Non-physical ways to show affection
February 10, 2019 1:36 AM   Subscribe

What are non-physical ways of showing affection? I'm looking for examples that work for a long distance romantic couple who might not be able to see each other very often, so physical things like squeezes and hugs are not possible most of the time. The kind of affection I mean the most is the little connecting things that couples do that form a sort of inner communication within the relationship that brings the couple together or reconnects them to one another, keeping their connection strong. Any kind welcome, verbal especially. Thanks for all your ideas!
posted by fairlynearlyready to Human Relations (20 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
An ex and I chose a word, well it was more like a syllable. it evolved rather naturally over chat. this weird little syllable basically meant “hey i was thinking of you and you’re not here and i think you’d like this and i’m having a good/bad/meh day”. we’d volley it back and forth in texts when we needed that little, private reassurance.
posted by lemon_icing at 2:44 AM on February 10


I sent my LD love a single 'x' via text message now and again. No reply required - just an "I'm thinking of you with affection."

We also sent things through the post - a postcard, or a small favourite food item or other object (like an acorn found during a walk) sent with a kiss. I had a set of stamped, addressed envelopes to hand at all times and if I saw something I just popped it in the post box without thinking.

Neither of us like routine so these things happening on a whim were part of the charm. Others may prefer consistency so texting every morning, or sending something every Tuesday, for example, might work better for them.

The key is that it is immediate and simple. No cognitive effort involved. Just a small supplement to the deeper engagement of general communication.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:51 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


My partner and I do a lot of snapchatting--not, like, sex stuff, but 'look at the weird display at this shop' and 'oh my god look how good my lunch is.' Some days we don't send any, some days we send a dozen or so, and it always feels like a nice way to include the other person in your life, even though they can't be there with you.
posted by mishafletch at 3:37 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Snail mail. A postcard, a notecard, a piece of paper, whatever you have to hand. Postcards are wonderful - I'm on a different continent from my partner so while we text and call as much as possible,a card every couple of days offers a different perspective, a few days later than you discussed it on text. And the act of writing, even a few lines on a card, lets you converse in different ways to text or calls.

Buy in a stock of stamps and. always be on the lookout for interesting cards to send. You can buy boxes of cards at bookstores or amazon if you find a theme you like.
posted by humuhumu at 4:05 AM on February 10 [9 favorites]


Mixtapes.
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 4:14 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


A friend of mine in an LDR has an elaborate syllabary of animal pics/memes that she and her boyfriend use to communicate the finer emotional states that are difficult to convey with words. It definitely is the kind of private language that you’re describing.
posted by mymbleth at 5:33 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Well this is a great place for The Five Love Langjages. It’s very heteronormative as a book, so take what you like from it and leave the garbage.

The idea is that every human needs five kinds of affection and some have a preference for different ones more than others.

Touch/physical affection
Words of Affirmation
Gifts
Acts of Service
Quality Time

Words of affirmation might be a note with a list of things you like about your partner.

Gifts could be as small as a leaf you found in the park that made you think of your partner.

Acts of service could be filling a freezer with home cooked meals when you visit, or hiring a cleaning service (note that for many people this overlaps with gifts in that often the gift a person asks for is underneat, to be relieved of the thinking of a task like choosing an item or arranging an event)

Finally, for you, quality time might be watching the same movie together over a live chat program like skype. Or watching it separately and then specifically discussing it.
posted by bilabial at 6:20 AM on February 10


My partner and I are pretty extra with the lovey dovey stuff, so YMMV, but:

