As I was at the airport preparing to leave for my flight back to the UK, I was trying hard not to look at anyone – a sympathetic smile or a simple ‘are you okay?’ from my family would be enough to set me off. I couldn’t even look or speak to my husband in case I couldn’t hold it together. My heart was thudding, palms were sweaty as I was trying to convince myself that my husband and I would be okay. I was trying to keep my mind in control and think rationally.
“I’ll see him again soon, we won’t be apart for long.”
I couldn’t be too sure of that. It was January 2020 and the daily news coverage of Covid-19 was growing rampant by the second. My husband and I were expecting that he’d follow me back to the UK a few months later, but we both knew that was wishful thinking if news of the widespread threat of the deadly virus was true. I was leaving him three weeks after our wedding in Bangladesh and I didn’t know when I’d see him again.
As soon as this dawned on me, I couldn’t hold it any longer. My body was trembling as my emotions took over me. My husband opened up his arms to me, letting me cry uncontrollably into his chest. Our family members gave us the space to have this private moment at the airport between husband and wife.
As I left him for the immigration checks, I kept turning around to see him. My husband was still there. He would only leave the airport until he couldn’t see me.
As I took my seat on the plane, I wept on my mum’s shoulder while she stroked my hair and consoled me. All I could do was ask myself questions I couldn’t answer as my mum held me: When will we be together again? How will I cope? Will this get any easier?
For the first few days after I arrived home, I felt tired and withdrawn. All I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep. My parents felt helpless, they knew anything they’d try to say or do wouldn’t release me from my melancholic state.
At that time, I would receive so-called ‘advice’ from family members and friends that just rubbed me up the wrong way. They’d attempt to reassure me with inane comments.
“Everything will be okay!”
“He’ll be here before you know it.”
“Remember the good times you had together.”
And finally, “At least you got married before the pandemic!”
That was a level of toxic positivity I couldn’t handle. They wanted to minimize my emotional struggle so it doesn’t burden them, but I didn’t want to hear any of it. All I wanted to say was “let me wallow, I don’t need your so-called help.” It may have been their way of trying to make me feel better, but it was just lost on me. Others would listen, allowing me to open up and say how I was feeling – that was what I needed at that time.
The only way I could pick myself up was to return to a sense of normality and routine. Going to work, attending my gym classes, doing my daily errands enabled me to get better, and focus on other things.
Eventually, I had to accept that my husband and I would be in a long-distance relationship, a term I’d heard before but never thought I’d experience. It wasn’t easy to accept this – we were married, but we didn’t feel like our marriage had begun. We were trapped in the middle with very little certainty on where we were heading.
The biggest factor that helped us get through this phase was talking and seeing each other every night on video. Communication – whether that was through video calls, texts, or audio messages – was vital for us to handle our long-distance relationship. We showed love, affection, and support for each other despite us being physically apart.
Even talking about ordinary things such as what happened at work, what we had to eat, what we watched on TV gave us an insight into each other’s day to day lives, which was something we valued. Our nightly chats helped us to heal and allowed us to connect on a deeper level. Communication was a critical element in not just the success of our long-distance relationship, but for the betterment of our marriage.
I had my ups and downs during our time apart. Loneliness would consume me. Then there was the added worry I had for his safety and well-being as the scale of Covid-19 was getting worse by the day. The loneliness combined with the anxiety I had for his health caused me immense emotional strain.
Rather than bottling these feelings away, I spoke honestly to my husband about how I was feeling. It didn’t matter how early or how late it was, he was only a call away if I was struggling and I needed to hear his voice.
After eight months apart, we’re finally together. We’ve been back together for two months and we still can’t believe it. As I write this, we’re both sitting together in the dining room whilst he’s working and I’m typing away – we both feel happy and content.
Our long-distance relationship set the foundation of our marriage, which is built on communication and honesty. Our relationship feels stronger than ever – we talk, share, and don’t hold anything back from each other. Our temporary physical separation was hard for us, but it’s strengthened us for the better.
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