The long distance relationship is difficult to say the least. It’s just as difficult on the person gone as the family left at home. You get used to it, you adapt & adjust, but it doesn’t necessarily get easier. Of the 20 years we’ve been married 17 of those have been long distance where I was gone from a few days to four weeks at a time. Our dating life started while I was in the Marines and went through a couple deployments. During this time my wife raised two kids, took care of all sorts of ” issues ” with out me there. These things range from a car breakdown, a kid admitted to the hospital, livestock dying, sick relatives and on and on and on. It’s easy for the one at home to feel alone and overwhelmed and underappreciated. It’s also easy for the one on the road to feel the same. My wife and I are giving some tips to the couples in a long distance relationship. It doesn’t matter if the spouse is military, traveling sales, railroad, traveling evangelist or truck driver, the tips apply equally.
The number one thing that has helped us is prayer. Due to our faith, prayer is essential. It’s easy to lose the connection if you don’t see each other for long periods of time. A successful relationship has much more than a strong physical connection, they have a spiritual connection. Even though the divorce statistics average somewhere around 50%, the couples that pray together and for each other fall in the below 10% divorce rate. It’s hard to be mad, stay mad and ignore someone you routinely pray for and with. If both of you focus on the same thing that’s bigger than you it will draw you to the same point.
Communication is huge. So much happens while your apart that communication is essential to stay connected. We talk daily without exception. Some days it’s important stuff, other days is small talk. Some days it’s both. It can’t be avoided to have to discuss serious and heavy things. On the flip side always avoiding these topics drives a wedge between you two for different reasons. Talk about the kids, the pets, the past and the future. Men, your wife wants to hear these things. You opening up emotionally in any way positive makes her feel wanted, important, valued and included. Remember this, the whole time you are gone is preparation for when your home. Jeff Foxworthy said woman are like diesels, they take forever to warm up and men are like bottle rockets. Use the time your gone to keep that diesel warmed up, don’t expect a cold start once you get home.
Make time together outside the home alone, no kids, no family, just the two of you. You need this time away from the distractions of the home. She needs the time away from the house that she has been in every day and night while you’ve been gone. Truck drivers, I know after eating truck stop food for weeks the last thing you want is to go out to eat, but she needs to go out.
The one at home, remember the sacrifice the one away is making to provide. It’s not easy being gone all the time. You miss a lot. The one gone, remember the sacrifice the spouse at home makes while your gone. A lot happens that we tend to overlook or not realize because we aren’t there and they forget to tell us.
Take mini-vacations. This is easier I think for truckers. Request home time somewhere other than home and have your spouse meet you there for a few days. The time away from home is much-needed for the one at home. Often those that travel don’t want to travel on their days off, they want to stay at home. Change it up some. We recently did this. I had my wife and kids come to Chattanooga for 4 days instead of me going home. The kids enjoyed the trip, but my wife really enjoyed it, needed it. It’s easy to forget how much they can get tired of all the hustle and bustle at home and need a break too.
When your home it’s OK to be spontaneous. Not everything needs to be scheduled and predictable. Sometimes the unpredictability is much-needed. Kids especially look forward to it. The older they get the less they acknowledge it, but they do none-the-less.
When the one that travels is home, it’s OK to leave them alone for a couple of hours. Even though they have been gone they still need that time to relax, unwind, decompress and just enjoy the quit of home. Truckers often bring one home home and park it in the driveway with not time between the driver’s seat and the back door to decompress.
Keep a joint calendar. Services like Google have made this easy and free. You can sync your calendars and not be having to always ask whats going on or when a good time is to come home. As long as you remember to look at it, it will reduce surprises like ” I didn’t know THAT was this weekend “.
Men, text your wife first thing in the morning or at night if you sleep days. Her knowing that she is on your mind first thing helps keep that diesel warmed up. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate text. A simple few words does the trick. It can be sappy or kinky or in between, it can be a screen shot of a meme that lets her know how you fell or just a good morning.
Be in agreement on a budget. If one of you has unexpected expenses come up, talk to the other and come to an agreement. That way there are no financial surprises. The number one marriage killer behind lack of communication is financial stress and arguments, which ties directly to communication. It’s hard to have an argument about finances over the phone or text. These things need ironed out before hand if at all possible.
This one is very important. Watch who you hang out with and talk to. Not everybody has your marital success at heart. Not everybody has the same values as you. People will talk death over your relationship while the other is gone just because they can. The more you listen to this the easier it is to kill and bury the relationship. Some people think it’s OK to run around while gone. This is totally unacceptable and will eventually kill the marriage. You may think you can get away with it, but it will catch you. Stay away from those that live like this while the other is gone. A unit I was in at Camp Lejeune had an organization called the Key Wives Club. It was designed to have the wives of the officers and senior enlisted Marines to help the younger wives while the husbands were on deployment. The problem was this group encouraged, condoned and covered for multiple affairs that we knew of. Some of the men sent their wives back home for the duration to keep them away from this group.
I know I list ” spouse ” and not significant other, boyfriend, girlfriend or fiance. Each of these other have different privileges and responsibilities. Be careful to not extend marriage privileges to some one only committed enough to earn boyfriend privileges, The key to any of this working is communication. Communicate to each other what is important to you, don’t expect them to know. Even if you’ve been married 40 years. People change, priorities change, life situations change. What will help along with communication is a short, easy to read book by Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages. You may not be able to take care of the number one love language of your spouse while apart, but you may be able to take care of number 2 & 3 on their list. Again, this involves communication.
Regardless of your family history, your career, amount of time gone, length of time together you can still have a healthy & strong relationship. Be the couple that defies statistics.