I understand that to some people a long-distance marriage might sound a bit counterintuitive.
But reality says differently.
The Guardian reports how, according to the 2017 US census, “there had been a 44% increase in married couples living apart since 2000, bringing the total to almost 4 million people.”
Now those are numbers you definitely can’t argue against.
Long-distance marriage is a fact. It’s all around us and it’s no wonder that the number has only increased in the past 20 years. This is largely due to globalization and the realities of the modern fast-paced lifestyle that requires lots of worldwide traveling.
And the thing is, it’s quite probable that a lot of couples out there have experienced or will experience long-distance marriage at some point of their relationship, for a number of different reasons – whether it’s work, studies, family issues/reasons, and the like – chances are that some couples are going to find themselves at opposite ends of the world.
Couples in a long-distance marriage often face the same problems regular marriages do
Oftentimes, though, the problems couples face in a long-distance marriage aren’t unlike problems couples face in a regular, close-knit marriage – basically, for it to work, it boils down to the partners being effective communicators and prioritizing one another.
Sounds easy, right? While a good-functioning marriage should feel easy to navigate, the deeper reality can be a tad more complicated. And long-distance marriages have another element in the marriage equation that can complicate stuff a little bit – yes, you guessed it, it’s the distance!
But that’s manageable as well, if you love each other and are focused on making it work.
Long-Distance Marriage Problems
While couples who are in a long-distance marriage or are preparing to enter one will face more or less the same or similar problems couples in regular marriages face, they will also need to grapple with a unique set of problems, such as:
Experiencing different dynamics of daily life
In a long-distance marriage, you may find yourself encountering different time zones, weather, people, patterns, activities, culture, events, and the like.
Challenges regarding logistics
Depending on the location of your loved one, you might sometimes be faced with transportation and communication difficulties. For an interesting take on this kind of issue, I suggest you take a look at this wonderful article by Cosmopolitan about an Antarctica tour guide. At times, this man was away from his wife for up to 9 months! Also, both of them faced very limited means of transportation for going back and forth to see each other on the South Pole.
Geographic distances can come with cultural distances as well. Sometimes the things you find most exotic about your partner, the things that make you most drawn to them can also turn out to be challenging in your long-distance relationship.
Often, you will have to navigate decision-making within the respective differences of your cultural backgrounds.
Similarly to that, certain holidays or events that are important for one culture will not be for another. A good example of this are the differences between days off work on religious holidays.
One of the most common long-distance marriage problems is flexibility. The good thing is that LDRs rarely leave you with petty things to argue about over Skype – like who’s going to stay up late working, or which film to watch before going to bed… You get the point, long-distance marriages can help you look at the bigger picture that is your long-term commitment to one another and, of course, love.
But, there is the problem of flexibility in terms of personal schedules, scheduling calls in particular. Problems can ensue when one of the partners isn’t able to check-in at the agreed time because of a work emergency, the sheer spontaneity of daily life, and social ties in the place they reside.
Missing the touch of your partner
We’re creatures of touch, that’s nothing new. Even if you spend every day video calling your significant other at the other end of the world, it’s still not the same as touching them.
Of course, nowadays, everything is much easier with all the tools for voice and video messaging at our disposal. But no matter the technological advances that help us communicate better, we can still miss our partner’s body language: their energy emitted in close range, the atmosphere both of us create by being together, a caress, a touch on the cheek, or the shoulder, etc.
That’s why it’s important to inform your partner when you’re feeling extra touchy; I’m sure they’ll find ways to cheer you up and let you know they’re always there for you even if they currently physically aren’t.
Managing the fluctuation of emotions
As a long-distance couple, you will most likely encounter a flurry of emotions considering your constant separations and your reunions. Because nowadays travel is much faster than ever before, these comings and goings are often also going to be abrupt.
And distance can also meddle in the ways you experience emotions alone as opposed to experiencing them with your partner.
All of this can often weigh heavily on the psyche. Learning to deal with these emotions can make a world of difference because it might help you balance out extreme emotions, stop marital fights, and also hinder potential breakdowns. You will need to recognize when and why you feel a particular way when you’re with your partner, and when you’re alone.
Acknowledging your feelings is the first step to managing them.
Learning to accept the loss each time you separate
It’s perfectly normal to feel like you’re falling apart a bit when your partner leaves after spending time together. For people who really thrive in the presence of their spouse and really look forward to a life together, this can feel akin to a loss. And it should be accounted for as a sort of a loss.
But, there are also people who feel comfortable in their long-distance marriage’s occasional or frequent solitude. They might find it easier to cope after their partner leaves, which, of course, doesn’t mean it’s all the same to them. It’s a matter of personality and internal dynamics of particular couples.
Managing physical (sexual) desire
For some people, this is among the hardest parts of maintaining a long-distance monogamous marriage.
