how important those roles are. In other words, we are the vessels through which our partners’ thoughts, feelings, dreams, and hopes come to life. And that is no small thing. Back in the day, lovers separated by circumstance would send long, beautiful letters to each other to express their experiences to each other. 

    Today, we’ve got these incredible tools like Skype at our disposal. A virtual call doesn’t need to be “virtual” in any but the most literal sense of the word; you can have real, natural, and dynamic relationships brought to the open on an application like Skype. Remember, this is a new endeavor for your partner as well, so before you begin, you both can kick things off on a high by explaining to one another why you’re excited about exploring this phase of your relationship. 

    Long-Distance Relationships: An Art in Disguise 

    In this article, we’ve thoroughly explored the nature of long-distance relationships in terms of their definitions, stages, needs, and challenges. But more importantly, we’ve looked at the fact that they are possible from various angles. Yes, we understand that relationships can be complicated, but they need never be unhealthy. Developing your relationship over time and across a long distance is something of an art, yet it’s disguised as a hurdle. 

    Navigating long-distance relationships, an art? How so? Well, break it down to its core elements, and you’ll find that it’s essentially a human endeavor that pursues the realm beyond logic. Why do we even choose to get into something where nothing is guaranteed as it would be in physical proximity? It’s because we are entering a new zone of experience. 

    You cultivate a sense of empathy to be present to your partner, validate his or her thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The relationship is a mirror - you learn about yourself as you learn about the other. You use your skills to communicate, and your energy to be there for your partner. You make space for brand new modes of expression to develop. Art. 

    It’s unfortunate that a great number of couples break up over their relationship going “long distance”. Some do so in anticipation of problems, and others at the first taste of trouble in a new context. But it’s worth noting that an equal number, if not more, persevere and go on to thrive like never before. The long-distance zone is something of a reflector. It brings out things in your relationship that you may not have had access to otherwise. 

    How often do we need to spend time with each other everyday? How much time do we need from one another? How do we proceed not to waste a single minute? What are our expectations from one another? And how often do we fulfill them? 

    Have you ever got that slightly uneasy feeling in your gut when you’re in familiar terrain and something completely new is thrown into the mix? It happens all the time, yet we don’t pay it any mind because we assume they don’t serve any great purpose in our lives. Well, that could be a kind of myopia on our part. 

    The more you inquire into the nature of your relationships, as we’ve explored in this article already, the more you come to discover how the important things fall into focus almost magically. It doesn’t mean you don’t do the work continually to make it happen - give it a nudge, at the very least - but that the effort is towards something that is already looming in the horizon.

    For instance, it’s not that you actively believed that listening to your partner’s experience of a regular work day didn’t matter, but you needed time apart for it to come to light. You’ve been wanting for a long time to get your loved one a beautiful gift that she’ll cherish for life, but you just haven’t been able to find the time. Now, in the midst of your long-distance relationship, you want to do something out of the blue and surprise your partner; your mind goes right back to that gift. Things just fall into place, but you play a hand, of course. That’s art, but getting there is a craft!

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