How to survive the long distance marriage
I love being in a long distance marriage. It is so much fun! It is exciting and romantic and I heartily recommend it to all couples …. who enjoy masochism, uncertainty, jealousy.. and oh yes, being broke.
It is not fun and I don’t love it. It is hard. In fact, I am not sure how I have got through three years living like this. I am so done with the pain of the airport goodbye; I am over the uncertainty of not quite knowing when I will see my husband again; I am sick of the permanent jet-lag; the unwarranted suspicion; the unwarranted anger; the unwarranted jealousy.
Yes, there is lots of unwarranted stuff, because sometimes you really don’t know where your partner is, who they’re with, what they’re doing. All that not knowing can driving you crazy. (You could put a tracker on their phone but I don’t recommend it. A tracker app nearly destroyed my marriage – that’s a story for another day.)
We have ended up here through circumstance, not choice. We have no idea when circumstances will change. In the meantime, we make the best of it. But – did I already mention this? – it’s hard.
There are good aspects of it, though. Boredom no longer exists in our marriage. We have been together for almost 26 years, so … there’s that.
Based on what I have lived for the past three years, here is what I know:
People will judge: ignore them
Almost no-one you meet will understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, or how you are still together. Most will not believe that you are. That’s OK. You won’t understand / believe it either.
Adopt the 24 hour rule
If something fairly trivial upsets you, as in if your partner says or does something you don’t like – sit on it. Wait 24 hours and then react. I haven’t yet been able to take my own advice on this one, because I am a hothead and a dramatic over-reactor. But I strongly suggest you take my advice. Dramatically overreacting to something will not solve anything. Trust me on this.
Having said that, if you do insist on having an actual argument (you know, like you would in a normal relationship), resolve it quickly. Do not – I repeat: do not – try to sleep through unresolved anger. Distance can make you go crazy; it adds at least another four levels to your fight.
Communication is key
I know, I know. I am not going to get an OBE for services to marriage for this prize nugget of wisdom. But, let me tell you something: communication really is key. I mean, I happen to believe communication is key to every aspect of every relationship, but when it comes to the LDM, it is essential. And I am not talking about a few texts here and a Facetime there. I am talking real communication – you know – deep, meaningful, heartfelt, honest stuff. You should be talking about everything – from the nitty gritty and mundane to just about everything else. Top Tip though: this communication thing should not be taking up your whole day – that is gonna get real boring, real fast – I am suggesting setting aside 30 to 60 minutes a day and making the time work for you both, time difference or not!
I make a list of topics I want to discuss before we have our daily conversations, as a reminder of what I want to say – but that’s because I am old.
Make a date
If you don’t know when you are going to next see each other, then make a date anyway. I don’t mean, make up a date when you will pretend you’ll meet up, I mean actually plan a date. Skype or Facetime will help you with this. Sit and have dinner together; watch a TV show or film together; have a glass of wine together. In our case, the 8 hour time difference means one of us will be drinking wine or eating dinner at breakfast time, but it’s usually him. Try to ensure you have engineered this to your advantage, like I do.
Be kind to each other
When you are in the same room as your partner, you can gauge their mood; sense if they are feeling rough, or down, or upset. Being 5000 miles apart and in a different time zone means this is just about impossible. So, be kind. Understand if they are feeling anxious or worried. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Also, in my experience, emotions can be amplified when there is an element of uncertainty involved. If you are the one who is feeling uncertain, whether that is about the relationship, the person, the future, where they were last night: do not jump to conclusions. And if you are the other one – you know, the more rational one – make an effort to give your partner reassurance, whether or not you think you need to.
In the end, though, like I said, it’s all about communication.
Now, where’s my OBE?