Guest Post By Bryan Grilli
As individuals living in a modern society where we have access to limitless communication and social media tools. The world is becoming smaller every day. The result of this is that more people have the ability to turn to the Internet to make connections that can develop into strong friendships or relationships. Also, more couples who experience varied periods of time apart, are able to maintain their relationships in more interactive ways, that allow their romance to thrive and remain as strong .
I met my boyfriend, Fred, on Compatible Partners, the same-sex version of the popular dating site, eHarmony. Living on Long Island, I didn’t know what to expect when a Canadian contacted me on my profile. Our relationship grew primarily online, and early on I could tell that there would be certain difficulties that we would need to overcome to make the relationship work.
One of the most difficult and visible issue couples in a long-distance relationship must face is the separation. It can be intimidating to be miles, even oceans away from your romantic partner. To many people, love is, in a traditional sense, understood to involve human contact, such as face-to-face dates and walks in the park. In a long-distance relationship, for a large portion of the time, those are essentially luxuries.
However, being in a long-distance relationship challenged us to establish links that didn’t depend on physical contact. Since we couldn’t be with each other in person, we had opportunities to discover each others interests and explore everything we had in common. The option to use physical intimacy as a crutch was never available to us and by talking, it felt like we knew each other inside and out by the time we met in person.
Another difficult aspect of being in a long-distance relationship is making sure to dedicate enough time to your partner and avoid just being a shadow in their life. We had to find ways to include each others routine in ours. We used platforms like Facebook and Kik to communicate, practically from the time we woke up to the time we went to bed. We also wanted to set aside time to emulate being face-to-face as often as possible. We learned each others schedules and set aside specific days and times we could Skype, which was incredibly important to the success of our relationship.
Barbara J Peters RN, LPC, a Long Island native who lives in Georgia, believes that communication is important no matter how close or how far the couple is. However, she does acknowledge there are additional challenges that people in a long-distance relationship have to face. “Skype is probably the best way to communicate in a long-distance relationship. Your facial expressions and body language say more,” explains Peters, a veteran relationship counselor and author of two advice books, He Said, She Said, I Said and The Gift of a Lifetime: Building a Marriage That Lasts. “It’s imperative to make sure you define your terms and make sure the time you talk is free of distractions. With Skype, you can see and hear what the other is saying and the only thing missing is the ability to touch.”
Another important key to success in a long-distance relationship is trust. Some couples have trouble trusting each other when they’re only a few blocks away, but long-distance partners have to learn to adjust to not knowing where the other is a large majority of the time. “Trust is vital in all relationships, but in long-distance relationships it’s even more challenging,” Peters says. “It requires a high level of trust and leaves no room for suspicion. You must always try to say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Peters also suggests couples maintain a high level of reliability. Make it a priority to do so. If you say you will call at a certain day and time, do it. Also, be completely honest with your partner, if you are unable to do so. Do what you can to remove any doubt or concern. “Unreliability is the first red flag to let go of the relationship,” Peters says.
Nicholle McGuigan met her boyfriend Brian, while they were both attending Nassau Community College. Six weeks into their relationship, Brian had to move upstate for work purposes. Being apart for three months at the early stage of their relationship could have been a deal breaker, but turned into something much more rewarding. Nicholle recalls, ‘’the night he came back to West Hempstead, ‘’I literally couldn’t wait to see him. I was waiting in the window, my phone in hand, waiting for his text. It’s in those times you understand you really don’t know how much you love someone until you can’t see them for three months.’’
Like many couples facing the same situation, Nicholle and Brian resorted to using technology to keep their relationship alive regardless of the distance between them. ‘’We used Facebook Messenger because there was no phone signal up there,’’ she explains. ‘’We talked constantly. Literally from the time we woke up to the time we passed out. He even managed to talk to me while working. ‘We’d Skype for hours at a time, at night, and we even fell asleep talking to one another.’’
Rekindle When You Reunite
As hard as departure can be, the return of a loved one can be a time for celebration, a moment that can rekindle the burning flame of a first touch and an opportunity to fall in love all over again. ‘’When we started dating, we saw each other daily. The sudden stop when he left was hard to take at first,’’ McGuigan confesses. ‘’I had to visit the hospital numerous time while he was gone and not having him by my side made everything that much harder.’’ “After he came home, I was his baby girl,” she says. “He wouldn’t leave my side for anything. He became a lot more aware and compassionate.’’
Something that long-distance couples often have trouble with is keeping their relationship fresh and alive while apart for long periods of time. However, there are ways that couples can maintain their levels of passion and romance during their time apart. “There are several things you can do to keep the romance alive,” says Fran Greene, LCSWR, author of The Flirting Bible and former director of flirting for match.com.
“One thing is sending cards through the mail. When we go to the mailbox, we never expect to get a card and that’s just something that really says you took the time do something and it’s something you can save.” In addition, Greene also recommends sending other things like small gifts, food, flowers or anything along those lines because it tells your partner that you’re thinking about them. “Another way is leaving a loving voice-mail,” Greene explains. “Doing things that have the element of surprise lets your significant other know they’re on your mind.”
Maintaining rituals is also a measure couples should do to make sure their romance is thriving. Whether it be calling at the same time every morning, texting at the same time every night or emailing throughout the day, whatever it is, Greene believes it’s a good strategy to have a routine because it gives the couple something to look forward to.
When to Let Go
While long-distance relationships can certainly be well worth it and successful, much like any kind of relationship, there might be a certain point where one or both partners feel like it would be best to end it. Jose Alvarez, from Long Island, started dating his ex-boyfriend Nathan in October 2013. Nathan, originally from upstate New York, lived at SUNY Stony Brook at the time and even though neither drove for the majority of their relationship, they still managed to foster a strong relationship with weekend visits. However, when Nathan went back home for the summer and ultimately enrolled eight-hours away at Syracuse University, their relationship deteriorated.
Alvarez noted they started experiencing difficulty communicating and when they did, the conversation quality wasn’t as good as before. Both recognized this and came to the mutual agreement, the relationship had run its course. When there is a noticeable drop in the quality and amount of communication in a long-distance relationship that is the time to reassess and have a discussion with your partner.
“If the communication is getting stale and the interest seems to have gone down, something has changed,” Peters explains. “To keep a long-distance relationship alive takes constant focus and cheer leading. In the absence of daily connection, the relationship will suffer unless the investment is grand. In the meantime, be who you are, have interests, hobbies, goals and dreams to share with each other. If that is no longer being shared, it might be a wake up call to call it quits.”
When in a long-distance relationship, it’s important to keep an open mind and allow yourself to give it a fair chance to succeed. A proper mindset can be the difference between success and failure. “Do not listen to what others tell you or say about long-distance relationships,” Peters says. “People want to help you, but you will find that everyone has an opinion. But the only opinion that counts is yours. Be confident that you know yourself and can evaluate the pros and cons of the relationship because you have the correct information. By now you’ve talked endlessly and shared sufficient information. If you start to feel uncertain, consult with a professional before sinking the ship.” There’s no doubt long-distance relationships can present challenges and problems along the way, but they can also be rewarding if enough work and effort are put into them.
In life, rarely does anything worthwhile and gratifying come easy. If you are in a strong, passionate relationship and your partner has to relocate for a while, weigh all the options before deciding if it’s worth ending the relationship. We are fortunate that today we have tools that can assist us in making what might seem impossible, very possible and satisfying.
Post By Bryan Grilli
Bryan Grilli is a student at Adelphi University on Long Island and News Editor of The Delphian
Class of 2017
Published with permission of Zoom, a publication of Adelphi University.