Many couples have asked me how to deal with separation. No, not divorce but rather being in long distance marriages – can they survive and what are some ‘secrets’ to making it work?
Living separate lives isn’t what most couples have in mind when they marry. In fact, many expect to love each other and grow old together. But as time goes by, they begin to realise that life dictates that there comes a time when couples are faced with the decision of living apart - be it for career, education or even financial reasons.
So what happens when there has to be separation? Because, even under the most ideal circumstances, relationships need working on to keep them alive. People are dynamic. Life is dynamic. So relationships need creativity to keep them fresh and exciting, for example, regular, as well as surprising dates, road trips, flowers and gifts for each other, visits to common friends and “relas” ( the ones you both get along with).
There are of course those times when there is a valid reason for living separately, one of the most common being relocation due to work which will lead to economic gain for the family. And even then, there are reasons why this might be a challenge and would not work; not being in contact over a prolonged time, dissatisfaction between the two, a marriage in financial distress, those who cannot handle being alone to name a few.
It can work
Long distance marriages can and do work. It seems to be that when need be, a couple that can and does live apart is a fortunate one. Good fortune has to do with working at it, mutual support, staying in contact, spending quality time when together and staying determined to have a valid relationship. And the all-important issue of raising kids and bearing the responsibility of running a home while the other spouse works away requires hard work.
It is easy to fall into a routine when you’re living apart so it is important to come to a place where you and your spouse are each continually willing and able to be your own witness and mirror. You and your spouse have also, to an extent, be each other’s’ mirrors as well even though you are apart. And yes, this can cause some friction between you but couples who have done this successfully have had to learn to live each day out, reach out and connect regularly and accept the situation. And then repeat the process with a certain presence and mindfulness...
What goes on psychologically for each of you? If we say that you are committed and yet are apart what then can you do to “keep the flame alive?” When you are separated, your relationship can seem artificial and it can also feel unsatisfying. Skyping, texting, sending money home, phone calls can feel empty. You might also feel frustrated when you want to see your husband in the flesh, hear his laugh and enjoy his company.
Your might feel even more frustrated by the lack of sexual contact. But as they say in the recovery movement when addicts are trying to come to terms with their addictions, feelings won’t kill you. These same feelings can build, deafeningly, in their seeming crescendo into a sense of awfulness...
Feelings can just be feelings; they don’t actually cause one or another specific thing. Actually, if you allow them, feelings will resolve themselves.
The Taoist principle of Wu Wei, going with the flow; your own flow. Because as my dear mother has often reminded me, you were born alone and you will die alone. In relationships, we are individual apples. Take responsibility for what is your side of things. Do your bit. Since you only have a certain effect or influence, live yours and trust that!