Managing a Long Distance Relationship
Long distance relationships are becoming more common; whether it be for a career change, family demands, or even military deployment there are many reasons why couples may end up in two different parts of the world. Don’t believe all the naysayers; if the relationship is worth it, it will thrive. It is possible, it’s just that the two people in the relationship need to have the same respect and care for the relationship as the other one does. It’s difficult to go from seeing the person you love every single day to only seeing them a few times a year. There is also the situation where two people fall in love but have never even lived in the same city. Either way, living away from your significant other is challenging. Here are a few tips to help out:
1. Define Expectations before the Separation
Regardless of whether the news of separation came before or after your engagement, it is important to discuss your plans. The specific date of reunification is not always within your control, but it should be a topic of conversation and something you are both preparing for and working toward. Being separated indefinitely adds additional stress and uncertainty to any relationship. Discuss and set boundaries regarding friends of the opposite sex and respect what you fiancé is or is not comfortable with. Understand each others’ expectations for individual and group social interaction and plan how to communicate on a normal basis.
2. Schedule Regular “Date Nights”
Dating doesn’t have to be in person. The purpose of a date is to get to know one another better, share the same experience and have fun. Talk about how you might be able to connect with one another. If your fiancé is deployed for the military, he/she might be very limited in the amount of time spent corresponding with you. If your partner is attending college in another state or on an extended business trip, regular “date nights” might be easier. Decide what works for you as a couple and what is reasonable based on your specific circumstances. It is important to not only take a close look at what makes sense to you, but also to understand how your fiancé feels. Your individual expectations may be very different so it is crucial that you compromise, take appropriate actions, and stick to it!
3. Schedule In-person Visits
Phone calls and emails are generally not enough to maintain a close bond over an extended period of time. Communication is a key component, but spending time together is also very important for engaged couples (to the extent possible in your situation). Do the things you enjoy as a couple and develop memories and traditions you share together.
When you’re together, have fun! The time usually flies by but make sure you schedule time to talk about the wedding, life (work, finances, family, etc.) and any issues that may have arisen between the two of you (which are usually better resolved in person). Although scheduling time to talk about serious or pressing issues isn’t fun, learning to do it can strengthen your future marriage. Although you don’t want to put a damper on the limited amount of time you might see each other face-to-face, it’s important to get crucial discussions out in the open.
4. Be Creative with your Interactions
Think of some unique ways to connect with your partner. Surprise your fiancé with an “I Love You” ad in the classifieds section of his/her local newspaper. Leave detailed voice messages or a video message so your partner can hear/see you. During a virtual date night, rent the same movie, watch it at the same time and talk about it afterwards. Write letters and send care packages. Not only will your fiancé have something physical to remind him/her of you, but this action demonstrates that you took extra time (above and beyond a quick email or phone call) to make him or her feel special.
5. Trust and Be Trusted
As hard as it may be at times, try not to make assumptions about what your fiancé is doing when you aren’t around. On the same token, you want to give him/her every reason to maintain trust in you. Don’t put yourself in risky situations. Use discretion when spending time with members of the opposite sex. If your fiancé were there, would this interaction make him/her uncomfortable? If the answer is yes, it would be wise to avoid those situations.
Understand that people and circumstances are continually changing, and that being separated may mean you are each having different life experiences. Talk about these and learn to grow together through your experiences. Effective and frequent communication should alleviate any insecurities you may have.
Staying connected to your fiancé while being physically apart is possible. It is important to openly discuss the boundaries and expectations you each have for your relationship and maintain open lines of communication. And remember, stay creative!
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.