With more and more couples choosing to be in a long-distance relationship due to personal or professional reasons, how they maintain and sustain their relationship has become an aspect of interest. Psychologist Jaseena Backer answers some inquiries.
What are the main issues that couples face when one of them has to move away from family and live apart, as so many people do when they go abroad to work?
In marriage, two people come together and understanding each other takes place only after they are married, as the engagement period is exclusively for romance. So, soon after marriage if they live apart, then the foundation of marriage that comes from mutual understanding isn’t healthy. For many years they are strangers, as they meet only one month a year or less. They have to make an extra effort to maintain the relationship, as they may not know each other’s likes and dislikes.
Couples take longer to get close in a long-distance relationship.
When the husband comes down for vacation, he is more like a visitor in his own home, where she is the permanent resident.
Nowadays, there are so many means of communication through the phone and the Internet. Do you think that emotional distance is less now than it used to be before? Or do the increased electronic media for communication increase the gap in new ways?
With the multiple means of communication, communication has become more comfortable and quicker. If couples can’t talk at any time during work, they can quickly leave a message or chat on WhatsApp. This has made the distance less between couples. In many cases, couples who maintain a long-distance relationship communicate more than couples living together. However, the same communication has, in several instances, been the cause of distance also.
Over-communication leads to eating up the space between the couple.
Stalking is typical among such couples, where trust is lacking.
From the person who stays back with the children or another family, what are the emotional costs (In India, this is usually the wife)? How does she cope with the loneliness or insecurity? Does it make her stronger?
If there is a history in her family of her mother had done the same thing, then she comes prepared for this kind of adjustment. Besides, if she has not experienced living together after marriage, then she has no idea how it is to live with her husband around all the time. It is more robust for women who initially stay with husbands, and then they leave the country for work. While she is dealing with her loneliness, she also has to live in her husband’s home, where she may have her freedom or may not. Since her husband has gone abroad, she can’t even be expressing her emotional turmoil for any reason, as it would be considered as complaining. And then she would be called selfish.
In most cases, her loneliness isn’t even an essential factor in the house. She accepts her situation and becomes strong on her own. Even when her husband comes down on vacation, his time is carefully distributed among family, relatives and friends, and yet these days she gets no preference.
The wife becomes the active parent practically doing single parenting, which also causes indifference between the two partners.
How about the man (usually) living away from the family? What mechanism does he use to adjust and what sort of price does he pay?
The man living abroad also has to make a lot of adjustments. He has his lonely times after his work hours. And since he spends all his money back home, he has not much to keep him entertained other than TV and the occasional weekend outing. He is also losing out on his best years of married life by staying away from his spouse. He misses the growing stages of his children. He remains a visitor in his home.
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Does the enforced distance increase infidelity on either side? How does the relationship survive?
When loneliness sets in and if the couple see each other only once in a year or twice a year, there is a high likelihood of infidelity. It could be emotional infidelity or physical infidelity or both. It’s very prevalent to have cheating within the family itself. In most such cases, the relationship survives because of the children.
How is the infidelity usually revealed? Voluntarily or by accident? Do the couples then look for counselling help? What steps do they take?
No infidelity is revealed voluntarily. Most cases are shown by accident, in which some are admitted, some are not. In most cases, the couple continues a lacklustre marriage. Very few take to counselling, as that means revealing more. Besides, getting advice is still a stigma in our country.
Related reading: 6 reasons people give for having affairs
What advice would you give a couple when they have to decide that one of them will live away from the family for financial or professional reasons?
Such couples have to ensure to spend a reasonable amount of time understanding each other because in such cases, misunderstanding can creep in faster.
There should be plenty of honesty in the relationship. At all times they should place their marriage first, especially when the husband is back on vacation.
Emotional bonding is essential because the relationship mainly works on the emotional strength of the marriage.
Can you suggest some activities the couple could take up, or steps follow for emotional bonding?
Constant and continuous communication is essential. The conversation usually revolves around finance, children and parents. Couples in long-distance relationships should talk about each other also as much as possible so that they keep feeling the togetherness. Discuss everything with each other and make a joint decision. Make your relationship the priority.