Love in lockdown: Making an unplanned LDR work during a quarantine

Steph Arnaldo
Love in lockdown: Making an unplanned LDR work during a quarantine
Love in the time of corona – how can couples cope in a sudden long-distance relationship? Here are a few psychologist-approved tips to help you go the distance

MANILA, Philippines – Relationships usually dependent on quality time and physical touch have now been reduced to a relationship through digital screens – a change sans choice, and barely any warning.

Most of us are in long-distance relationships now (whether we like it or not), and this, according to Lissy Ann Puno, relationship counselor, psychologist, and author of Couple Goals, is an adjustment that may be difficult at first, but is far from impossible. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind, as well as doable solutions to common LDR problems, that might help when you feel like you just can’t go the distance – because as the cliche says: absence makes the heart grow fonder (well, for the lucky ones, at least!)

LQs in an ECQ

When the little things we may have taken for granted pre-ECQ have now been taken away (physical comfort, face-to-face conversations, undivided attention, eye contact) and without a specific date of their return, it’s a jarring reality – especially for couples experiencing an LDR (long-distance relationship) for the very first time. 

“It’s true that the old normal is gone, and that a new normal needs to be created in being in a relationship at this time,” Lissy told Rappler. Bluntly put – there’s no use longing for the past, because, what for? 

As you focus on creating your “new normal,” common LDR problems might arise. You are most likely missing eachother terribly (very normal), which might cause an extreme case of loneliness in one of you whose number one love language is physical touch, or was used to spending every day with each other. 

This might lead to feeling disconnected and isolated, which might be caused by another issue: a lack of communication or a lack of topics to discuss after a prolonged period of time (maybe your what’s your ulam? topic starter has gone stale). With both of you stuck at home, with nowhere to go and nothing else to do, it’s bound to happen.

Also, the inability to express affection in the ways you are used to (buying gifts, driving) can also become a cause of concern. Likewise, the gestures you would usually accept affection from (hugs, dates) are compromised as well – which may lead to feelings of abandonment and rejection.

Even feelings of guilt can arise – for example, if one is a frontliner and one is at home – which can corrode the relationship eventually. 

Luckily, these problems can be alleviated, Lissy Ann said. The pandemic is strong, but hey, your love might be stronger.

Love in the time of corona

“Couples just need to set a time to communicate,” Lissy Ann said. Ideally, this set time should be used for “openness and honesty” about your thoughts and emotions, especially if it has to do with the quarantine and each other. No holds barred – just non-judgmental acceptance.

“Spend this time to get to know one another in a deeper way by having meaningful conversations while time allows you,” she said, which makes sense – prior to the ECQ, you both might not have had the time and energy to discuss “deeper topics,” thanks to traffic, work, and a busy social life (wow, alien concepts).

Lissy Ann also advised that individuals also need to do “the inner work” – this means engaging in personal activities that will help you stay calm and balanced, say yoga, meditation, journaling, or returning to a long-lost hobby. 

“You can even read a book together, or watch a show together. Have fun with another! Play games online, share stories from your youth, do chores together, de-clutter your rooms and share your findings,” she said.

Adjusting with the times is also crucial – non-texting couples who are used to talking face-to-face can make video calls a regular nightly habit. Missing dates? Try sharing a meal together through the screen, complete with a virtual toast of your wine glasses. Itching to give a gift? Surprise your partner with food delivery from her favorite resto. And don’t forget to communicate!

“There are so many more things to learn about each other,” Lissy Ann said, which is one example of her prime umbrella advice: Looking for the good in every situation.

“If you allow this time to help your relationship grow, it may grow in these areas,” she said. 

The light of the end of a tunnel: Things to remember

To go through is to grow, especially during this time in your relationship. When this is is all over, look forward to your relationship’s growth amid adversity – as long as you remember these three things.

Crisis intimacy. “You will discover how you both cope with a crisis,” Lissy Ann said. “This will give you a glimpse of how you will be as future partners and how you would work as a team.

According to Lissy Ann, it is a must to ask each other: What are our individual strengths? How do you require support from me? 

These answers will shed much-needed light on how you would respond to a crisis as a couple, now and in the future. Discovering how you both solve problems, how you view difficulties and struggles, and how you both deal with stress and worry are very important things to know in your partner at any point in time.

Communication intimacy. Loving with (phyiscal) limits is hard, and not knowing when it’ll all be over is even more of a challenge – making it an even “greater need” to connect in ways that are available to you and your partner.

Whether that’s to communicate clearly and openly about your thoughts, feelings, worries, fears, and frustrations, the “heart-to-heart” act can instantly already deepen your emotional understanding of one another.

Conflict intimacy. These are strange, stressful times we are living in, and inevitably, moods will be affected. With a constant stream of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, there is a tendency to be “irritable, annoyed, frustrated, and sad,” among many other emotions that may trigger conflict.

“The ability to resolve and discuss conflict openly and honestly will be determined by how secure your relationship is,” Lissy said.  So talk it over, allow the relationship to grow, and try your best to reduce the issues that can bring about conflict – say, choose to communicate via phone call instead of text, where messaging and tone tend to be misconstrued.

Shifting from no-distance to long-distance is no walk in the park, sure, but it’s a stroll that can be enjoyed hand-in-hand, despite the obstacles in your way. Just keep your chins up, communicate, choose to love, and to adjust – and when it comes to true love, the rest will take care of itself. – Rappler.com

Steph Arnaldo

If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.