Let’s be honest. Marriage is hard. But marriage when your spouse is working in a different city is a whole other level of complicated.
Because while living in two cities removes some of the minor day-to-day annoyances that may happen in other marriages—like having to put the toilet seat down in the middle of the night—it also introduces bigger challenges that your friends are not having to deal with—like parenting children on your own.
In his book, The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, marital researcher Dr. John Gottman says strong marriages are built on friendship. But when a career causes a husband and wife to live apart, both spouses must develop a strong level of independence to survive the lack of daily spousal support, which in many ways directly opposes a marriage’s need for connection.
So how do couples that live apart remain strong in friendship?
Well the answer is simple: intentionality. And by intentionality, I mean intentionality from both spouses to emotionally connect (while simultaneously honoring your spouse’s need to keep their independence due to the lack of spousal presence in day-to-day situations.)
So here’s 7 Simple Tips for Staying Connected with your Spouse When You Live Apart:
- Start and End the Day with A Call
Couples that take time to connect before the day begins and after it’s over feel more aware of one another’s world, which allows for proper attunement to your partner’s feelings. Taking time to ask what’s one the agenda for the day and what struggles your partner faced that day allows each partner to feel supported. The phone calls don’t need to be long to create a meaningful sense of connection with distance.
- Stay in Touch with Quick Texts
In addition to phone calls, take a few moments to send silly, mindless or ‘this is how I’m feeling” texts throughout the day. Texts offer small moments of connection without a lot of effort. And when fathers are apart from their children, pictures and videos can be especially helpful. Just because someone doesn’t ask for these things doesn’t mean that receiving them won’t brighten their day. So never take the power of sending a quick text for granted.
- Start Watching the Same TV Series or Read the Same Book
A great way to feel connected with someone when you’re actually miles apart is by watching the same show as them or reading a book at the same time. This gives you something that you are both invested in to discuss when you aren’t close together. Sharing feelings and passions related to the story you are hearing creates a level of intellectual and emotional intimacy present in strong relationships.
- Aim to Have a Longer Call Once a Week
The point of this phone call is really to take the time to talk about not just the everyday details of life but the things that are bothering you or concerning you. Gottman calls this type of conversation a State of the Union meeting. This is where little things that might be bothering a partner are addressed instead of giving them time to build and become something bigger.
- Send Care Packages
When you live part, take the time to send your partner things they like. These things are not sent because they need them but instead to show thought and intention. If you want to make it even sweeter, send a shirt with a spray of your perfume. This is a simple way to add connection and romance to your gift!
- Write Love Letters
In my opinion, there is one super romantic part about being apart from someone you love. And that is, you have a great reason to write a love letter! Love letters tend to be rare in 2018, but they are still just as special to the one reading them. So distance is a great time to rekindle this lost art of showing love through written word.
- Go on a Date Via Facetime
So when you’re long distance you can’t have a date night, but you can have a date-night via Facetime or Skype. Cook the same dinner and sit down and eat at the same time. Then once you’re finished, pick out a movie and watch it at the same time. Sure, this isn’t quite the same as being on a date, but it creates a shared activity that promotes connection despite distance.
In summary, when it comes down to it, living apart will never feel quite the same as living together on a physical level. But with some focus and intention, a couple living long distance can feel closer emotionally than ever before.
Quinn is a wife, mother, blogger and marriage and family therapist. 99% of her time is spent keeping her four boys alive and the other 1% is spent writing about their crazy times in her blog Sanctification and Spitup which is also found on Facebook and Instagram.