Trials & tribulations of being apart in a marital relationship
Whoever coined the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” was likely single, speaking of his pet or, if he was married, taking an afternoon jaunt to the golf range. He probably wasn’t leaving his wife and children for a three-month contract project outstation, or deploying overseas for six to 18 months.
When we marry, few of us picture spending extended amounts of time away from our spouse. Then reality sets in. Be it contract work, relocation, a business trip, higher education, deployment, coming to the aid of an ailing family member or similar situation, uninvited circumstances force us into a world of “temporary singleness.”
During this separation, you and your spouse will need each other more than ever as you “work out” your marriage.
While absence can make the heart grow fonder, long-term separation comes with a host of hurdles: less frequent communication, no physical contact and the potential for danger, to name a few. Though your upcoming time apart will be difficult, it won’t last forever. And good can come of it.
Whether you’re facing one long separation, or a series of frequent separations, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. There is more to look forward to than the end of this trial.
Here are some tips for making it from the moment after goodbye through the readjustment period with your health, sanity and emotions intact.
Assemble a support network of same-gender friends and married couples. Friends will be vital to your happiness, sanity, and accountability and can be there for you in a pinch.
Vent your fears and worries to your support network and family. You can also share your apprehensions with your spouse, but try not to monopolize with negative thoughts the small amount of time you have to communicate. This may diminish your spouse’s morale.
Develop a new interest. Join a book club. Start exercising. Try your hand at gardening. Not only will your new activity take your mind off being alone, you’ll have something new to talk about during calls home.
Record items you’d like to discuss with your spouse in a small notebook as you go about your day. Write down important items, funny scenarios, interesting new facts you learned, a hilarious joke you heard — anything you’d like to share with your spouse. If you do blank out when your spouse calls, you’ll still be capable of interesting conversation.
Update each other as regularly and frequently as possible. Be honest about your progress toward your shared goals and budget. And be honest to a fault. If you accidentally broke your husband’s favourite exercise machine, tell him. No good can come of delaying or covering-up the truth. If frequent communication is not possible, send a weekly email detailing your progress. It’s a great way to keep each other accountable, even during gaps in communication.
Learn the lingo. You’ll probably never be able to understand exactly what your spouse is going through while away, especially if the situation is perilous. You can, however, read up on the country your spouse is in, the language spoken there, the type of work he’s completing, terminology commonly used in his career field, etcetera. This background information will bridge the knowledge gap between you and your spouse, leaving less explaining for him to do.
Care for yourself. If you think you already are, rethink your conclusion. Are you getting enough sleep, taking a daily vitamin, eating enough food, varying your diet and exercising a few times a week? Taking care of yourself will allow you to better manage your full plate while your spouse is gone. It will also ease your spouse’s mind.
Make a transition plan. If possible, do this together. Which duties of your spouse have you assumed during this separation? Have you discovered an interest in gardening or a strength in budgeting? How will you transition duties back to your spouse when he returns, or will duties be reassigned or shared? If you have children, it’s especially important to plan for the resumption of parenting duties.
Plan a getaway upon return, even if it’s just an afternoon at home with your favourite books on tape. Each day, set aside a small amount of money in a jar. What will you do with it? Have fun putting your heads together!
This article was published with permission from Focus on the Family Malaysia.
If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources at family.org.my.