Gay Pages Summer 2016: Long Distance Love

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It will never work. This is the typical response to anyone who expresses the intention to “do long distance.“ The cliché “absence makes the heart grow fonder“ is countered with another, more disparaging, cliché, “absence makes the heart wander.“


The idea that a couple can maintain a successful relationship when separated by physical distance is incomprehensible to most people, but the truth is that most people cannot imagine putting in the effort that is required to make such a relationship thrive. It is hard enough to make a relationship work when the couple is under the same roof – how can partners possibly survive being divided by distance?

I was confronted with similar cynicism when my relationship became long distance between Cape Town and New York City, a total of 12 552 kilometres (7800 miles) to be exact. My closest friends were openly sceptical about our relationship prospects and it wouldn’t surprise me if some had bets going on how long it would be before it crumbled. Cut to three years later and the relationship is very much on track. Is it difficult? Hell yes. When you are sick and all you want is someone to take care of you. When you watch a hilarious movie and there’s no one to share your laughter. When you climb into an empty bed on a chilly winter’s night. When Valentine’s Day comes around and you have no one to celebrate with (and we can fool ourselves into believing that Valentine’s Day is a meaningless money-making ploy, but deep down we all want the cheesy cards and candy). 

Dating, relationship and sex expert Dr Brian Rzepczynski argues that many men “lament about the loss of companionship when separated from their partners, coupled with the nagging absence of physical affection and sex“ and find it difficult to cope with loneliness and boredom while others “worry of the potential for their relationship to crumble because of the distance itself posing a barrier to solidifying emotional intimacy, usually afforded more easily by face-to-face contact and daily living experience.“

While you cannot bury your head in the sand in the hope that these issues will simply resolve themselves, you also cannot throw your hands up in surrender before you have even started. Instead of focusing on how trying things are, you have to keep the bigger picture in mind and if you both share and are committed to that bigger picture, then distance is a fleeting but not insurmountable obstacle. Far too often couples give up before they have even tried to make the relationship work, but in doing so they also give up on a potential lifetime of remarkable experiences with each other. There are several ways that long distance partners can make their separation more bearable until a reunion, either temporary or more permanent, is possible. 

Be inspired by Julie Andrews and put together brown paper care packages tied up with string, containing a few of your partner’s favourite things. Candles, chocolates, CDs – items that will make your partner feel special because you took the time to think about what puts a smile on their faces. A care package is even more effective when your partner doesn’t expect it. I cannot describe the feeling that comes with receiving a surprise package at the end of a tough day or week. It doesn’t necessarily replace a reassuring embrace from your lover, but it certainly comes close.

A message a day keeps the heartache away. With the plethora of affordable and accessible communication platforms available, including WhatsApp calls and FaceTime, there really is no excuse to feel disconnected. It is important to keep each other informed about what is going on in your respective lives, no matter how seemingly trivial the details. Talk about the temperamental weather, share photos of the to-die-for chocolate brownie you had for dessert, discuss the final episode of Game of Thrones; talking about the day-to-day mundane aspects of your lives will enable you to feel more connected instead of feeling that you are missing out. In addition, Dr Rzepczynski advocates keeping your conversations “on the positive and upbeat slant“ rather than using your contact time to complain “about the pain and injustice of being apart“ because this could taint your communication with negativity. 

Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it. A naughty pic or video on a regular basis will go a long way (no pun intended) to keeping the sexy spark alive while you are apart. If you are concerned about having photos of your penis floating around on the Cloud, a couple of provocative underwear shots can be just as effective. Are these images a substitute for the real thing? Of course not. But they can provide a little thrill for both the sender and the receiver, especially when a measure of creativity is applied.

Take a walk down memory lane often. It is important to reflect on the memories you have created together because they will provide momentum to carry you forward and encourage you to look ahead to making new memories. Travel is an ideal way to do this. My partner and I were reunited in Europe after not seeing each other for six months and spent two magical weeks travelling through Eastern Europe, sharing cherished moments that have become amazing memories. The trip also brought us closer and gave us the motivation to continue on our own until we saw each other six months later. 

Beware the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on. Any relationship is at risk when partners are consumed by jealousy, but even more so in the case of long distance relationships. You cannot obsess over every photo he posts on Facebook or Instagram. You cannot let a paranoid mind create scenarios to explain why he hasn’t responded your message. You will make yourself, and eventually your partner, miserable. It is important for both of you to maintain your respective social lives, to go out and have fun instead of wallowing at home with a tub of ice-cream and a bottle of wine. And you need to be able to do this without jealousy getting in the way. The reality is that you are going to miss out on a lot of each other’s fun, but that is not reason enough to deny each other the opportunity to experience said fun.

Music makes the separated couple come together (yeah!). In Moulin Rouge, the Bohemian writer, Christian, writes a song for his love, Satine, so that they will always be reminded of the enduring power of their love, “come what may.“ Whenever they hear the song it will carry them through any seemingly hopeless situation in which they find themselves. A long distance couple needs “their song,“ a song that provides a metaphorical blanket of comfort whenever they hear it because it reminds them of what they mean to each other. And when things feel as though they are entirely too much to bear, make sure that you have Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell nearby. Just turn up the volume and believe every word as you sing it: “If you need me call me, no matter where you are, no matter how far…just call my name: I’ll be there in a hurry, you don’t have to worry…there ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough to keep me from getting to you…“

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