How to make long distance relationships work during the pandemic

How to make long distance relationships work during the pandemic

Even the happiest relationships come with a number of challenges, from understanding how to communicate effectively to agreeing on a vision for the future. And while these aspects can be difficult on their own, when you add a global pandemic to the mix, things can get complicated quickly.

“[Some] couples stopped seeing each other by accident and actually moved because of the pandemic, and I’ve also seen my share of breakups,”says Chicago-based psychotherapist Matt Lundquist. “But a huge portion of people have seen their relationship either suddenly become long-distance, or they were already in a long-distance relationship that has become more uncertain due to travel restrictions.”

Lauren Melnick and Greg Periera fall into the second category. In September 2019, Periera, 34, moved to the Netherlands and Melnik, 30, was due to join him in April 2020 on a partner visa. But with Europeans still restricting travel from the United States due to high COVID rates [yeah!], they are not sure when they will see each other again.

“Last week we were told that we could only submit [no, never processed!] my partnership application in March 2021”. Melnick says, noting that she’s not even sure when they can come next. “So we will spend our second anniversary separately and potentially not see each other for another year, depending on what happens with commercial flights, tourist visas, quarantine and COVID.”

This kind of uncertainty can make just about anyone anxious, and it’s much more difficult when you’re isolated in the midst of a global health crisis. Being part of a long distance relationship without the semblance of a reunion can certainly be challenging, but there are ways to make the most of this time to make your relationship stronger than ever.

Don’t believe us? Instead, take the advice of experts:

Schedule A Virtual Date

When you’re on Zoom all day, calling for work, the idea of ​​logging back in with your significant other might seem like the last thing you want to do, but power says Lundqvist: Feel special, but then plan how to do it. Have a Zoom date, cook the same meal together, dress up a bit… there are ways to create a fun and playful experience using things that are usually not all that pleasant.”

He suggests making it an integral part of your week so you always have something to look forward to, as well as bringing that level of intentionality to dinner so you can fully enjoy each other’s company; block out routine breaks like work and family.

31 Fun Virtual Date Ideas

He suggests making it an integral part of your week so you always have something to look forward to, as well as bringing that level of intentionality to dinner so you can fully enjoy each other’s company; block out routine breaks like work and family.

Learn To Over-communicate

Anxiety is at an all-time high for almost everyone these days, meaning that even the safest couple can take that stress out of their relationship. “Even if you weren’t worried about the state of your relationship before, the fact that you haven’t received a reassuring hug and haven’t been around that person for an extended period of time can cause you to have a bit of a spiral,” Lundqvist explains. “It doesn’t matter if you only care about the state of the world; it can affect your relationship because that’s the [most convenient] place to put it.”

When you’re not sitting side by side on the couch, it’s easy to assume that silence means your partner is suddenly pulling away; without facial expressions, you could read statements that are not related to your relationship, thinking that they are addressed to you. “We always tend to assume the worst when we don’t have much information,” says Lundqvist. “So, I would advise couples who aren’t used to it to communicate more, even if it’s just a quick message telling the partner that you’ll be unavailable for a few days due to work or whatever.” This way you leave no room for (often incorrect) interpretations.

Develop Your Hobbies

“Because you can’t change what’s happening, you have to look at things from a different perspective,” explains relationship expert Monica Parikh. “What opportunity can you find in this to come out of this better than you were before the pandemic?”

Parikh suggests finding a new hobby or doing something you’ve always wanted to do but never found the time for. In fact, it may even help you get closer to your partner, as you will have something interesting to share with each other when you finally talk. “Striving for the things you love will also make you happy, which is definitely a very attractive trait,” adds Parikh. In fact, it can help reduce your anxiety, especially since you’ll be too busy with your life and interests to worry about the future of your relationship.

"What are Your Hobbies & Interests?

Focus on the Present Moment

“Future blackout” is a popular name for the phenomenon where you focus on the uncertainty of the future so often that you can’t acknowledge the present moment – and it’s the easiest way to feel miserable quickly. “We humans are so used to focusing on instant gratification, so when it becomes clear that things are taking longer to improve, we don’t know what to do,” Parikh says. “But if we focus on the flow, then we can find moments of happiness right now. We can follow what’s happening right now because fighting it won’t change anything.”

To that end, Parikh suggests that instead of wondering when you’ll see your partner again, build intimacy in other ways: send each other letters, ask uncomfortable questions, and allow yourself to build emotional bonds while you’re apart. According to Parikh, this will keep you aroused until you (inevitably) see each other again.

Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable

“We are living in a very scary time,” says Lundqvist. “I believe that allowing yourself to be afraid is one way to heal, but it’s also important to share this with your partner.”

According to Lundqvist, the most successful couples are those who aren’t afraid to tell their partners how they feel: they accept that things won’t be easy, but even if there’s no solution to the problem. The problem is at hand, they know they are together. And isn’t that what partnership should be?

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