We all have been there. It is the day our partner is travelling far away, far away from us. While they will be back, most of us dread that moment where our loved one is going away. It could be for a few days, for a week or longer; no matter the length, it is painful, and fears can terrorise us. Soon enough, our fear of loss is soon knocking at the doorstep. When in a relationship, we struggle when we are on our own, and that creates anxiety and worries.
The day of departure, we go to the train station and walk in silence, gently holding hands. Our world shifted and we are slowly starting to realise what is about to happen. Arriving at the station, we wait for the train. We wait some more and at times, we exchange kinds words. We say that everything will be okay, that we will see each other soon anyway and that we can always call each other if we feel like it. We look at each other with an intense gaze; that gaze means a million words:
“I will miss you”
“I miss you already”
“Life is harder when you aren’t around”
“I’m afraid something will happen to you and that I will never see you again”
“Come back to me safely or you know, just don’t go”
“I will be waiting for you”
“I’ll be sad without you”
As the train arrives, it’s time for a last embrace. The last kiss feels like an eternity. We hold our partner with our hands around their head, give them a kiss on their forehead and wish them the best trip. Then we slowly see our Sweetheart disappearing in the train’s coach. We have a last chance to wave at the window while our heart is filling itself with love and we want to cry. Before the train starts moving, a few minutes pass and we think about how it’s gonna be without them, how they gonna feel without us and how much we love each other. Then, suddenly we start to melt in tears. It is unsurprisingly happening as the train is moving, moving away from us and taking our dearest far from us. Slowly our partner’s face cannot be seen anymore. It is when we realise that we are now alone, at least for a while. It hurts. It’s sad. It’s overwhelming.
The quay is now empty; the train is gone, we murmur one last time while looking straight ahead:
“I miss you. I love you”
While slowly walking home, distractions come as thoughts and dreams. It is hard to stay with our emotions, so our mind is working to keep us busy. So for a moment, we can forget how we are feeling. Distance is creating the unknown; distance is bringing our deepest fears to the foreground.
While this sounds like a dramatic and sad story… It was just a beginning but also a way to look at it. Distance can be seen as an opportunity. As an opportunity for connection.
The Gift That Distance Can Be
Over the last two years and on a regular basis, both my wife and I experienced being momentarily away from one another. I went skiing in France with my friends for a week, she flown to Faro (Portugal) for five days on her own or she went to the Netherlands for ten days for a self-development training. Back a few months ago, she went to Thailand for training and a meditation retreat, and she had no phone nor internet for about 15 days out of the three weeks she was away.
Each of these and the others I did not mention have been a chance for us to get closer. But closeness while being far from one another does not happen on its own. It requires commitment and in some case have a support system to keep that connection alive.
During most trips, no matter who is away, we probably do what most couples are doing. We check in during the travel; we make sure to have phone or video time together regularly (if possible, daily), we share pictures or audios to see and hear each other. We also make a conscious effort to keep each other involved in our lives. We share our worries, our fears and our happiness, so we stay connected.
We had two occasions where we have been away from one another, but we couldn’t communicate with each other (no text, no phone, no internet). The first time, it was for a trip to Finland. My wife decided to live like a hippie for a week and went to a rainbow gathering to see if she likes event like that. As it was in the middle of nowhere, we had no contact for about five days. We planned on her having some network to text or call at least, we weren’t prepared to be out of touch and “in the dark” for about five days. As we weren’t expecting that, we did not plan accordingly. We just hoped for the best, and it turned not that well. We felt worried, we had fears, we didn’t feel close to each other and reconnecting took conscious efforts. These five days have been painful for both of us.
Six months later, she went on a meditation retreat in Thailand. She has been working with an organisation over the last few years and yearly, she goes to Thailand to live with monks and intensively practice meditation. There is also some self-development involved, and if you know my wife, you know that she can travel half the world for that! 🙂 While that is great for her, it was worrying for us. The meditation retreat was during our one year wedding anniversary, and it meant not being able to talk to each other, nor text for about 15 days. We knew we would survive that, but it is rarely a comfortable process.
While we were as far as we could from each other: being on the other side of the world and no mean to be in touch; we stayed close and felt connected. The logical follow-up question to that is HOW? A lot of that is coming from trust plus a loving relationship and for these, building them slowly over-time is the only way. But this time, we did an extra little something for each other that made all the difference!
I let you hang enough, here was our little secret. We bought some envelops, like a lot of them! For each day we won’t be able to be in touch (15 days), we wrote a small message or put something in that envelop. It could be a simple “I love you” with hearts in a red sticker, or it could be a poem. We agreed to write a longer letter fo the date of our one year wedding anniversary.
On the outside, each envelope will give a hint of what is inside so we could choose to open the one that made the most sense. For example, I remember a letter: “When the distance feels too much…”. So I knew, or at least hoped, that if I miss her a lot, I will find a little surprise that reminds me of her.
I gave her a letter to open on the first day, in which I just put a small stone that she has which is a symbol of me. On top of the stone, I wrote that while she is far, I am there with her and that can carry that stone with her at all time. While it may sound stupid to you if you are a man, ask your woman how she might feel about that…! 🙂
The letters had a good mix of pictures, gentle words and funny things. It allowed us to maintain a feeling of connectedness and love. Every day, we could go back to our pile of envelopes, look through them and pick one that matched our mood and thoughts. It was surprisingly effective for both of us and a big change from our previous experience.
Many couples I know would hate to be separated for 15 days with no means of communicating, while I understand that, it is overlooking the growth opportunity that the distance can create and we will explore that in our next article!
I hope you appreciated the read and see you again soon!