Long Distance Relationships

| June 25, 2012

Making It Work Takes Work! With each tick of the clock, Elsie feels panicked. She still hasn’t heard from Ekow even though she has been calling him for hours. What could possibly be the problem? Why isn’t he answering his phone all the way on the other side of the coast? He’s probably in the company of another woman. Men are known to do that when they are in the company of other women. Or it could be worse. Is he in bed with her perhaps? She begins to envision him cuddled up with the wretched looking hag on his couch, watching a movie, or in bed doing who knows what. She begins to wonder if the relationship is worth the trouble. She hates the panic and uncertainty. When Ekow finally calls Elsie after forty-five long minutes of having tortured herself, she is armed with suspicion and launches into an attack. She has forgotten – in all her worrying and suspicion – that it is only ten in the morning on Ekow’s side of town. And as it turned out, he was in an early meeting with clients.

Long distance relationships can be hard work if the two people involved are not equipped with the tools needed to make such a relationship work. Of course, that doesn’t mean that other kinds of relationships are any easier to manage. They both take work, commitment, trust, sacrifice and a whole lot more in order to work; it’s just that one needs a larger dose than the other. The only difference with long distance relationships is that you’re going to have to apply all these with someone you hardly get to see and spend time with.  For many Africans, this type relationship seems to be the nature of many of our relationships be it marriage or dating. This is because we are nomadic beings. How well you handle a long distance relationship can either lead to long lasting love, or have you as rocky and as uncertain as Elsie and Ekow. Here are a few things you can do to keep the embers of your love burning from across the distance:

Practice Dedication and Loyalty to Each Other: On June 21, Ray and Elizabeth will celebrate their third wedding anniversary. When they took their vows, they knew they would someday have to face some challenges, but they never envisioned living most of their marriage apart from each other. Ray lives in Houston, Texas and Elizabeth lives in Accra, Ghana. They see each other once a year, during the summer, for about six weeks when Ray makes the long trip home from Houston to New York to Accra. The longest stretch of time they have spent together as husband and wife was eight weeks, and that included the honeymoon. And until the immigration process that will allow Elizabeth to join her husband sometime this year is finalized, they will have to continue doing what they have been doing for the past two years – stay dedicated to their marriage and to each other.

The truth is that without dedication to your relationship, the strain of distance will eventually take its toll and cause a couple to drift apart.

Communicate Frequently with Each Other: Ray and Elizabeth are hardly alone in the struggle to keep the flames of love burning from across the Atlantic. Eric who lives in New York City says he’s been involved in a long-distance relationship with his long-time girlfriend, who lives in Ghana, for about a year. He’s a student at NYU working towards a graduate degree in business management and he says, “It’s been a challenge, but somehow we make it work by communicating a lot. I tell you, it is really expensive though.”  They also communicate frequently using facebook and email, which is free but less appealing than talking on the phone.

Communication in any relationship is very important, much more so in a long-distance relationship because it’s mostly usually all you have. There are several ways a couple can keep communication with each other, thanks to the many technological choices made available in our time. Text messages, emails, Skype, and instant messaging are all ways to keep communication flowing in both directions.

Trust Each other: Long distance relationships hardly survive where trust is an issue. To be apart and still grow together, a couple needs to have complete trust in each other. This helps to avoid stress and conflict that could eventually drive a couple apart. Mercy has been in what she calls “an East Coast End-to-End” relationship with her boyfriend Sam for the last two years due to school. She lives in Florida and Sam lives in Massachusetts and they only get to see each other during short school breaks/vacations.

To establish trust in their relationship, Mercy says she and Sam keep each other involved in each other’s lives. They know each other’s friends, each other’s whereabouts – most of the time. They frequently call and update each other on their lives, and they keep each other informed of changes, events, problems and triumphs. Because they are so involved, it becomes difficult not to trust each other.

Make Time for Each Other: Just because you don’t get to see each other on a regular basis or for long stretches of time doesn’t mean you can’t do things together.  You can watch a favorite TV show or movie together while each of you is huddled on your separate couches with the phone glued to your ears. Is it football season or basketball season? Watch the game together. Of course you can only do this if you have similar programming and not too much of a difference in time zones. Take a walk in the park together. Share pictures of things you see that you think might interest the other. With the advancement of technology, there is so much you can do to be involved that there is simply no excuse for sharing and staying connected.

Talk about the mundane things too. Call him/her just because you remembered something you want to share – a joke, an event, or a story.

Grow together with the Space/Distance: As much as it is great to be in a relationship in which you get to see each other every day, a long distance relationship can be an awesome opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. Take up a hobby, make friends, and enjoy the social scene. Enjoy the space/distance, and trust the other person to do the same within the boundaries you have set for the relationship. The saying goes, “the devil finds work for ideal hands.” Sitting at home with nothing to keep you occupied is a recipe for disaster. You may become bored, feel neglected, and become preoccupied with what the other person is doing on the other end of the world, so much so that you simply become a nag.

Whatever (and however) you choose to do to maintain your relationship it is always good to keep in mind that things aren’t always going to be like this. If you can survive the miles and the distance, you can grow that much stronger and closer when the walls finally come down and you actually get to “be” together. Good luck!

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? Please share your experiences, or share your opinions below:

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