They say that you can tell when your partner is cheating on you long before you get the evidence to back it up. Before you confront your partner about it, you can already tell what they are going to say. It is like relationships are fitted with Wi-Fi hotspots and you can tell when another foreign connection has been made. An incident that occurred recently had me wondering if the same applies to long-distance relationships. Do you feel the same pull towards your partner as you would if they were not a ridiculous number of miles away from you? Is the Wi-Fi hotspot connection strong enough for you to tell when things are not going right?

The issue…

On a Thursday night in the middle of December, my friend Jonas and I had been chatting about his somewhat new long-distance relationship with his girlfriend Lisa. As usual, I had been mocking him about the anti-long-distance stance he had previously held before meeting Lisa. 

‘’I am not saying it is wrong. It just ain’t my cup of tea. I am more of a whiskey man.’’ He liked to joke.

Yet here he was, knee-deep in a long-distance relationship. The sole reason for it? He felt she was worth sacrificing his whiskey to sip some tea.  On this night, however, he was feeling uneasy about the relationship; feeling like something was not right. We talked about it for a bit then I urged him to relax. After all, relationship anxiety is a thing, right?

The next day, he called me feeling distraught. Lisa had cheated on him. The only good news? She had come clean herself. As the story goes, Lisa had been out with her friends. She confessed that she had gotten a little drunk before cosying up to one of the guys her friends had invited to come along. As most non-serial cheating stories go, she had gotten carried away but had regretted it the moment it happened. 

He shared that he was confused. He did not know what to do. It felt like a different arena. Like he needed to judge this relationship differently because it was long-distance. He did eventually make a decision but more on that later. 

Was he on to something though? Should you judge a long-distance relationship using different parameters? Is there more at stake than usual? Does the sacrifice seem greater because of the distance? Enter Wacera and Jonathan.

Why don’t we ask the experts?

I am not sure when you attain expert level status in relationships but I would think successfully keeping up a long-distance relationship for 6 years counts for something. When my aunt Wacera and her husband Jonathan joined us for the holidays, I figured I could poke a little into how they were making their relationship work. For a bit of a background, the pair met in Canada when Wacera was handling a 3-month overseas project for her company. Jonathan was working for the liaising company and was in a relationship at the time. They grew quite close and kept in touch even after Wacera returned to Kenya. 

Within 2 months of getting back to Kenya, Jonathan had decided to end his current relationship and he was ready to try the long-distance with Wacera. She on the other hand was not so welcoming to the idea but she eventually caved. 

In her own words, ‘’ You do not choose who you fall for’’. 

Wacera admitted that they both approached the first year of their relationship differently. Jonathan was clearly more present in the relationship while she chose to be cautious and a little reserved. Every disagreement or argument felt like the end for her. This was one of her biggest lessons earlier on in the relationship. If you approach your long-distance relationship from a place of negativity it will not survive. Every obstacle you face will make you question whether the sacrifice of distance is worth it. If you keep knocking on that door, eventually you will walk out of that relationship feeling unfulfilled.

Do they approach their issues or challenges differently because of the distance?

I brought up my friend Jonas’s conundrum just to hear their opinion. Their advice? Approach your long-distance relationship as you would any other relationship. Who you are and what you believe in does not change just because distance is involved. 

To summarize their thoughts in a nutshell, they talked about understanding who you are and what you need. Most people are not in long-distance relationships by choice. They want to be close to their partners but circumstances may not allow it. 

If you get into a long-distance relationship, get to understand how you can translate you and your partners’ needs into the new dynamic. The distance should be acknowledged but not used as an excuse to go beyond the agreed parameters of the relationship. If you would break up with a partner for cheating on you, the distance should not be a contributing factor to your decision. 

The important thing is not to think of what you are losing but to truly immerse yourself in your partner and find a way to enjoy them. Learn each other’s love languages. Discuss and agree on the frequency and timeliness of communication. Take your relationship seriously because when someone is so far away, you can feel lonely and invite what may seem like harmless flirting into your space. 

Oh, and for all those invested, Jonas and Lisa eventually work things out.