Can distance make the heart grow stronger?
It didn’t feel like it when I stood in the airport concourse and watched my boyfriend walk away. I was launching into a new life, new job, a new state and knew we’d see each other often but unless one of us changed our plans, the prognosis for a long term, long distance relationship didn’t look good.
No one has ever recommended a long distance love affair – unless they’re secretly or subconsciously hoping to break up. With the rigors of super-commuting and business travel, or a dozen other reasons, many couples make their affair work but it demands conscious effort from both parties to keep a long distance relationship alive.
I’d been in denial about the conscious effort on both parts with that relationship years ago and it fell apart within months. With the recovery, came the realization that it would’ve anyway. Since then, over the years of falling in and out of love and on trips together and not, I’ve finally discovered a strong and lasting life partner, and our love of travel, whether together or not, keeps us going strong.
Throughout history loving couples have been separated by work, family obligations and wars. They’d court by mail. Many inspired novels, movies, love poems and letters are classics based on longing and waiting. Answering machines and land lines helped but it’s so much easier now that WiFi, Skype and texting makes ‘seeing’ each other a daily option.
Sometimes too, taking a break from a relationship, from the ingrained day to day patterns, from kids and daily rituals, can bring spice back into your love life. Traveling separately may be a much-needed break to clear one’s head and get grounded again in who you really are and were when you fell in love. It’s returning, coming home, that can pivot the heart towards greater tenderness than ever.
Spending time apart doesn’t have to be a death knell at all, it inspires and brings couples together all the time. It’s a bit scary and that can rekindle a passion and remembrance of how precious you are to one another and why you fell in the first place. One commentary that’s gone viral is the satirical, Don’t date a girl who travels post from Medium.com. As the writer points out, a little independence in a relationship can be a wonderful thing.
Megan Bearce, a licensed marriage and family therapist, is the author of Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When A Job Keeps You Apart. Here’s a few of her suggestions for Valentine’s Day and the rest of the year:
- Arrange for a special delivery if your partner is away. Contact an administrative assistant at their company or call the concierge at the hotel. These professionals can be a great help playing ‘Cupid’ while delivering flowers to the office, meeting or hotel room, or placing a special present on the hotel bed.
- Let your loved one know there’s a surprise waiting for their return. Throughout Valentines Day for example, or any significant day for the two of you, text, or email photos with clues. Make the hints mysterious and fun.
- Chances are your relationship has a sound track from the days when you first got together. Surprise your partner with a ‘mix-tape’ and send it in an e-mail with the file set to play upon opening or tuck it into their carry-on bag or into a Valentine’s Day card.
Working through a long distance relationship? Let your imagination soar and even though there’s distance between you now, it won’t always be that way and you’ll hold one another again soon.
We did distance when Tim went to school in NYC, we had already been together for 6 years. It took some getting used to but it worked. This was before internet so we talked on the phone every night and wrote long letters. So much more romantic than a text message 🙂
Aloha Elaine – very thoughtful piece. Distance changes the lens through which we see the relationship. Not for good or bad necessarily, but for different.
It’s true travel is transformational on so many levels. I like thinking it’s always enriching but as with many experiences there are pluses and minuses. Thanks for the comment.
One problem with long distance relationships is that the distance can make the heart grow fonder when it probably shouldn’t. Been there. Done that.
You crack me up! There’s probably some wisdom in that perspective as attachments can hold us in their grasp for so many reasons – not all of them good. Thanks for writing!
It works for me! ha!
Those are some great ideas for keeping the spark alive when you’re apart. For the past several years, I’ve been spending 2-3 months ( or more) in Mexico and Guatemala while my husband stays up in Canada with just occasional trips south. It’s extra bizarre when I’m in Guatemala with his family and he’s up north with mine! But as you point out, it does have its positives and negatives.
That’s a trying schedule relationship or no. I firmly believe that whatever works for you, just does and that makes it right – for now and until things change. Sounds like you have a special connection. Thanks for sharing.
Technology has really made long-distance relationships so much easier than they were a generation ago.
You can say that again! When I think about sending only 5 postcards while backpacking through Asia in the 1970’s, I wonder how my parents adapted. At least today we have better options and can share so much more easily. Thanks for writing.
My husband and I lived 2 hours from each other when we first met and then started dating. We survived a semi-long distance relationship, bad work schedules and huge phone bill and got engaged 2 months after we met. We moved in together 1 month before we got married – 20 yrs ago. We both adjusted our commute to be together. We knew each other only 5 months before marrying. The long distance romance can work, if you want it to!
Wow. That’s a great story and gives me so much faith in making things work no matter what. Sounds like you two have a very special relationship.
Thanks for the comment, Elaine