It’s hard enough to keep a relationship going and vital even when you are in the same place. It’s even harder when you are separated for long periods of time or distance, as often needs to be the case. You may miss having your partner there to share in your life. You may also feel angry that your partner has left you alone for whatever reason to deal with the hardships you are facing. These feelings may only increase the longer you are separated.
You may be separated for work by financial necessity or by choice to further your career. If one of you is in the military, you may be deployed for long periods of time without being able to have physical or even verbal communication. Sometimes you can plan ahead for how to deal with the separations. Other times, such as with a partner being convicted and incarcerated, there is the challenge of dealing with trauma and shock.
Even with these challenging circumstances, there are ways to have the power of Couple manage the circumstances that support both partners. You have likely worked out some things for your couple already.It is an ongoing process.
If you want to survive a long-distance relationship, here are some important things to consider along the way:
One, learn how to confront the issues of being separated together as a couple. Get together beforehand to do some planning and COOPERATE on how to manage the tasks that will need to be handled by the partner who will be remaining at home.
Two, take some time to share your feelings about how you both feel about the separation at hand. This is particularly important if one partner is about to be deployed for military service for a long period of time. You could both agree to keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings and share them with each other at the homecoming or on any phone or Internet connection that you may be able to arrange.
Three, make sure to COMMUNICATE regularly. And acknowledge each other often for the contribution that you’re each making to your partnership and family. A little appreciation goes a long way! Set aside some special time when you get back together to share acknowledgments and feelings and experiences you had while separated.
Four, honor that one of the hardest things to do in a long-distance relationship is parenting your children as a “single parent”. You may feel exhausted and resentful about being in this situation. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help. Set aside some money to get sitters for times to take a break and take care of yourself.
Five, get help where you can. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a family. Building a COMMUNITY of support is crucial for managing child rearing in a long distance relationship. Think about what you need and make requests of people and resources in your area. Seek out counseling or support from local organizations.
One of these organizations that we have been involved with for years is Couples Coaching Couples, a national non-profit devoted to supporting committed couples through peer coaching. Contact them to see what is available in your area.
Six, leave little surprises for each other to find during your time apart. For the one who is leaving, you could leave notes hidden in suitcases or books. The partner staying at home might be delighted by post-it notes left around the house, like in the refrigerator door or in the car.
You may also write a love letter and mail it to your partner. There is definitely something special about receiving a letter that your partner has taken the time to write and send to you.
Bringing a gift home to your partner after when you reconnect that says, “I’ve been thinking about you in a special way”. Welcome home gifts, like flowers or chocolate, say the same thing for the returning partner.
Seven, create a statement, like a “couple proclamation” of your commitment to your marriage. These proclamations can be texted to each other or said over the phone when you speak.
That is what one couple did when one of them had the opportunity to pursue her Masters Degree 3,000 miles from home.
Laura’s husband, Richard, did not want to give up their home and proximity to his aging family in the east. On the horns of this dilemma, they were coached to look at what else might be possible and to create a couple proclamation from that.
Realizing that they were committed above all to maintaining the strength of their relationship; they discovered that this commitment could bring them “back home” to each other regardless of geographic distance.
They created a couple proclamation: “We are home for each other,” and from there found creative ways to strengthen their long-distance connection. They kept a mutual couple journal in which they each recorded their individual journeys of discovery during the months they lived apart.
Ultimately, they chose to decamp, rent their house and travel back for important family occasions. The proclamation of “being home for each other” strengthened and enriched their couple beyond what they imagined possible.
Being in a long-distance relationship requires a great deal of trust. Make sure that you and your partner are clear about the agreements and boundaries of your relationship so that you can stay connected to your partner and your relationship while still maintaining a sense of freedom and flexibility.
This sense of commitment was particularly important to one couple, Paula and James, when they faced several years of incarceration for James. They had met when James was out on bond and developed a strong connection then. They maintained contact with each other and never gave up hope that he would be exonerated. Paula worked hard to make that happen, and after 20 years they became engaged to be married shortly after he was exonerated and released.
There are many ways to survive and even thrive during separations and in a long-distance relationship.
The Four C’s of successful relationships provide a stabilizing base along the way (you can learn more about it in our book Lifelong Love).
- COMMITMENT. Remember your joint vision for your couple and say a couple proclamation daily.
- COOPERATION. Work together as a team to manage the challenges and tasks you are facing.
- COMMUNICATION. Share your feelings and appreciation regularly with each other.
- COMMUNITY. Create and build on a community of support for each of you.
Surviving a long-distance relationship can be a challenge, but they can also be deeply rewarding. If you’re in one, don’t give up. As long as you’re committed to your relationship, there are always ways to work it out.
For more information about how to use the Four C ‘s and Couple Power to manage your long-distance relationship, call Phyllis or Peter at 434-971-4701 for a confidential discussion about how you can strengthen your relationship for the long haul. Or contact them today using their private online form.