Friends and fellow long-distance friendship peeps (which is pretty much both of us right now, am I right?)… What wild days we live in.
I am a tension, trauma, and resilience specialist. I mainly deal with humanitarian and disaster relief organizations. I’ve been in more than one medical situation. I’m married to someone who has made a profession out of living in areas like refugee settlements and isolated villages. We have a lot of experience coping with disasters between us… And to us, what is happening in the universe right now seems unreal and surreal. So, if the activities of the last month or two have left you feeling shell-shocked, you are not alone.
Even if you’re feeling alone and estranged from the ones you care for right now, you are most emphatically NOT ALONE. About everybody on the planet is now involved in a long-distance partnership (or several of them). I’m in a long-distance relationship with my husband for the umpteenth time (though, interestingly, for the first time, we’re both together in the same CITY and a long-distance relationship.)
Mike, my partner, has spent most of the last two months in the Solomon Islands. He’s back in Australia now, but he’s spending 14 days in our house by himself. To make everybody as healthy as possible, I’ve taken the boys to live with my parents down the road for the time being.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a long-distance reunion in which we couldn’t even exchange a wave after he returned home before splitting up for another two weeks. It was also my birthday the day after he returned. The featured illustration above depicts us having a good time. I have a husband on Facetime, half a cake (I’m not sure what happened to the other half), and one boy who is WAY too fond of matches.
Like I Previously Said, these are Insane Days
But there you have it. When I haven’t been breaking up iPad battles, supervising the kids at kindergarten, or writing materials for work on dealing with tension, anxiety, and loneliness, I’ve been thinking about you and wondering what tips I can give you–offer all of us–on maintaining our long-distance relationships intact through this epic and prolonged season of confusion and anxiety.
But, without further ado, here is…
Discuss How You’re Feeling and what you’re Trying to Cope with
Almost everybody is under a lot of pressure right now. You may have missed the career (or be about to). You never know when you’ll run into each other again. You may be stranded anywhere and unable to get home. You may be stressed out of your mind about friends and relatives. You may be bored out of your mind and cooped up. You may be feeling stressed, tired, and depressed. Bottom line, we’re all going to be out of our heads for a while in the coming weeks (and probably, sigh, months).
Talking about it may be beneficial. But speak to each other about the worries and frustrations, as well as the extreme ups and downs we’re both going through right now. Discuss what you’re thankful for, depressed for, and afraid of. Discuss how this helps you remember and wonder. Discuss the little light points of your day. Discuss how your life is evolving and what you’re experiencing. Talking (and writing) about your journey can make you appreciate it and feel closer to each other even though you can’t be in the same space together.
We’re both moving on this emotional process together, even though we’re not physically together, and even though we’re unlikely to be at the same stage in the path at the same time. Being at various emotional stages on a common path may be kindness in certain respects. It means you’re unlikely to be feeling low-low-low at the same moment, which brings me to my next step…
Recognize that you won’t be able to help them right away, and just Concentrate on Listening
Being in a long-distance partnership is especially frustrating when your partner is hurting and you feel unable to support them. However, guess what? In the coming weeks and months, we will ALL be hurting at times. Probably in significant respects. So we won’t be there to physically assist and console them. But, what does this imply?
It means we embrace these realities and don’t contest them as much. We understand that our companions will have horrible, difficult days where they weep on Facetime and we won’t be able to repair things for them. We agree that they will be on struggle street on days that we sound like we’re performing fine, and vice versa. We recognize that the greatest thing we can do for each other right now is to turn up, share, listen (really listen), and strive to grasp what each of us is going through. Know that we can’t “fix” anything with the person we care for. We will wish to, but we are unable to. Not in the sense to “improve the condition.”
But here’s the catch. When we embrace this, we realize what a strong blessing our involvement and focus are. It helps when we turn up, listen, and care. It simply does. It’s almost like sorcery. So remember this… anytime your spouse is having a tough day, listen to them and remind them you support them and wish you could be there… it will help. It’s as plain as that.
Discuss Topics Other than Covid-19
Bring up Covid-19. In reality, it’s probably hard not to chat about what’s going on right now, and it’d be strange not to. After all, this is the stuff of futuristic fiction. Health-care services are collapsing, economies are on the verge of collapsing, crime is skyrocketing, doctors and experts are rushing to develop a vaccine or cure, classrooms and boundaries are closing for who knows how long… What is going on right now in the making of history? We’d be insane not to discuss it on a global basis, and we can certainly discuss it on a specific level.
But… and this is crucial. It should not be the only topic we discuss.
