Long-distance relationships, or LDRs, are recognized by many people as one of the most challenging ones. Maintaining a relationship can be difficult enough as it is; doing it while the two of you are miles away from each other makes it even more daunting.
Despite this, many Filipino couples are, unfortunately, in this situation, it being an inevitable consequences when one of the spouses take up employment in other countries. Aside from the difficulties they encounter in their relationship with their spouses, many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) also bear the sacrifice of being away from their children. For them, the result of a failed long-distance relationship does not just mean a failed marriage but a broken family as well.
If you are one of the millions of Filipinos who have to endure a long-distance relationship to work abroad, or are one of those who are left behind by their OFW spouse, it is important to prepare for it. The advancements in technology such as instant messaging and video calling make it a bit easier than before, but these can only do so much.
Dr. Angelo O. Subida, a psychotherapist who has counseled and provided therapy for OFW couples, expounds on the usual difficulties and challenges when in long-distance relationship, “Even with technology aiding communication, the physical distance can remain a problem. A challenge then is to find creative ways and means to build emotional and mental intimacy via technology.”
Couples in long-distance relationships have to be aware and alert of what is happening in their relationship to be able to address any potential issues that can arise. Here are some signs to watch out for:
1. Lack of regular communication. If you and your spouse have no definite arrangement when it comes to communication, you run the risk of either of you neglecting the relationship and not giving it attention and priority. A usual scenario is you or your spouse getting caught up in your separate daily lives and forgetting to set aside time for a Skype call or a Facebook chat.
Tip: Before you or your spouse hops on that plane, mutually agree that you will set a regular schedule for communicating with each other. Use your conversations to nurture emotional intimacy. According to Dr. Subida, “You can do this through validation, love expressions, getting in touch with your feelings, and soothing your partner.”
2. More frequent and personal fights. Fights between couples are normal, whether you are in a long-distance relationship or not. The problem with being away from your partner, however, is that there is a bigger risk of fights escalating and not being resolved. If you find yourself having more frequent and more personal fights with your spouse, it is good to address not just the specific issues that you are fighting about -- but how and why you are having them in the first place.
Tip: Dr. Subida warns of these signs: criticism, contempt, no respect, and defensiveness. Instead, he suggests, “Trust your partner and acknowledge your partner’s viewpoint before expressing your own. Pick your battles carefully and don’t sweat the small stuff. Moderate your emotions.”
3. Flirting online with the opposite sex. One of the biggest concerns of couples in long-distance relationships is infidelity because the set-up makes you both vulnerable. Not being physically present also adds to the sense of "freedom" one might feel, and homesickness often drives individuals to find comfort in the company of others, whether real or virtual.
Tip: Don’t be shy to flirt in your communications with each other. Be open about your feelings of loneliness. Turn to each other for comfort instead of seeking it from someone else.
4. Financial infidelity. There are different kinds of infidelity, and financial infidelity is one of them. This happens when you or your spouse hide information from each other with regard to expenses and how your finances are being handled. It is normal to have some disagreements over budget and spending, but having them constantly is a warning sign to watch out for.
Tip: Dr. Subida recommends, “Have a mutually-agreed-upon financial plan. Be as specific and concrete as possible.” Stick to your financial plan and always keep your spouse in the loop of all financial issues.
5. Disagreements over decision-making. How you make decisions as a couple is greatly affected when you are miles away from each other. Disagreements when trying to decide together is quite normal for every couple, but the frequency of these squabbles should not be brushed off. When discussions turn into disagreements or arguments, and are worsened by stonewalling or putting each other down, there might be a bigger problem than the one at hand.
Tip: Dr. Subida enumerates, “Tell your partner exactly what you want to do, express interest in your partner’s views and opinions, be direct and honest, and choose to be polite regardless of your partner’s words and actions.”
Dr. Subida further reiterates, “It is important to learn healthy marital communication and conflict management skills, which include calming yourself down, communicating non-defensively, validating, and practicing consistently.”
Dr. Angelo O. Subida is a clinical psychotherapist and author with a wide range of specializations. He provides clinical infidelity treatment, marital therapy and counseling, parents and children therapy and counseling, and 24/7 online therapy, among others.