How to Nurture Connection During Times of Physical Distance
Staying connected during a time of separation from your partner, regardless of duration, can be challenging on many different levels. Distance impacts almost every aspect of your relationship including how you communicate, how you spend time together and how you experience intimacy. Furthermore it can trigger feelings of abandonment, loneliness, jealousy and uncertainty in one or both partners. In that challenge there is also an opportunity to strengthen your bond and find creative ways of finding connection.
Learning how to navigate distance and maintain connection has felt especially present given the recent pandemic. So whether you are separated due to travel, work, or a pandemic, here are some tips to help you navigate feeling close when you’re physically apart. These tips are assuming you have the ability to communicate with your partner. Even if communication isn’t possible, still consider reading tips 1, 8 & 9.
- Validate First I want to validate your need for connection (and hopefully inspire you to do the same for yourself). As human beings, we thrive on bonding, touch, and shared experiences. So if you’re struggling while your partner is gone, it doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. Instead of dismissing this need, acknowledge it when it arises. One way I like to honor that need is to place a hand on my heart and say “Everything you feel is okay, I’m here.”
- Identify your relationship values. Reflect on the activities you enjoy doing together and consider the underlying values they represent. For example, if you value learning, romance, and service, find ways to incorporate these elements while apart. For instance, to incorporate learning you could read the same book and discuss it together. Collaborate with your partner to create a plan that aligns with your relationship values.
- Become clear about expectations: It’s crucial to establish clear expectations for what being apart will entail. You might want to discuss factors such as work commitments, travel plans, time differences, and available communication channels. Consider setting a goal around weekly communication that feels realistic for both partners. Check in periodically to ensure your expectations are realistic and being met.
- Comfort communication triggers: Recognize that communication over phone or text may not replicate the nuances of in-person interactions. Accept that conversations may not always go smoothly or fulfill your need for connection. In such moments, rather than persistently seeking fulfillment from your partner, try disconnecting momentarily and soothing the part of you that longs for love and connection. Place a comforting hand on your body, breathe, and offer reassuring words like, “I’m here” or “You’re not alone.”
- Identify your preferred method of communication: Experiment with different modes of communication available to you, such as snail mail, texts, phone calls, or video calls. Determine what feels most comfortable and effective for you. It’s also important to communicate your preferences to your partner and be understanding if they differ.
- Texting 101: Maybe this is obvious to most, but this one took me a moment to figure out. When relying on text messages, it’s essential to be mindful of communication nuances. If timely responses are important to you, consider asking your partner if they’re available to respond before diving into a conversation. Conversely, if your partner’s responses don’t meet your expectations, remember they might be busy – and still care about you. Establish clear communication guidelines and openly discuss each other’s needs to foster understanding and avoid misunderstandings.
- Find a way to PLAY. Physical separation can limit opportunities for playfulness and shared activities. Explore ways to bring play into your dynamic despite the distance. Engage in online games or activities that evoke lightness and joy, fostering a sense of playfulness even when physically apart.
- Self care. Use the time apart as an opportunity for self-care, self-reflection, and personal growth. Focus on activities that nourish your well-being and help you develop as an individual. Engage in hobbies, pursue goals, or explore new interests. Embracing personal growth can strengthen your connection with yourself and, in turn, enhance your connection with your partner.
- Validate: Repeat of Tip 1– because it’s important. Remember to continually validate your emotions and experiences throughout this challenging time. Use this period as an opportunity to learn more about your relationship in a unique and different way.
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