As South African emigrant, you’ll undoubtedly have prepared yourself for the emotional trauma of social severance. You have packed up, said your goodbyes and you’re ready for that great perhaps.

Before we embark on these grand new journeys, emotions are high, and we tend to make so many promises to each other – promises to cushion the blow of our loss. How much we’ll visit, how often we’ll call, how easy it will be for your best friend or sister to just hop on a plane and visit you in your new home, how soon your best friend will join you in your new home. But more often than not, we find ourselves months after wondering where all the promises had gone. Once the dust has settled and we find our feet, we finally face up to the immense loss of a frayed relationship.

Coping with your long distance emigrant relationship

Indeed, life does happen, people do get busy – even more so when you are talking about emigration – but we tend to ignore the impact distance will have on our relationships. We don’t consider the effort it will take to keep a relationship like that alive, or the unspoken words that lie between people who have had to say goodbye in such a way.

Unfortunately, for those left behind, there will always be an underlying sense of abandonment. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of someone leaving you, for whatever reason that may be, you’ll understand that this sense of loss is not quite rational. A friend, lover or family member who leaves will therefore always represent the face of the dissident – the person who has chosen to leave them behind and go a different route.

Jon Krakauer, in his introduction to Into the Wild states that:

“I thought climbing the Devil’s Thumb would fix all that was wrong with my life. In the end, of course, it changed almost nothing. But I came to appreciate that mountains make poor receptacles for dreams.”

Perhaps in this similar fashion we tend to be disillusioned about the path our lives will take. It’s only natural to dream big and to nurture wild and romantic fantasies of our futures – this is necessary to keep hope and stay motivated. But unfortunately these amazing fantasies may set us up for a fall. We find that our friends don’t visit as often as they’d promised, or don’t visit at all. We find that we don’t have enough cashflow to return home as often as we’d like or pay for gran and grandpa to come visit.

These are the realities of living abroad. Some relationships, irrespective of how strong they seem, simply crumble under the neglect and lack of intimacy of distance. But there are relationships which function remarkably well under these circumstances. In fact, some seem to gain strength during separation.

Distance could be good for you

Those who swear to the merits of long distance relationships claim that the success comes down to the following points:

  • When you’re separated by an ocean or time zone you look forward to, and plan, special occasions with your loved ones abroad. Essentially, your get-togethers, though infrequent, become more important occasions than they’d been while you lived close by.
  • You discard those friendships which were never going to last anyway, and spend more time and effort on those friendships and familial relationships which matter. You may break some ties in the process, but those you still have simply end up much stronger and last a lifetime.
  • You no longer have time for those petty family fights and friendship bickering which you used to entertain back home. The distance and longing lets you set aside those pet peeves and relationship niggles and focus on the bigger picture.
  • If you’re separated by thousands of kilometres, you tend to get creative with your communication. Lovers keep the romance alive with interesting video and phone chats, friends and family start using the old mail service again to post little trinkets, hand-written letters and other messages abroad.
  • You become healthier person in the process; as you work toward the next time you see each other, you make effort with your appearance, start exercising and aim to impress each other next time you see each other.
  • A long distance relationship makes you drop all the baggage and cherish the little things. Since you have less time to talk and see each other, you discuss the most important things in your lives – and if you do this frequently you realise that the rest doesn’t matter.
  • You become more tech savvy when you live far apart. You use the latest web cams, social media accounts and chat apps, update your software and wifi and learn new ways of communicating with your loved ones who are far away.
  • Distance makes you happier too – you tend to amplify those happy memories and characteristics of your loved ones and discard all those negative traits or memories you used to brood on.

We hope the distance makes your hearts grow fonder and does not act as an accelerant for burning any bridges. Why not call your loved ones today; you know you want to!

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