Relationships used to scare me. To a certain extent, they still do. The idea of communicating your deepest feelings and sharing your intricate thoughts with another person with their own thoughts and feelings is pretty complicated. However, I have learned that it becomes easier once you and your partner are equally understanding of the challenges.
However, long-distance relationships are a whole other ballgame. It introduces many new factors into the equation. The first is that your partner will not be physically near you when you are going through the hardships of life. Yes, digital communication has improved and made things more accessible, but in this fast-moving world, only couples with the strongest bonds survive.
These relationships can be hard, so why do we pursue them? Amid all the other major personal decisions in our 20s, like whether to travel, move somewhere else, pursue our education, pick a career path, or figure out what we want from our lives, a relationship becomes a serious consideration. However, our partners sometimes make different choices than we do. And, sometimes, our choices can make us incompatible.
If a couple decides to take separate life paths but still want to stay together, they must think carefully about some significant issues.
PRIORITISE PERSONAL GROWTH
When deciding between a relationship and a dream job opportunity or a better higher education abroad, it is important to prioritise personal growth. It is better to use our opportunities and soldier through changes in relationships than to put up with the resentment fostered by unrealised potential.
Closeness, intimacy, and reciprocation often help to maintain relationships. When deciding to go long distance, assessing whether the existing relationship can develop and adjust to the new circumstances is critical, or whether it might be best to call it quits. It is also acceptable to be a little selfish and agree to personal progress when we are young and have more flexibility and opportunities.
NAVIGATING PHYSICAL DISTANCE
A healthy relationship often helps to release dopamine and oxytocin, which are associated with pleasure and reward. Physical separation can often inhibit the release of these chemicals. When deprived of these pleasant sensations in a relationship where we expect to get them, it can result in stress, neglect, discomfort, and even feelings of insecurity and jealousy. Communication also becomes more difficult as the nonverbal cues of face-to-face interaction are minimised. This can lead to misunderstandings and a growing lack of trust.
Physical distance may also hamper the formation of shared experiences, which are crucial for relationships to flourish.
But don't despair. If you feel your relationship is strong enough and are determined to follow through, you'll see the rewards of the truism' absence makes the heart grow fonder'. You'll learn to cherish the moments you have and those few opportunities you get to spend with your partner.
TRUST AND COMMUNICATION ARE ESSENTIAL
Trust, open communication, and shared objectives are paramount in long-distance relationships. Before you decide on pursuing one, consider whether you both have a long-term outlook for your relationship and similar goals for the future. Despite distance and differences in time zone, you will have to maintain a strong connection and continuous communication in an effective and satisfying way for both of you.
Every successful relationship is built on trust, but long-distance relationships require a higher standard. If you struggle with feelings of jealousy or anxious attachment, discussing it and considering its implications is crucial. Although long-distance relationships offer opportunities for personal development, they will require a healthy sense of personal fulfilment and a willingness not to crowd your partner.
EVALUATE YOUR EMOTIONAL NEEDS
When thinking long distance, you should also understand the emotional needs of your relationship. You must reflect honestly on yourself and ask whether you are willing to give up some of your immediate needs for the sake of the relationship's long-term success.
Having a supportive emotional structure in place can help when things get tough. To ensure that your expectations are understood by both parties and fulfilled, you must be clear with your partner about your long-term goals. Regular check-ins are also necessary to update each other on where you are.
DEVELOP HEALTHY STRATEGIES
It can be helpful to have goals and targets. Setting particular dates for your next in-person meeting can help the distance between you feel transitory and help you cope with stressful situations.
To sustain your connection, set aside time for virtual date nights, work to create memorable experiences together and keep in touch frequently.
Making visual or tactile reminders of why you are pursuing the relationship can also help.
Novelty helps, too. Couples living apart from one another might interact virtually by playing online video games, watching movies or shows, or performing everyday tasks like cooking.
To have a shot at success, you must retain a sense of shared identity and bonding.
Treating a long-distance relationship as a shared goal is also a great tangible reminder of the future.
However, it might not be the ideal circumstance if you consistently feel unsatisfied and both parties don't make enough effort. Understanding this is important because continuing a deteriorating relationship will only worsen feelings of bitterness and discontent.
Before it gets that bad, find a proper and healthy way to express your feelings and views to your partner clearly and concisely. Talking through the relationship's future opens doors to the future or even provides you time to work on things separately.
At times, a long-distance relationship may seem impossible. Sometimes, you may even have thoughts about breaking up. In such circumstances, it is helpful to create space for both of you to vent your emotions while maintaining your set boundaries. And, as always, it is best to be honest and have empathy, both for yourself and your partner. After all, everyone makes mistakes.
Distance can sometimes work to your advantage. Consider whether you are changing for the relationship or whether it is changing with you. Long-distance relationships can succeed if both couples are devoted to one another and share a common objective.
Every relationship is different, but if you plan and cultivate the proper habits and techniques, you can overcome some difficulties of maintaining a long-distance relationship.
SO, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
The truth is, your long-distance relationship may be much easier than you imagine. Or maybe it is much more complicated. There are no answers that fit everybody.
For many, our 20s are a time of independence and exploration. Sharing this journey with someone you love can be great. But, sharing them with someone from far away can have a significant impact on how the two of you relate to one another.
Successful long-distance relationships recognise the value of effective communication, not just as a couple but also separately with your circles of friends and family. Therefore, building separate relationships outside of your union is important to building a sense of self and identity.
At the end of the day, the thing that truly determines how long a couple stays together is your affection for one another and your desire to remain together. Every relationship comes with its own challenges. On that front, long-distance relationships aren't any different. They may be more challenging than others, but, if you approach yours with openness, sincerity, and honesty, and put in the effort, there is always hope for a better future.
This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.