I have had a very difficult relationship with the telephone.
When my husband and I were first married, we spent four wonderful weeks together immediately after the wedding and then it was twelve months before we saw each other again.
That’s right, I have the phone bills to prove it!
Due to the complexity of our immigration case and the evidence of my corporate work, we were separated for the first year of our marriage. My sister moved in to support me, and every night she entered into a strange relationship of dependency with the other occupant of the house: the telephone. From the heights of a honeymoon to the depths of a committed dial tone, long-distance love has far greater power than your in-laws to put the romance of your relationship on hold.
Leave me hanging on the phone
There is no greater symbol of long-distance love than the telephone. It can be both a tangible connection with your loved one and a cold, impersonal device that refuses to obey your commands.
For me it took on the personality of a huge black toad.
He eyed me warily when I found excuses to walk past him every few minutes.
When he finally came to life, I never knew if he would transform into my beloved prince or a call center telemarketer trying to sell me garage doors. A silenced phone is a shocking betrayal. It can come to embody all the doubts and misunderstandings of your relationship.
But long-distance romance doesn’t just reside in the telephone receiver.
The challenge is to create a reality that you and your partner share, in which the distance that separates you is just one aspect of your relationship.
Finding ways to keep the romance fresh and thriving is the second and biggest challenge!
Dial tone decoding
The six basic rules of communication still apply when your relationship is long distance:
- know your audience
- Know your Purpose
- know your topic
- anticipate misunderstandings
- Communicate little by little
- Present the information in various ways.
But how do you transform a simple communication into a romantic exchange when there is an ocean between you?
The hardest thing about long distance love is the loss of the physical. And before you knowingly smile, I mean the intimacy of non-verbal communication. Words can be deceiving and tone can be misunderstood, but body language communicates meaning on another level. Without this powerful interaction, the language of love can be as forced and cold as the prissy British voice informing you that the credit on your phone card has just expired.
The Long Distance Love Survival Guide
So here are some tips on how the distance that separates you can really bring you closer:
- write love letters — Writing letters is much more tangible and valuable than emails or text messages. They are created by your own hands and carry your scent. It’s also more difficult to plan and edit your letter, which often results in more honest communication. Remember to take the time to shop for beautiful paper. Splurge on a special pen. Make it an experience you enjoy and one that reflects the time and energy your relationship deserves.
- Make the most of local love — Recruit your friends and family to keep the feeling of love alive. Don’t relegate your relationship to the “same old” pile, but talk about it as if your partner just walked out the door. Visit old haunts and keep in touch with your friends to make sure it remains a tangible part of your life.
- Create your own Rituals — Just because you’re not face to face shouldn’t stop you from adding depth and substance to your relationship. Trade riddles or dares, do a phone marathon one night a week, send silly postcards from local tourist traps, or create your own long-distance language that includes special words that only you and your partner understand. Keep things fresh and fun and the relationship will flourish.
- Keep your feet on the ground — It can be very liberating to be able to enjoy whispered words of love, but it’s also important to balance fantasy with everyday conversations. Once reunited, the mundane will also have a place in your relationship. Stay informed about things at work, in your family, and in your community. When he returns, they will more easily slip into their “real life” together.
- keep your perspective — It’s easy to lose your footing when you depend on a government utility company to bring you closer to your loved one. As in my case, you can become obsessed with the phone that never rings. Don’t look for hidden messages in the static or try to read between the lines of your partner’s letters. Trust the relationship and be honest and direct about your doubts.
- Protect your personal space — It is also important not to let the absence of your partner take over your life. Don’t put important things on hold. Consult him about big decisions, but make sure your own growth and identity continue to evolve. Remember that he will be changing and growing and will strengthen your relationship if he has his own new experiences to share.
- acknowledge your loss — You must be very honest about the gap that exists due to the absence of your loved one. Like any change in your life, acknowledge its existence and plan for the challenges it brings. Also acknowledge what you’re missing. There may be times when you feel homesick or miss an important event. Keep him informed, but be careful when sharing important news that will make him feel a long way from home.
- Avoid the surrogate partner — By transferring all your emotional needs to a friend of the opposite sex, you are setting someone up for a fall. Crying on a friend’s shoulder is understandable, but turning that person into a surrogate partner threatens both your friendship and your long-distance relationship. Share your needs with your friends and family and reserve your most intimate interactions for your partner.
- expect to be disappointed — As daunting as it sounds, it’s important to prepare for the anticlimax. All that energy you put into planning, dreaming, and wishing for the moment of your meeting cannot be sustained once the event has occurred. Both of you will have changed, you will feel a little out of step with each other and the old intimacy may succumb to the strangeness of the situation. Take heart. Eventually, you will get your groove back and if you continue to talk openly about your feelings and needs, your relationship will be stronger than ever.