You might have heard the old saying: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Actually, being miles apart can often test the strength of a relationship but still, embarking on a long-distance affair can be an exciting experience, at any age.
But what if you want to make it last? Don’t be put off by the fact you leave in two different Countries. You’ll be surprised to get to know long-distance relationships are more successful than you think: quality does not differ significantly from geographically close relationships, and in some cases, it might even be better.
Of course, whether you met on a trip, at a book club, through social media, or via a dating site, being in such a relationship takes a bit of an effort and, most of all requires a lot of trust (from both sides).
What’s true is at midlife you are supposed to be better equipped to make it work: you are experienced enough to know yourself so you can tell your partner what is important to you and what you need.
“The more independent you are, and the more able you are to exist and thrive without that constant in-person interaction, the better you’re off in a long-distance relationship“, says Rachel DeAlto, a relationship expert and author of ‘Relatable: How to Connect with Anyone, Anywhere (Even If It Scares You)’.
Welcome to the Club
Nowadays long-distance relationships are very common. About 14 million Americans consider themselves to be in such a situation, as per research collected by Statistic Brain. And guess what? According to The New York Times, the number of long-distance marriages in the U.S. is on the rise. Similar patterns are also being seen in the UK.
Part of the reason for this increase is that more women are reaching high-ranking positions in the workplace and getting desirable positions that geographically distance them from their families. Other reasons for couples living apart include military service and hospitalization. A situation partly manageable thanks to the new technology we have at our disposal.
However, Zoom calls, texts and emails can’t make up for everything in a long term relationship. The lack of regular physical proximity still seems to make many long-distance relationships as emotionally tough as ever.
Keeping in touch and involving each other in daily feelings and situations is powerful to keep intimacy flowing. In the end, it’s not how often you see each other or how much you feel connected when you aren’t physically together, but how well you communicate.
There are several ways to keep the sparks alive when you can’t schedule meetings in person regularly. Here are the most common ones.
- Focus on quality communication
An occasional, spontaneous, “thinking of you” phone call can be a nice surprise, but scheduling longer conversations can help you connect when you’re both at your best.
Talking about your day, sharing your thoughts and ideas are the things that build trust and would make your long-distance relationship stronger, however, you shouldn’t rely solely on technology to keep the situation going as sometimes it’s difficult to turn chats into meaningful conversations in that way.
Let’s not forget the power of having something physical that reminds you of your partner – adds Andrea Bonior, PhD, a clinical psychologist and speaker on the faculty of Georgetown University-. Keeping a piece of clothing around that still smells like your partner, having a special token that serves as a symbol of your commitment, or displaying a gift from them prominently in your bedroom can serve as proximal reminders of their presence. And don’t underestimate the joy of receiving something tangible from them: a funny postcard, an unexpected gift, or a delivery of your favourite candy — care packages are not just for parents of college students.
Most of all, don’t let insecurity lead to checking in on your partner too often. This can result in excessive calls and texts being sent for the wrong reasons, bringing unnecessary tension.
- Foster closeness
Physical distance doesn’t mean you can’t do things together. It just requires a little more creativity. To keep the flame burning, you can plan to cook a meal at the same time, watch a movie together, or discuss a book you’ve both been reading. Maybe you’ll even relax in a bath at the same time or engage in friendly competition whether video games, crosswords or learning a new language.
- Prioritize intimacy
Maintaining sexual intimacy is a key challenge in many long-distance relationships but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
I would advise using sexual fantasies – says sex therapist Dr Ruth Westheimer– If you’ve been fantasizing about your lover while you’re far apart, your libido will be primed to respond when you’re finally together. If you’re constantly pushing away sexy thoughts about your lover, telling yourself since you can’t have him or her, such thoughts are only frustrating, you may end up making it more difficult to become sexually aroused when you’re actually in each other’s arms.
- Set an end date
In general, research shows that long-distance relationships are more satisfying and less stressful when they are understood to be temporary and both work off the same general life plan. Ideally, you should establish a defined time limit from the beginning. Meantime, talk about your future together: plan for vacations, holidays and weekends. Talk about goals for yourselves and, if you are married or engaged, for your future as a couple.
- Don’t put your life on hold
Finally, live each day fully. Whether your partner is away or not, it’s important not to sacrifice your goals more than is necessary, which can breed resentment and regret over time. Keep seeing your friends, enjoy your free time and make plans for yourself. Don’t forget romantic thriving is influenced by self-focused attitudes, including self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-fulfilment.