One of the issues often brought into therapy sessions nowadays is “How to navigate the landscape of long-distance intimate relationships when there are so many travel restrictions for months?”. In the age of an increasing digitalized world, many relationships are started online and before partners decide to know each other physically, they communicate virtually. Pew Research reports that one-quarter of internet users with recent dating experience (24%) have used the internet or email to maintain a long-distance romantic relationship, and a 2018 survey found that 60% of long-distance relationships last. That number might suffer changes in the light of the new Covid-19 pandemic which took the world by surprise.
According to Wikipedia, an intimate relationship “is an interpersonal relationship that involves physical or emotional intimacy”, and for obvious reasons, the physical part of long-distance relationships is suffering the most. As a biopsychosocial being, physical acts of intimacy are very important in feeling loved, nurtured, and satisfied. Oftentimes, the partners bring up this issue and the discussion reveals concomitantly feelings of frustration and embarrassment, irritability with the situation, and carefulness for the possible negative reactions of the other partner. Is there anything that the partners can do to stay connected on the physical level?
Every couple is different because each partner brings his/her own style to the relationship, but at the biological level, we all have the five senses which could be fully used when we connect with our partner in the virtual world. Here are three simple suggestions related to our five senses! Feel free to add others as you start experiencing them with your partner. The list might be endless, as our experience of the partner is unique and unrepeatable:
1. Hearing: communicating through voice recording and music. Sending to your partner a recording with your voice reciting a favorite poem or simple words of appreciation and love. To increase the excitement, deliver your message at the most unexpected and surprising times.
2. Smelling & tasting: Cooking together with favorite recipes of each other and enjoying it together. Set up a time in the day which is the most comfortable for both of you (keep in mind the possible differences of the time zones). Buy all the necessary ingredients, get dressed accordingly, or not, and have fun. Favorite recipes are always opportunities to connect with past meaningful memories and future exciting plans.
3. Touching & seeing: Get dressed up, use your favorite perfume, and have a virtual date with your partner. You can watch a movie or a favorite TV Show. You can taste a glass of wine or have some popcorn. Let your body enjoy all these sensations and absorb through its senses the virtual presence of your partner.
Besides the immediate benefits of connecting with the partner at the physical level, through these activities and others, you also open the door of emotional intimacy: sharing feelings, confessing frustrations, expressing desires, and appreciating your partner while moving beyond temporary physical restrictions. If you still cannot manage to stay connected, we are always here for you for couples therapy.