Being separated for months can really put a strain on your desire for sex and physical intimacy. Of course, one of the things you can do here is sexting, phone sex, or FaceTime/video sex.
If you’re in an ethically non-monogamous marriage or an open marriage, then it might be a bit easier concerning physical sexual satisfaction, but, of course, this brings its own sets of challenges as well.
Resolving conflicts and sharing moments of joy
Long-distance relationships require more patience and understanding from both partners about some areas of their life.
A different time zone may mean your partner is ready to go to bed, while you can’t wait to recount your day and talk to them for hours.
And resolving conflicts can also feel different without the physical presence when you can touch or hug your loved one, or just calm down in each other’s silence while you’re hugging. The same goes for your triumphs and moments of joy, but also feelings of concern and the desire to reach out.
The challenges of using the time you have together
As the psychologist Roni Beth Tower says, time for couples in a long-distance relationship can be a “scarce resource”.
And so couples find themselves under extra pressure to use this time wisely and as fully as they can. They also need to work on this time being filled with happy and enjoyable experiences, rather than melancholia and fights – otherwise, how would you maintain a healthy long-distance marriage?
Oftentimes they also have to incorporate other people into these times – family members, close friends, social gatherings, and events.
So it’s only logical that time in a long-distance marriage requires more planning and sticking to those plans. It also requires adapting to your respective living locations, or the places where you’ve chosen to meet.
How to Survive a Long-Distance Marriage
Long-distance marriage is something that’s perfectly manageable if you’re both committed to making it work and being honest and open with each other.
It’s not easy, but it pays off because guess what, you get to keep the love of your life in your life – if that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will.
Of course, tips, tricks, and strategies for making long-distance marriages and long-term relationships work can be of great help.
So, let’s see some of the ways you can make your LDR work as best as it can!
Look at Your Long-Distance Marriage as an Opportunity for Growth
Being separated from your significant other and left to your own devices can bring you face to face with some of your deepest thoughts about your relationship. It will make you think long and hard about all the stuff you love about your partner, and all the reasons you want to stay with them.
But it will also bring you to a darker place, as well. It can make you question your relationship and ask yourself why are you together in the first place.
So it’s definitely a relationship test, something that will either make or break your bond. Of course, if you’re up to the task, you can feel close to your person even if you’re on opposite ends of the world. And sometimes people who’ve been physically by each other’s side have been emotionally distant for years.
So geographical distance definitely isn’t everything.
Adjust Your Requirements for Communication
Different couples need different amounts of communication to feel close to their partners while they’re away.
Some people need to be in contact almost 24/7. Texting every hour or so, sending emojis, gifs, videos, and voice messages… And others need only a single phone call or a longer message during the day and that’s it.
Of course, all of this also depends on the means of communication you have available at your disposal as well as on the availability of technical means such as a mobile phone, computer, stable internet, etc.
But, if you ask me, I would advise against excessive communication that comes out as possessive and overly attached.
If you think that excessive communication can work as a replacement for physical closeness, you’re wrong. It all depends on what both of you need. Just be careful of overdoing it, because it might suffocate you, your partner, or both of you, too soon.
And that’s why you should discuss all of this first and tell each other openly who needs what. If you’re the type that wants to receive a message every hour and your partner is okay with a phone call a day, try to negotiate it somehow.
Let her try to send you a couple of messages throughout the day, while you also try to be a little less present in order to be more.
But, as I said earlier, if excessive communication is your thing, then definitely go for it. Who am I to tell what’s right and what’s wrong?
In any event, try to communicate regularly and attentively.
Manage Your Expectations
Long-distance relationships require major management of expectations. And this should be done, preferably, early on, at the beginning of the long-distance marriage journey.
Setting some rules and discussing your expectations for your LDR includes stuff like agreeing when you want to communicate during the day, what it is that can potentially make your partner angry, what you expect them to do while you’re away from each other.
It can be related to the form and nature of your relationship – for example, whether you’re monogamous or are in an open marriage, and questions around how committed you are to one another.
Aim Towards a Mutual Goal
When you’re in a long-distance relationship, setting precise timelines for meeting and/or doing stuff is pretty important. Aiming towards a mutual goal will make you more connected and feeling like you’re making some progress towards your eventual reunion.
Ask each other questions such as:
- When are we planning to meet again? When can we set a reasonable date considering our work/study obligations and financial means?
- How long are we going to be away from each other?
- Where do we want to take this long-distance marriage? Are we comfortable keeping it up for years to come, or should we work more towards a solution where we move in together in the near future?
- How do we see ourselves in the future considering the situation with our long-distance marriage right now?
Usually, couples don’t stay long-distance for the rest of their lives. Eventually, they like to settle down to one place and one home. There are some couples, however, who are comfortable keeping up with the LDR lifestyle and don’t mind the long months of separation. Alternately, there are couples who live between two places and usually travel together to and fro.
