With many therapists and psychology experts now writing blogs (including our own Dr. Susan Heitler on Psychology Today) there is a full and growing pool of marriage help online. Dr. Terri Orbuch, who writes regularly for Huffington Post, published a great article yesterday about how to maintain a healthy relationship while separated from your spouse. There are many reasons happily married couples might be separated. One or both spouses may be deployed in the military; an employer may send one away for a contracted period of time; one may choose to go live with a special needs family member in order to provide care. Orbuch focuses on the idea that in challenging economic times such as this one couples are often split up as one spouse takes a far off job to support the family. This will provide many new challenges for a marriage, but with the marriage help online available such as Orbuch’s advice, there is no reason you can’t still have a great relationship.
There are even some good things about being separated for a brief while. You’ll have time to focus on your own plans and needs which can often get lost while living intimately with another person. This can be time for personal exploration and growth. It’s also true that distance makes the hearth grow fonder, or at least more appreciative. Having your spouse absent can be a reminder of all the good things about him or her that you take for granted. Your moments together will seem more precious. Plus, after all that time apart your reunions can inspire extra passion in the bedroom and perhaps reignite a sluggish sex life.
Many of Orbuch’s recommendations focus on how to communicate with your spouse. Before you leave, be sure to sit down and work out the parameters of the separation. Talk openly about your concerns, desires, and needs. Making sure you are both on the same page will make facing all other problems much easier, and prevent many from arising.
Orbuch encourages spouses to keep up a frequent and regular flow of communication. Skype, text, email, write or call each other at least once every day. Share the details of your day from frustrations at work to the great restaurant you found down the street from your sublet. Sharing as much as you can will help you feel connected to each other’s lives. Orbuch especially recommends talking openly and honestly about the people you meet and hang out with while away. This is important for how to deal with jealousy. Leaving details out will only leave room for your spouse to guess and imagine situations. Even if everything is innocent, it’s better not to let worries creep in.
Last but I think most importantly, Orbech says to continue to make plans together and schedule visits. Just because you are living apart doesn’t mean you can’t still dream, plan, and live your lives in tandem towards your mutual goals.