RELATIONSHIPS ARE A WILD AND CHALLENGING JOURNEY ALL ON THEIR OWN.
So it makes sense that, no matter the reason, when you add ‘long-distance’ into the mix, you find yourself up against some real “make it or break it” scenarios. Whether your partner is in the military, travels a lot for work, or is pursuing a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ dream, the fact remains that there are some important steps that you need to take in order to protect your relationship while you go through your day-to-day apart from each other.
Keep Updating Your Boundaries
The most important thing you and your partner can do for yourselves, for each other and for your relationship is to set very clear boundaries of what the expectations are while you are apart. It is the first step to making sure you remain a “team,” even when you aren’t living in the same place. Please do not leave any room for assumptions. Even if you feel something is “obvious,” it still needs to be said out loud. You can even write your boundaries down together so that you each of you can make sure you’re on the same page.
Further, if something isn’t working for you, then you need to make sure to take the initiative to re-visit the conversation and update those boundaries — especially if you start to see pictures or hear stories about a person of the opposite sex that make you feel uncomfortable. If you are triggered or affected negatively by something that you see or hear then you need to speak up (in love!) about it. YOU need to tell your partner something like, “Hey, I’ve been seeing/hearing a lot about this person and I’m starting to feel uncomfortable. Can we have an open conversation about this and look for ways where we both feel secure? I really miss you and am having a hard time with this.”
Scary things happen in the doubt and darkness of our minds, so for your own mental health and for the protection of your marriage you need to get all of your fears or insecurities into the light. The more you talk, the better off you’ll be!
Emotional Connection Every Day
With the extreme lack of physical presence / connection working against you, it is very important that you and your spouse make sure that you invest in emotional connection as frequently as possible. There are several ways that you can do this:
Get a copy of our book 365 Connecting Questions for Engaged Couples.
Get a membership to Marriage365 to watch our videos, courses, challenges, and then go through the connecting questions when you can.
Write snail mail letters whenever possible.
Text throughout the day so your spouse knows you’re thinking about them.
Something you need to keep in mind is that every human alive changes a little bit every single day (for better or for worse), based on the events they encounter. Unfortunately, since you’re living apart, that means you’re missing a lot of those little shifts/changes and that is where the root of disconnection takes place. So, you need to make sure you’re asking good questions and really listen to how your partner is affected by their environment so that you don’t miss how they’re changing and growing. Not being able to see each other very often can grow frustrating and lonely very quickly, so emotionally connecting whenever possible will offer both you and your spouse security, connection, reassurance, and that feeling of being “wanted.”
Keep It Fun
I know you miss each other like crazy, however it is imperative that you have some conversations that are not “I miss you, this is so hard, why can’t you come home, I need to be with you” etc. Please don’t mistake me, those things absolutely need to be said out loud and validated, but they should not be every minute of every conversation. You need to keep your friendship alive, too! So, surprise each other with care packages, watch movies together and eat dinner ‘together’ over Skype, or get the same bottle of wine or your favorite drink to enjoy while you catch up on each of your everyday life events.
Keep it Real
On the contrary, you also need to keep it real. Please don’t lie to each other about ‘how great everything is’ all the time in order to make it easier on each other. It is going to be hard and you need to validate each other in that way. If you have kids, or shared responsibilities, share about what it’s like having to handle it alone during this season, and if you’re the one who is far away, share that you appreciate your partner and everything they’re doing to keep the house and schedules running while you’re gone. If you had a hard day, and your partner did, too, please don’t hide your struggles for their benefit. Be encouraging, empathetic, yet also honest. Give your partner room and space to share, validate them, then take your turn, too. Yes, it might be easier to keep all the hard stuff to yourself, but it will rob you both of the connection that is born from comforting each other.
Know The “End Date” (if possible)
For those of you who are military, I know that you don’t always get to know when you’ll get to go home or when your partner is returning home. However, it is important that you discuss very clearly how long this arrangement is supposed to work for. A relationship cannot sustain for a long period of time of not being physically present. Not a single research study has shown that it is healthy and good for a married or engaged couple to be away from each other for months at a time, year after year. If it’s a season, okay, but you will need to be even more intentional to connect each day. If it is for years, however, then it’s time to find other solutions.
Have a Life
You will be a much healthier person and will handle this long distance relationship much better if you have a community of support around you. Make sure you stay within the boundaries you and your spouse have set together, but also don’t be afraid of having a life while your partner is away. It is good and healthy for both of you. Just remember to surround yourself with people who will help you become a better version of yourself and a better partner. If you are a military partner, especially, please find a support group online or nearby so that you can connect with others in your position.
Written by Anna Collins
Anna Collins lives in Northern California with her husband and four children. She is passionate about her marriage, staying at home with her kids, writing, coffee, good conversation, and game night. Her life dream is to someday write a book and see it published.