Change seems to be the only constant, not just during this tough time, but in life in general. Our lives have changed drastically over the past weeks. One moment we were travelling and hugging, the next we were worrying and staying away. Another change is on the horizon with the country slowly leaning toward adapting to a new normal. However, for many, one thing has not changed – their loved ones moved out to safe-guard their family members, and many families are still living apart.
While technology has made it easier for us to communicate, this may not always satisfy our need to connect with our loved ones. A phenomenon known as ‘skin hunger’ describes the feeling of longing and desire to physically connect to another person. This explains why being apart from our loved ones won’t necessarily make us feel lonely but may instil this feeling of deprivation of physical affection.
Prof. Katheryn Maguire suggests that sending something by post to a loved one can help ease the pain of being away from each other. A handwritten letter for example can have a powerful impact in helping people connect, as the person receiving it is seeing their loved one’s handwriting; smelling the person’s perfume and knowing that their loved one previously touched the same paper they are currently holding.
While noting that being apart does truly have its struggles, it is good to also reflect on the positive aspects of it. Self-isolating as a couple or a family can be overwhelming, leaving little to no room for personal space and time. Use this time apart to reflect on yourself as an individual and on your relationship. Think of how the relationship, whether romantic or with a relative, can be strengthened when the person returns.
Research also indicates how missing your partner is a healthy sign and can strengthen the relationship. This is often the case in long-term, long distance relationships (LDRs), where time together is then truly shifted to time for being a couple and individuals learn to prioritise their time better. A small shift in perspective and how we choose to approach a situation can often alter our mood and wellbeing.
It is also beneficial to keep in mind that when the time comes for your relative or partner to return to the household, there may be an adjustment period. You will have gone through different experiences and have gotten used to different routines. Communication is key and if there are any pending issues or disagreements that need to be discussed it’s best not to put them off as this may lead to more tension and possible resentment in the future.
Always keep in mind that this is yet another change and challenge in life. You have successfully faced shifts in life as an individual, as a couple or as a family in the past, and this too shall pass.
Maintaining Long-distance and Cross-residential relationships’, Laura Stafford, Routeledge publishing, 2011
Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector and currently works as a Triage Officer and Chat Bar Coordinator within Willingness Team. Michaela aims to further her studies locally by pursuing a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy in the near future.