Stretch Your Hands across the Seas

(On Long-Distance Relationships)

“I exist in two places, here and where you are.”–Margaret Atwood

Long-Distance Relationship–or LDR–is a situation in which, while being in a relationship, couples or members of a family are miles or countries apart from each other but still keep close contact and continue to maintain the connection. Because of this, time and distance has become of greater consideration. As a key factor, the kind of work one performs may or may not restrict each one of quality communication as it can determine how much time they are willing (based on work schedule) to spare for each other.

While being in an LDR does not necessarily limit people within the context of a romantic/married relationship, the reality remains that it happens if not by choice, but due to the fact that there are some families whose bread winners found work abroad for economic reasons. Thus, the need to be worlds apart ensues.

Over the years, given that it has almost been the norm among couples and families (in the Philippine setting) that one from the union or family is either sent far away for work or by choice, people have found a way to be creative in making each one feel a bit closer–no matter how far, in reality, they are.

Communication, given the predicament of being thousands of miles away from loved ones, has also evolved with the signs of the times. In the past (before the invention of the telephone), to be able to reach a person (whether near or far), one would write a poem or a letter, bring it to the Post Office and have it mailed ASAP. The missive would reach the recipient three days at least, or two weeks even, depending on the distance.

Sending postcards was also a trend. With the sight of a scenic view from the country or a particular area where the person is (captured in a photo or a drawing), one would be in awe and might wish to have been there. This may go on until each side has created a heap of letters from writing regularly back and forth. Storage now becomes a problem since those things occupy physical space. With the invention of the telephone, speaking to someone near or far was made easier and faster with just dialing a series of numbers. Operator-assisted calls were the case until the early ’90s.

As years went by and with the advancement of technology, modes of communication became faster and more creative. In the advent of the Internet, which became commercially available in the late ’90s, many availed of its ability to send electronic mails.

Now in the digital age, missing a loved one thousands of miles away may easily be tapered off by video calls. While in the pandemic, being in LDR is more prevalent given the fact that separate-household couples or family members are restricted, in general, from being physically close together. The demand, at this time, for more frequent communication as well as video calls is greater. More and more people have sought work abroad at this time. There also seems to be more people who are bored and the Internet is their only saving grace.

I am no alien to long-distance relationships. My siblings and I grew up with our dad’s being away most of our lives. He worked abroad, and I could remember only a few times he went home. Our mom would receive letters from him, written two or three weeks prior to the date of receipt. There would be rare moments when he would call, but transmission was delayed. Because there were no revolutionary ways of communication yet in those days, in the ’80s, we didn’t truly get to know our dad.

An aunt I grew up with followed her American dream in the mid-’80s. We constantly communicated through overseas calls via the landline as well as letters via electronic mail. Fortunately, despite her age, she was highly skilled and always updated with the new trends in computer programs, enabling for an efficient communication.

My fiancé (who lives and works as a healthcare professional abroad) and I use Facebook Messenger as our message board. We have revolutionized togetherness by sending messages every chance we can get, constantly updating and reassuring each other. We also regularly speak via video calls. Due to the time difference, we make sacrifices for each other in terms of schedule. This is our way of expressing our commitment and loyalty to each other, at least for the time being. Love, after all, is spelled TIME.

Being in a long-distance relationship is indeed maddening. I am just grateful that, unlike in the ’80s or even the ’90s, communication in the current age is easier and not much limiting. Missing a loved one may be subdued with just a touch on the screen. The Internet has practically become everybody’s reliable friend.

Overall, as LDR is not an easy circumstance to be in, readiness of the mind and body is essential. Having a mature and sound enough mind helps a lot in circumventing the situation, so solutions may come easily when difficulties arise. Loyalty and dedication are offered freely. Self-control fortifies and add meaning to those values. Ultimately, equipping oneself with 101% trust, tolerance, patience, and understanding will relieve oneself of unnecessary stress and uncertainties.

Amidst all these, one must love oneself first and recognize one’s value and self-worth. Then and only then can one be able to send love…long distance.

*Currently working at the Philippine International Convention Center, where she began services 22 years ago, Kathryn Valladolid Ebrahim is an alumna of St. Scholastica’s College–Manila; she finished a degree in Bachelor of Arts, major in Sociology, at the University of Santó Tomás; drawing and writing are her primary avocations.