This is what Franz Kafka wrote to his lover Felice Bauer: “I wanted us to be completely alone on this earth, completely alone under the sky, and to live my life, my life that is yours, without distractions and with total concentration, on you. “
Heartwarming lyrics like these have given way to emails, text messages, WhatsApp video calls and emojis. Libidinous thoughts have been defeated by all kinds of modern gadgets: smart bracelets, vibrators and remote-controlled lamps, which allow almost physical contact between lovers… even if they are hundreds of kilometers away from each other. In a world where long-distance relationships are increasingly common and job opportunities can be far from the person we love, these types of products help couples overcome physical barriers.
The best-selling touch bracelet on Amazon costs around $120. “Simply touch your bracelet and the other person’s bracelet will vibrate and flash, to let them know that you are thinking about them,” says the description of the product promoted by Totwoo, a Chinese company specialized in this type of device (they also have necklaces and rings elegant). These touch gadgets are connected to a cell phone application from the same company, which also serves to send romantic text messages, voice message reminders and special videos. Then, there are “friendship lamps,” which cost about $90 and are timed to light up at the same time. And then there are vibrators, which can be activated by remote control and cost more than $100.
Psychologists affirm that these innovations can enrich a long-distance relationship, especially when there is a lack of physical contact that is difficult to make up for. In her consultation, Silvia Sanz – psychologist and sexologist – has observed that, many times, “the lack of this type of physical encounter causes the relationship to lose intensity.” Spending time together, watching the same movies, eating together over video chat, wearing bracelets to tell the other person you’re thinking about them, and remote-controlled sex devices can help keep the physical element alive. “Because, if not, that lack of connection takes its toll on the relationship. This can generate insecurity, uncertainty and even jealousy,” says Sanz.
But relationships aren’t just about sex. And distance, on many occasions, can also serve to improve communication and trust. Just as Kafka and Bauer wrote to each other daily and confessed insecurities that they probably did not dare to talk about in person, a modern long-distance relationship can also compensate for the lack of physical contact, maintaining the extra dose. of honesty that you have with the other person. “There are couples who live hundreds of kilometers away and who are much closer than others who live together, because they talk more, tell each other about their daily lives and share certain activities,” continues Sanz.
Leandro has been with his boyfriend for more than seven years. Three of them have been long distance. They spent the pandemic in the same studio in Buenos Aires, but work took them each to a different part of the world. “For us, more than technology, the problem is finding time to have quality interactions and being in tune,” he explains by phone to EL PAÍS. “I don’t care about the medium: sometimes I can feel that I am having a serious conversation through WhatsApp messages, that we are connecting. Other times we spend an hour and a half on a video call and everyone talks about their own thing, because maybe I’m watching it on half of the screen, while I read Twitter on the other.”
Often, the conversation with your boyfriend lasts all day and ranges from banalities, such as talking about a good meal they had, to more complicated topics. “The most important thing is to know that the other person is there and that I can talk to them when I need to… I can call them and tell them everything and vent.” There are times, however, when she prefers to wait to talk in person, especially when it comes to topics like the future of the relationship or big professional decisions.
It seems that this way of connecting is becoming more common. But data is lacking, since surveys on long-distance relationships are hardly carried out. Even so, psychologists are increasingly dealing with these cases, while specialized websites and certain studies speak of a growth in this trend. For example, a survey conducted by the American Counseling Association a few years ago revealed that 75% of college students in the United States had, at one time or another, been in a long-distance relationship, and 60% of them with success. However, generally speaking, couples who live together last longer than those who live hundreds of miles apart. They also last longer than relationships that begin in the virtual world (through applications like Tinder or Bumble), which are increasingly common.
All kinds of accessories
In addition to smart bracelets and necklaces, there are other devices that allow long-distance couples to feel connected. There is a large and diverse market for accessories for lovers who are separated. For example, there are personalized puzzles depicting a photo of your last moment together, which you can send to the other person. There are also digital photo frames, which play a slideshow of the photos chosen by the donor. The best recommendation, however, is to make something by hand, such as a drawing or sculpture, and send it to your partner. If not, you can send wine or chocolate, or a pendant with the couple’s name inscribed on the back. The best option, perhaps, is a USB that stores music that you can both listen to when you are together. There are endless possibilities to stay connected.
Sometimes, however, none of these efforts are enough. Ana, 28, started dating her boyfriend when they were both working in London. But two years later, she went to Madrid for work and they began a long-distance relationship. Initially, it was only going to be a six-month separation period, but everything dragged on and problems began. “You have a relationship with your partner, but in the end it is a relationship with your cell phone,” she says bluntly. They communicated with basic technology: text messages and video calls. But it was increasingly difficult to find time for each person, especially in capitals like Madrid or London, while maintaining very demanding jobs. “We talked every day, but in big cities the work days are long and it was very difficult, it became quite monotonous.” In the end they had to end the relationship through WhatsApp. That wasn’t easy either. “Relationships like this are complicated,” she sighs.
Kafka did not find his long-distance relationships monotonous. Quite the opposite: the epistolary relationship he had with Bauer (they sent letters every day) was so intense that he had to ask him to slow down: “Write to me only once a week, so that your letter arrives on Sunday, because I can’t. endure your daily letters, I am unable to endure them. For example, I answer one of your letters and then I lie in bed in apparent calm, but my heart beats throughout my body and I am only aware of you.
Of course, Kafka proposed to her in a letter and she accepted. However, her love did not survive the in-person relationship. They had numerous confrontations and reconciliations, which ended with their final separation on December 27, 1917, when Kafka took Bauer to the train station. They also stopped writing to each other.
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