When you said “I do” you probably didn’t think you’d be spending a substantial amount of time apart. You might be separated due to work, family circumstances, or other reasons – but it can work. Like any relationship, and like marriage in general, it takes effort.
Here are some tips for making the most of your long distance marriage!
1. Set an end date
You need something to look forward to and plan for. Setting an end date is extremely effective. If you are separated because one of you is in the military, that end date can be quite defined, but in other careers that may not be the case. You may be abroad for a 6 month project that unexpectedly turns into 10 months. You can still set a deadline for yourselves though, and try to stick to it by openly discussing it with your employer. However, if you are living apart because one of you started a new job and the other partner has not moved yet, then your employer is unlikely to be of much help. This is where you and your partner need to have clear plans and expectations. What will you do if your partner’s job hunt in your new city does not pan out quick enough, will he/she move anyways and keep trying or will you continue the long distance relationship until they do find a job.
This leads to my second tip.
2. Manage expectations
Don’t make assumptions about what your long distance marriage will look like. Manage these expectations by discussing them with your partner. How often will you visit, and what will you do if your schedules start getting in the way? Also, how often will you talk? What does this mean for intimacy?
3. Use tech
When you are together it’s so important to unplug and get quality time together away from your screens. However, those screens are your best friend when you are away. Use video chat to see each other, and explore different ways of being present for your spouse throughout the day. A quick text in the morning to say good morning goes a long way, and a ‘dinner date’ in the evening – even if it is virtual – can also be fun. Perhaps both order in Chinese food and watch the same movie, then have a chat to decompress and talk about the movie afterwards? There are plenty of ways to stay connected even if you can’t physically cuddle.
4. Decorate with photos and physical memories
Put up photos of you and your spouse, and decorate with precious things you’ve collected together. Whether they are pebbles from your favourite beach holiday, or a silly trinket you picked up at a market in Marrakech. These memories need to stay alive and having constant reminders of your relationships, in both homes, is critical to keeping you strong and connected. As they say, out of sight, out of mind.
5. Live together
Counterintuitive to say “live together” in a long distance marriage, right? Not really… you are married and living together, just in two homes. Don’t create different lives and treat your homes as if you both belong in them. Having clothes, shoes, and other belongings in both places makes you feel at home and connected. It goes again to the visual reminders of your relationship in the previous point. It also makes for easy packing when you go visit each other, and not having to pack constantly might take a lot of the dread out of the long commutes you make to see your spouse. It’s so much more relaxed jumping on a train or a flight with just a briefcase or backpack, and feeling like you are going home, than it is packing and unpacking a giant suitcase on either end.
6. Keep important things between you two
If you would not discuss something with others when you live together fulltime, then don’t do it now either. Keep things between you two, and seek advice from your partner. Going outside the marriage is detrimental at the best of times, combine it with long distances and you are on a dangerous slippery slope towards emotional infidelity.