One of my personal love languages is physical touch, or affection. Being too distant, for too long, from a lover makes it really difficult to maintain the feeling of care, love, and appreciation for some of us. But it’s not impossible for a person who really values physical affection to find love, comfort and appreciation at a distance. Sometimes, it may take a little longer and you may have to shift your expectations and the way you express and accept love a little bit, but it can be done.
Long distance relationships have been difficult for me, over the years, and I really prefer to have people I’m involved with close, so that I can see them fairly frequently. Currently, I’m involved with three people. None of those people live in Philadelphia (where I live). Two of them are within an hour (or so) drive, but one is a few states away meaning that our relationship is maintained primarily through texting, phone conversations, and other forms of telecommunication.
It’s not necessary, I’m discovering, to cohabitate with partners to feel fulfilled (although, ultimately, I will probably want to with someone I’m partnered with). Nonetheless I require, to feel fully happy and loved, regular physical touch from people in my life. With one partner, that’s once a week (Saturday night/Sunday morning, usually), another it’s 1-2 days a week. With the third? Well, that’s a little different.
When someone lives 10 hours away, finding time to see them is more challenging.
Anticipation is a thing. For someone (like myself) who has struggled with patience all of my life, anticipation is a really difficult thing. Knowing that I will not be seeing someone whom I care about for weeks, months, or longer can be a really difficult thing to get through day to day. There are simply some times you want to cuddle with them, and not being able to do so is really difficult, for many of us.
Now, the fact that I have two other people I see regularly helps, but not completely. Also, most of my relationship with my long-distance partner has been, well, long distance. In fact, we’ve only met once (a weekend last Summer), so I am sort of used to not being able to touch and be touched by them. But now that we are getting closer, trusting each other more, and are identifying as being more significant to one another I am definitely feeling the lack of physical touch more and more.
And I find myself looking forward to seeing her more and more, the closer it gets to our plans to spend a weekend together.
What do do?
So, for a person who might be struggling with this lack of physical presence, what might we do to make it better in the meantime?
Start with finding what kinds of alternative interactions are appreciated by your loved one. If you can’t hug, cuddle, and share physical intimacy with them this week or this month, what will you do?
First, you need to start by knowing how much your partner, lover, friend etc wants to interact with you. Some people are completely comfortable with only occasional interaction. They may be busy with other partners, personal projects, or they just may not need to interact with you as much as you’d like. Make sure that you are not being too needy or negligent, and find an amount of interaction that works for you both.
And keep in mind that sometimes the amount of contact, intimacy, and attachment you have for that partner may not match their desires and needs. It may be OK to occasionally say “hey, I really need to talk with you right now, can we please set aside some time now or soon to do so?” but there will be times when they may not want or have time for your attention. Just be sure to communicate when your needs don’t seem to match up.
Use your words, and know how important those words are to your partner. Express your feelings of appreciation and affection. Whether you’re rapport is periodic, comes in bursts of long conversation, or seemingly never ends, make sure that You are expressing how you feel about them in a way that is both meaningful and appreciated. And remember that not all people respond to words of affirmation in the same way. Some people don’t need to be reminded of how you feel, but others do appreciate hearing those kinds of words.
Conversation is a wonderful means towards intimacy and trust. Whether with friends, occasional lovers, or your live-in spouse, conversation can be a really important way to develop and maintain intimacy. You don’t have to talk every day (and, in fact, many people won’t want to), but make time to talk and stay emotionally connected. When you are distant from each other in space, that conversation becomes the primary vehicle for relationships maintenance.
Make plans. OK, so you are not going to see them for a week, a month, or maybe not until the next conference. But try to make some plans to see each if you can. Knowing exactly when you will be seeing them can act as a focus for your feeling separated, and give some structure to the feelings of absence that you may be having. It gives you a goal to move towards, and (at least for me) the anticipation can be delicious while simultaneously frustrating.
But also be aware that some of us can, sometimes, put too much pressure on ourselves for these things. We create fantasies, ideals, and can also over-plan so that we can’t just let that time together create its own spontaneity. Having said that, I’m also aware that I err on the side of being too spontaneous, and tend to (perhaps) not plan enough. Be sure to communicate about expectations, desires, and activities you’d like to do (aside from just spend the weekend under the covers, lacking sufficient sleep and possibly nutrition….actually that doesn’t sound all that bad….).
Try to build memories and to make the most of that time together when you are there. Because if you are not going to see them for 2 weeks, a month, or 6 months, make sure that when you have that time, you appreciate it and are not getting caught up in concerns about what we are “supposed” to do, but that we are doing the things that we want to do.
Remember that distance can extend the normal NRE experience. New Relationship Energy tends to last anywhere from 6 months to about 2 years (if my memory serves me), depending on various factors I’m not an expert in. But that time can be extended when you don’t see each other as much. This means that there is potential for some of those really wonderful feelings that exist for the beginning of our relationships over a longer period of time with that distant partner.
This, has the possible draw back of making a long-distance relationship harder to maintain in the long run, however. What happens when, after 2-3 years, those visits become less new and shiny? Well, what do you do in any situation like that?
Sometimes, you just have to recognize that those ebbs and flows are going to come and go. Sometimes, you may have to re-discover new aspects of the relationship, and connect in new and different ways. Sometimes, you may just end up drifting apart in ways which are comfortable for both of you.
Sometimes, you may actually decide to re-locate. And then, maybe, that long-distance is not so long.
I’m thinking about all of this because I’m made steps towards becoming significantly closer to someone who lives far away from me. And while I will see her in a few weeks, it may be a while until I see her after that, and so I am simultaneously anticipating the trip, am wondering if 2-3 days will be long enough to stay (I mean, I could just decide to stay an extra day, I suppose), and am wishing that I were seeing her sooner.
And it’s weird, because it’s really rare that a develop feelings for someone at a distance. I think, maybe, that I am learning that affection and sexuality are important aspects of relationships for me, they are not necessarily the strongest altogether. I’m learning more and more about myself, my capability to love, and what I have to offer is expanding with that understanding.