Distance makes the heart grow fonder.
I think every military spouse alive has heard that adage. And if you’re like me, you probably rolled your eyes. Distance makes the heart grow blah blah blah. Easy for other people to say—because that phrase is usually uttered or sent by someone who has the other half of their heart close by. It’s much harder to hear it when you’re in the middle of a long distance relationship and everything feels like it’s the worst.
Maybe you’re looking down the very long tunnel of an impending deployment for the first time or you’re surviving geobaching right now. Long distance relationships are hard… but they’re not impossible. I know, go for it—roll your eyes—I know I would have. But trust me: you can do this. There are ways to make the distance seem just a little shorter and make the time apart feel just a little easier.
Find reasons to make days special and celebrate. During our two years apart, my husband (who was my boyfriend and then fiancé at that time) would tease me about my incessant need to celebrate things. Whether it was 100 days of deployment down or our five-month date-iversary, I really loved having milestones—even dorky ones—to look forward. Celebrations don’t have to be expensive; often I just sent a goofy email or text to mark the day.
Set Expectations Together
It sounds rather pedantic, but I swear it works: set expectations for how your relationship is going to work while you’re apart. Think about how you’ll deal with joint decision-making, disagreements, and loneliness. Talk about how you see being a couple working out across the miles, and then stick to those expectations together.
Have a Schedule
It won’t work for every circumstance (weird deployments, I’m looking at you!), but if you and your partner have consistent schedules, try to plan when you’ll Skype or email. It’ll help reduce stress for both of you and give you something to look forward to. Most importantly, it will help untether you from your phone or computer, which is important for your mental and physical health.
Have a Bucket List
It’s really easy to feel despondent during time apart. Create a list of things you want to do—from books you want to read to places you want to take the kids to cookie recipes you want to try. Whatever you love to do, make it a point to add it into your bucket list. Then start checking your adventures off. It’ll give you something to look forward to and you’ll find you’ll have plenty of interesting things to talk about when the Skype sesh with your partner rolls around.
I’m not just talking about duck-lips selfies, although if you’re good at them go for it. Take photos of your day— where you eat lunch, what you wore, the book you’re curling up with tonight. Think from your partner’s perspective—what do you think he or she misses out on? What events (even if they’re mundane) do you think might be interesting? And remember to keep in G-rated; sending risqué photos is a great way to flirt with disaster.
Keep Some Things Private
In our world of oversharing and instant gratification, it’s easy to forget to have private moments. You don’t have to screenshot the image of you and your partner talking on Skype and share it with Facebook. There are so few moments you get to share when you’re in a long distance relationship, treasure some of those moments and protect them as ones just between the two of you.
I have to admit, I’m partial to writing letters—it’s how John and I reconnected after college (I sent him a letter while he was in boot camp), and while he was deployed, I wrote him a letter every day. Try your hand at letters. Not only is it therapeutic in only the way that writing by hand can be, it also gives you an excuse to buy stationary, funny cards, and (if you’re like me) stickers and pens to aid the process.
Have a Community
Having a military spouse community is great, it really is. But if you’re isolated or you don’t have friends in the military, don’t assume that you’re up a creek without a paddle. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and positive influences in your life, even if they might not know exactly what you’re going through.
Keep a Notebook
There’s this weird phenomenon that happens when you get a call or video chat from your partner. You forget all of the important things you wanted to discuss and end up talking about something that you both know is irrelevant and filler. Keep a notebook and jot down those ideas as they come to you, so you can remember them for later and avoid the radio silence.
Send Care Packages
You didn’t think I’d finish this list without including care packages, did you? Whether you’re sending necessities or fun items, care packages can be a wonderful, tactile link between the two of you.