Comforting Words: Love Bridges Distance?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Love Bridges Distance?

Hans Nouwen’s beautiful words, “In true love the smallest distance is too great, and the greatest distance can be bridged,” came to me this week as I thought about an upcoming trip and possible relocation in a few months.

The thought of travelling to Toronto on Wednesday in and of itself is not bothersome or worrisome; in fact I am looking forward to the trip with a fair bit of excitement.

Although my visit is occasioned by my membership on a national monitoring team of my church, it will also give me a chance to catch up, hopefully, with an old friend who I have not seen in years and who now lives in that city. I will also have the pleasure of meeting a member of this community who has become a special woman-friend of mine over the past year.

Concerning relocation, the possibility of this arises as I am moving into a different phase of my development and the options opening up to me may require moving away from Edmonton.

This is a thought that gives me ‘cause to pause’ as this town has really began to grow on me but more significant is the fact that my baby girl, A, has stated that should my career call me to another town, she will not be in tow this time.

As we contemplate the implications of a decision to move, two things are happening – excitement and anxiety. This place of mixed emotion about distance is not new to me as I have visited it on several occasions, and like now the most difficult part has been the effect the distance will have on my various relationships.

Since I promised to focus on intimate relationships, I am turning this matter of ‘distance’ around and answer one of the questions posed to me about long distance relationships. However, you will see that in whatever context the distance question arises - whether in terms of its effect on your relationship with a partner or a child - the starting point remains the same.

I could share several stories about how distance have murdered and enhanced my intimate relationships over the years. If I did, you would then understand why I cannot offer a definite answer in response to the question posed in the introductory post to this series: “Is it possible to be intimate with someone from a distance?”

Following the trend of my arguments thus far the obvious answer would be, yes, it is indeed possible to love and be intimate with someone from a distance, given my particular understanding of the word ‘intimate’.

Having said that, my personal experiences (and yes there have been a few) of long distance relationships have swayed between hopeless failures to floundering successes. On the other hand, there were some relationships that I should have kept the distance in them! Hindsight is indeed the master teacher.

In this age of cyber-sex and pseudo-intimacy, it would seem that “bridging the greatest distance” is a piece of cake. ‘To be with’ the one you love, so to speak, is just a click away. With a web cam, the distance between true lovers, one in Edmonton and the other in Toronto for example (all of 2,712 kilometres), can in fact seem “the smallest.”

Not taking back my words about intimacy, spiritual partnerships and spiritual friendships, I must admit, however, that in my experience(s) an intimate relationship, one in which intimacy is also understood to include physical as well as emotional and spiritual growth, closer range does have something going for it.

Recently I was sharing with someone that my partner and I have this incredible connection wherein no matter how far apart we are; Juds just have a way of knowing when things are off with me.

I recall once while working and living in St. Lucia, which is approximately 1,756 kilometres from Jamaica, I was at my desk weeping behind the locked doors of my corner office that overlooked the bluest waters of the Caribbean Sea one can ever imagine when the telephone rang and it was Juds on the line. Her first words were “What’s wrong with you?”

This almost telepathic connection is a key ingredient in our relationship and on some levels it feels special. As I was saying to my woman-friend, it is something that makes being away from her out of the ordinary as I know she is with me, in a much closer way than when we are together in the same house. (Here I go again telling too much!)

While there is much to be said for being away from your partner, even for a few days, there is a flip side to physical distance or long distance relationships and I am again speaking from experience.

Not even telepathic communication is enough when insecurity is the third 'person' in a relationship.

Many advice columns tell people in or considering long distance relationships that the insecurity issue can be overcome by trusting your partner, being honest with them and respecting the decision to move, say for a job or college. For those who have decided to maintain separate homes in different towns, visiting on weekends and special holidays, they say that these three factors are key to calming the jealous nerves.

While this is all valuable information, my experience tells me that the trust, honesty and respect start with me. Much of the time that I have been in relationships separated by distance, my level of trust and respect of me as a worthy and deserving human being was not sufficient and I needed external confirmation of my person hood.

Being away from my intimate partner for too long, without that external ‘reinforcement’ of my worthiness, would eventually lead to an end in the relationship as I had to find ‘completion’ elsewhere. Once that search was underway, honesty was the first thing that went out the window.

Until I was in a place where my self-esteem and my feelings of worthiness as a human being, particularly as a woman who loved a woman, took deep roots in me and began to 'gush' forth with quiet certainty, distance meant the sure death of intimacy and connection with the person I left behind.

Truth be told, whether you are in a long distance relationship, living with someone or contemplating separating from your adult child, what I am saying is that the ability to maintain and sustain a relationship begins and ends within.

Another thing that I am saying is that if you exercise self-honesty, have a great sense of trust and respect of yourself, you will know whether you can sustain intimacy from a distance.

Distance can create a disconnect between people as easily as it can make the heart grow fonder. Personally, as I contemplate separating from my daughter with a heavy heart, it is still a much easier pill to swallow as I recognize that she is maturing and must one day leave the proverbial nest.

Even the most grounded person, one who is confident about who they are, may still have some amount of anxiety about being in a long distance 'partnership'.

In my humble and honest opinion, while a little absence helps keep the telepathic link strong, as my partner and I have found, some of us are just not suited for extended long distance relationships -I am one of them, falling in one of Mignon McLaughlin's category of women:
"Some women love only what they can hold in their arms; others, only what they can't."
Where do you fall?

Until I return next week...


Photograph available at Yahoo Images


Anonymous rosie said...

Your post: beautifully said! As a woman who is in a "relationship" limbo, I was pleased to find your comment.

Truth be told, whether you are in a long distance relationship, living with someone or contemplating separating from your adult child, what I am saying is that the ability to maintain and sustain a relationship begins and ends within

Do you think that if a person cannot love from a distance, this means that they cannot love or are too insecure to really love?

I was able to handle the distance between me and my boyfriend for as long as we did because I knew in the back of my mind that it was only temporary. He, on the other hand, saw it as a continuous thing, I guess. And that is what caused me to end things. But now I am in this relationship limbo where both of us still are in love with one another but have decided to stay friends until we share the same soil. (If that ever happens.)

There is also a bond that seems to form when you go through the continual absence of someone you love so deeply and intimately. I don't know what your situation is with your partner or your decision to move but I wish you the best.

Thanks for sharing.

Tue. May 09, 02:36:00 p.m. MDT  
Blogger Claudette said...

Hi Rosie,

No, I don't think that a person is incapable of loving another or too insecure to love from a distance.

Truth be told, it's sometimes harder loving the person who is next to you everyday, especially when they leave the toilet seat up or lose their car keys all the time!

Yes, believing that a situation will soon pass makes it somewhat easier to handle -- at least for some. Others, like your boyfriend (kinda) prefers the idea of continously having the distance to keep things fresh so to speak.

Loving someone is hard work, near or far, especially if you don't love yourself -- that's the lesson I had to learn. I didn't trust the distance because I felt that my partner would cheat but I have come to learn that it is myself that I didn't trust.

Although I understand what you mean about absence having the effect of making your heart grow fonder, the bond that you refer to can sometimes be the myth, the notions and ideals that that we have about the person and the relationship that we one day hope to have.

Thanks for your wishes.



Tue. May 09, 05:25:00 p.m. MDT  

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