Since meeting my partner and deciding to take a leap of faith for love, I didn't realise at the time just how difficult entering into a long distance relationship would be. It is one of those situations you hope you never have to experience. Therefore you try to not think about it and how challenging it will be until you are presented with the situation. The only thought that crossed my mind at the time is, I love this man and can't imagine life without him. Therefore when the situation presented itself, the only choice I had was to endure a Long Distance Relationship. Which is very common for those who enter into cross cultural relationships.
At first we only spent one month apart, when my partner first had to leave for India to spend time with loved ones who were diagnosed with only so long left to live. After he departed for India my tenant decided to bail on me and I could no longer afford rent. Without the responsibility of rent to pay my choice was made easy; to accompany my partner to India and take a leap of faith for love. This was when we decided to get married and have our own Big Fat Punjabi Wedding. Rather than renewing his visa we decided to apply for his permanent residency with me as his sponsor. It was only at that moment that I knew there would be many, many more times apart to come.
I spent 6 months at a time in India and would return to Australia for 6 months before departing for India again. I am now pregnant and therefore don't anticipate to return to India for quite some time as I intend to give birth in Australia. This means we are now at the most challenging part of our long distance relationship. As immigration laws in Australia mean that there are no processing time frames that need to be abided by when processing an application for residency. Therefore we have absolutely no idea when he will be able to return to Australia, or if at all. All we can do is wait.
Essentially it feels like our lives are on hold; I can only plan so much of our life together without my partner present. Such things as finding a house have to be put on hold simply because I cannot afford to do this on my own. However this is also a decision you would normally make together. Then there are other decisions in life that you would normally do together with your partner, therefore are also put on hold. Such as the simple pleasures of life such as adopting a pet together. Without my partner present I also have to seek part time work during pregnancy, although I am going to be a stay at home mother for a while.
Being apart is not only a strain financially, it also impacts you emotionally and physically. Both you and your partner are experiencing different daily stresses and have to try to deal with these as best as you can on your own. Sure communicating is key, however you don't want to spend all your free time together talking about your everyday stresses and how to approach them. Especially when you probably already don't have much time together to bond as it is. This only puts a bigger strain on your relationship when one partner feels they have burdened you in this position and cannot help you when times are tough. Take time to talk about your day and what you have been up to other than just the stressful stuff.
Experiencing pregnancy alone is difficult when you also are essentially living a single lifestyle. Not only that, my partner misses out on the memories. Going through pregnancy alone means your partner isn't able to drive you to doctor's appointments when you are ill, cook dinner for you when you are exhausted, or simply just be present to help with any physical chores or to support you emotionally when you are down. This makes my partner feel terrible simply because he feels he has put us in this situation, although it was a joint decision. I didn't want to put our whole life on hold given we have put so much on hold already, pregnancy shouldn't have to be one of those things. Particularly as you get older you don't have the time to wait.
Being apart from one another means you tend to spend a lot of time second guessing your relationship and if it will work once you are together again. You both aren't in each other's presence to reassure the other, not to mention physical contact plays a huge role in a relationship allowing you to bond. Your partner's presence is enough to ease the daily stresses of life with just a simple hug or sitting in one another's company. Without that physical contact you have to rely solely on your trust for one another and the strength of your relationship. You cannot spend your time second guessing each other's actions whilst apart or if your relationship will endure in the long run. Although it can be easy to start allowing all the negative memories to overwhelm the positive memories together, possibly causing doubt if you will endure and if it is worth the stress.
So how do so many cross cultural couples make their long distance relationship work? As with any relationship communication is vital, particularly for cross cultural relationships and those in a long distance relationship. Though it isn't just about talking about the big issues or concerns, such as the daily stresses you face or where your future is taking you. Along with remembering to talk about the small moments and joys of life, you also shouldn't forget the little gestures that make your day special. My husband and I always make sure we start our day with a Good Morning and end our day with a Good Night. It means we are on each other's mind during the day and again in our dreams before we sleep. Or it might be sending love messages randomly when you think of your partner or sending a sexy photo. Now that you are apart, it could even be sending one another hand written letters or care packages in the mail. Just be sure to continue whatever it was/ or is that makes your relationship special when you are together.
You also want to ensure you spend time together, however that may suit both of your lifestyles. For my husband and I the time difference between our countries makes it difficult to spend time together. Then there is the issue of being available at the same time. So usually I wait till he is home and relaxed before bedtime, although this means it is 2am for me. However since I don't need to rise early for work I am able to compromise. We usually just take the time to chat about our day before we go to bed via an online messenger service. The bigger issues or concerns we try to not let overtake conversation and only mention them when needed. However some couples find they bond better via video calls or even organising dates via video calls. You need to do what suits you and your partner and your lifestyles. Both my husband and I aren't big talkers on the phone so messaging every night suits us.
Although this can be difficult, you still want to have common goals and dreams together to keep you both inspired. However this can also cause undue stress should one partner not feel as though their future is secure, therefore some dreams may seem unachievable during difficult times and can be more of a nightmare. So it really depends on your circumstances. Try and keep it small and stay in the present moment or near future. It might be as small as getting or keeping fit together for one another while apart. Or simply getting approval for your partner's permanent residency together.
At the end of the day only you and your partner can make your relationship work, so do what is best for the both of you. A long distance relationship is definitely a challenge, but will hopefully only make your relationship stronger in the long run. Without the emotional and physical bond of a relationship it is definitely difficult at times, however keeping focused on the end goal is what keeps me going.
Are you in a long distance relationship?
How do you keep your relationship alive?
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