I am a stay-at-home mom married to a marine engineer (who is away for 3 to 4 months at a stretch) for 14 years now. My husband claims to our friends that the marriage is actually only 7 years old, considering he’s away half the year. We meet twice a year in our marriage though, for 3 months at a stretch. So is this the stuff of Mills and Boons? I think not. On the contrary, sometimes I feel that it works because we don’t see (or suffer) each other every day!
Let me be perfectly honest. The most important mantra for someone in a long-distance marriage or relationship is that if you do wish to live together, then learn how to live apart.
The most important mantra for someone in a long-distance marriage or relationship is that if you do wish to live together, then learn how to live apart.
What makes my marriage different is that I cannot surprise my husband by visiting him when I please. When he’s away on the ship, he’s away, plain and simple. He’s not a flight away, so we never have the luxury of a quickie weekend! How one manages the relationship when faced with distance depends on one’s personality and orientation.
Making our long-distance marriage work
In our case, we are both independent-minded people with different thought processes, very different natures and reactions to most things. We have voted for different people and when we shop we go separate ways. I don’t wish to look at the gadgets and he does not care for the dresses, only what’s under it!
He’s the social one, while I am happy with a couch and a book. He despises TV and I enjoy it. He is the fun element and I am the disciplinarian. We do have similar opinions about the important stuff, like family, money matters and even house décor. We wanted to have a baby after 10 years of marriage and both felt ready together. So in these matters, I suppose we are fortunate.
We don’t make an extra effort to celebrate every occasion by stepping out of the house and showering gifts. We do not indulge in public display of affection or romance or write odes to each other on Facebook or otherwise.
Related reading: How our differences make our marriage a success
Where the challenge comes in
So, while all this is what we don’t do. But what do we actually do to make it work? Yes, I too marvel at the question. I have many friends around me who have a normal married life (as normal as can be in today’s era). The couple mainly catch up on the weekends where they order in or step out, meet extended family, have weekend getaways, etc. Then suddenly the husband has to travel extended periods of time for work and my friends fret, look confused, get depressed and wonder how to manage their lives. Some complaint to me and then realise or suddenly appreciate the nuances of my life.
There can be moments when one feels at a loss living without a spouse not just emotionally but also practically. Couple parties, child’s performance, long weekends, festivals and birthdays – these are just some moments in life that one cannot imagine without a spouse. I have seen it all and combatted it. So, while we all are different and manage things differently, here’s what has worked for me to manage my long-distance marriage:
1. Be positive
First, I believe in being eternally optimistic. If there is a negative factor around me in any form, it shall be eliminated. The negative thing could be a person or a plant. Now, I don’t mean I take a gun and start shooting at the people. I mean that I simply step away from negativity or find solutions. But I refuse to live with it. That helps me a lot in staying positive and happy and not just for when my spouse is away. It’s my life’s mantra.
2. Be active
Have an exercise regime. Do a little yoga or hit the gym or a Bollywood dance class; whatever takes your fancy. We can all do with exercise and the good endorphins that make you happy. Try and indulge in a hobby and basically try and have a fulfilling personal life.
Related reading: 7 reasons to have your own friend circle distinct from your spouse
3. Be communicative
While my husband and I are in different time zones, I see to it that we talk and share our day’s events. I also encourage my son to leave voice messages and videos for his dad and vice versa, for them to stay connected. We are not in touch by the hour, for that can be very suffocating, but we are aware of each other’s days and schedules and stay connected to each other’s lives.
4. Be emotive
I always tell my 5-year-old that it is OK to miss his dad, but we need to plan for the time when his dad will visit us. I remind him of all the fun we had and will have when the family is together. It always helps my son to acknowledge his feelings and then find ways to manage them. This should work for everyone, I think. Accept your feelings, your frustration and the dilemma and then identify your choices. Find a solution and make it work; else choose again.
5. Be inclusive
When my spouse is at home, we take out time for the family and not just on weekends. We all get busy in our daily routines, but my husband and I see to it that he and I get time to talk and connect (yes and do the stuff for bunnies) and also special time with our son. We take long holidays and avoid gadgets and spend quality time doing activities like swimming, playing Uno and Lego together. We cover up for all the time we did not have together and it’s very fulfilling.
Find your own solutions
Maybe your solution will be to party hard or spend time with your mother or your girlfriends. Some women resort to shopping and salon treatments and though I feel that these are temporary solutions, it is important to pamper yourself every now and then. Finding happiness via external factors can help, sure, but being happy internally is even better.
Managing a long-distance marriage requires a two-pronged solution. First, stay busy and happy and avoid negativity, leading to not feeling sorry for yourself/your situation and the persistent ‘why me’ mode of questioning. Second, live life to the fullest in happy times and make memories; for clichéd as it sounds, love can indeed conquer the world.