When you married each other, you would have looked forward to sharing a home together and being there to care for your family and watch your children grow up together. However, many couples today experience marriages in which work means that they spend most of their time apart.

What’s a Long Distance Marriage?

A long distance marriage is one in which both partners see very little of each other. It might happen if one spouse is posted to another city or country and the other chooses to remain at home in order for their children to continue to finish schooling in a familiar environment. It could happen because your spouse is in the military or has been deployed overseas. Your spouse might need to travel often, or your spouse might be employed in shift work meaning that he or she is out of the house at night; and needs to spend the day sleeping and so your waking times don’t overlap with each other. Long distance marriages are actually a lot more common than you might expect them to be. 

Will it Affect Your Family?

Having an absentee parent or spouse is difficult for the family. If you have young kids, it is doubly so as the stay-at-home spouse needs to be responsible for all the family’s needs. 

In addition to the practical aspects of having only one parent, it is also hard to tread the line between making sure that your kids continue to remember and look forward to seeing your spouse; and missing their father or mother so much that it feels as though the family is going through a grieving process when your spouse is away.

What Can You Do?

It is possible to raise a happy and healthy family even when 1 parent needs to spend a lot of time away, but it takes a great deal of commitment and effort from both parties. 

Assess How Ready Are You
Not everyone can be in a long distance relationship. If you cannot trust your spouse to be faithful, if one of you has health problems, if either of you have difficulty being alone, then you need to have a real discussion about your plans. If you have any of these issues, you may need to agree to make some sacrifices as a family in order for you to be able to stay together and make your marriage work. 

Set A Timeline
Long distance relationships are easier if you know that there is a plan to find a way to be together. Discuss how long the separation will last and agree on the goals you will have in order to make spending time apart as short as possible.

Make Use of Technology
Take advantage of all the ways in which technology can help you. Set up Skype, email, web chat functions and other social platforms for your family to connect. If you have kids, try to ensure that they talk to your spouse at least once a day. Pick a time which will work for all of you. Just before bedtime is best if you have kids. 

Meet as Often as You Can
Try to meet up at least twice a month. If you can’t physically meet up, then try to arrange to get together as often as you can manage. Spending actual physical time with each other is still important despite all the ways in which you can connect.

Empathy is Important
When you are apart, you will miss out on all the non-verbal clues which tell you about your spouse’s day. When your spouse comes home each day, you can tell by the way he or she walks in the door if the day has been a great one or a terrible one. You share small pieces of information throughout the day; you have all the pieces to put together how your spouse is feeling even when they don’t tell you the details.

When you are apart most of the time, you don’t get to have this second layer of information. This means that both you and your spouse need to be more open about sharing your feelings and activities. You will also have to listen more carefully to each other and demonstrate empathy more overtly.

Make Your Time Together Count
When you do have time together, make it count. Don’t use your precious moments together talking about work. Instead, focus on each other and on your children. Do things together as a family that are fun; allow you to connect and enable your children to get to know their parents better. 

Key Takeaways

  • There are many reasons why work means that families may need to spend time apart.

  • Whilst it is difficult to manage a long distance marriage, it is possible if you are committed and willing to put in the effort to make things work.

  • Be sensitive to the emotional needs of your spouse and try to ensure that you are more open and supportive of one another.

  • Identify all the major decisions which you feel you need to make together. They should still be made jointly, although you might have to use technology to help you to “meet” and communicate more effectively.