For a number of reasons (mainly financial), my life partner recently took a temporary work assignment 1,800 miles away. Although it’s only for 3 months (90 days, 2160 hours…), it already seems like a lifetime.
Weird isn’t it? We’ve lived together for so long that she’s become a part of me, a part of who I am. It’s hard for me to even imagine my life without her physically being there and then bang, one day I turned around to say something to her and she wasn’t there. It felt, well, weird.
Then there’s all the household stuff. You know, the dirty dishes, the laundry, all the stuff that used to somehow get taken care of that now just accumulates until I finally get around to it. This separation is really going to take some getting used to.
Still, there are a couple of things we’ve done to cope with being apart. If you’re a military spouse, none of these will be new. However, for those couples for whom separation is a new experience, these tips might help you get through.
1. Maintain frequent communication by whatever means you can. Couples need to talk. When you’re physically together, it’s simple to just turn and say what you need to say. Constant communication is the “glue” that keeps the relationship together. When you’re physically apart, communication becomes more of a challenge. However, it’s critical that you maintain it by whatever means you can. That means:
a. Phone Calls. Most cell phone plans now allow nationwide calls so there’s really no such thing as “long distance” charges any more or you can use any of the web-based phone services such as Skype.
b. Video Chats. We set up a webcam on our computers so we could see each other’s face while we chatted. Seeing the other person makes a real difference. Video chats still leave a lot to be desired since the video sometimes freezes or blacks out altogether (depending on your Internet speeds) but still, seeing the face of your loved one makes a real difference.
c. FaceTime. Got an iPhone 4? Use the FaceTime feature to turn your phone call into a video call. It’s a huge improvement over a webcam. We’ve found the video to be much faster and responsive than a webcam. Don’t have an iPhone 4? Then use one of the many video-call alternatives such as Qik.
d. Email & Text Messages. Yeah, email is pretty impersonal but hey, it still counts as a form of communication. Same goes for text messages although with SMS, you can add emoticons ( 😆 ) to spice them up a bit.
e. Cards and Letters. Try communication the old fashion way – in writing. Or take the easy way out and run down to the drug store and pick up a Hallmark card that says, “I Miss You.” Either way, getting a card or letter in the mail says that your special someone is thinking about you.
2. Keep a routine. Even though your “other half” might be missing, there’s still plenty of stuff around the house to keep you busy. Jump into it. You’ll obviously have to pick up whatever chores were being done by your missing partner so work that into your routine as well. Yeah, it’s a hassle but it will keep you busy instead of allowing you to sit around feeling lonely.
3. Stay healthy. Really feeling the absence of your partner? Go out for a quick walk or jog. Dealing with the emotional side of separation is difficult enough so make sure to keep your body in good shape. That means eating right and getting plenty of exercise. With no one to watch (and comment on) how much ice cream you go through, it’s really easy to pack on the pounds when your spouse is away.
4. Keep your emotions in check. OK, this one’s hard but you’ve got to try to keep yourself from feeling lonely, mopey, and miserable. The best way I’ve found to cope with the emotional side of having to live alone for a while is to keep busy following all the previous recommendations.
5. Value the Relationship Above All Else. Being together is what nourishes a relationship. However, with today’s economy, more and more couples are having to take temporary, and sometimes even permanent, assignments apart from each other in order to make financial ends meet. That’s OK as long as you make sure that you work just as hard on keeping the relationship alive and healthy.
Having to live apart for a while is tough on a couple. You have to learn a whole new household routine while dealing with the emotional roller-coaster that goes along with it. But by following these tips and figuring out a couple on your own, you can get through it.
For my part, I’ve found that after some of our phone conversations, my lips hurt from smiling so much. The last time that happened was when we were dating! Still, I wish we were together….