I clearly remember the hours spent on the phone with my husband-to-be during our long-distance engagement. At some point, at least several times a week, we’d express how much we missed each other, following our unintentional script: “I can’t wait until this time is over and we can see each other every day.” “Me neither. We won’t have to say goodbye anymore! Instead, it will be goodnight.”
Short of a handful of work-related trips and bachelor and bachelorette weekends each, my husband and I have been blessed with the opportunity to come home to one another almost every day of our marriage, a gift we try not to take for granted. Having friends in the military, ministry, and the corporate world, we’re aware that for some couples frequent travel and separation is the norm, not the exception.
What will your own living and time situation look like after your wedding day? Being able to insulate and fortify your marriage in its early days--a “cocoon period” wherein your relationship and its boundaries are a top priority--is an incredible grace. But if by necessity or circumstance--school, a job requiring regular interstate trips, selling a home, or otherwise--you and your spouse aren’t able to be together daily, your marriage certainly isn’t doomed. Where some opportunities are absent (namely, the ease of spending significant amounts of time together as husband and wife--and it’s alright to find this difficult and undesirable), others present themselves. But only with the Father’s hand.
I recently talked to two friends, a couple married six years who spent the first six months of their marriage living in two different states as one spouse completed her PhD and the other established his business. I find their devotion to prayer, theology, and liturgical living so inspiring, and as we chatted about their advice for married couples who are frequently separated, it appeared clear to me that some of the very habits established during their time apart later flowed into the habits they maintain still, now together each day and with their children.
Here, their tips for couples experiencing temporary long-distance marriages.
Invest in your prayer life as a couple.
My friends told me when they shared their forthcoming situation with their pastor during engagement, he urged them to develop habits of regular prayer, both individually and as a couple. Going so far as to schedule specific times to pray is very helpful for accountability--they committed to praying on the phone before work each morning, using this prayer for married couples, followed by spontaneous prayer and intentions.
If necessary, get creative with your time and schedules.
Making time to chat each day was a priority for my friends, one that involved a well-worth-it effort to align their schedules across different time zones and responsibilities. Depending on your situation, this might look like one or both spouses waking up an hour earlier or talking during meals or work breaks.
Know your limitations, however, and prioritize each other’s well-being--my friends decided to impose a rule of no evening Skype calls on weeknights, because they’d both be too willing to stay up too late.
Find things to do together from a distance.
Reading the same book, watching the same show, or even making the same recipe can help you feel connected across the miles.
Try to see each other as much as possible.
As time and finances allow, it’s worth making efforts to see one another often. This might involve certain sacrifices; my friend, for instance, decided to live with family during his time apart from his wife, and the money they saved in rent went to plane tickets, instead.
Expect an adjustment when you’re reunited.
The end of your time apart will surely be one of great joy. Bear in mind it will also be a big move for at least one spouse, with many changes: living with someone new and adjusting to a new location, job, and community. Give yourselves times to ease into the transition, in the form of taking a few days off from work and taking things slowly before overloading yourselves with social commitments.
A temporary long-distance marriage probably feels more unfair than a long-distance engagement; after all, the contentment of significantly more time together is a privilege of becoming husband and wife. Yet opportunities for your sanctification and the strength of your relationship do exist; gifts even in a less-than-ideal situation. If you have or will experience frequent separations from your spouse, be assured of our prayers, and be sure to share the practices that have helped you on your journey.