Was this another example of bad airport food? Someone complaining about school catering? Nope — this was a 41-year-old love story. A story consisting of forty-one years of biting in a roll. And one that shows no matter how much time you spend together with your partner, you can always be together even when you are apart.
The story went viral garnering comments and admirers from around the world. We shall get to the tale of the ham roll, but as someone who was in a long-distance relationship spanning two hemispheres, I was inspired to share some of the tips I have implemented. We did these when lived in different countries, and we still do these even though we live together.
All of these are little tricks of feeling connected to your partner even in the distance.
1. Reinvent the Mixtape Generation
I am old enough to be part of the mixtape generation. This involved recording a variety of songs for someone you were interested in onto a cassette tape (yes I included a link for those younger readers that have never seen one). As a nervous teenager, I made a few of these. None were successful.
In the digital age, it is much easier. Now you can create a Spotify list and share it with anyone. If your partner is about to go on a road trip, has a long commute to work, or is just going for a run on a treadmill, you can be a part of it. Without the sweat of the gym.
And there are psychological benefits to this. In a Nature Neuroscience study, researchers found that your brain releases dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure, as a response to emotional parts of a song. Your brain also releases dopamine during sex.
So think of the playlist as providing your partner pleasure. It will sure make the long run or train ride far more enjoyable.
2. Travel the World Virtually
One thing that 2020 has given us is the opportunity to visit some of the world’s museums and galleries from the comfort of our own home. And boy have we spent a lot of time at home in 2020.
But with so many virtual options available, it makes it easy to plan an online date with your partner. If you are into art, take a virtual trip to the Louvre. Animal lovers can watch the live stream from the San Diego Zoo.
A kid at heart? Hang out with Mickey and Co at DisneyWorld. For the more creative people, pick a random city in the world and explore via Google 3D maps. Have a lunchtime stroll in a place you have never visited but always wanted to. The online world is your oyster.
Speaking of oysters, you can even combine the virtual date with local cuisines. Order Italian as you visit the Sistine Chapel.
Ensure to take it in turns to plan the virtual date so you can surprise your partner with a special trip. Susan Lager, a psychotherapist, specializing in couples work, says a simple creative shared experience is beneficial. “Through these experiences, you’ll exercise your empathy muscles as you imagine and plan activities both of you will enjoy,” she says.
3. Have Lunch Together to Show You Care
The photo above is the one that featured in the story in my introduction. It was posted on the Facebook page of Jane Howell in Texas. It wasn’t the simple photo that earned the post 96,000 shares and 23,000 likes in days. It was the heartfelt message she posted underneath, referencing the photo and her husband.
“On occasion, I would join him on the job site and have lunch with him. He made the comment once that lunch tasted better when you share it with someone you love. Soon after that, while fixing his sandwich one night, I took a bite out of it before putting it away, when he got home (long before cell phones) he commented that someone took a bite out of his sandwich. I told him that since I couldn’t join him for lunch, I took a bite, so he knew I was joining him.”
She has continued to do this for forty-one years so she can ‘have lunch’ with her husband each day. It is no wonder this went viral, such a simple thing to do to let someone know you care and love them. And this wasn’t a long-term relationship which shows that any relationship can do this. Even if you are married and live with your partner.
A variation of this is leaving a note in your partner’s lunch, but I like the idea of a love bite (if they don’t call it that they should) much more.
4. Find Creative Ways to Communicate
Often the simple ideas are the best. We all text relentlessly. And it’s no secret that communicating with your partner is key. So I’m pretty sure most of you reading this regularly text your partner.
But we are more creative than that, aren’t we? Yes, we are! I have an improv background. And one of my favorite games when I was performing improv was called Word at a Time. Basically, the performers act out a scene, but each person is allowed only to say one word at a time. It is fun to play and when done well entertaining to watch.
I decided to move this to texts with my partner. Have conversations over text, just one word at a time. It makes the texts more entertaining and a bit of fun. When we were in different time zones, often a response would come overnight, and it would need to be limited to one word to keep the story going.
Creativity in relationships may also lead to increased passion according to a new research article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Try the Word at a Time Text game — even for a day. It’s great fun and may have added side benefits.
5. Share an Activity Where You Can Learn Together
I could have written about having a Book Club with your partner, but that is way too predictable. And I want these suggestions to apply even when you are apart for just a day.
So instead try Newspaper Club. It’s simple and far quicker than any Book Club. Each day my partner and I will try and find an interesting article online, whether it’s from the New York Times or National Enquirer.
We send each other an article, and we have to read this over a coffee break. It is a way of reading together over a coffee, and we can then discuss the articles.
John Coleman writes in the Harvard Business Review that such “discussions have a way of building and deepening relationships through shared learning.”
6. Create Supportive Content to be Used in Times of Stress
There will be times when your partner is having a terrible day. Maybe something goes wrong, or they hear bad news. Perhaps they just have a headache and want the day to be over.
If you were with them, you might give them a hug and some positive affirmations. Things will be okay. Positivity is around the corner. But what if you aren’t there to offer them support?
Here is a way to solve the problem. Take a photo of yourself with a big smile on your face and a thumbs up. Or a short video with some positive words. Send it to your partner once every morning, or even just once a week. Then at any time during the day when they need a boost, they can go to the photos on their phone and get a big smile and thumbs up from you.
This will help not only your relationship but also your partner’s work performance. A study by Florida State University professor Wayne Hochwarter showed that “employees with high levels of stress but strong spousal support had 25% higher rate of concentration levels at work compared to those without the solid spousal backing.”
Additionally, they were “33% more likely to have positive relationships with their colleagues and had a 20% higher level of job satisfaction compared to their peers.”
You can even prepare a Break Glass in Case of Emergency photo or video. Only to open in terrible situations. Good, bad, or horrific, you can always be there for your partner.
The Ham Roll Ending
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. But unique and creative ways to be ‘together’ when apart will make the heart grow fondest. There are lots of articles with advice on how to maintain long-distance relationships. And there are ones with little tips on how to keep your relationship strong when you are together. I wanted to create a hybrid article. For the times when you are apart, despite how long it is.
No matter how far you live from your partner (same house or different corners of the globe), you can implement some of these strategies.
And may you be biting your partner’s ham rolls for the next forty-one years.