When we become engaged to be married, we all dream of the day we can finally be with our spouse everyday. We look forward to less frequent long goodbyes and to more time spent together. However, due to careers or other circumstances, we may find ourselves in the challenging position spending long periods of time apart.
Perhaps you and/or your spouse are completing a degree at a graduate or medical school, or working strenuous hours in a “badge” career such as firefighting, law enforcement, EMS or first responder. Or perhaps one or both of you are serving our country’s military, working shift work at a plant, or traveling out of town for days or weeks at a time. Whatever your situation, we hope you will find the following tips helpful.
Find a support group.
Many careers that provide unique challenges for married couples and families often have a support network available. You can find more information through a liaison or by searching online for a local group. Having a support network with others in the same job field can provide a sense of camaraderie and friendship while giving you a place to ask questions and access to specific resources. As you gain knowledge and experience, you can, in turn, help and mentor other new spouses in the future.
Become involved in a Church community.
Finding accountability and prayerful support with others who share the same faith can be a great source of encouragement. Try checking your parish bulletin or website for a Bible study or prayer group. If your schedule permits and you feel a particular call to volunteer your time and talent, look for a ministry or outreach group in which you could serve.
Enjoy a newfound hobby.
Still looking for a way to occupy your time? Make a list of projects or hobbies you would like to enjoy and accomplish during your time apart. Maybe you have a project within your home you’d like to finish, or a gift you’d like to create. Perhaps you want to take a class and learn a new skill like dance or cooking, or join a social group like hiking or a book club. Search your city newspaper or recreation catalog for local classes or events. You can also try websites like meetup.com in order to find a nearby group for your particular interest. When you reunite with your spouse, you can share your newfound interest and try it out together.
Long periods apart can be stressful on a marriage. It often requires emotional and mental adjustment both during and immediately after the time of separation. It’s important and helpful to maintain good hygiene, sleep, and eating habits, and to set time aside for personal leisure and exercise. Yet these days and months can be lonely and trigger feelings of depression and anxiety. If you find yourself feeling particularly low, speak with a doctor, therapist, or pastor or inquire with your support network on healthy ways to manage.
Remain close to the sacraments.
Most importantly, stay close to Christ and frequent the sacraments. Remain focused on him, and he who is always faithful will grant you and your spouse the grace to not only get through times of separation, but to thrive and grow together as well. Despite whatever hardships you both might face, he will always "equip you with everything good for doing His will.”