When you met, it was love at first sight; at least it felt like it. So smitten you were that a day without a text, video chat or phone call from the ‘better half’ was a gloomy one. Before long, cohabiting was in order and life couldn’t be sweeter.
But then you got a scholarship to study abroad for three years and things got complicated. Your busy schedules had already taken a toll on the relationship; long distance would only damage it further. How often would you have to communicate? Could you trust each other to stay faithful? Such is the dilemma that comes with long distance relationships.
When Josiane Hirwe’s husband announced that he was opening a business and moving to Bujumbura, Burundi four years into their marriage, the then young mother of one almost had a panic attack. For the first time since she had left her parents’ home, she was going to be alone and she didn’t know what that meant.
“I was so young, naive and inexperienced. I got married when I was still in high school so I wondered if I could run the home alone. Looking back, I realise what a big task that was, because I really had never been on my own,” she says.
What she didn’t anticipate was how hard the loneliness and the longing for her husband would sting; after all, they were still a young couple.
“We used to talk everyday; morning and night and we had a rule, we would never spend a month without seeing each other. Ten years later, I realised that it was trust and our love for each other that made it work,” she says.
While Hirwe believes that trust and love can keep a long distance relationship alive, Rebecca Anita Kayiraba thinks that it all comes down to how long you have dated someone and how well you know them.
“What I mean is that if you have been living with someone for say, eight years, the relationship has some level of growth that can keep it going even when you are apart,” she says.
Kayiraba also thinks that if a couple has been in a relationship for a very long time, the space could rekindle the flame which she says is the reverse for people who just got to know each other.
Joan Atuhaire and her boyfriend have a four-year-old son and a nine-month-old daughter. The couple has been in a long distance relationship for one year. She says that for any relationship; long distance or not, to thrive, communication is vital. That, and looking at the bigger picture, is what has kept the couple going.
“We talk, talk and talk. Some days are more challenging than others and the lack of physical intimacy doesn’t make things any easier. It really hurts me that our daughter has never seen her father, but when I see the financial gain that his work has brought in our home, I struggle on, but let no one tell you that it is simple. It is very challenging,” she says.
Julian Kaitesi says that a long distance relationship can only work for the hard hearted and as an unmarried woman; all she managed were two years before she threw in the towel.
She says that for most women dating men who live in Europe or America, you are never sure if the relationship has a future, if for example the man has been pursuing legal residence for years.
“Here I was, waiting for a man who had been pursuing citizenship for years and the process was one long headache. He could not travel back and he could not get a decent job there. On this side, there were many suitors who were interested in me. I loved him but I wasn’t growing any younger so I had to let him go,” she says.
Today, Kaitesi has been married for two years and her ex-boyfriend is still pursuing American citizenship.
Josephine Nkwanzi has been in a long distance relationship for the last two years and believes that each relationship differs from the other. She says that for example, what has so far made her relationship work is communication and trust.
“You have no option but to trust. I left all the available men and chose the one that is far. He is worth it and if by bad luck we don’t make it, it’s fine because even relationships of those who stay together also fail sometimes,” she says.
Vedaste Bigirimana and his wife were only married for one year when she left to do a PHD in the United Kingdom.
Since their son was very young, the couple agreed that it was only appropriate that the mother travels with him.
At first, the couple communicated everyday. Then it came down to once a week. According to Bigirimana, whenever he would call, his wife never picked. She would later send a message claiming that she was in a lecture or had taken their son for a walk. She then started sounding irritated by his phone calls and after a few months, it emerged that she was having an affair with one of her lecturers. He says that he later filed for divorce and is now pursuing the repatriation of his son.
Donald Zimurinda thinks that long distance relationships do not work unless one partner; especially the man, is deriving his pleasure from somewhere else.
“If you are a woman and you are in a long distance relationship and it’s working perfectly well, then you need to check your man. Men are not wired like women; you can’t be apart from someone and think that he is sitting there hoping for the day you will be reunited. These are things that only work in women’s heads,” he says
Gloria Senyonga agrees and thinks that it’s unrealistic, especially for unmarried couples.
“I honestly believe it’s impossible to share intimacy with someone who is far. It’s only practical to at least start dating when he or she settles back into the country. All the rest is a fairytale,” Senyonga says.
Doreen Kirabo was in a long distance marriage and has no kind words for the arrangement.
“I was in a long distance marriage for just over five years and I can tell you that it’s not worth it unless the reason you are far away from each other brings in Rwf15m a month,” Kirabo says
Relationships have always been complicated. There is no universal method that makes any relationship; whether long distance or not, succeed because what works for one person may not work for the other. The key to make a relationship work is held by the two people involved and they are the only ones with the power to make it work or join the long list of many who have failed.
How to handle a long distance relationship
•Be sure there is trust in the relationship. The main fruit of keeping a long distance relationship is trust, you have to be able to trust your partner. It’s difficult to do that because you don’t really know what goes on on the other side.
•Have patience. You signed up for this so you need to wait.
•Communicate. Another important key, where possible, communicate daily by email text or chat. Discuss interesting topics. Keep the discussion healthy. Forget the world and the problems. Show it to each other that the long distance is working for you. Tell your girl or guy you love him every time you communicate. It won’t hurt.
•Be understanding especially in writing. It’s easy to misinterpret things during a course of a conversation. Take time to understand what your partner is saying.
•Keep things fresh. Don’t always call at the same time on the same day. Predictability can make any relationship dull.
•Make sacrifices. Love is kind. You sacrifice many things for love.
•Make sure you don’t take up too much time. He or she could be at school or work. Don’t go over the top. You both have your lives to lead. You both need your space.
If we are both committed, it’s okay
Claude Buhiga, receptionist
I would enter a long distance relationship as long as my partner is as committed to it as I am. We do not only love people because they are in our presence. Love is not a feeling that fades away with distance, in fact, most times; our love for people grows more when they are far away from us. Long distance relationships require a lot of commitment and love.
It has its challenges
David Ntagwabira, electrician
As long as there is hope that at one point you’re going to see each other again, I think a long distance relationship is worth the try. It is very challenging; mainly because one of the reasons why people enter relationships is to be with someone. But as they say patience pays. As long as you keep effective communication, it becomes easy to sustain a long distance relationship.
It requires serious commitment
Deo Mulema, businessman
Long distance relationships are challenging and require a lot of trust, patience and commitment, which in most cases, makes them fail. I wouldn’t tie myself to a commitment like that; in fact, I would rather wait for that person knowing that we’re simply friends.
It prepares you for future hurdles
Yanick Kwitonda, student
Why not give it a try? I believe if a couple keeps the relationship going, they will have a wonderful future together. The things a person learns in a long distance relationship, in most cases, are the very same things one faces in marriage, for instance, perseverance, love, honesty, and commitment, among other things. I believe a long distance relationship prepares you for the future, so I would embrace it.
Compiled by Dennis AgabaFollow https://twitter.com/Africannash