Distance Love and Wellbeing
Given the current circumstances with COVID-19, couples who are not cohabiting have been told they should no longer go back and forth visiting each other. Therefore, many couples have found themselves inadvertently in a distance relationship. This might seem a strange thing for a wellbeing organisation to talk about, but hear me out.
I have been in a long distance relationship with my fiancé for almost 8 years. He lives in the USA and I obviously live in Wales. We see each other twice a year, with one visit there in the summertime and one visit here for New Year’s. That means we spend 4 weeks together out of the 52 weeks of the year. Over the years, I’ve become very experienced in dealing with the distance and loving from afar, and I want to use this platform to share some of my tips. The reason I’ve decided to talk about this topic is because our relationships with others have a significant impact on our mood and our wellbeing, and for a lot of people, the idea of not being able to see their partner for a period of time is going to have an impact on how they feel. If you search the phrase “distance love and mental health” online, you’ll see loads of stories, articles, blogs etc. talking about that very situation. The ideas I share below won’t just help your relationship with your partner, but they’ll help you manage your wellbeing during a period of what might be significant difficulty.
1. Communicate. Friends and family have commented that my fiancé and I probably talk more than couples who live together. We send messages when we can throughout the day (work commitments aside), and we Skype each other every other night usually for at least an hour, generally two. Now this is not to say that you have to spend every waking moment staring at the screen waiting for them to message, that wouldn’t necessarily be the best thing for most people. But when you can’t do things together, talking about what you’re doing can help you feel a lot closer
2. Be mindful. When you’re having video dates online, try and make sure you’re fully present. Our best dates are when my fiancé and I aren’t focused on what’s going to happen next or what has happened, but when we’re focused on that present moment with each other. It’s also important to try and listen carefully to each other. Technology is wonderful but it means you often miss a lot of body language and facial expression. That means you can easily misunderstand each other, and suddenly what was intended as a joke has ended in an argument (guilty!)
3. Have fun. Seriously, you can still have dates online. Cook dinner and eat together at the dining table, read a book together, watch a film together, play arcade games online. Be creative and still find ways of having fun. Laughing together is important because distance relationships are often so serious.
4. Don’t mope. I know how harsh that sounds, but honestly I know from bitter experience sometimes there’s nothing worse than sitting in the house dwelling on the fact that you can’t see them. Get up, do something and turn that energy into something productive. When I feel like that, I find that I have a lot of creative energy I can express so I write music. Once I’ve done that, I often feel a lot better. And talk to your partner about it. If you’re really missing them, tell them. They might like to hear that, because it’s obviously a sign you care a lot about them, and they probably feel exactly the same. Work through it together.
5. Turn it into gratitude. Ok, the circumstances aren’t ideal. Ok, you’d rather be able to see them in person and have a cwtch. But what can you be grateful for instead? I try and focus on how grateful I am to have someone so special in my life that is worth missing. I try and focus on the fact that despite the distance, he is the most loving, caring and supportive man I know. I try and feel grateful for the fact that technology means I can see him whenever I want. Seriously, years ago we would have all had to write letters! Focus on the positives as much as you can, they often far outweigh the negatives.
6. Remember that this is temporary. For couples who are distanced because of something like COVID-19, although it’s tough because they’re used to being together all the time, it’s not permanent. Eventually we will tame this virus and we will all be able to see each other again. When I finally get to see my fiancé after a few months apart, it is genuinely amazing, and I think we probably don’t take that time together for granted as much as a lot of couples who see each other everyday might.
8. Look after yourself. This is a difficult time, and it’s ok to feel anxious, low, stressed, however you feel. But take time out for yourself to do what helps you: meditate, go for a walk (following distancing rules), listen to music, read a book, video call friends. Make sure you’re doing what you can to look after yourself as best you can.
So, those are my tips for distance couples. Now I’m aware that every couple is different, and perhaps some of these ideas won’t be useful for you. But couples who suddenly have to distance like this might feel a lot of anxiety, low mood, stress, etc. and it’s important we think about how we can manage that together. You never know, there might be a positive here, perhaps your relationship is strengthened through this distance. Thanks for reading, I hope this has been helpful, I just want to end with some of my favourite quotes about distance love:
“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” Kahlil Gibran
“I fell in love with her when we were together, then fell deeper in love with her in the years we were apart.” Nicholas Sparks
“The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” Charles Dickens
By Bethan Jones
Wellbeing Course Practitioner