Making the Heart grow Fonder: 7 Tips for when your partner works Long Distance

(Also posted in BonjourFrance.eu, Nov 2016)

Growing up, I remember my father being away for work quite often and we did not see a whole lot of him during the week. With that said, his weekends were for us and us alone (and maintaining the garden, but he’d put us to work in there together so you know… two birds… one stone).  We didn’t have Skype and mobile phones back then, yet seeing my parents work together like a well-oiled machine really influenced my future relationships.

When I met my husband whilst living in Australia, one of the first things he told me about himself was that he was a French national (although the accent kind of gave it away pretty quickly) and that his work required him to relocate on a regular basis. Our relationship kicked off with a long distance stint before I followed him overseas 14 months later. We traveled in Europe and Asia for his job and settled back in France 2 years ago to plant our feet in the soil and settle down. Nevertheless, his job still has him travelling quite often as I stay behind with our two daughters and the dog.

I certainly am not the only person in this situation, far from it, and have connected with a number of men and women that have spouses working away from home. I thought to share with you some of the tools that we have used over the years and that have proven to be helpful at times.

  1. Communication is key

This is pretty much a given. Communication is vital in all relationships, but it doubles in importance when that same relationship must battle the distance. In today’s tech savvy society, we’re extremely spoiled with all the applications and programs available to us to connect with our loved ones. That doesn’t mean communication over the net is as easy as it seems. Although you miss someone every day, you don’t always have a lot to talk about when you get your 15 minutes on the phone together. Often it can feel a bit forced as you try to sift through the day in your mind and share the highlights. Don’t put too much pressure on having the perfect phone call or a deep and meaningful e-mail, simply touching base can be enough to let each other know you’re thinking of one another.

  1. Prioritize each other

Enjoy the small talk and joking around, but also leave room for the bigger issues.  Let your partner know where you’re at, even if it’s not the fun news of the day. I know some of us hold back as we don’t want to worry our partner while they are away (or vice versa, worry the ones at home).

Call each other on the times you agreed and touching base during the day can also minimize the ‘out of sight out of mind’ pitfall. Send a sweet video of the kids or a romantic picture to let your better half know they’re on your mind. (Side note: Be cautious with the romantic portraits though, you wouldn’t want to accidentally send a sultry image to their boss or have your sexy face pop up on their computer during a presentation).

  1. Learn how to Argue Constructively

Like any relationship, clashes and disagreement happen from time to time. It feels almost artificial to follow what the books say and start an argument calmly with “I feel that…” and “How can we approach this together”.  Take away the face-to-face aspect of the argument and there can be even more room for miscommunication and conflicts. There is nothing wrong with allowing yourselves to have a heated dispute at first, where you throw random arguments at each other and even bring up stupid things from the past (like when they said they would be home at a certain time and strolled in an hour later without a text… the drama :p. Release that frustration, albeit somewhat incoherently. Once all issues have been thrown on the table, that’s when we can calmly focus on the bigger picture and work through the important ones together (some of them might simply go away once you’ve said them out loud).

  1. It goes both ways

After a rough day, you might feel  that you’re doing a lot staying behind and taking care of the family, while you think your partner is ‘sleeping in’ at the hotel and having a nice dinner, but that is not always the case.  While it can be exciting to visit new locations and network, the demands of being away for an extended period can cause both physical and mental exhaustion. A few days away might feel like a nice break, but all the comfy hotel beds in the world don’t make up for missing out on the everyday things at home. Working away, while the  significant other stays behind, can be stressful and taxing for both parties. It’s not a competition and being part of a team requires a little give and take from everyone.

  1. Make the best of it

At first it didn’t bother me too much that my partner was away a lot. Before we had children, I took advantage of the ‘me-time’, and indulged in ‘girly-my-husband-would-rather-have-a-lobotomy-than-watch-these’ movies as well as meet up with friends. After the arrival of our daughters however, we became a bit more house bound and our priorities changed. Nevertheless, as soon as those monkeys are in their bed, I might grab a glass of red and put on the corniest series I can find (I have no shame in admitting I’m currently hooked on the show ‘Pretty Little Liars’… well maybe a little bit ashamed). It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling a certain void while your partner is away, but making the best of a less favorable situation avoids cutting into your couples-time once they are back. (e.g.: file paperwork, catching up with your own friends, or finally do that ‘extreme Spring clean’ you’ve been planning… even though it’s November).

  1. Perspective

Whenever I do feel a bit down in the dumps because, yet again, my husband gets called away for a few weeks, I try to put things in perspective. I have friends in the military who can be away from their partner and kids for 18 months at a time… looking at it that way, our measly 2-3 weeks feel modest. This does not mean that your situation is irrelevant nor that it feels any better being apart. However, reflecting on others’ situation could bring a certain comfort in knowing you’re not the only one doing this and people are rocking the long distance relationships every day! It does take a village to raise a child, so don’t be afraid to accept outside help where offered and build yourself a little support network.

