The joy of any spinster is to meet a man worthy of holding onto as her own. She looks forward to building a relationship, which would eventually lead to marriage, and with both of them living together happily ever after.
For 30-year-old spinster, Rita Nwannem, this was her dream too, especially after the completion of her studies as a nurse five years ago. Last year, she met Folusho at a mutual friend’s birthday party, and they exchange numbers. Weeks and months after, their friendship grew and a relationship ensued. Soon after, Folusho asked to be more than just a friend. Specifically, he wanted her to be his wife-to-be.
Rita looked forward to their wedding day with so much eagerness. However, the joy of having someone to call her own has become a source of subtle worry for her. She’s found herself separated from the one she loves by several thousand kilometers. Her boyfriend has just relocated to Canada, in search of the proverbial “greener pasture.”
Being in a serious relationship demands that you be open on your dreams and future plans, and so Folusho informed Rita that he was already processing papers to enable him travel to Canada to better his lot as a doctor, and a man. Although she wasn’t comfortable with the news, she had to support him actualize his dream, especially since that would bring him fulfilment.
Folusho finally left Nigeria in May and his absence is now a challenge to their relationship. Rita, who says, though they are in touch regularly, she has her doubts whether she can continue with the long distant relationship any longer.
Her inability to see him as often as she would like, not sure if he is seeing someone else, not sure if he would come back for her or whether she will join him over there, and how long her waiting period before they eventually settle down as man and wife has heightened.
A long-distance relationship is an intimate relationship between partners, who are geographically separated from one another. It could be from country to country or state to state.
If you have to take a bus or drive for hours or take a plane to where your love is, you are in a long distance relationship. According to a survey conducted by KIIROO, using of 1,000 Americans who have been in a long-distance relationship, living at least 132 miles away from each other is the official qualifying factor.
Various reasons for living apart center on professional, financial, or family situation that needs to play out properly until the timing is right for you both to be together geographically.
Experts say, nearly everyone has been involved in a long-distance relationship at some point in their life. While many have failed to maintain it, and have inevitably broken up, even though it may have been a promising relationship, others have succeeded in nurturing it and it resulted in them ‘living together happily thereafter.’
In a long-distance relationship, no matter how deep the love for each other, there’s probably a part of you that wonders how or if your relationship will survive the long distance between you.
Ekaete Etim was in her second year in the university when she met Shola Badmus who was then in his final year. According to her, it was a friendship at first sight. “From the onset I felt save and sure about him and what we had. I knew from the onset that he had plans to travel. But looking back, we were kids, so naive and rightfully so.
“There were no conversation about what this meant for the relationship. Does it end? Do we continue? Do we remain exclusive to each other or do we see other people? Zero conversation!
Asked if the zero conversation didn’t ignite fear of being abandoned, she says: “It was less the fear but more the challenge of my partner not being here. I trusted him. He was a standup guy, honest and all. But I started feeling frustrated when everyone else was spending time with her partner, going places, doing things “together” and making memories. It was lonely even though through the distance, he made sure that i never felt like he was all not in 100%
It’s a lonely road. You will have people who cared for you and had your best interest at heart tell you things that will cause doubt. They didn’t say it with bad intentions.
Although she is happily married now, Ekaete said if asked to advise a young person she would say: “Don’t do it. I was in this for 8 years. The length of time doesn’t really matter though. What matters are the people involved, as well as trust, love, commitment and finding the right person? Love is not enough. Commitment is”.
Tinu Agbabiaka, a certified relationship expert acknowledges that though no one imagines living separately from their spouse, however, this is the reality for some people as either of the partners have had to move due to job related issues. She also believes the situation is on the increase, especially in Nigeria, due to the downward turn of the economy.
“Being separated from someone you love takes an emotional, psychological and physical toll on each partner, along with adding stress and pressure to the relationship. Building and nurturing a relationship needs time and presence to work. Out of sight could eventually mean out of mind. It’s easier to really know who a person is when you see them, talk to them and more.” She said.
Agbabiaka posits that being in a long-distance relationship means many of the qualities that can lead to a thriving relationship will be absent, and communication with your partner may be hindered. Speaking on the place of electronic and social media as a way of bridging the gap in communication, she stated that while social media and constant phone/video calls and sending text messages have become acceptable tool for most couples who live apart, it has its limitations.
“Yes, our phones now keep us closer than we ever imagined nowadays. On it, you have the social media apps where you can chat, place a video call so you can see each other, and discuss issues. With the emergence of social media, and people actually feeling more comfortable with communicating on social media, a lot of people result to using these media. But, it’s very easy for someone to pretend on the phone or on social media. There is even a survey that suggests the average long-distance couple will send each other 343 texts every week, and spend eight hours a week talking on the phone or video chatting. But it has its limit.
