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Long-Distance Valentine: How Far Would You Go?

With February 14th just around the corner a lot of people want to wish a happy valentine's day to their girlfriends, boyfriends and partners, but for some this means thinking of practical long distance relationship gifts. Their romantic offerings may involve long distance calling or sending emails and love letters full of quotes about the emotions they feel despite their separation. However; given the technology available today while some of these tender moments will not be as traditional as they once were, it does not mean they are of any less value. Kisses and hugs may be of the virtual kind, but loving memories will still be made long distance by couples who cannot physically be with each other.

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The lights are dim. The music is low. You're curled up on the sofa in your best outfit; waiting with anticipation, a glass of your favourite tipple beside you. The table is set, and everything is within easy reach. Then you hear a familiar sound and see an eye winking at you. Your heart beats faster, as butterflies start in your stomach. Reaching a hand out; you smile as you realise the moment is here....

A click on the mouse and at 0530 hours your laptop finally lights up with the features of your partner. The one you love with all your heart, who is in a time zone thirteen hours ahead of you, and has spent the first half of their Valentine’s Day waiting for you to wake up so they could call from 18,000km away.

With technological advancements, instant worldwide communication and easier travel, moments like the above are not as uncommon as they may seem. The widespread use of internet, cell phones, computers, and the ability to meet people from around the world have taken long distance relationships to a new realm.

It was only a few decades ago when long distance relationships were not as easy to maintain and the idea of being more than an hour or so away from your partner meant relationships could falter. Communication could be infrequent, meeting up even less so, and it was a lot harder to keep the love alive. As one woman reminisced, “Phone calls were from public phone boxes where you'd line up your two pence & ten pence coins and stuff them in the slot as the beeps chimed frantically in the background, oh the pressure!”

This same woman feels that technology may have taken some of the romance out of relationships, and I have to say I agree. "Writing was much more passionate. I suppose having letters that were a tangible thing to hold and could be reread meant so much. The anticipation of the postman's footsteps walking up the path to the front door and whether there would be a love letter on the mat or not was sometimes overwhelming.”

Compare this with today’s teenagers who have so many more ways to stay in contact. One young couple stated, “We only get to be together every few weeks. So we tag each other in posts on Facebook, send private messages throughout the day, and at night go to bed with our phones linked to Facetime. This is so we can fall asleep knowing we are the last thing the other will see, and wake up to being the first face we see in the morning.”

Distance is also relative to the couples themselves. For me having a partner who is the other side of the world; while not ideal, is workable as attested to by my ongoing seven year relationship. However for one man in his twenties, it was acknowledged that being a three hour drive away from his girlfriend for the last 20 or so months has put a strain on his relationship.

While I do have fond memories of the old school methods of keeping in touch with a loved one; I have embraced technology and am thankful for the variety of ways it opened up my world. Without it I would not have met my partner and our relationship would not be flourishing the way it is. For a long distance relationship you can't get much more long distance than Scotland and New Zealand's South Island. While we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day as such; there are other special occasions that we are able to share, even though we are so far from each other.

Statistically studies have debunked the myth that long distance relationships are more likely to fail than proximal (close) relationships. While several studies have shown that long distance relationships can actually exhibit greater stability than more traditional proximal ones. Given that there are all sorts of couples who are in long distance relationships; such as military personnel, college couples and commuters to name a few, these results are not that surprising.

There are several factors that are predominant in successful long distance relationships. Communication is fairly self explanatory. Depending on your methods of contact, the nuances of voice and body language can easily be lost. Texts and emails can be misinterpreted, leading to conflict and anger. So for people who cannot be together physically on regular basis; there is a need for higher tolerance and the ability to express feelings more openly in a constructive way, rather than bottling the emotions and shutting each other out.

Trust is also fairly obvious. While cheating in a relationship can occur even when you are living together; it can be hard to be separated from your partner for long periods of time, and not worry that they will tire of you and find someone else.

There is also the need to accept the fact that despite your relationship, each person will have their own individual life to lead. Sometimes it hurts to hear that your partner has had fun while you are not with them; but very few relationships have couples who do everything together, even when they live under the same roof. The reality is more likely to be that you are missing the mundane day to day things that proximal couples take for granted.

It's plain to see that the heart really does have no boundaries. Love can exist and relationships can be successful; even when two people are physically separated by time and distance. All it takes is the belief that everything you do and go through will be worth it in the end. To the people who shared their stories thank you, and for all the couples who will be celebrating Valentine's Day on Tuesday; whether near or far, best wishes for the future.

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