Going The Distance

How do you keep a relationship alive when you’re apart? Three readers reveal how they keep those they love close to them
Tuesday , 16 August 2011
Keren and Mark on 
their wedding day
Keren and Mark on their wedding day
Nonylon with her husband 
and two children
Nonylon with her husband and two children
Lisa (left) and Rhian (right) on their graduation day over 12 years ago
Lisa (left) and Rhian (right) on their graduation day over 12 years ago

Long-distance Marriage
Keren Getty Saunt, 31, and her husband, Mark, 37, have taken their marriage long-distance for one year so that they can both fulfil their life goals.

“Mark and I had been together for eight years when we made the decision to try a long-distance relationship. We’d been living in Dubai for seven of those years, and he’d proposed to me at the Dubai World Cup in 2006 – we had a fabulous wedding a year later. Our lives, opportunities and work successes were tied up in Dubai, but I missed my family back home in the UK. My dream was to settle down and buy a house in the English countryside, while Mark wanted to stay in Dubai to develop his business and provide a better life for us. At first the plan was to move back together, but after I spent a few sleepless nights wondering if I was pushing Mark into something he wasn’t quite ready for, I suggested we try and make a long-distance relationship work. I wanted us both to be happy, so it seemed like the best option. Concerned about the amount of time we’d be apart, we plotted a calendar of our travel plans for the next year. We worked out that with both of us travelling back and forth and having holidays elsewhere, we could get through the year without being apart for more than three weeks.

The day I left was a blur. I had spent three days packing up what we needed to ship to the UK, leaving enough to sustain Mark in Dubai and frantically trying to pack enough clothes, shoes and handbags to last me two months until our stuff arrived in England. On moving day, the removal men were there continously and I was so busy I didn’t really have time to think. It was only when we had our last dinner together in our bare apartment that it sunk in. There were a few tears at the airport, but it was tempered because we knew we’d see each other again in a few weeks.

Sometimes it can be testing if our schedules mean we can’t talk for long or the internet connection goes down, but knowing that we love each other 100 per cent puts our minds at ease. There are no trust issues or cracks in our relationship that could break down with distance. We make sure we talk every day, if not more. We also agreed that if either one of us is really unhappy and not coping with the distance, we won’t continue like this. The point is not to fall apart, but to live happily ever after.

There are lots of times when I miss Mark; when I need a hug at the end of a hard day, a kiss on my way to work or someone to snuggle up with in front of the TV. It’s weird shopping for one, or going out solo with friends and their partners, but it’s the weekends and evenings that are the most difficult. We always made an effort to eat dinner together, so I miss sitting down with him to catch up on the day. But knowing it’s not a forever solution helps me get through those tough times.

When we see each other after being apart, we always make time for ourselves. In fact, we go on more dates now than we did living together. In our case it’s also that we’re both fulfilling our goals. I want to buy a house for us in the country and Mark wants to continue working to ensure we have a comfortable future. We’re preparing for a lifetime together and if that means spending some time apart we both know it’s for the best in the long term.

I don’t know how we’d cope if it wasn’t for Skype, but generally the best advice for couples who have to live apart is to try and continue as normally as possible. Talk openly every day, tell each other you love them and miss them and look forward to your time together.”

Long-distance Family
Nonylon Reyes, 31, works in Dubai and had to leave her two children, nine-year-old Juan Carlos and seven-year-old Kristine Claire, behind in the Philippines in order to earn the money to raise them.

“My children were really small when I left the Philippines to take a job in Dubai in customer relations. It was not easy that first time. I wanted to turn and run back to my kids the minute I set foot on the plane. It took me months before I was able to adjust and get used to being away from them. Actually those feelings of separation never change, you just learn how to cope with the situation. Every time I know my holiday is coming up I get very excited, but it’s tinged with the sadness that I will have to leave them after just a few short weeks.

I am lucky that my husband is at home with my children. There’s so little work in the Philippines and it’s easier for Filipina women to find better paid jobs in other countries. It’s just what I have to do to give my kids a better life. And I’m not alone. It’s common for Filipinas, especially mothers to leave their children and look for better opportunities abroad. I guess knowing that you’re not the only one sacrificing for your family makes you feel a little better.

