40 ways long-distance love can thrive
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on NurturingMarriage.org. It has been reprinted here with permission.
There are approximately 3.75 million married couples in a long-distance relationship. You and your spouse may be among them. There are many reasons why this may be the case — military duty, work demands, family situations, etc.
So how do you nurture your marriage, feel close to each other and create a thriving marriage with so many miles between you?
You both need to be committed to making this work. You made promises to each other when you were married, promises that you should both be determined to keep even if you are separated for the time being.
Your spouse may have become casual about your relationship as the days and months have passed, but don't you get discouraged! And please don't even think about giving up! YOU can take the lead and choose to be intentional about nurturing your marriage (which will probably motivate your spouse to make more of an effort to stay close to you), and you can start today. Don't lose hope. You can do this!
When our first son was just 16 months old, Aaron had an extended work trip in Moscow, Russia, for one month. It was long. It was hard. And we learned a lot. In fact, we became closer as a couple and came to understand each other in deeper ways than we previously had. Although we weren't apart for as long as many of you may be, we feel like these suggestions may help you nurture your marriage — even from a distance.
(Due to the varying situations of those apart, all of these may not be available all of the time.)
Call, Skype or FaceTime as often as possible (even with a time difference). Have something to say. Be excited to see each other. Talk about anything and everything, just as you do when you're together. Try not to focus on the negatives, but rather stay positive and upbeat.
Text or email regularly. Keep a list of questions and answers going between the two of you and use this time apart as a time to really get to know each other's hearts. Also, know each other's schedule and what is going on, so you can send encouraging texts throughout the day.
Write handwritten love notes, smother them in kisses and cologne, and send them via snail mail (super romantic).
Text or email pictures throughout the day. This is a great way to feel like you're still an important part of each other's lives, even though you're miles apart.
Go on a date — yes, a virtual date. Ask your spouse out in advance, and schedule a solid block of time when you can be together, just the two of you. Be creative — you can sit down to a nice dinner together, play a game, plan your next vacation, read a book back and forth, or just chat and catch up with each other. Dating nurtures marriages because it helps couples reconnect on a deeper level. Lucky for you, you can have that kind of connection even via Skype or FaceTime. It's not ideal, but possible. Just make it happen.
Send gifts, pictures, care packages and little things your spouse would love. Make homemade cards, advent calendars, memes, etc.
Visit each other if possible. If you don't have the money, there are plenty of fund-me type sites out there you could try. Or, you can just save your pennies. If your spouse isn't in the military, make an effort to meet up somewhere in the middle. Or, you could take turns flying out on weekends to see each other.
LISTEN! Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. This becomes even more important when your connection comes over the phone or Internet.
Practice healthy communication skills, even when you are apart.
Say, "I love you," "You are gorgeous," and other compliments of that sort — OFTEN.
Come up with little phrases, code names or other words that are significant between the two of you — those little things build friendship, are a great way to quickly communicate a special message, and will help strengthen your love for each other.
Try not to fight — fighting long distance is the worst because the silent treatment can last forever. If you do fight, be quick to forgive, apologize, and say you're sorry.
Find humor in small things — share anything funny that happened in your day, or that you came across online.
Send your spouse your favorite perfume or cologne so they can spray it on their pillow at night and think of you.
Be fiercely loyal to each other
Have an object or action that can remind you of your spouse (especially when you feel weak or vulnerable). This could be a trinket they gave you, your wedding ring, a picture, or just something you do (like tapping your heart with your fore-finger). The principle is simple — come up with something to help you remember your spouse and the promises you made to them when you were married.
Keep pictures of your spouse close by.
Think of your spouse often — when your thoughts wander, let them wander to your spouse.
Exercise self-discipline when it comes to sex and never turn to porn or cheating on your spouse to fulfill your sexual needs (both are completely inappropriate options).
Beware the temptation to share your more personal thoughts or feelings with a member of the opposite sex — emotional infidelity can be just as real as physical.
Keep your social media connections loyal as well.
Simply put, don't do anything to break the trust your spouse has in you.
Work on being your very best self
Set a goal together — read a book, or set a fitness goal, and then motivate each other daily.
If you're away for work, focus your attention on being the best employee or leader you can be. While remembering that your marriage is more important than your career, time away from home is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself a little more in that project or engagement you've been working on — it can keep you out of trouble too.
Strive to make a positive difference in the lives of those around you. Finding ways to serve and lift other's burdens magically keeps our own problems in perspective.
Find an outlet or learn a new skill by yourself or together (like taking an online class or learning a new language at the same time as your spouse.).
Take care of yourself — emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally and socially.
Be smart with your money.
Eat healthy food, get plenty of sleep, and exercise often.
Keep your home and yard in good order (don't let the dishes pile up and the weeds overtake the yard like they do sometimes at our house).
Give each other wings to fly
Support each other through your words, letters, smiles, and gifts.
Encourage each other along each day.
Remember to see the good in each other.
Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and holidays via Skype or other means.
Remain interdependent. Don't stop needing each other.
Get a pet. While a pet doesn't replace your spouse, it sure helps with the lonely factor.
Support each other through rough days and discouraging weeks. Stay open about how both of you are feeling and how you are both handling the LDR. Brainstorm ideas that will help you strengthen your relationship and support each other every day.
Be happy for your spouse when they get to do cool things (like skydiving, touring ancient ruins, etc.).
Create a website or blog about you & your spouse, and keep it updated with pictures and other relevant info. It may even help others who are struggling to keep their LDR alive.
Build a strong support system around you — family, friends, neighbors, church and community friends, etc.
We get it, long distance relationships are tough. However, while the situation may not be ideal, it really can be as positive or negative an experience as you make it. So, choose today to be intentional about making this a positive experience (which doesn't mean it will be easy).
You will be amazed at how the closeness between you and your spouse grows, how love flourishes, and how your marriage comes alive again as you conquer a difficult challenge together. As you practice some of these ideas, you'll both be strengthened through this experience, and even though you wouldn't want to do it again, you'll be grateful for all that you learned.
Aaron & April are the founders of Nurturing Marriage, a website dedicated to strengthening marriages. They enjoy playing football with their two little boys, watching sports, eating cereal late at night, and going out for frozen yogurt.
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