- Sending each other good morning and good night texts every day, and trying to chat on the phone briefly before work and bed so that we start and end the day together
- Sending random photos of beautiful things from our day: sunrises, yummy meals, puppies, silly/cute selfies
- +1 Mixtapes/Spotify playlists, especially for different moods. Partner has been stressed out lately? Send a calming mix. Gearing up and excited for seeing each other soon? Send a happy, danceable mix. Feeling romantic or just really missing each other? Love songs, natch, even if they're the super sad ones.
- Carving out as much time as possible not just for texting and phone calls, but Facetime when we can (Facetime really ups the level of intimacy and closeness; I cannot emphasize this enough; I always feel even more connected to him after I get to see his face moving and talking in real time)
- Sometimes we will even use Facetime as a way to both "feel" like we are in the same room while doing other things - while we're both cleaning or decluttering, or cooking or whatever - then we can "pass by" each other or randomly talk about whatever pops into our mind but without the immediate pressure that might come with a phone call - it feels more real, provides a sense of normalcy, and again takes off some of the pressure that can arise from feeling "on the spot"
- Talking often about what we love and find attractive about each other - "I miss your eyes and the way you look at me", "I love the sound of your laugh"
- We use countdown apps to count down the days until our next in-person trip, and post screenshots to remind one another and stay excited and focused on how soon it's happening
- Put on an episode of a favorite TV show at the same time and giggle about it together just like we would if we were hanging out on the couch
- Carving out time for sexy time (I feel like this is key, you have to keep this alive and find your own ways of getting comfortable with this kind of thing long distance in whatever methods work for you)
- To piggyback on the last one, lots and lots of flirting and silly innuendos
-...This includes having our own personal vocabary of emojis and gifs we like to use with each other
- Sending gifts/little things to surprise each other
- If you have a fight or disagreement, don't go to bed upset. Spend time together talking about how you want to communicate and resolve / work through any issues or disagreements you may face. Talk about yourselves as if you are a team and then *be* a team, because you are. That mindset is so helpful to have when things get tough, and they WILL get tough from time to time because LDRs are hard. But they can absolutely be survived if you make each other and your relationship a priority at all times.

Sending good luck and positive vibes your way, from one LDR couple to another! 💜
posted by nightrecordings at 6:47 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


I've done a fair amount of LDRs. I would send people I was seeing postcards I made, and a few times I'd make a piece of art, cut it into postcards, and send it to them over a period of about a week so they get postcards and then get to put a puzzle together.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:02 AM on February 10


Hey, I'm in a long distance relationship right now, here are things we do to stay connected in between visits:
  • send mail; letters, watercolor artwork, pages out of coloring books after being filled in, care packages with homemade cookies. It's always nice to receive fun things in the mail!
  • lots and lots of communication in all forms--texting, phone calls, video chats, sending a single context free link or image, sending a single "I'm thinking of you" message, innuendos and flirty messages, audio clips of us saying things instead of texting, random selfies, photos of neat things we see, outright smutty nudes of ourselves. It helps let the other person into the context of our life and mental/emotional states
  • favors or fun presents; after a bad day she was out at a fancy restaurant on her own to treat herself, and I worked out where she was, called the restaurant, and arranged to pay for her without her knowing. I knit some potholders for her after she mentioned that she kept almost burning her hands because she was using a kitchen towel. Definitely the kind of thing where you need to know if that's a welcome kind of thing or if it's seen as invasive/creepy/controlling
  • structure; we have a scheduled evening every week that's for the two of us to hang out on video chat and talk or cook together or just sit. It's rarely rescheduled, and we have a lot of other times that we video chat additionally, but having this structure in place is a nice affirmation that you're making time for this person, and they're making time for you. We also try really hard to always have the next visit at least notionally scheduled so we know how long until we get to be in the same place again
Good luck! Long distance is hard, but it's also a great opportunity to get really really good at communication
posted by VeritableSaintOfBrevity at 7:22 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


In a previous LDR, if we missed each other but ran out of things to say, we'd sometimes just turn on video chat and go about our days. Half the time one or both of us weren't even on camera, and a lot of the time we weren't looking at the screen, and most of the time we weren't talking. It was just nice knowing that if she happened to wander in front of her laptop when I happened to be looking towards mine, I'd catch a glimpse of her, just like I would if we were puttering around randomly in different rooms of the same apartment.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:12 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


Set an alarm on both phones for the same time.
That way whenever it goes off wherever you are you know their alarm is going off too.
posted by fullerine at 9:48 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I'm in a long term LDR and we get a lot of mileage out of