While I’m away, I call Juan and Kristine every day because it’s the only way for them to feel my presence. We chat on skype or yahoo mail but sometimes I use my mobile when I miss them so much and can’t wait for a time when I can go online. I want them to remember that I’m doing all of this because I love them so much. The hardest part is thinking about all that precious lost time that I could be spending with them; missing all those moments when a mother bonds with her child. I know that they are growing up fast and soon they’ll have their own lives. Being away from them physically leaves a kind of guilt inside me, but because I can earn so much more money here I have to stay. It means I can give them both a better education and a brighter future.

My husband, together with both our parents, takes care of the kids every day. It’s a comfort to know they’re in safe, loving hands.

Each year I go back for a holiday, usually around their birthdays, so we can go out and share some special family time together. While I’m there I do as much as I can for both of them; prepare all their food, wash their clothes and all the stuff mothers do for their kids. We go to church together, eat out and watch movies – we share almost every moment we can together.

Despite all of that, I worry about whether they understand my motives. So, when we talk on the phone I make sure I explain why I have to work so far away. I suppose they are old enough now to understand. Overall, though, there are a few ways I deal with the hardship of being separated from my children. First, you have to keep in constant touch with them and never lose sight of the reason why you’re apart. Second, it’s important to have the company of good friends, people who understand your situation and can lift you up when you’re feeling bad.

You can also take this as an opportunity to learn about other languages, culture and people. In other words, this could be a learning experience not only for you but it can be something that you can share with your children every time you go home.”

Long-distance Friendship
Rhian Lindley and Lisa Carlisle, both 35, have been best friends since school. Here, Rhian shares how they’ve remained the closest of friends despite Rhian’s move to Dubai.

“We all have soul mates that enter our lives at different times when we need them the most and, although I didn’t know it at the time, Lisa would turn out to be my life-long female friend. While I’ve gone on to marry and have children, Lisa is following her dream of becoming a professional singer; she is single and travels the world, while I’m settled in Dubai working as a management consultant. Our lives are very different, but when we meet up it’s like we’ve never been apart.

I first met Lisa at Tertiary College in Wales, UK. We were both studying to be classical singers and it most definitely was not friendship at first sight. We were rivals from the beginning, especially as we were both going for the same part in the play The Pirates of Penzance. In the end, the teachers gave the lead role of Mabel to both of us and over the following weeks of rehearsal, we became really close. I loved her sense of humour and honesty, and I realised how much in common we had. From then on we became inseparable, eventually going to the same university and living together.

I met my husband when I was 22 and, although you’d think he would’ve come between us, not even he managed to break us apart. In fact, he loved Lisa as much as I did and it was proof of how strong our friendship was that she was never once jealous of what I had – she just wanted me to be happy. I gave up singing professionally, but Lisa continued on with it and eventually sang at my wedding in Scotland in 2001. She is now godmother to my six-year-old daughter.

Although we’ve always lived on opposite sides of the country, it was still a real shock when we moved to Dubai for my husband’s job two years ago and Lisa was no longer there all the time. The day we left was horrendous. Neither of us could stop crying and as soon as we landed I called Lisa.

We’ve now lived in Dubai for two years and Lisa still hasn’t managed to come over, but she’s planning a visit in the autumn. Despite this, we talk to each other every day, sometimes more than once. We’re constantly on Facebook chat and she’ll still call me and ask me what I think she should wear for a date that evening. It’s this sense of normalcy that keeps a friendship going. While Lisa is single and travels the world singing, I’ve set up my own business in Dubai and have three small children. Our lives have taken very different turns but if a relationship is meant to be, it will survive anything. Friendship shouldn’t be hard work and it should never feel awkward. Lisa will never judge me and we never argue. If I ever disagree with something she does (like her bad judgement in men), she’ll listen to what I have to say and then go and do what she wants to do anyway! But that’s okay.

Living apart has actually helped our friendship as it’s given us space to grow separately, but we all need a friend we can count on, which is how our friendship has survived for so long. Once you meet someone who you trust implicitly and know will always tell you the truth (even when you really don’t want to hear it), you can never let them go.”