(This is an excerpt from the Book:
Getting Along: Skills for life-long love (2nd edition),
by Christopher & Anne Ellinger & Alyssa Lynes.
This excerpt is from the section:
Out of the Box-Loving, written by Alyssa Lynes
Long distance relationships
Strengthening your connection with your partner when in different places can add to the beauty of the relationship and support each of you individually. One or both of you might be in a new environment and the consistency of support and of loving or sexy interactions will nourish and enable you to bring yourselves more fully to those around you.
Many couples worry if they plan to be apart for a time. While in different places, people often put their attention on longing to be together and on the frustration of being out of physical contact with their love. Instead of spending energy on what is not possible you may appreciate the unique creative ways you can learn to connect with loved ones from a distance.
This chapter focuses on how we can better enjoy the experience of being in connection while in different locations and provides tools to support intimacy from afar. You will find tips on how to use the framework of the Five Love Languages to be more present and creative in your long-distance loving. You will read about the importance of recognizing time agreements and discover suggestions for fun date night possibilities.
For the sake of clarity, this chapter is written using the partnership model of two people. These tips can also be applied to polyamorous partnerships or constellations.
Love Languages for long distance connecting
How do you and your partner experience love? What would make each of you feel thought of and cared for while being apart? Gary Chapman first wrote about the Five Love Languages in 1995, and since then it has been a useful framework that many people turn to in order to express how they can best receive and experience love. While there are many helpful approaches to refer
refer to, we will use the Five Love Language model to explore how to love long distance.
1. Words of affirmation long distance
Letters, emails, texts, and phone conversations are filled with words. People who thrive on receiving love in the form of encouraging words may feel at ease with long distance communication. Others may want to put more effort into exploring how words can support them to feel connected and loving from a distance. You may find yourself increasing words of affirmation during these times apart to fill in for a love language (such as touch) that is not available in this context.
Get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes your sense of identity is linked to how words are used. If using words to express your connection is unfamiliar or awkward for you, be compassionate with yourself. You might consider it as a meaningful game to try out verbalizing what you are feeling toward your partner. Let them know how you feel and try exploring words together. You might find a different part of yourself can be expressed.
Be specific. While you might not see each other and can’t touch each other, details can especially support people to get on the same page. When your partner shares a specific reason or moment they noticed and appreciated you may be more able to receive it, believe it, and take it in.
A few examples with details:
“I so appreciate how you called me right at the time you said you would! It’s really great to hear your voice.”
“I love how you tell me all the spices you are cooking with. It gives me such a sensory experience while we are talking.”
“You made the kids brownies on their snow day this week! What a loving dad you are!”
“Thanks for helping my Grandma move last weekend. I really appreciate you helping the family while I’m away! You are so caring.”
“I feel totally at home with you as we are talking. Just being with you on the phone is helping me relax after a stressful day. Thanks for making yourself available to chat last minute.”
2. Acts of service long distance
People who receive love through acts of service feel valued and cared for when the giver does so out of choice and not obligation. From a distance an act of service may come in the form of skill sharing, recommendations or referrals. Seeing these recommendations and referrals as a language of love supports connection.
Some examples of skill sharing that can be explained via words or video are listening when someone needs emotional support, giving computer advice and providing financial planning ideas.I needed to put my bike in the back of my small car. I called my partner who directed me over the phone to remove the tire. I felt cared for, could drive home with my bike, and learned a new skill.
Make recommendations:“Why don’t you watch this Facebook link of a short dance video?”
“Check out this instructional video on how to resolve your computer issue.”
“I think you’ll like this Audible book. Here’s the link to download it.”
Support the well-being of your partner by connecting them to people who can provide local services.I suggest you go to this chiropractor who I saw last time I was in New York.
I have a great friend in Berlin you should meet for coffee. I think it’s fun to meet friends of friends when traveling alone. Have a great adventure!
3. Receiving gifts long distance
Some people thrive on the thoughtfulness and effort behind gifts. Receiving a letter in the post may seem even more special now that it is often a novelty. Some material gifts may include sweet postcards, a delivery of massage oil directly from the online store, or a copy of this book.
