Out of sight, not out of mind for these couples in long-distance relationships

Updated: Feb 11, 2019, 18:33 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

If it's true that a mental image of your lover is as good as physical presence, long-distance love can't be all that tough. Yes, say four couples separated by geography

We're convinced that romance begins in icy waters - both metaphorically and literally. This we know because a study conducted by psychologists, at the University of Arizona last month, drew a conclusion that many will find startling.

The experiment featured in the journal of Psychophysiology had 102 participants, all committed in romantic relationships, submerge one foot into three inches of icy water. Some had their partners physically present, some were instructed to think of their partners supporting them through the task, while others were told to think about their day.

The result revealed that participants belonging to the first two categories had a lower blood pressure response compared to the third category - thus concluding that the mental image of a person can be just as powerful as their physical presence. So, does distance really make the heart grow fonder? Couples in a long-distance relationship say, it's complicated.

Kahini and Keshav
Kahini and Keshav

A difficult choice
Keshav Naidu, 39 and Kahini Panjabi, 29, behind boutique creative agency Naidu & Panjabi have been living apart for a year. Panjabi works out of Kolkata and lives with her parents while Naidu is based out of Mumbai. "We visit each other every month and work-related travel in Bengaluru and Hyderabad always brings us together," Panjabi shares, and for Naidu, even though living apart makes business sense in the interim, it's a sacrifice. "It's funny because I've always avoided long-distance relationships in the past. And now it's like I've gone back to living like a bachelor again. It is easier when the other person plays an active part in your daily life. But I would not choose this over living in the same house," he advises.

Abisha and Sushant
Abisha and Sushant

A silver lining
Mumbai-based counsellor Abisha Fernandes, 23, married Sushant Koshy, 29, who works in Bengaluru as a product manager, in December last year. The two have been in a long-distance relationship for one and a half years. But Fernandes says that the two spend quality time when they are living apart, and merely thinking of Koshy as a supportive figure helps her in stressful situations. "It's a silver lining, in a way. We had no plan on how to stay connected when we got together but we eventually
figured out a pattern. So we talk before heading to work and before sleeping. We also have date nights," she laughs.

Tara and Daniel
Tara and Daniel

Shuttle service
Actress, chef and author Tara Deshpande Tennebaum married Boston-based Daniel Tennebaum in 2001. She reminisces how difficult maintaining a long-distance relationship was during the time. "You spent $2 per minute on a Skype call. So, it's definitely more possible today with this technology. It was also one of the reasons why I left Bollywood," she tells us. Her husband visits Mumbai every few weeks, with Deshpande also shuttling between two countries. But she maintains that distance is not a bad thing. "Sometimes, just the thought of loving someone reassures you. But even with all the technology today, the tendency to replace real relationships with virtual ones is a lot like the difference between sunlight and a UV lamp. It is important to spend a larger part of the year together."

Sangita and Shailendra
Sangita and Shailendra

The myth of technology
"Trust is the most important factor in any relationship. But both partners need to make an active effort to stay in touch," says Mumbai-based film and television actress Sangita Ghosh. Ghosh and her husband, Jaipur-based polo player Shailendra Singh Rajput, travel across cities to meet each other every month, and they ensure that every meeting has a celebratory setting - not just for Valentine's Day. Ghosh prefers to talk rather than text. "There's a lot of miscommunication that can happen when you message. So, there's a problem with technology, too. You're always dependent on network, and when you don't get coverage, you often get irritated and stupid thoughts like 'is he avoiding me?' crop up," she explains.

Dr Minnu Bhonsle

Tips on staying emotionally connected
According to Dr Minnu Bhonsle, senior consulting psychotherapist and relationship counsellor at Heart to Heart India, when two partners are living away from one another, it isn't enough to merely keep track of the other. You need to be emotionally attached.

1. Make conversations about shared dreams. Listen to your partner's aspirations, take interest and actively work to materialise them. Create happy moments in daily conversations.

2. Schedule a zero hour. For instance, commit to a video call and if you're having pizza in Brisbane, don't talk about the pizza or the scenery but make the conversation more meaningful by asking about the other person's day.

3. Many couples assume that they were emotionally intimate before getting into a long-distance relationship, so technology can only help so much. Even though sexual intimacy may be absent, you can build on the fantasy of physical intimacy.

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