People do not have kind words for long distance relationships, even though, it is common fodder in these rapidly changing times, when career ambitions and lucrative job placements mean, geographical disparity between lovers.
One young man, Marcel (not real name), goes to the London to ‘sweep’, saves by the pound through lots of hard labour, and a strict saving culture, which implies, three jobs, less than six hours of sleep, hamburgers for meals, sleeps in an equivalent of a shack, to be able to send money to his lover back in Kigali, for upkeep and some other projects.
Marcel does this all in the hope that one day he will go back home to live in a plush Nyarutarama home, send his children to Greenhill Primary School and enjoy life’s little mercies.
He entrusts through his bosom buddy, the kind who will break a neck for you, and here is the catch, to help his fiancée to invest in their future.
A few years later, when he lands at Kanombe, the wife for whom he has toiled so much is shacking up with guess who, his best friend.
Marcel’s tale is not the best advert for long distance relationships, but surprise, for thousands and perhaps millions of people, it works out perhaps not very perfectly, but well enough to evade the rough patches.
Have you not heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder?
One of the most important factors that will sustain such a relationship is regular communication, to fight the clouds of loneliness that will swamp one, from time to time.
It never helps matters when, on Friday night, best friends save time for their sweethearts, picnics or the casual evening walk.
And here you are, left to the constant longing that perhaps the stale two-year old pictures of the two of you, still reflect the old flames.
It is important if you agree on some sort of regular communication, and the subject as much as it would help, should not be exclusively about the underlying emotions.
It is important to talk about the happenings in your life, like work, hobbies, or the small inconsequential stories that will bond you, as long as you do not repeat them over and over.
You don’t want her silently wishing; there he goes again, when you start to narrate the very humorous but now past its sell-by date office joke!
Therefore, creativity in communication is the catchword here. He or she has got to long for the next time you will get in touch, be it an sms, an online chat, an email or a phone call.
It also goes that mutual trust and honesty are absolutely a must. At least, my friend, Michael, who has been engaged to someone who lives back in Nairobi, thinks so.
He says, the world renowned beauty of Rwandese women does not help his relations with his girlfriend at all, who spends the better part of their daily phone calls obsessing about why he did not pick his previous call, and when he plans to walk her down the altar.
In times of absence from each other, the biggest temptation is to find a temporary reprieve, to replace the missing intimacy. Those who have learnt from experience will tell you that there is no such thing as a temporary intimacy.
It stains ones’ essence, and a lot of the time, hangs around long enough to cause heartbreak. Eventually, even if undiscovered, it breeds feelings of guilt that may eventually ruin the relationship.
It would be much worse for reports of infidelity from mutual friends, or from perceived evidences to reach the other partner, the suspect sms or the misguided email.
As much as it is wise not to believe every Tom, Dick and Solange who turns up with a salacious story about your better half, to bid time to find out the truth, it also well known that men (and women) are jealous, and such a tale would as well be the source of irreparable breach of trust between a couple.
It is also healthy to keep each other abreast of the friendships that you get involved in, the friends you accompany to Planet Cinema or Cadillac occasionally. These will help to keep alive and actualize your relationship in your circle of friends. If you don’t tell, someone else will. Rwanda is a very small country.
It will be of great help if each partner is aware of how long they will remain apart or how often you will meet, for the preparations of reunions will provide something to look forward to, and will eventually be the spice of the relationship.
It will also help to keep away the temptation of straying, because it something to look forward to. In fact, infidelity with the excuse of being unable to avoid intimacy for a long time is just a sign of lack of self mastery, because celibacy is a matter of conscious choice (I can hear the men screaming at me).
The ability to surprise each other with small gifts or unexpected calls of ‘I miss you’ will help sustain the mutual thoughts of each other, providing the necessary fuel for the relationship instead of the advantages of geographical proximity.
Benefits of long distance relationships as opposed to the easier alternative are that people get to know each other better, first. In the absence of physical proximity, talking will be the easier thing to connect lovers. It helps people avoid diving under the cover too soon, due to the influence of physical desires well before; such a relationship can sustain itself on an emotional level.
In a way, a long distance relationship builds a stronger foundation to a long-lasting relationship compared to the usual, fall-in-love-at-the-first-sight, thinking you are made for each other, while under the influence of the usual hormones, diving under the cover sooner than later, only to wake up and discover that the glitter has worn off the relationship.
To discover that aside from the ability to evoke deep seated lust, you cannot otherwise stand a minute in the company of each other. Going by a warning from Wiki-How, long distance relationships are not for the faint of heart. They can be very trying - but so can proximal relationships.
The minefield that a long distance relationship most of all requires the basic things. There has to be a shared interest in each other’s lives plus an underlying care for each other whatever the circumstances.