“It is very easy for someone to pretend on the phone or on social media. It is easier to really know who a person is when you see them, talk to them, and see their mannerisms and gesticulation.” She noted.
Does this mean that there are no advantage(s) in being in a long-distant relationship or marriage? Agbabiaka simply says she does not see any advantage in it. For her, if there is no communication, then there is no relationship.
“Personally, I don’t see any advantage in it. The strength of every relationship is communication and the gift of presence. If you are not present in each other’s lives, then there is no relationship. It is not unusual to hear that someone had another life, or another family someplace else while pretending to be in a long-distance relationship”.
On her part, relationship coach, Mrs. Adetutu Oshofowora, takes a look into the issue separately. For her, long distance-relationship is permitted if both parties adhere to the principles. On the other hand, long- distance marriage is not advisable and is not permitted.
While in agreement with Agbabiaka on the need for communication, Oshofowora stressed the importance of the couple visiting each other regularly, and being in touch in other to build a thriving relationship.
“A thriving relationship must allow both parties to go frequently enough to where each other is, to see each other in their habitats, and observe how they do things. Because basically, the way a person treats you is not the Issue but how he or she treats others.
“The way they treat others is their real self and your own prophesy, that’s how you also will be treated when your novelty wears off. So for example, a guy who’s all nice to you but is regularly rude to the waitress, receptionist, his sisters and others, tells you his opinion of women. Time is a revealer of all things, not just time but effectively spent time.
“Long-distancs relationship will not allow for all of these to take place”.
On the principles that must be followed by couples intending to go into marriage to have a successful long-distance relationship, Oshofowora lists them to include:
“Mentorship is non-negotiable. Long-distance courtship needs the presence of experienced mentors in the relationship for guidance, who will teach both of them the kind of questions to ask, the kind of issues to raise, what to look out for, how to interpret answers and so on.
“Ask core questions more than once in a long enough space of time: This is very important to ascertain if what you are being told is the truth, or what he or she feels you want to hear. Because the truth is constant, if I ask a question casually now, and I ask it again after 3 months, if the last answer is truly the value system of that person, the same answer will instinctively come out”.
She further stated that the fact that they are apart, often makes them to spend all the time just doing lovey dovey stuff and just expressing plenty emotions and not addressing issues. Marriage is about destiny and purpose.
“Because purpose is not emotional and destiny is not sentimental, they both must of a necessity look for regular times where both are available to address Issues, and talk about their life, belief systems and value systems to be sure they are compatible, and still on the same page. Never assume in a long-distance relationship. It’s lethal. Have designed conversations not default ones.
“The moment constant, unresolved or unresolvable issues keep rising, then don’t go ahead.
“Be sure that both you and the person are not just chronologically mature, but psychologically, emotionally and spiritually mature. Maturity is a non-negotiable factor in any relationship that will succeed, it’s now much more needed in long distance courtships.
“No marriage till you have had opportunity to see each other in your natural habitat. Marriage plans should not occur except the plans to be together is successfully completed.”
For long distant marriage, Oshofowora said it is not wise to live apart as it portends danger. So, why does she not endorse it? She attributed it to lack of maturity, which is what obtains in most marriages.
“One of the most important attributes for couples willing to go into marriage is maturity, spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. Unfortunately, what obtains now is that most problems that arise in many marriages has to do with couples getting married for chronological reasons alone, and so they are not ready to face life and its challenges. ‘“Once a man has to live apart from his wife and children, it is a life challenge, which both of them must tackle, maturely.
“The married couple must set a time limit to the duration of their stay apart and once that time elapses, they must come back together”.
Quoting from Ephesians 5:31, the relationship coach says: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh;” and 1 Corinthians 7:5 “Do not deprive one another, except by mutual consent for a limited time, so you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again, so that Satan will not tempt you through your lack of self-control”. Oshofowora noted that God admonishes that a husband and wife should cleave together. And where they must be living-apart, it must be for an appointed time.
She pointed out that couples need to ask themselves salient questions such as: “What do we want to achieve at the end of the day? How long are we going to be apart? What about the future”?
Answering these questions will help a couple in long-distance relationship to plan, draw up a timeline, marking down the estimated time of staying apart and, and draw an end goal. They must know when to get back together whether or not they’ve achieved what they wanted.” She said.
First Published in Vanguard Allure