What’s important is to make a plan. It all depends on your own desires and expectations from your relationship, as well as how much you’re willing to sacrifice other aspects of your life for it. And having an end goal in sight helps significantly.
Learn How to Enjoy Being Alone
Long-distance marriage means you will have to deal with lots of alone time. Getting used to it can be hard, but if you manage to achieve a more or less comfy level of being with yourself and actually enjoying your own company, chances are you’re going to be much happier and your relationship will become better for it as well.
Spending time with your partner is great, but there are lots of things you can do by yourself as well.
- You can devote yourself to exploring the city/town you’re located in and its surroundings. You get to feel like a kid again exploring a new land.
- Try answering the call of nature and spend some time outdoors.
- Try to commit to the hobby you’ve always wanted to have but never could find the time for.
- You can watch films, TV shows, or go to the gym!
- You can also work on your social life and dedicate more time to friends and building your friendly relationships.
If your friends and family are around, even better! You can spend more time with them, and even try to rekindle old friendships that you’ve neglected over the years. Lots of options for you out there to do without your partner, all the while thinking of them.
Know Your Partner’s Schedule
This doesn’t mean that you will need to keep track of every move they make! But having a general idea of how their typical day goes will help both of you communicate better.
This becomes even more important if you’re living in different time zones, when you’ll really need to puzzle out a tight schedule for communication and catching up.
So stay interested in your partner’s work-life dynamics, and know when it’s not a good time to call – if they’re in a meeting, having a class, sleeping, etc.
Also try to keep up with events that are important to them as much as you can, like exams, work events, job interviews, business meetings, and trips. Showing support for even the most trivial of things can mean a world of difference for someone who’s stressed out and misses you beyond belief.
Don’t Forget to Keep Being Honest With Each Other
I can’t stress this enough. Honesty is among the tenets of good communication. When it comes to long-distance relationships, being honest and being open with one another can be crucial to maintaining a happy and healthy connection through time.
This means being open about your fears, your concerns, your resentments, your insecurities and episodes of jealousy, even about the times you’ve felt apathetic and disconnected from your partner.
Hiding these negative feelings will only amount to further frustration. One of the great things about marriage is that you don’t need to go through things alone, at least not in healthy marriages.
Open up to your partner and allow them to hold your hand, even virtually, to be there for you when you need it most. Allow them to look at yours and their problems together, all the while trying to solve them together as well.
In any event, disclosing your insecurities and potential concerns early on in the long-distance relationship will only serve to strengthen it and will make your partner aware of things they might’ve unintentionally missed.
Try to Do More Things Together Even Though You’re Physically Apart
Even though you’re miles away you can still have fun together. Nowadays there are plenty of things both of you can do together online.
For example, you can watch a movie together, and even organize a regular movie night once (or a couple of times) a week.
You can play video games together, attend online yoga classes, have a book club and even try reading at the same time, you can exercise together in your homes or outside (internet!). You can take walks together while talking on the phone and visit your favorite places in your respective cities/towns.
There are plenty of ideas to go about. If you want to find out more, visit my special article on long-distance date ideas.
Don’t Be a Technophobe
If you want your long-distance marriage to work, you will have to use some means of technology in order to have regular and successful communication with your partner.
And guess what? You’re lucky you’re living in the 21st century because now it’s easier than ever to be in an LDR. There are so many ways to stay connected, I’ve lost count.
FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, Viber, Messenger, Instagram, you name it. Use whatever you and your partner find desirable, as long as it keeps you connected and closer to one another.
If you want my advice, I’d choose something that also allows you to be creative and have fun, and something that allows you to send videos and pictures, besides texting and calling.
What’s more, you can try to surprise your partner by sending them a video or a picture of what you’re doing at the moment, when they least expect it. If you’re a known technophobe, it’ll be a sign that you’re willing to change, even a little bit, for the sake of your relationship.
Answer in detail
Also, I’d advise you to answer in more detail. Like, for example, when you get the “what did you do tonight” question, try not to answer only with “I went to dinner and had a really nice pasta.”
Instead, try to recount the most beautiful moments of the night in detail. Tell them how the pasta tasted, how the wine tasted, what kind of conversation you had, how was the night sky, and how the air smelled while you were walking down the street. Trust me, it makes a big difference and it helps your partner feel like they were there, beside you, the whole night.
Final Thoughts on Long-Distance Marriage
As you can see from this article or as you might have experienced yourself, long-distance marriages can be challenging.
That’s why we went over some potential long-distance marriage problems, but also introduced ways to cope with them in order to survive your long-distance marriage.
All in all, I know it’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth working on your LDR if you love each other and want to stay together, to make it work and keep each other in each other’s lives. It’s all about commitment and will.
Couple that with sound communication skills and you’ve hit the jackpot, even though at times it will still be hard as hell!