Mike and I made a rule for ourselves last week… There will be no COVID discussion until 7 p.m.
Women, we need to sleep for the sake of our work, our sanity, and our baby. And, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a hard time sleeping this month. And though the kids were already sleeping at 5 a.m., I was wide awake. Of course, I arose and began working, because when you work from home, work takes precedence. That, however, is a topic for a future column. Here’s my point on this one: try to maintain your sleep and happiness as much as possible by only worrying about mundane topics.
Discuss your parents, your children, or your dog. Discuss what you’re reading. Discuss a potential vacation you’d like to take together. Discuss what you’re viewing on TV or Netflix. Whatever it is, chat about normal things while you have the opportunity.
Be Prepared to Feel Very Bored at Times
I also gave you a couple of topics to chat about that aren’t COVID-19, but I just want you to know this: You’re going to feel very dull a lot of the time.
The irony is that most of us are at home most of the time, and mad dog (or parent) tales will only take you so far. Several days will be the same, and we will feel as though we don’t have anything to tell.
That’s fine. That’s perfectly natural. Take a slow breath and begin to relax the muscles.
This brings me to my next step…
Expect a Lot of Fast Check-ins Rather than Long Video Calls
Another fact at work here that we must investigate is that being extremely depressed finds it difficult to focus, concentrate, and stay still.
Have you seen something similar in yourself this month?
And it is not exclusive to the workplace. It will find it difficult to focus on something. I’m a voracious student. I’m referring to AVID. So I don’t want to learn at night right now. What I seem to have the bandwidth for is light television. Anything with gorgeous scenery and some relationship dramas, but nothing too frightening or intense.
My message here is that failing to concentrate ensures that you and your wife will have days (probably a lot of them) when you simply can’t focus properly on each other… no matter how much you value each other. When on Facetime, you’ll catch yourself reading your job email or browsing news websites. You’ll be unable to remain still. You won’t have the energy or endurance for an hour-long heart-to-heart.
That’s fine. This loss of concentration is a common stress reaction. When we are tired and feel endangered, our bodies and minds tell us to pay heed to the challenge. This is how our bodies and brains want us to live, you see? However, in a partnership, this may manifest as a lack of concern, a lack of presence, and a lack of engagement.
People, we do care. However, we are very nervous. When you find your companion reading their work email in the middle of a video date, try not to take it personally. It’s not cool, but give them some leeway before it becomes a trend.
And, for a time, opt for fast check-ins rather than lengthy video dates. Make touch. Please say hi. Catch up briefly before saying goodbye. Attempting to wait on camera with your wife for hours on end and genuinely bond emotionally with each other day after day is impossible to perform well right now. When those long chats arise, treasure them, and don’t want them to happen every day.
Try to contact me at least once a day, even if it’s only by email. What methods do you use to stay in contact daily, including though you’re too exhausted or overwhelmed to speak deeply? Do you give a good morning or good night text? These little points of contact are very important to the individual on the other end of the line.
Be Inventive for Certain Weekly Tasks (or twice-monthly video dates)
But I think I’ve conveyed the idea that IT’S OKAY NOT TO HAVE BIG INTERESTING TALKS EVERY DAY. In reality, if you’re seeing them once or twice a week right now, you’re doing fantastic.
But just because bridging the gap in your LDR is more difficult than ever, it doesn’t mean you can’t get outside of your comfort zone and get imaginative now and then. So, if you may, be imaginative and try for other avenues to communicate.
Remember on some days you won’t be able to do this because you’ll be feeling stressed and irritable, and worrying about something else can sound ridiculously pointless, and that’s perfectly well. Please try again tomorrow. Or maybe next week.
Consider the Potential
Folks, this season is coming to a close. It’s not going to stop as soon as we’d like, and it’s going to get ugly, isolated, and sad in some ways. But everything will come to an end, and things will return to normal.
You’ll get past this.
It won’t seem like that every day, but believe me when I say you do. Humanity has overcome pandemics before, and marriages have survived long periods of separation and a lot more time, frustration, and waiting than anybody wanted. In reality, some couples can tell you that times like these have brought them closer, tougher, braver, and more certain of the pillar on which their love is built. They have more confidence and admiration for one another. And they cherish every second and every day they have together.
So persevere (and visit this page for some inspiring long-distance relationship quotes if you need a further boost). I know this is a frightening and isolated moment for all of you. But, in the middle of it all, I wish you bright moments of love, harmony, and contentment. Those times can not make the sadness go out, but they can help you remain alive, and that is our biggest mission right now… to stay afloat with as much grace, good humor, patience, and kindness as we can.
During these difficult times, I wish you all the best.