- the postal mail, literally just a postcard that can say "Hi! XOXOXOX" is cute.
- texted pictures - I dont' send a lot of cards but if I see a card that makes me think of him I just send him a picture of it. We are both super cheap so this is usually funny.
- also when I am out thrift store shopping if I see something I think he might like I'll text him a photo and get it for him if he wants it
- enlisting neighbors! Getting a pal or workmate of his to bring a thing (a flower, a candy bar, something small) and actually put it on his desk is a great coup
- we have a couple of show that are "our" shows that we co-watch running a chat window down the screen
- if I am out with my friends or he is out with his we'll text pictures of the get together and say hi to everyone from the other one
- and yeah we have a routine, we text each other when we get up and when we are putting the phone away at night

A lot of it for us is just various forms of saying "I am thinking about you, I remember you, I am fondly having you in my thoughts"
posted by jessamyn at 11:50 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Snail mail. A book you liked & wanted to share, yes you can send an ebook in seconds, but going & buying a paper book & writing a message in it & sending it is a different kind of intimacy. Just sending even a card or a post card saying hey thinking of you, or this reminds me of when we did x. Buying clothing items for each other is lovely, when we were in a LDR my husband used to wear a tshirt to bed that I sent him so he could feel close to me as he slept, a nice throw rug might do the same, something tactile & comforting. Did you try a new candy or bbq sauce you loved, send them a sample. Send real photos of yourself in a frame even, not just electronic. Actual tactile things your partner can touch, wear, interact with are great, even better if they are things you can then talk about afterward like the book or the food & so share the experiences.
posted by wwax at 12:00 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Go and look at the moon together whilst talking on the phone. Wherever you are in the world, it's the same moon, which makes for a shared experience.
posted by Jabberwocky at 12:32 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


When I was in an LDR my partner and I did a variation on the sharing-pictures-from-our-respective-lives: we would have a list of "things" each week that we would take and send photos of to each other. They could range between pretty concrete things (e.g., "dogs") to the pretty abstract and/or vague (e.g., "memories"). Of course we didn't get too hard on each other about whether something "counted" - the point was to have fun, so sometimes we would send sarcastic/smart-ass pictures. This was also helpful if I just couldn't find something that fit well in a more earnest way (e.g., if I saw a t-shirt with the word "memory" on it, boom, there's my entry for "memories"). I think we started out with just one or two things on the list each week and added until we got to 5 per week, once we started getting into the habit.
posted by obliterati at 7:19 PM on February 10


We talked every night, on phone or video chat, no exceptions unless we'd discussed it in advance. Kinda messed up my social life as a college student, but I definitely called from parties or study sessions many times.
posted by potrzebie at 10:47 PM on February 10


We used to send physical objects from our lives and work back and forth. Sometimes with notes. Like a note written on a scrap block of wood - or a piece of fabric, or back of a drawing or document.

We set up a have a shared grocery list app that syncs on both of our phones. It's the apple iOS reminders app - but there are a bunch of apps that do the same thing. I found that reminder list items can have deadlines and they pop up a notification at the appointed time. Sometimes I set a bunch of "reminders" that are messages that then pop up on her phone.
posted by sol at 12:38 PM on February 11


Thank you so much for all the great answers!! Marked all as best because I will be using them all in one form or other. Please feel free to add more if anyone thinks of additional ideas. You really came through for me, AskMe!
posted by fairlynearlyready at 10:37 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Video selfies -- 10-20 second vids of little life moments to share:
-- Hair wildly blowing in my face at the end of a hike
-- Lying down in a field and listening to the meadow larks
-- Skateboarding with beautiful scenery whizzing by
-- Eating an ice cream sandwich shaped like a fish

Recording our voices recalling memories we have of each other, so the other can listen whenever (and as often) as they'd like.

Reading the same book. Either independently and discussing later or reading pages to each other over the phone.

Recommending foods to try -- He was all about a particular cheese and fig butter at Trader Joe's. I was all about a particular ice cream. These items don't ship well, but are easily located in our respective cities.

Emailing gratitude lists of all the things we loved about our most recent time together.

Writing sexy stories together. One person starts and the other picks up where the first left off. We both get to direct and be surprised by the narrative.

Making space to communicate what things worked well when we were together, finding unique things to share/collaborate on, giving us pieces of each other (visual and auditory), and showing the other the ways their presence would have been welcomed all helped me when I had a LTRish situation.
posted by pdxhiker at 10:49 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


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