All you need is love. That is what the films and songs say, but what happens when your love or whole family is living hundreds, or even thousands of miles away in another country.
As the world is getting smaller, thanks mainly to social media and cheaper / more convenient air travel, it seems that more and more of us having long distance relationships before and in marriage. There are millions of people who are involved with long distance relationships, despite the preconceived notion that they just don’t work.
If you are one of the many millions of people who feel lonely right now because the love of your life (and perhaps children) are far away, console yourself with the thought that long distance relationships and marriages can, and do work. Some people have chosen to be in long distance relationships, while others are in the situation due to work commitments or financial reasons. This is prevalent across many know “expat cities” and “expat countries.” It is reported that there are at least 10 million people worldwide that are involved with long distance relationships of some sort. Thought you were the only person facing the challenges a long distance relationship can bring? Think again, I speak to many and below I have outlined some success secrets for you from those I have had the privilege to work with
- Share the travelling
Where possible share some of the travelling. Travelling takes up a lot of time and is exhausting for the traveler. Not to mention the cost if you are not married or sharing expenses. I have worked with several married expats who fly over 7 hours for a weekend every 4 or 5 weeks, they are wiped out by the time they get there, so if you have the option to share do so, so that neither of you get fed up.
- Plan enjoyable activities you have energy for
Alex was furious because every time he flew home he was greeted with a list of household chores to do, from fixing cars & bikes, painting rooms, putting up shelves, the list was never ending. His wife even promised that he would jobs for her sister and friend. This made him mad. After a hard week at work and the usual tiring air commute (packing, taxi, passport control, flight etc. ) he barely had the energy to watch a film, let alone get stuck into DIY. He felt like his wife no longer cared for, or was interested in him, she just wanted jobs done and his money. This is not uncommon, Nina another lady I worked with told me every time she stayed with her boyfriend she would spend the first 4 hours cleaning, as she couldn’t stand the mess. In both cases intimacy and affection was destroyed, as frustration set the mood for their time together. So think about the traveler and their energy levels when you plan activities. Don’t greet them with a “to do list” or hectic night out the first night they arrive, cook a romantic dinner or order a take out, so you can both relax and unwind, preferably alone.
- Ensure you have alone time but don’t isolate
Peter has lived away from his family for many years. Jobs at his level and salary are just not available in the UK. His wife has always refused to join him, arguing she and the children are settled. In the past 10 years, they have only had 1 full year together. Peter came to me to discuss whether his marriage was over or could be saved. I never judge or give my opinion on this matter, but I do help individuals and couples gain clarity on their most important emotional needs and help them establish whether their needs can and will be met by staying. We also review the relationship (highs and lows) to determine actions or discussion points to create positive change. One thing Peter found frustrating was that they never had any alone time. The children 9, 11 and 14 were with them all day and in the evenings his wife Susan went out. She saw his trips back home as an opportunity to put herself first, to see friends and do activities she couldn’t normally do being a full time mum. Peter was hurt she wouldn’t move out to be with him and hurt she went out when he came home, but didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to argue in the little time they had together. All relationships need some “together alone time” otherwise important needs such as affection and intimacy will not be met.
The reason I mention not to isolate is because some couples do the reverse and lock themselves in together and this can cause problems too. When Yusuf got a new job in Saudi Arabia, he flew home every 2 weeks. As husband and wife they felt that they ought to spend the 48 hours they had only with each other. This caused frustration for them both, as they turned down friends and things they used to enjoy. Boredom became a real issue, as they just stayed in together every weekend. Yusuf called me because he was concerned his frustration and boredom meant he had fallen out of love. After our chat he spoke to his wife and they started doing different activities, since then they have more appreciation for their alone time and their bond has become stronger.
- Be as open and honest as possible
Whilst apart keep the relationship alive by being open and honest about everything you are thinking, feeling and doing. Sharing your daily schedule, thoughts, plans builds trust. Trust is key for a long distance relationship. Without it, you may wonder what the other person is doing while you are not there or even doubt there fidelity to you. If you leave out information the quality time that you spend together on the end of a telephone line can quickly end up in mind games, destroying the small amount of time you do get to be close together. You do not have the luxury that “normal” couples have to make up, so making the most of this quality time should be top of your agenda. If the wonders do start creeping up on you, remember that your relationship is built on trust, love and respect.
- Agree regular communication
Jealousy can also come without regular communication. We’ve all been there… they don’t phone when they say they will and straight away your mind starts wandering… are they with someone else or can they not be bothered to speak to me, etc.? In order to avoid this, agree that you will phone, message, or email at least once a day. If you want this relationship to work, you need to feel like you are in a “regular” marriage and relationship, one where if you want to offload your troubles/share your news for the day, you know that he/she is there for you. If jealousy is an issue contact me I have a simple 2 session program that helps shift your mindset.
- Use a webcam or Skype whenever possible
Whilst this cannot compensate for actually being with someone, it’s a great way to keep in touch whilst you’re apart. The fact that you can see each other and are giving each other undivided attention is important. It is all too easy to be on the phone, whilst engaging in other activities such as watching TV, reading your emails / social media updates, driving, shopping, cooking etc. I have to admit, I am guilty of this one myself as I am always trying to do 3 things at once. But you can tell when someone is not fully listening and their attention is elsewhere. It is hurtful and frustrating for the person talking and can destroy communication. Good communication is the key to strengthen and keep your relationship a light whilst apart.
- Turn the away time into a positive
Don’t spend every night you’re not together wishing time away. Make the most of your independence (whilst still having a relationship) by learning a new skill, developing your career or business idea, socializing with friends, going to the gym or simply pampering yourself.
- Ensure you have a common goal
This is probably the most important one of all. If you are apart you need to have a reason and common purpose /goal for the future. A plan that you both value and are working together towards. For example you are living apart, so that you can have enough money to; put your children through private school, have a great retirement, get out of debt, look after family, buy your dream home, finish education, develop your career. Without a shared purpose or goal for the future, it is harder to keep the relationship alive.
Like any relationship, long distance relationships before, and in marriage require effort for them to succeed. Communication, trust, and honesty will strengthen your relationship whilst you’re apart. Working towards a common goal and ensuring you have time for just the two of you is also crucial. Love is never easy and should never be taken for granted as enough to make a relationship work. Whilst long distance relationships and marriages can be difficult, they can work and do work for many couples if both parties put in the effort.
I would love for you to share your tips to help more people post them below or send them to me anonymously to me and I will post them.
Hope this is of value to you or someone you know, from my heart to yours