4. Physical touch long distance
For the person whose primary love language is touch, it’s especially important to approach a long distance relationship with creativity and to stay open to new possibilities. It may be a process to let go of feeling shy or awkward in order to more deeply connect to people on phone dates. Here are a few ways to bring touch into the long distance experience:
Link the sensation of touch to being with your partner. This kinesthetic experience can help you receive the warmth they are sending you through your skin. This self touch can include all the varied energies that touch can explore: loving, sensual, spiritual, playful, sexual…
Simply touch yourself while connecting with your partner.I put a calm hand on my face or give myself a little caress while feeling the loving energy of my sweetheart talking to me on the phone.
Use massage. Roll on a massage ball or gently squeeze a sore muscle.
When my husband is away on business, I love giving myself a foot massage when we talk. It is something he does for me at home so it feels extra sweet to do together while we are physically apart.
Include your partner in your touch experience by being seen on video.I felt awkward and nervous at first but now I like using video. When my partner can see me, I have more choice as to how much I use words and how much I express with my body.
Use words to connect and get creative
You can choose to tell your partner you are touching yourself or not. You may tell them via the phone or by text.
Choose who does what to whom
You can word it as though your hand is representing what your sweetie would be doing to you or what you want to do to them. You can keep it as you touch yourself while with them. You also may have fun saying what you want them to do to their own body.
You can get creative playing with these options of touching. You may bring in a prop or toy to show how you would interact with your partner. It might be full of images and poetic or raunchy and kinky. One person may be the dominant one and say all the words or you may go back and forth. You can have different sessions of leading and following.
Choose when the fantasy happens
Get creative with your tenses and see what feels most connective and exciting in the moment.
Use words to describe what you wish you were doing right now:
- I would love to be running my fingers slowly down your back.
- I am kissing your right earlobe and whispering to you.
Use words to describe a memory of a sensual or sexual time you actually shared in physical reality.
- Remember when I laughed….
- I loved that time when you bounced up and down on the mattress and wrestled me to the floor.
Use words to create a scene that you want to enact in the future.
- When I pick you up at the airport I’m going to squeeze you so hard.
- When you get home to me, I will run you a bubble bath and light candles.
Use words to create a fantasy scene that may never be enactable.
- We are lying in a tent in a magical forest. It’s pouring outside. I am kissing your feet and removing your high heels. OMG! There’s a loud monstrous sound coming from the swamp! Did you bring your superpowers?
5. Quality time long distance
For some people, receiving undivided attention from their partner says “I love you” like nothing else. This can be spending uninterrupted time together, talking or doing an activity. When we clarify our wishes around quality time and make agreements, we can celebrate and enjoy our interactions more fully. It may take a little extra communication to get on the same page.
Ask yourself the following questions:
What are my current expectations of my partner with regard to how we share time?
- Frequency of planned quality time or date nights
- Response time to messages
- Unplanned communications
Are we on the same page about our expectations or is there something to get clearer on so we can enjoy both the planned time together and the extra spontaneous communications?
Agree on time commitments
Here’s an example of a clear time arrangement.
Josh can count on having date night via video chat for 3 hours with Alex on Sunday night and a 30 minute phone chat on Tuesday. He looks forward to those times with excitement. Alex and Josh have said they will send each other one text a day to share an important moment or a silly image or photo. They understand that there is no commitment to respond right away to these texts. They enjoy getting a text back by the end of the day when possible. If they want a response by a set time or some correspondence beyond these agreements they can ask for it. All extra texts, emails, or calls are unexpected and sweet surprises.
Agree on response time to messages
At one point, I was dating three people long distance. Each one was set up differently, and as long as I adjusted my expectations appropriately I could enjoy all of them. Jorge, I came to recognize, would respond to a text usually within 36 hours whereas Doug, within 5 minutes and Jasper by the end of the day.
One time I wrote Jorge a vulnerable text about having had an important conversation with a metamor (another lover of his). After 12 hours of no response I felt annoyed and I noticed that I was beginning to judge him as inconsiderate. In reality, I did not know what his day looked like and based on his norm of not responding prior to 36 hours, this was probably not a ruthless response. He was doing nothing out of the ordinary. The change was that I felt vulnerable when I wrote that text and wished for a faster reply. He didn’t know this shift and so I needed to be more clear and ask directly for a response sooner.
