It’s been just over a year since my hubby took up an exciting career opportunity in another province – so I thought that it’s probably a good time to reflect on what I think it takes to make long distance marriage work. I hope this post will encourage a few people who may be in the same situation, because it definitely hasn’t been an easy one for me.
We had a couple of months to discuss and debate the pros and cons of the move. In the end, it was a no-brainier from my side, that he should go and take up an opportunity that would challenge and excite him.
My initial reaction was a very relaxed one. Since he travelled almost every weekend, I thought it would be ‘business as usual’ – we had already had a few years of experience in that department. Added to that, I saw the glass half-full, because he would be able to come home every week, so I convinced myself that our little set-up isn’t as bad as what other families experience.
But I was wrong.
I completely underestimated the impact that it would have on us and what it would mean for the kids as well as for myself, on a practical day-to-day level. In the beginning, we kept in touch around the clock and it seemed like it would be an easy transition, but as life happened, we realised that our schedules clashed A LOT. For example, when he would gets off work, I’m right in the middle of the cooking/homework/just-got-home chaos and we could never have an interruption-free conversation then later on, I would often pass out while putting the kids to sleep.
Long story short, I started feeling disconnected and being the emotional person that I am, it got to me quite quickly. It was then that I realised how proactive and considerate you have to be in any form of long-distance relationship, especially a marriage.
Here’s my two-cents worth on what helps to make a long-distance marriage work:
A healthy relationship needs lots of communication to survive. Throw in the long-distance element and you’ll realise that you need excessive communication! Learn to speak up. There will be sh*t-loads of moments where the arrangement will suck or feel completely draining. There were times when I would bottle up so much resentment, but I quickly had to learn that it doesnt help either party, so learn to speak up.
Never make your partner feel guilty:
If you’ve made a firm decision as a couple, stick to it and be supportive, even on the days when you desperately want to drag him back into town to deal with the babies for a change (yes, I’ve been there). Guilt-tripping the other person for being away is neither beneficial or fair.
Don’t assume that your partner has the ‘better deal’ because they are away and dont have to take care of the day-to-day stuff, especially when children are in the mix. Being away is extreamly unsettling, lonely and they miss home just as much.
Agree on timeframes upfront – discuss how long you’ll do the long-distance thing and check-in with each other if changes and other opportunities come up.
Schedule your quality-time:
Uninterrupted quality time becomes a precious commodity in long-distance relationships and you have to be careful and conscious about it. This includes both quality time with the kids and alone-time to catch up. Planning and knowing that a trip home is coming up, will give you something positive to look forward to and focus on, inbetween the long-stretches. This leads me to my next point…
Sometimes those plans will fall apart – flights will be delayed or other important commitments will come up. Your partner deserves the same level of understanding that you would expect in those unpredictable situations.
You may also need to have to make small changes around your household and lifestyle to fit the move, like switching to a live-in-nanny, moving closer to your children’s schools or reducing your working hours to enable one parent to be there more for the children.
In a nutshell, be flexible and expect to make changes until you get into a groove and a routine that will work best for you guys.
Obviously, you need to leverage technology:
We’re really spoilt for choice in this department, with Whatsapp, FaceTime and voice notes. Involve the children as well, because the distance is an equally overwhelming adjustment for them. Video-calls are a great way to help to bring the family together and feel connected.
Allow friends and family to support you and be there for you. The journey will feel lonely and isolating, if you chose to do everything yourself. As women, we have the tendency to act like Superwomen, but the truth is, getting help is life-changing.
Check-in with the kids:
Pay attention to how the changes affect the kids. You may think they are taking it well, but the adjustment may manifest in not-so-obvious ways, like increased rebellion or isolating themselves. That behavior might also manifest differently, in different environments, so check-in with teachers and other care-givers.
Give them assurance and keep talking about it.
I’ll end off with a quote from a book called ‘The Rules of Life’ by Richard Templar which sums up the basics of (all) marriages and relationships so well for me –
“You have to really care, to still be in love, to want your partner to be fulfilled, successful, happy and complete”.
That’s it. Don’t let the distance cloud your judgment on the basics that made you want to be together in the first place. I care about my husband having a happy and fulfilling career and that is why I decided to support him; I have no doubt that he would do the same for me. When the chips are down, this is something I keep reminding myself of!
Are you in a long-distance relationship? I would love to hear how you’re handling things.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like this one on adult friendships and this one on why you should stop comparing yourself to other moms.
Modern Zulu Mom