Can you define yourself as single as well as married? That’s an easy call for Mumbaikar Martin Mascarenhas, who, despite having gotten married last year, has still not had a chance to set up home with his wife Sharon. "She left a few weeks after the wedding to pursue her post-graduate degree in the US," says Mascarenhas ruefully. "Since then, we’ve only spoken on Skype and exchanged emails. We’ll be able to meet each other only when her degree course is completed."
Like Mascarenhas, an increasing number of couples now find themselves in long distance relationships. While many take solace in the fact that better access to technology now means that one is able to see and chat with the other person more frequently, those separated by geographical boundaries still find that there’s a lot to complain about when a loved one is far away.
Going the distance
RJ and celebrity blogger Malini Agarwal endured a two-year separation from (her now fiancé) Nowshad Rizwanullah, while he studied at business school in Boston. Says Agarwal, "The worst bit about the whole situation is the distance – the fact that you spend all the holidays, birthdays and other important occasions apart. There’s no one to cuddle up with, and you miss that. Also, going out alone when you are in a committed relationship is not fun."
One of the ways in which Agarwal coped was by making extensive use of the Internet. "Video Skype makes a huge difference. One of the things about long distance relationships earlier was all the huge telephone bills one would incur while trying to keep in touch. But now, video chat is so awesome and best of all, it’s free," she exclaims.
Agarwal and Rizwanullah also spent some evenings watching a movie (and the Russell Peters DVD on one occasion) or TV together, using Skype and a webcam. "We even played games like Scrabble and Battleships online," she adds.
Mascarenhas too makes extensive use of Skype, Gmail chat, and even the odd telephone call. "We try and chat at least every alternate day even though I have to get up really early, because we’re worried about drifting apart," he explains.
Far and away
According to the experts, long distance relationships needn’t always be a bad thing. Says Dr S Sudersanan, consultant, psychiatry, Dr B L Kapur Memorial Hospital, New Delhi, "A long distance relationship has the best chance of working out as long as both the people involved know that there is a fixed time frame in which they will be separated. This is especially important if the couple is not married."
However, doctors caution that certain other parameters could cause such relationships to come under strain. "A couple may experience sexual stress if they are separated for long periods, and if they have kids, the burden of being an almost single parent may cause one spouse to suffer a great deal of tension," says Dr Himanshu Saxena, consultant psychiatrist at Jaipur Golden Hospital. He adds, "Also, if a couple lives apart for longer and longer periods of time, there is a possibility that they may find they have grown up and grown apart."
Another factor that categorises long distance relationships is insecurity. According to Agarwal, anyone in such a relationship needs to have a lot of trust. "Don’t be suspicious – I had no doubts that he was going to cheat on me, for example – and have your own self-confidence. Know that you are worth it and that someone would want to be with you," she says.
Dr Saxena advises, "Have faith in one another, stay in constant touch and be there emotionally for one another, even if you can’t be there physically."
The long wait
And how does one make the long wait bearable? "Keep busy and don’t wish time away," says Agarwal. "Also, always have a plan for meeting up at some point in the future, so you have something to look forward to." Mascarenhas adds, "Do something sweet at regular intervals – such as sending e-cards with loving messages, and send regular letters and cards as well. They really reach across the miles and make someone’s day."
- From HT Brunch, March 13
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch