I've just entered my first long-distance relationship, and I am slowly navigating this unknown terrain of late-night phone calls, endless yearning, and hopefully travelling over oceans and across hundreds of miles to see my partner once the global lockdowns have been lifted.
It goes against everything I have sought in the past — building a life together with someone, physical proximity and a sense of security rooted in a shared home. I never thought I was wired to work through distance, time differences and geographical separation.
But, as with many couples across the globe, the coronavirus has necessitated a new way of being in a relationship — an improvised kind of love.
It's hard to turn your back on love because it is a rare thing that demands to be seen, felt and experienced, even from a distance and in a time of crisis.
So, when love happens in the time of coronavirus, you will find your life taking strange and unexpected turns.
Many couples find themselves pursuing love despite the impractical reality of having to live apart — in different towns, cities, countries or perhaps even different continents.
With the advancement of technology over the last twenty years, long-distance relationships, or LDR’s as they are commonly called, have become much easier to manage than in the past.
The days of paying a steep price to hear your loved one’s voice over the phone for ten precious minutes, or waiting impatiently for the post to be delivered once a week are over — thankfully.
Despite this, many people remain skeptical about LDR’s and their long-term viability. And it's not only the lockdown period that's worrying, those who don't live in close proximity to each other get concerned about logistics post-Covid-19.
The practical issues around travelling costs and the headaches of visas, coupled with weeks or months of loneliness and lack of physical contact, can be overwhelming and can slowly create cracks in the connection. Issues around trust and fidelity can also wear down the relationship over time.
On the other hand, many believe that this type of relationship can, in fact, bring couples closer together. Long-distance couples have to put in extra work to ensure that they stay connected to their partners.
Psychologist, Karen Blair, backs this up by explaining that “distance forces couples to work on aspects that traditional relationships often take for granted, thus encouraging sharing.”
There is also something to be said of making the most of the limited time you get with your partner. The simplest moments can be stretched out and filled with a profound connection and gratitude.
Shelly, who was in a long-distance relationship for nine months, experienced this heightened reality every time she saw her partner. On the flip side of the coin was the difficulty of having to say goodbye. She says it was always a “bittersweet” experience. In the end, her relationship did not last because money and time became an issue. Data and airtime costs can pile up quite quickly if you're spending hours on the phone daily.
Ayanda, on the other hand, has been in a long-distance relationship for three years — no small feat. She will finally be getting married and sharing a home with her fiancé soon.
She attributes the “success” of her relationship to the fact that they knew it was not a permanent situation. Other factors that enabled them to weather the distance and time apart include their fixed daily communication rituals and the fact that they both enjoy and value their independence and space.
Esther Perel, a relationship guru, has dedicated her life’s work to studying couples. She has identified the importance of space and mystery in a relationship. She believes that in the same way that fire needs air, desire needs space.
She has also identified our fundamental human need for safety, predictability, permanence and stability. LDR’s could potentially thrive, given a good balance between these two contrary needs.
But, how can stability and safety be achieved in a long-distance relationship, and how can we ensure it's given the best chance of survival?
I asked Shelly and Ayanda this question, and also drew on my own experience to create seven tips for couples braving long stretches of distance and time apart in the name of love.
Seven tips for making long-distance relationships last:
1 - Have regular communication rituals and plan visits.
2 - Send each other video clips, photos, and voice notes as often as possible to lessen the distance and foster closeness.
3 - Discuss the future and make sure you both have the same goals: it makes it easier if you know it's temporary.
4 - Stay connected by sharing the day-to-day happenings of your life with your partner.
5 - Be vulnerable: stay transparent and keep communication honest and open.
6 - Focus on the positives and don’t let insecurity get the best of you.
7 - Cultivate independence: don’t put your life on hold — keep living your own life.
Here's to lockdown love! Who knows, with these tips you may be next to be featured on our wedding pages!
What's your love story? Tell us about it here.