06.02.2023

The hidden benefits of loneliness in long-distance relationships

By Anastasia Baraeva
5 min read

Although there are many different types of relationships, it can be very challenging for partners to maintain enthusiasm for each other when they are apart. Either one idealizes their beloved or becomes overly critical and neurotic. In any case, they feel lonely without their partner.

Struggling with problems, we all want to discover innovative solutions. To me, reading and watching fantasies is the best way to expand consciousness, develop imagination, and approach problems with a creative mindset. Today, let’s talk about loneliness as the most unbearable feeling that accompanies long-distance relationships, followed by a discussion of solutions to the issue found in one fairy tale.

Let’s kick off with the well-known definition of loneliness.

Loneliness is an unpleasant, emotionally-driven reaction to a lack of connection or unwanted isolation. Psychologists describe loneliness as a mechanism that forces individuals to look for social connections. Contributing factors to the public-health issue include a breakup in a relationship, long-distance relationships, illness or disability, retirement, physical isolation for some reasons, remote work, etc. Research conducted by Cigna in the US showed that more than half (58%) of Americans felt chronically lonely in 2021, and 9.3% of respondents reported not having relatives or friends they could rely on.

Okay-okay, but now, why don’t we think of the conundrum differently?

Many people commonly confuse two states: being lonely and being alone. When loneliness is a byproduct of perceiving oneself to be alone, solitude, in contrast, is a choice. People use alone time either for reflection or simply for enjoyment in their own company. In this case, solitude works as the antidote to loneliness. While you are exploring the labyrinth of your mind, you simple have no room to think of others. The emphasis is on being present with yourself rather than on a lack of company.

Now, let’s refer to the wisdom of fairy tales and find out how fictional characters handle loneliness.

For example, in Three Thousand Years of Longing, the storyteller begins: “My name is Alithea (Tilda Swinton). My story is true. However, you’re more likely to believe me if I tell it as a fairy tale.” Here, she implies that by watching the fictional story, it might be easier for us to accept the represented paradigm shift in the way we build relationships.

The author continues: “There is a woman who is adequately happy and alone. Alone by choice.” Obviously, solitude is supposed to play a pivotal role in the story because it brings her… guess what? in a romantic relationship with Djinn (Idris Elba), who unfortunately cannot live in our realm. Afterwards, the woman, of course, experiences terrible loneliness: she has to continue living her life and have nothing but knowledge of the strange and invisible connection between her and her beloved. How unbearable it seems! However, her self-consciousness helps her deal with the horrible feeling, learn her lesson (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie yet), and move on.

This story shows us that:

love can be manifested in unexpected forms,

solitude might be the key to finding love,

negative emotions can be reduced by changing one’s perception,

loneliness inversely correlates with self-examination.

Surely, I don’t encourage you to search for your Djinn or any other creatures to avoid the feeling of loneliness.

If you feel lonely without your partner, I suggest looking at the situation from different angles. First, loneliness might include not only the disadvantages but the advantages too. Second, you, luckily, might have an alternative —not similar to what others have — form of relationship with people or your partner. Let me tell you my story.

Two weeks ago I received a call from my hmm… I don’t actually know who he is to me. The problem is that we have been having long-distance relationships for over ten years, like Alithea and Djinn. Ha-ha… Every three months, the man texts me to ask how I am. I usually reply that everything is OK, and after such a short dialogue, he usually disappears for the next three months. The longer the relationship lasts, the more uncertainty there is.

Not bearing such pressure, I block him on WhatsApp, but he reaches me somehow and asks what happened. I tell him how exhausted I am of answering the same question and get a shocking phrase back: “What kind of person are you? It is important to me to just know that you exist!”

That situation made me rethink everything I previously knew about relationships between men and women. Why do we force our communication with others and call it loneliness? Why do we crave emotional and mental intimacy? I am not against sex, touching, hugging, and so on. However, it seems to be a hindrance to the manifestation of alternative forms of interactions, connections, and finally, relationships between males and females. Thinking about it helped me realize some benefits of long-distance relationships and the feeling of loneliness itself.

Individual growth

In the romantic story, Alithea and Djinn exchange their knowledge and skills of how to live and interact with the world. She tells him how the modern world is organized, when he helps the woman become more engaged with the world around her. Alithea learns to see the beauty where she might have only seen the mundane before. Later, these developed skills help the woman naturally overcome loneliness without medication.

Loneliness is inversely correlated with self-examination. The less you know yourself, the more you seek from others, including your partner. But the more you delve into who you are, the less you look for or wait for other people’s presence in your life, and the dissolution of loneliness begins.

A Love Test

A long-distance relationship is the litmus test of how much people love one another. I remember Richard Byrd’s words written in his famous diary: “Fortunately, among this mess, I am lucky to have my Mary.” Byrd was a polar explorer and the first person to cross Antarctica by plane. His wife was a thousand kilometers away from him, in America, for a long time, but remained a guiding star till his death. Their couple reminds us of the various scenarios people can go through in relationships.

Distance can teach us to be in the present moment, or “here and now,” to appreciate alone time, think about our own values and goals, and simply enjoy life, whether our partner is near or far away. Maybe you don’t need any physical interaction, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual connection is absolutely enough to say, “I have found true love.”

Appreciation for the Love

I believe that true love happens to all of us who are brave enough to face challenges. Every challenge is a sign of growth, proof that we are stretching beyond what we are supposed to feel, have, or do. Just don’t let the difficulties turn into an abyss of despair. Distance might test skills for valuing relationships and appreciating the time you two spend together. If you begin missing your partner’s laugh, jokes, and company, this just shows how deep the connection is between you and your beloved.

If the chapters of life that follow “loneliness” start to fall into place, you can see the role of your “torture”. You can see that it wasn’t a dead end, but actually a fork in the road. That’s awesome. If couples didn’t encounter the unexpected, the challenging, and the seemingly impossible, well, what would be the fun and interest in that?