A Piece of Advice
Tips for Long-Distance Interracial Couples
A relationship coach and a life coach share their best tips for couples dealing with distance.
Coming from different countries is one thing, but being in different countries while maintaining a relationship is a whole other challenge.
This is something many interracial couples find themselves going through as they navigate their personal obligations to friends or family, or find themselves wanting to reconnect with their culture. Couples need to figure out how to build their lives around these periods, overcoming the challenges of long-distance relationships while reconciling any issues that arise out of their cultural differences.
According to Au Mayari, a relationship coach based in the Philippines, distance can challenge a relationship in several ways. Perhaps most obviously is the lack of physical intimacy, which Mayari said helps strengthen relationships by giving couples a sense of security and closeness. Couples who are physically apart can’t share this intimacy, and may have difficulty staying together.
Another challenge has to do with communication. Of course, technology can help couples stay in touch, but Mayari said that “there are many non-verbal cues when you talk digitally.” Even when couples do talk online, they might be distracted and not fully engaged as they would be when talking in person.
“Thus, there are a lot of opportunities for miscommunication, misunderstanding, and deceit that brings about jealousy, conflicts, and deception,” said Mayari.
Long-distance couples also naturally spend less quality time together. Some couples might mediate this by setting schedules to chat, but Mayari said intimacy can still decrease despite this, and that sometimes this can make couples feel like connecting is more of an obligation to fulfill than something that brings them joy.
But it doesn’t have to be all bad.
Paul Eguia, a life coach also based in the Philippines, said that being physically apart may hold some advantages for couples. One is that it allows each person in the relationship to have their own identity and life outside the relationship—something that couples who find themselves without boundaries may struggle with. Another benefit is that distance can make the couple more fond of each other when they finally are physically together.
“As long as the people in this kind of relationship will be willing to maximize its benefits and compensate for its drawbacks, it can work like any other relationship,” said Eguia.
Below, Mayari and Eguia share some tips for interracial couples who want to make their relationship thrive despite their distance:
Understand each other’s background, upbringing, and culture
“Most conflicts and misunderstandings of interracial couples are from not being able to understand where or what worldview their partner is coming from,” said Mayari.
One example is couples where one is from the West and one is Asian. According to Mayari, some Western partners may not understand their Asian partner’s attachment to and responsibility for family, while some Asians may not understand why their Western partner may not prioritize building a family of their own.
“Be willing to study a person’s context and where they come from for it will help you understand their decision-making and preferences. And this will be the lens through which you look at how you will work on the relationship,” said Eguia.
Reframe your communication
Mayari said that many partners connect by helping each other and fulfilling each other’s needs. This can be as simple as accompanying each other on mundane tasks, like grocery shopping. This is of course not an option for couples who are away from each other. In fact, long-distance couples who expect help from each other may just find themselves more frustrated than relieved, because the distance can make it difficult not only to communicate a need but to offer help at all.
That’s why Mayari advised couples to shift their communication from asking for support to sharing. “Sharing means when something happens to you, don't expect your partner to help you, rather, share this experience with your partner after the situation is resolved. Sharing means also extending your successes and triumphs to your partner.”
Couples can then celebrate these wins and make them more special by sending each other gifts or raising a glass of wine over their next video call.
“In this way, your connection becomes more joyful instead of keeping score [of] who did not do what. It also gives each one an incentive to achieve more and feel supported at the same time.”
Have novel experiences together from time to time
“When connections become routinary, the fire of every relationship wanes as familiarity kicks in. This is three times faster in long-distance relationships,” said Mayari.
She recommends taking turns suggesting and planning experiences that neither partner has had. This helps ignite passion and add excitement back into the relationship. It can be anything from taking a trip to a new country, starting a new project together, or even just playing a new virtual game. “Novel experiences make relationships last longer as romantic and intimate feelings grow stronger.”
Source: Romano Santos, VICE.
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