COVID-19 affects every aspect of life. Even if you haven’t lost your job or taken a pay cut, your personal life is still affected in one way or another.
Long distance relationships and globalisation go hand-in-hand. A married couple might be divided by jobs in two different countries. Parents and their child/children might be divided by an ocean.
Before COVID-19 and travel restrictions, what they all had in common was the ability to travel to see their loved ones. But not anymore.
Reading the expert advice on social distancing is pretty grim. No handshaking. No stopping to talk to people on the street. More house cleaning than most of us have done in our lives. The toughest one will surely be not visiting friends and family, even in small groups, to prevent more than good food and conversation from being spread among visitors.
How can relationships cope?
Today many families are disjointed ‒ siblings are in different cities or countries and parents are living in another place. We are, in a way, in a long distance relationship with our parents.
As a child I lived through long distance parenting. The Indian saying goes, “children don’t usually separate from parents until death do them part”. As an only child, I left my parents at the age of 13 to learn life on my own. I did not see them for over 24 years apart from a few weeks each year and I have always missed them terribly. I used to write letters/emails regularly and they wrote back, but back in the late nineties there really were no other options. Even phone calls were prohibitively expensive (between USA and Nigeria). Skype calls and online messaging, which could help us maintain that close connection, were quite primitive in those days.
While FaceTime is great for live chatting, there are other deeper, more meaningful experiences and memories I’d like them to be able to share together which live chats and messaging don’t allow.
What can you do?
Here are some tips to keep hearts connected:
Firstly, talk every day with the people you love. Texting is ok but talking is better. While people under 30 might not realise their phone has a function where you can dial a number and call anyone you like, this is how we’re going to be able to keep our relationships going when we can’t catch up over lattes at the little cafe down the street or chat before and after parkrun on Saturday morning.
Secondly, carry on your routine as normally as possible. Surviving a long-distance relationship requires both parties to stay busy, putting one foot in front of the other until the day you meet again. It also means finding creative ways to do things you would usually do together.
Thirdly, milestones, like birthdays and holidays, are more important when you’re apart, so celebrate them with kind words, gifts and virtual celebrations. Our birthdays will still roll around, lockdown or not, so let’s make them fun. During this pandemic, these are the moments when we’ll be missing our old lives the most so it’s important we put some effort into making them special.
Fourthly, take care of yourself so you can be in a good place to support others.
Lastly, know that this will all come to an end some day. While we don’t have a solid idea of when the lockdown measures will be lifted, we do know it won’t be forever.
Make it a priority to reach out to all your friends and family, and offer them support. In a strange way, this experience is giving everyone a chance to step away from the ‘busyness’ of work and outside commitments and rethink what’s really important in the grand scheme of things.
When we get out of this someday, hopefully we’ll have an even stronger support network waiting to celebrate.