If you come across an article about long-distance relationships, it’s most likely to be about how to keep the flames of passion burning and lines of communication open. I too have written a number of pieces on the topic and those are undoubtedly important things. Otherwise, seriously, what’s the point?
But what should you do with yourself during the hours when you aren’t Skype-ing with your beloved, aren’t working, aren’t watching TV or engaging in some similarly distracting activity? Those are the hours in which the despair, frustration, and loneliness are bound to creep in.
During the times you aren’t interacting with your partner, a long-distance relationship can feel like a lot like being single – only with all of its pitfalls (periods of feeling lonely) and none of its perks (going on casual dates).
I found myself in such a sinkhole just last week. I work from home, and it was pretty quiet on the work front. When I was done with everything I needed to do for the day, I was left with all this time left on my hands. I tried filling the hours by sending out more emails, trying to get in the zone to think of ways to get the business to run better. But with everything on my to-do list crossed out, I was at a complete loss, and my mind started to wander to Alain. I started missing him, terribly, and the feeling was one of deep despair because I still don’t know when I’m going to see him again. I don’t know when I’m going to start making enough money to buy a plane ticket to Europe. I don’t know how we are going to be together in the long term.
It was a despair mixed with a kind of hopeless frustration. And it was paralyzing. For a few days, I lost the energy to just … do stuff. When I woke up, all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and not have to think about facing another day without him. Everything started to feel like a drag and a chore, even the things I used to love doing.
That went on for a few days until some kind of survival instinct kicked in. This was not the first time in my life I felt crippled by my emotions so I knew, somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, that I was completely capable of pulling myself out this funk.
But I knew I couldn’t do it without a little help from my friends. As a pretty emotionally self-reliant person, it felt quite embarrassing having to tell people (even my closest friends) that I needed their help to get me out of my rut. But once I did, I found myself surprised at how my nearest and dearest rallied together to help me. My best friend told me to call her up anytime – even though we hadn’t had a phone conversation in years. Yet another friend texted me to tell me we should meet for afternoon tea after seeing one of my emo (and drunkenly posted) Facebook statuses.
And that’s when I realised what was step one of maintaining your sanity in a long-distance relationship: Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Those social interactions helped me come out of my shell, and it just got easier from there. Early this week, I got over my inertia enough to sign up to train at a new martial arts gym. I love the training sessions there, and it is something I look forward to doing every day. When I train, I feel engaged, alive and have a newfound sense of purpose.
And step two of surviving a long-distance relationship: Invest in yourself.
When you are fully engaged in an activity you love doing, you will naturally feel more enriched and somehow more “complete”. This has loads of benefits. not just for you, but also for your relationship.
See, the thing about being in a long-distance relationship is that you shouldn’t stop growing and improving as a person even though your partner isn’t around. Once you let yourself stagnate, your relationship – whether or not it’s a long-distance one – will follow suit. The healthiest relationships are the ones where two individuals always strive and support each other to become the best versions of themselves. I may have been miserable because I miss Alain so much, but I know (and he has told me so) that he always wants for me to be happy and thriving, regardless of whether he’s around. And I want exactly the same for him.
Of course, our end goal is to eventually be together. But in the meantime, despite how it may be depicted in Hollywood movies, not everything has to come to a standstill just because we cannot be with each other at the present moment. As individuals, we just have to keep moving forward. It’s the best chance we’ve got at a breakthrough.
About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. She stays away from sappy romance movies for the sake of her sanity. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.
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