In a recently-released article by Anggun Bawinur for The Good Men Project’s website, the writer unpacks the challenges of a long-distance relationship amidst the pandemic. Drawing on his perspective of being in an especially long, long-distance partnership — in his case, a romance in which one partner is in Canada and the other is in Southeast Asia — Bawinur shares the very relatable feelings of isolation, uncertainty, and the ever-changing dynamics of COVID-19 rates. He also discusses relevant issues in different countries, each of which has a particular set of rules and restrictions on travel that impact long-distance relationships in 2021.
Along with the rest of the world, Bawinur struggled with anxiety, “wallowing in misery and sadness.” Because the pandemic has seemingly become a crisis without no definitive end in sight, Bawinur turned depression and disconnection into a set of 5 simple tips that have helped save her long-distance relationship.
First, Bawinur relates the nearly universal lack of control we all feel over the external circumstances that have come to define our internal lives. Rather than place undue and unproductive focus on her relationship — a love that she could not nurture and foster in person — Bawinur decided to turn her focus inward. She explored new interests, developed new hobbies, and tried to concentrate on what she could indeed control.
Her second tip is to try and work together with your partner, even in the face of a fight or disagreement. Pointing out that “nothing is more annoying than going to bed angry,” Bawinur also created an open dialogue with her partner in which they could feel safe and comfortable. For instance, “pressing pause” on an argument that couldn’t reasonably be resolved due to distance — not to mention a 14-hour time difference. Postponing arguments seems to have diffused them, perhaps because partners can take time to gain a healthier perspective when they take a break from arguing. This is an option that couples might not have if they’re stuck at home together during the pandemic – especially if you reside in tight quarters.
Next, Bawinur suggests “creating a backup plan together.” In other words, she and her partner found it helpful to focus on the promise of a future together, even in spite of the uncertain timeline for an in-person reunion. As she puts it, she and her partner have “hopes for the future… but [they] also feel more relaxed and flexible” without the added pressure of dates, deadlines and the demands that naturally come with long-distance relationships.
Bawinur’s fourth tip, while perhaps counterintuitive, seems likely to relieve some of the stresses confronting long-distance couples. As she says “leave some space for alone time.” While she acknowledges the disconnect of taking time apart when you’re already physically separated, Bawinur writes that “most long-distance couples underestimate this activity of making space to help the relationship grow. I used to think taking days off from communicating intensely for a day or two won’t make any difference, but I was wrong. It does have some good and positive effects. The relationship feels fresh again, and our connection gets deeper because we’ve missed each other.”
One couple I counseled recently via Telehealth, spoke about the intensity of being on-line about ten hours a day between work and communicating with each other, and the value of taking one or two days off for a stress reducing day that might include more time for activities such as reflection, reading, walking outside, yoga, cooking, or listening to music.
Justin reflects, “At first Michelle took it personally when I told her I needed to unplug a few nights a week and take a break from communicating with her. But after she realized she felt pressured to talk or communicate via zoom or text every day, we both agreed to adopt two stress reducing days a week that we don’t communicate unless something urgent comes up.”
Finally, Bawinur’s fifth tip draws on sage advice that is sure to help couples stay happy and healthy, pandemic or not. Simply put, she says “don’t compare your relationship with others.” Indeed, measuring our lives, love and accomplishments against our perception of others is unproductive in general.
But, as Bawinur rightly observes, we live in the age of social media, and many long-distance couples have a lot of time on their hands to browse the profiles and friends, family and colleagues, who naturally try to present the “picture perfect life.” Resisting this urge is key to recognizing your own strengths, and to putting hurdles in a long-distance relationship into their proper perspective.
Find Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
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