  1. You’re a rock star!

Maintaining a relationship from a distance (any relationship for that matter) is not always easy and needs us to be bold and to hang in there. It’s for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone; in exchange for a little time with the ones they love. It’s for recognizing a good thing when they see it, even when they may not see it nearly enough”. I read that once somewhere (thank you random late-night Internet searches whilst hubs is overseas).

Long distance relationships (however short or long) are hard, but they are also incredible. If you can communicate with, love and respect each other from a distance, well then you can knock it out of the park when you’re together!

“Distance gives us a reason to love harder” (Anon).

skype

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Life Recipe: When…. you’re in a long-distance relationship

 

longdistanceFor some (well… for most of us) it can take a while to find that ‘perfect match’. Someone who you can finally connect with, and may see a possible future ahead that doesn’t include returning borrowed CDs and cutting out their heads out of all your pictures. But what if that special someone lives on the other side of the world (or even just in another city, too far to access on a regular basis)? That’s when we need to explore our creative side to keep the passion and interest alive.

(NOTE: This recipe also works if your partner is away on business a lot)

Ingredients:

– A fast internet connection

– Registration with ‘Skype’, ‘FaceTime’, ‘Viber’ or anything else out there

– A webcam (not compulsory, but it helps to add some flavour)

– A separate bank account or jar in your kitchen labelled ‘trips to go see *insert cute petname*

– A fool-proof hobby

– A nice erotic book/magazine, vibrator, tissues and lotion or a sturdy shower head for those well.. ahurm.. lonelier nights ….

– Patience (and a buck load of it!)

Instructions:

So you’ve said your goodbyes at the airport, and you’ve now come home to prepare for X amount of time without your partner.

1)      First of all, allow yourself to have a cry (yes, you burly, manly, tobacco-spittin’ men.. that includes you!!). Because no matter how much of a romantic picture the movies or your friends will try and paints of the situation to make you feel better, being apart sucks.

2)      Arrange regular Skype chats or phone conversations. The quantity of these varies from couple to couple. You may want to chat every day or you may want to miss each other a little and chat every few days or once a week. Focus more on quality then quantity.

3)      Video chats can be very off putting. Even though you can hear and see each other, it’s still puts a ‘damper’ on something that would come far more natural when you’re face-to-face. This may sound silly and far too organized, but sometimes writing down a few things you’ve been meaning to talk about can help the conversation flow. It happens quite often that you finally see each other and are too stumped to remember what the heck it was you wanted to tell them (and in my situation, they think the screen has frozen and hang up on you..)

4)      For those who are not afraid to dabble in some ‘sexy time’, set the mood… Turn off your phones, lock your door (this is especially important if you live in shared housing… ask my old roommate..) and choose your ‘décor’. A webcam does have its advantages where you can show off (or hide) certain parts of your body. Create a soft light effect to place yourself in the chapter of a cheap, steamy novel; or you can go all out there like a porn star (whatever blows your hair back). I wouldn’t show too much at once, as most video chats are prone to connectivity problems, and the last thing you want is a blurry, pixulated and very unflattering picture of your special bits!

5)      During the times where you don’t get to have contact, it is important to not emphasise too much on the fact that you are apart. Surround yourself with friends or family, or find a hobby you enjoy and can help you take your mind off things (not only useful when doing long-distance, but a general everyday wellness tip). Losing oneself in the seemingly experience of ‘loneliness’ will only make the time go slower. Of course, the occasional dunking of a bottle of wine or eating half a bag of chips and feeling sorry for yourself, as a way of letting it out, can help.. but in moderation.

6)      The ingredients that include various erotic toys need no further explanation. Don’t be embarrassed, everyone does it… and those who say they don’t are, in my opinion, bit fat liars.. (or missing out at the least!!) It’s completely natural and can even add some spice to point nr 4 .. go for it !! (Unless the reader of this recipe is a teenager… you shouldn’t be thinking about sex already.. now go put on a chastity belt… and stay in school!)

7)      Saving up to go and see each other is not always easy and will very much depend on how far you are from each other and if work-related trip can assist financially. For the money savvy people, open a separate bank account and be the good little saver that you are! For the breezy spenders (such as myself), buy yourself a pretty glass jar and place it is a visible space. Each time you have some spare change, the 20 dollar birthday gift from grandma in your card or extra cash you earned doing a double shift, stick it in the jar and save, save, save (tip: sticking a picture of your loved one can aid in motivation to put that money aside).

In the end, a lot of patience is required to survive a long distance relationship. Certain milestones, such as the date of your next visit together, the time of your next chat or even better the date you can reunite for good, also help in passing the time apart, and seeing a light at the end of that tunnel.