If you’re in an international relationship (or even, in some cases, living in the same country), it might have been 5 or 6 months since you saw your partner. If you’d already been separated for a while before the COVID-19 lockdowns and travel bans happened, it might be longer than that.
You might not even have been a ‘long distance couple’ in the first place, but have ended up in a LDR because one of you is stranded. Or it may just be that your usual visits have been delayed indefinitely.
Either way, if you’re in this situation you’re probably feeling powerless and frustrated. You have no idea when you’ll see your partner again. How can you deal with the uncertainty?
When you can’t ‘have a plan’
I’ve not been in a LDR since we closed the distance two years ago, so I want to be clear that I’m not able to speak from experience on this specific thing. But reading about all these separated couples got me thinking: so much of the advice online (including my own, on this blog) tells long distance couples to ‘have a plan’ and an ‘end date to aim for.’ But what about when that’s impossible?
It’s not just Coronavirus either. There are plenty of reasons that you might not know when you’ll see each other again, such as:
- Uncertainty over career
- Health – either of you or family members
- Military commitments
- Money issues
One way or another, all people in LDRs are likely to experience some uncertainty during the course of their months or years apart. Here are my thoughts on how to cope.
1. Acknowledge that it sucks
No matter what the Instagram hashtags say, you don’t always have to count your blessings and be positive all the time. Sometimes a situation is frustrating, boring and anxiety-producing and it feels good to admit it.
If you and your partner want to have a rant about the situation over Zoom every now and then, go for it – it might be cathartic.
2. But don’t put everything on hold
When you can’t be where you want to be, it can feel as if your entire world has stopped and life is on hold.
As an example from my own life: a few years ago, I just couldn’t find a job. For 9 months, I lived at home in my childhood bedroom, writing applications that never got replies. I’d also just been through a difficult break-up and I felt like life was going nowhere. I didn’t do much during that time except wait for it to be over – which it was, of course, eventually.
Looking back, I wish I’d made better use of that time I had. Yes, it was a crappy situation, but it wasn’t the end of the world. When it ended, it was like a dark cloud lifting – but that cloud might not have been so dark if I hadn’t been so fatalistic about everything.
It’s difficult, but if you can, try to keep up with your usual hobbies and interests, and try to distract yourself with things you enjoy.
3. Take care of yourself and get real help if you feel extremely low
Taking care of yourself doesn’t always feel good at first. It often feels much easier not to do it, especially if your normal routine and/or plans have gone away.
I think it is actually okay to have a few days where you don’t pressure yourself excessively about self-care (though I’m no expert – I just know that I personally feel more motivated to do things like clean my apartment and eat more healthily after some ‘down time’ first). But after 2 or 3 days, try to make an effort to do soothing things and stick to a simple routine.
If you feel extremely low and talking to a friend (and your partner) doesn’t help, think about looking for support from someone with proper training.
Your options will depend on which country you live in. In the UK (where I live), low-cost counselling and therapy can be difficult to find, but it’s always worth a Google to see if there’s something in your area. Some UK employers offer a confidential telephone counselling service as part of their employee benefits. There are also charities like Relate and helplines like Samaritans, plus your regular GP.
4. Connect with others in the same situation
In the past, I’ve resisted the idea of socialising with other people who are facing similar challenges to mine. This comes a little from not wanting to build my identity around a negative situation I’m in, and a little from not wanting to wallow in things too much. If you have the same concerns, they are legitimate. But in my experience, the other extreme – avoiding it – can sometimes stop you from building a support network that can really help when you feel like nobody understands. Internet forums and support groups can be really useful here.
If you still really don’t want to socialise in this way (or if you can’t), try reading things from people who’ve been in similar situations. Whenever I’m facing a challenge, I find it helps to read about people who’ve come through other challenges – whether they’re related to mine or not. This may work for you too 🙂
5. Realise that this will end
It might feel like this will go on forever, but it will be over at some point. Even if your day has been uneventful, it can help to realise that it’s still brought you one day closer to seeing your partner again.
Small comfort when you feel like this, perhaps. But it’s something.