A poetymology of love (part two – long distance love)

When I started this blog, my first post was about love and I had the foresight to name it “part one” because it was inevitable that I would write about this universal subject again – as I find myself doing today. The theme of this second post about love is how absence makes the heart grow fonder; an old adage which, in my experience, is absolutely true.

As a child I wrote a poem about this famous phrase, having heard and read it in many places but with no lived experience of how it feels to miss someone profoundly (except perhaps my school crush during the enforced separation of the summer holidays!).

Absence poem

I can’t recall the specific inspiration for this poem but at the time I wrote it, I had seen a few romantic movies with separation storylines; the lines “the time your other half’s away / gives you time to realise / just how much you love them / as lonely tears fill your eyes” feel like they could have been based on emotional scenes from Sleepless in Seattle (separation by distance), While You Were Sleeping (separation by consciousness) or Ghost (separation by death).

Fast forward 20 years and I have plenty of experience in how absence makes the heart grow fonder. My husband’s job takes him all over the world and we have to synchronise our diaries so that we can keep track of his schedule and plan when to spend time together between trips (e.g. by having a ‘date night’ when he returns). It’s hard sometimes but I’m incredibly proud of everything he’s achieved in his career so far; the time away is simply part of the package and I’ll be OK with it for as long as he continues to be fulfilled by his work. It’s a small price to pay for a happy husband, and I firmly believe that two happy individuals equals a happy couple.

Here’s a poem I wrote when he had to go away for three months shortly after we had said “I love you” for the first time. We were confident that our fledgling relationship would survive the separation but we weren’t sure how the time apart would affect us.

new-love-poem-absence

We emailed each other every day and tried to talk whenever his schedule would allow, but the time difference and patchy internet connection made it hard for us to speak for longer than a few minutes at a time. I missed him so much that the smallest thing would make me cry, like when Right Here Waiting came on in a shop and the first verse made me burst into tears (I had to run out to the car to compose myself!).

I counted down the days until he could come home but I remember feeling nervous about meeting him at the airport; what if things had changed and it felt awkward to be together again? To quote The Notebook (which I had recently read) “The scariest thing about distance is you don’t know if they’ll miss you or forget about you“, but the moment he walked into the arrivals hall and I saw his face, I knew everything I needed to know about the future of our relationship (as did our parents, who witnessed our emotional reunion and joked that perhaps they needed to buy a hat).

From that first trip to the present day, we’ve always handled time apart by trusting each other implicitly and communicating as regularly and openly as we can to maintain our bond (we can easily exchange 50+ messages a day, as my phone bill would tell you!). Of course it’s hard but as my childhood poem says, absence makes you realise how much you love someone; we’ve been together for over 15 years but I still wait for him at the door and run into his arms as soon as he puts his suitcase down.

I believe that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” because it prevents boredom from setting in and encourages you to make more of an effort in your relationship, and there’s some research to back this up; a 2013 study found that “couples in long distance relationships have more meaningful interactions than those who see each other on a daily basis, leading to higher levels of intimacy“.

In summary, I think that spending time apart can actually be good for your relationship because it makes you more appreciative of your partner – in the words of A.A. Milne in Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”

Have you had a long distance relationship? Why not share your story in the comments.

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