I wrote Jorge:“Wishing for a little response from u to feel complete in this step of communication. Can you let me know u received this? I’m off.”
By the time I landed from my flight, he had written back:“I’m so glad you all had such a kickass, clarifying, and compassionate chat. That makes me so happy, and I’m so glad it went well.”
I was relieved and warmed by his response. More importantly, I could see how I wished to avoid judging him. I learned that I needed to communicate clear requests when I wanted a response by a specific time or for a timing that was out of our established norm.
Acknowledge a shift in timing
Imagine you are in a room together.
Your lover seductively says: I want to kiss you in the sunshine.
You promptly respond: ‘TTYL’ or ‘gotta run’ and leave the room.
Sounds a bit jarring, right?
This is how it might feel via text also. When a rate of communication has been established and you can no longer continue with this rate of attention, let your partner know that you have to make a shift and whenever possible leave a moment for closure.
Communicate what they can expect next from you
Write them that you have to go back to work or focus on something else. This way it is clear that the reason you are pausing your conversation is because you need to focus on something else. This may decrease the chance of them creating a story about why you stopped chatting with them. They know you are occupied and they can’t expect fast responses to further texts.
Give a moment for closing remarks
They may want to send a closing text before you put the phone on airplane mode and disappear. If you give a warning that you have to go in a few minutes you can collaborate on the closure of the conversation.
One lover and I wrote many spontaneous texts a day. Based on our availability in that moment we would establish a rate of communication. Sometimes one of us sent out a flirty comment and the other would respond 3 hours later after our work was through. Sometimes we got into chatting, sexting or flirting back and forth in that moment as though in a live conversation.
I found that if the rate of responses shifted drastically without warning or acknowledgement, my perception of the fun conversation could abruptly change so that I felt unsettled or annoyed. Now, when we are no longer available to continue at the same rate, we write something like this:
“This was so fun. Thanks. I can spend 2 more minutes with you and then I have to go back to work. Want to continue at 10:00pm and put me to bed?”
Long distance date nights
- Schedule the date ahead of time. Commit to be together. Know the start time and if you have a set end time or not. Decide if you are setting aside other distractions during your date. By making these agreements ahead you can anticipate having each other’s attention. You can also look forward to your date and prepare for it as you might with an in-person date.
- Create a plan. There are many fun things to do together. It can be great to brainstorm things you would like to do and then know which one is coming. Here are a few ideas to try:
- Cook the same meal separately, but eat together on the call.
- Watch a movie at the same time in your separate beds.
- Go out to a cafe together via video chat.
- Take a walk and show each other your favorite park nearby.
- Take a bubble bath together via phone.
- Turn off the lights and then say goodnight. Cuddle up to two separate pillows. Then bookend the sleeping together date by calling each other when you wake up in the morning, all sleepy sounding.
- Prepare your space and energy. How can you get in the mood for the upcoming date? Maybe you want to take a shower as a way to release stress from the day, put all the laundry and computer work to the side, put on sexy clothes, prepare your space with candles, etc.. Do whatever it is that prepares you to be fully present with just that person on the call.
- Enjoy the date.
- Close the date with celebration and clarity. At the end of an in-person date a conclusive moment usually happens. This might be a hug or kiss. Here you could consider using some words of affirmation instead. You might say something you appreciate about your date or something you are grateful for. You could also clarify when you’ll next connect. Ideally you leave the date feeling loved up and clear about when you’ll meet next.
I loved that moment when you told me to let my hair down and imagine you nuzzling my neck. I can’t wait until our next date on Wednesday. The cafe I’m taking you to is so sweet.
Essentially, be bold. Discover something new about yourself, and aim to strengthen the relationship despite or even because of this distance. Even though we may see some of these tools as new or edgy for us, by trying them out we get to develop together differently. Talking through love languages and exploring how to demonstrate those from a distance can set the stage for further growth and connection. Regardless of the medium you use to communicate, find ways to be present in the moment to appreciate the quality of your time together. Seek new possibilities for creative expression and discover a variety of ways to love and support each other.
If you’d like to read more like this: check out the full book: Getting Along: Skills for life-long love.
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