Long-distance love can be hard to navigate, but physical space doesn’t have to mean less passion. With a bit of imagination and effort, love can grow no matter how far apart you are.
By Zukiswa Dlamini
When any married couple announces that they will be living apart, the first reaction is usually a gasp. “How will you make that work?” “That will be harmful for your marriage.” “How will your marriage stand that test; no one can survive without physical affection?” These are some of the questions that will be asked, which is often enough to put a couple into a panic state. But there is no need to overreact. There are many circumstances that can lead to long-distance marriages, and it doesn’t always have to mark the end of the relationship.
“One of the most common passion killers is familiarity, and living in close proximity contributes to that. On the other hand, an advantage of long-distance love is that it creates space, which in turn can create desire,” says Johannesburg-based relationship counsellor Irene Jones. She adds that though it is not ideal to be away from your partner, the distances can give your marriage new life if you change you’re the way you see things.
Luckily for couples, technology has made keeping in touch so much easier than ever before. This means you can take advantage of this to maintain the sexual spark and keep things spicy. “Couples in a long-distance relationship can have a vibrant sex life that is made up of video calls, voice notes, erotic pictures or watching sex videos at the same time. It’s entirely up to the couple to make their relationship work,” Chantal Betts, a sex toy specialist in Johannesburg, advises. Irene agrees saying that the many options available now mean that long-distance love doesn’t have to be as lonely as it used to be. “You still get the chance to see the person via video calls, and it is not expensive to chat. These are all building blocks for a healthy relationship,” she says. Even though technology can’t make up for physical presence, Irene insists that it is important to focus on the quality of time you spend, whether in person or over the phone. “There are couples who live together and haven’t touched each other in years, so proximity cannot be blamed as an issue; it is how connected you are as a couple,” she says.
Sharon Dube* (38) who is based in Durban is currently in a long-distance marriage. Her husband had to relocate to Johannesburg for work while she stays home with the children. “The distance has elements to it that are hard, but it has made our marriage more passionate. Once I put the kids to sleep, I look forward to moments when all my attention is on my husband through video calling. And I feel like we appreciate each other more now compared to when we were living together,” she shares. Sharon says they no longer take each other for granted because they only see each other twice a month. “When my husband comes home, we have amazing sex and it reminds me of when we started dating. Living apart has taught me some new habits, and I would like to continue with them even when we start living together again,” she says.
Self-confidence is not often discussed when it comes to marriages, but it is something extremely important. If you feel good about yourself and are confident, it is going to have a positive impact on your marriage. The same goes for your partner. What long distance can allow for a couple is the chance to rediscover themselves. “Distance can boost confidence because each person is given the opportunity to learn new things about themselves and grow. This is a positive for your marriage and can be a catalyst for creating a new way of being together,” Irene says.
For 41-year-old Nokwazi Ncube*, the two years she spent apart from her husband while he was studying were good for her confidence and their marriage. “When Mbuso was gone, I had the chance to rediscover who I was. I started attending music shows and working out, which made me feel more like myself. And, seeing me confident made my husband love me more. Now that he is back home, I have continued to make time for myself because I am a better wife when I take care of myself and feel happy,” she says.
Irene says, “In most conservative communities, changing too much or getting new hobbies is often frowned upon because it is believed to lead to the breakdown of marriages. But, growth can be good for a healthy marriage, especially when it includes both partners. A life with the same routine for 20 years should no longer be the goal.”