“How do you do it?!?!?”
People ask me this question a lot and I mean A LOT after I tell them my husband is overseas for two years. Or when I say that over half of our marriage has been long distance.
I struggle with the answer when they ask, because there is no easy answer. I’m also not sure exactly what they mean by the question. I’m guessing they want to know the secret; the secret to surviving long separations and staying married. The short answer is that it isn’t easy and there is no one way to do it. It takes a lot of strength to knowingly commit to a relationship that is guaranteed to be long distance. So, with that in mind, I wanted to share my answer to how WE do it. These are seven things I do with or for my husband while he is away from home for extended periods of time. I do this to help keep our marriage strong and to keep my sanity.
1. We have date nights.
It took us a while to add this into our routine, but about 8 months into our 2-year geographical separation we decided to have date nights every other Friday at 8:30pm. It was important for us to pick the date and time in order to make sure we intentionally made the time for each other. Yes, sometimes this has to be adjusted, but overall we aim to do a date night over a video call. Sometimes these are dinner dates, movie dates, or just long conversations about anything. Sometimes I dress casually and other times I will dress up and do my makeup and hair. We change it up and make sure to officially make this time for each other.
2. Text them just like they were here.
If you are like me and my husband, we pretty much text each other all day. Sometimes neither of us can answer because we are busy, but that’s the beauty of text. It doesn’t have to be read or answered right away. So, even if he is 12 hours ahead I can still text him just like I do when he is home. The little things like, “the dog just put two toys in her mouth and is carrying them both around” to “going to the grocery store, love you!”. During a separation like this it can be a little lonely for both sides, but especially for the spouse that is away from their home, family, pets, etc. That’s why keeping them in the loop can help during the separation and when they get back home.
3. Keep a list of the things you do so you can tell them later.
I forget to tell my husband things all the time. It’s never on purpose, but it can still cause a huge disconnect between us. So, sometimes I make sure to write down things I want to talk to him about. Maybe I just want to tell him about my shopping trip, or what I saw on my drive into work. Either way it doesn’t matter, it’s all about communication. It helps keep that connection between us. It might seem silly at first, but you have to remember that they are away from home and any small thing can help them feel less separated. By trying to make sure you keep them in the loop on your daily activities, you keep that bond of partnership you typically have when they are home.
4. Take a lot of pictures and videos.
Take pictures of everything and send it to them. Maybe you did something different to your hair today. Your dog did something funny. You moved your living room around. Whatever it is, no matter how small, take a picture and send it to them. They will be grateful to have a small piece of your day become part of theirs.
5. Watch the same movies or tv shows.
While your spouse is away, pick a tv show or movie that you both want to watch and watch it. You don’t have to do it at the same exact time, but at least set a time frame. This way you can discuss it together later or text about it. We both like to watch the same cheesy romantic movies on Netflix, because who doesn’t like a good romcom? And right now my husband and I are both watching WandaVision on Disney+ as soon as it comes out. Since we both watched all the Marvel movies and TV shows before he left for his time overseas, continuing that pattern helps us feel like we are still together and connected.
6. Pick up small things to put in a package to send them every few months.
My love language is gift giving. (If you aren’t sure what yours is, I suggest taking the quiz here. https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/) I enjoy giving gifts to show my love. So, I always end up buying small trinkets or treats for my husband when I am at the store. I save them up and put them together into a box that I typically send every few months. Depending on your schedule, you can do this more often or less often.
7. Create a list together of foods to cook them when they get back home.
I know that I miss cooking for him and he misses eating home cooked meals, so we created a list of food to look forward to when he gets back. It is nice to know what food he really likes and it helps me to get to know him a little better as well.
Now that you have a glimpse into what works for us, take a moment to see if any of these resonate with you or if you had some ideas pop into your head while you read this. If you would like to explore this further, let’s chat because a coaching session with me might be exactly what you need!