Friday, February 26, 2016

Staying connected: The traveling spouse.

With the convenience of technology and social media present in this day and age, you'd assume it'd make it frighteningly simple to stay connected to practically anyone, but our desire for a genuine relationship far exceeds visual proof, but intimate interaction no app, or video session can truly satisfy. This holds an overwhelming truth in regards to a spouse whose work agenda calls for regular physical absence. Distance in a marriage physically, can carry over emotionally, if both parties aren't persistently seeking one another. This in turn, can create bitterness and doubt of personal worth or importance in the marriage, if  there is lack of assurance and understanding.
 I often refer to my own marriage as a "revolving door relationship". 
Early on in our marriage, Chris accepted a new job opportunity which called for six months separation across several states. All while being newlyweds, we quickly had to discover ways to preserve intimacy and connection without the option of being physically present. Years later, the time he spends out of town seems to far exceed the time he's home, so I've had a lot of practice at coping with his absence. A "long distance marriage" is not something that you can ever quite get acclimated to, and has certainly called for and continues to take more patience than I can bare at times. I know I'm not the only one living the dreaded "hi and bye spouse" lifestyle, so I wanted to share what has worked for us, and myself individually.

Time together should be intentional Plan your days together, before your spouse returns home for their designated amount of time, keeping the headache of agreeing on what to do the day of less likely. Discuss personal expectations beforehand, and be present. If there is an issue, concern or  frustration that needs to be addressed, use this time to do so, to avoid feeling bitterness when your spouse is away. If your better half has expressed an interest in trying something new, make a genuine effort to plan around that specific want. It can be frustrating to show your enthusiasm regarding a personal desire and the same excitement not be reciprocated, so if your spouse seems eager to experience something different with you, be supportive of their passions. 

Be flexible Chris's schedule is many times the opposite of mine, which makes everyday communication nearly nonexistent. It takes a tremendous amount of patience on days our dialogue is merely a "Good morning" text. Instead of texting sporadically throughout the day, try to exchange communication with purpose. Make sure your texts are meant to uplift, and not bombard with the stresses of your day; Save those topics for face-to-face time, if possible. Trade remarks like "I'm miserable without you here", for "I can't wait to spend time with you!" Most likely your Bride/Groom is having as hard of a time coping with the distance as you are, so instead of dwelling on the obvious, be mindful with optimism over negativity.

Make phone time a priority. Establish a predetermined time with your spouse and set an alarm on your phone. Everyday at this time, even if only for five minutes make the effort to call one another as a daily "check-in". After a hectic day hearing Chris's voice is like a reset button, and if you have children, this is vital to reassure them of how much they're missed by mommy/daddy. Phone time is also a great way to renew connection on a deeper level, and studies have shown that "oxytocin" or the "love" hormone is not only released by physical contact but can be released when one hears the voice of a spouse/parent/loved one. 

Keep a filled agenda.   A strong support system is an absolute necessity, when leading a "traveling spouse" lifestyle, so being vulnerable and allowing your friends and loved ones to assist in the coping process will only benefit you! I'm the first to admit I have strong "loner" tendencies, so it's easy for me to get stuck in a routine with my kiddos, and unintentionally become anti-social. The best thing you can do for yourself is to surround yourself with those whom love you dearly, and make time for interaction.   

Trust is key. It's human nature to seek attention, so when our spouse is incapable of giving us any, we tend to become desperate and distant, which can cause communication and trust to deteriorate. You've heard it said time and time again just how vital these two factors are in a marriage, and unfortunately "long-distance relationships" are best at attacking those very things. We may never intend to act upon our human temptations, but it happens, and it not only hurts our husband/wife but it more importantly hurts God. Trusting your partner doesn't mean you think they will never have a weak moment, it means you have entrusted your heart to them with faith that when they DO  give into human desires they will respect your covenant enough to be forthcoming and repent of their wrongdoing. Distrust appears to us in many forms, but the best policy to strengthen our bond, and blind our insecurities is focusing less on ourselves and more on God. It really is that simple. 

Establish expectations  Growing up with a Dad who constantly worked, and spent little time at home, my Mama has been giving me some of my most cherished advice throughout the years, especially when it comes to marriage. She always told me to never sugarcoat my concerns, or settle on what is right. It's common in many marriages to avoid confrontation, in fear of conflict, and nothing good ever comes from that...ever. Make sure you and your partner have a consensual understanding of how things should be handled while they're away; this could be in regards to finances, parenting, emotional stability, and even intimacy.

The little things
.pray over the phone for one another
.sneak love letters into their bag for a nice surprise
.read a book together.
.make your spouse a playlist of songs that have meaning to you
.pack their favorite snacks for the road
.keep them involved by sending video messages of you and your children
.spray his/her cologne/perfume on your pillow at night
.make their favorite meal when they return
.make a wallet sized photo accordion for them to carry on their travels
.watch a show together
."words with friends" or "trivia crack" Registered & Protected

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