Prior to the arrival of corona virus, I have participated in a few long distance relationships. I have abundant experience in what seems to be a terrifying obstacle — space. However, this can be the very thing that brings you closer together.
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Manage your expectations
An invaluable relationship tool we are all familiar with – communication. In a long distance relationship you do this in bucket loads, its all you can do quite frankly. Therefore it is a good idea to have a conversation where you ask your partner how often they would like to text, face time or zoom. Get specific. Are you going to text all day and video chat before bed? Are you going to cut out texting and call three days a week instead? Every couple will be different and individuals within the relationship may be different too, so compromise will have to be incorporated. I have found that conversations about expectations avoid disappointment and future arguments.
The pandemic is a time of enormous stress, uncertainty and anxiety¹. Everyone reacts to stress differently so it is important to decipher what is a relationship issue and what is simply a response to a difficult time. I think the majority of issues are the latter, therefore it’s important to not take your partners’ moods personally at this time. People are navigating difficult living situations, financial uncertainty, unemployment, exams and working from home right now. It’s a natural reaction to take stress out on those closest to us and lack of control is a major trigger for many of us. It is new territory for us all so we should try adopt an attitude of support rather than reaction. You don’t have to show up to everyone argument you are invited to.
Distance equals insecurity (for some!)
Depending on your relationship attachment style, distance could make you feel very insecure in your relationship and in yourself². In a previous long distance relationship,the thought of space struck me cold with fear. There are three types of attachment styles and it is really useful to find which one resonates with you. The first type is the anxiously attached individual, this is the person who is branded clingy, insecure and has low self esteem. They are dealing with fears of abandonment from childhood and past relationships. The second attachment style is the avoidant. They are the partner of the anxious individual and they fear commitment, getting too close in the fear that they will get hurt. They are trying to protect themselves in a futile manner. This results in a very unhealthy relationship . A classic example of this couple in action is the anxiously attached individual getting upset their partner is not in contact frequently enough in their opinion and the avoidant partner telling them to ‘get a hobby’.This painful cycle repeats itself until intervention by a therapist and self awareness, resulting in a secure attachment style. This is a balanced giving and receiving by both parties. Personally moving from an anxious style to secure attachment style through therapy has made long distance so much easier.
Respect each others boundaries
This is the usual hallmark of the classic codependent relationship — a complete lack of respect of someones’ individual autonomy. After the discussion on your expectations about how much time you will spend together (virtually), respect the agreement³. If your girlfriend says she cant chat on Thursday nights because she has a zoom quiz with the girls, respect that. If your boyfriend can’t video call at 8pm because he plays the Playstation with his friends at that time, that equally must be respected. Although people are home at this time they are still entitled to spend individual time with family members and friends in person or virtually. Boundary setting does not have to be awkward or aggressive. Simply state your boundary in as few words as necessary, don’t feel the need to justify your boundary or feel guilty. Boundary setting is self care and the compromise is that you both have your own boundaries. If you are wondering if you should be setting this boundary, you will know when someone is invading a boundary — it makes you uncomfortable and its painful. Set that boundary, it will be beneficial to you and the relationship.
Spice things up
Isolation is pretty boring. Sometimes the video calls lack substance but definitely use this time to talk about things you wouldn’t normally. Video calls whilst you are cooking , finishing that assignment or going for your walk feels like hanging out in reality and takes the pressure off coming up with something to say. Watching series together is brilliant. Simply set up your TV series or movie on your laptop and have your partner on the phone via video call and you are watching a movie together! Intimacy is also an aspect of the relationship that needs to be preserved best as possible. Every couple will have different values on how far they want to push the boat out. With trust and consent on both parties sides- nude photos/snapchats and skype sex is good for keeping the spark alive.These can be awkward to begin with, but don’t take yourselves too seriously. Playfulness is definitely something the world is lacking right now.
Best of luck with your relationships during this time, stay patient and believe in your ability to adapt and overcome. You might surprise yourself!
Centers for disease control and prevention. (2020). Stress and coping . Available: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html.
Meek, W. (2020). How Anxiety May Affect Your Relationships. Available: https://www.verywellmind.com/how-anxiety-can-cause-relationship-problems-1393090.
Violence Intervention and Prevention Center. (unknown). How to Create Healthy Boundaries. Available: https://www.uky.edu/hr/sites/www.uky.edu.hr/files/wellness/images/Conf14_Boundaries.pdf.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love and is republished here with permission from the author.
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