Monday, March 14, 2016

Staying connected when you’re apart

As I type this (which is actually over a week before it will post :)), Howell and I are in different cities—in different states. This month feels particularly busy for us, and we found ourselves spending several days apart from each other, not by choice but by the circumstances of work and life—all of which seemed to hit at the same time.

Out of 16 days, I think we were spending 10 nights apart. That’s very unusual for us.

We are quality time people. Time away does not feed our love language or fill our love tanks. 

But I was encouraged tonight after we talked to think of how connected we have stayed despite the distance.

When we were first married, time apart—even a night apart—almost always resulted in at least one fight, and I’ll admit that it was almost always related to me as the instigator. Inevitably, if Howell was out of town, one of the dogs would throw up all night or destroy something or some terrible mess would happen that I had to clean up—and then I would feel the need to act like a martyr: You’re not here. If you were here, I wouldn’t have to do this ALL. ALONE. Etc.

Or, if I were the one out of town, I would start to feel insecure about the plans Howell made: I guess you’re not missing me, you’re so busy; you have so much to do. Good thing I’m not there—sounds like you’ve had a lot of fun without me. (ETC!)

I’m happy that we’ve arrived at a place (and I like to think I’ve matured, too :)) where we both feel comfortable and secure in our marriage. We can celebrate each other’s successes and share in the emotions for the bad days or the hard days apart without having to compete or without feeling insecure.

So, I was thinking tonight how to articulate the ways we’ve learned to be intentional with our communication when we’re apart, and I wanted to share some strategies that work for us:

1. Communicate more than normal. During a normal work day, Howell and I don’t usually talk on the phone. We might text once or twice, but really only if we need to answer a question (e.g. Did you transfer that money to savings? Can you stop by the store on your way home?). But when we’re apart, we try to text far more often than we usually do. We’ll text in the morning to say hello. We’ll keep each other updated during the day with what we’re doing.
Usually we’ll talk on the phone two or three times a day, and (if you know me) you know talking on the phone is not my favorite. It’s not Howell’s either. But when we’re apart, we know we need to be intentional about communicating—even if it’s just to say, “Grabbing a bite to eat and heading to the next session. Love you! ;)”

2. Affirm more than normal. So, speaking of “I love you,”—we say it every day, but for those mundane texts (i.e. What’s for dinner tonight?) we don’t feel the need to add those affirmations too. When we’re apart, however, we say “I love you” and “I miss you” a lot. It’s nice to hear—and we need to know it. 

3. Use technology. FaceTime is an amazing creation. If you don’t have an iPhone, consider using Skype or something similar. There’s just something about being able to see your spouse’s face. It helps. I promise! The other day, Howell and I were facetiming; he was in Dallas, and I was packing for Minneapolis, and I carried the phone around as I moved from room to room getting everything ready. I know it’s not exactly the same as having him in the house with me, but it felt so nice to feel like we were just having the usual “What should I pack?” conversation we would have had if he were there.

4. Be aware of what triggers insecurity or what triggers arguments. In most areas of your marriage (or any relationship), knowing yourself is a powerful weapon. The enemy is out to destroy our marriages; I firmly believe that—and most of the time, he doesn’t have to work very hard because we do it to ourselves. We believe lies and let insecurity define us rather than the confidence of who we are in Christ. I used to feel very insecure when Howell and I were apart—especially if he was going to be social and have fun without me, but now I can be happy for him to have that time, and it doesn’t have to mean he doesn’t love me or doesn’t enjoy our time too.

When you are apart from your spouse, there’s nothing that fully compensates for being together. The other night, after FaceTime together as we brushed our teeth and got ready for bed in our respective but separate bathrooms, after Howell prayed over me, after I hung up and turned out the light—I felt a deep sadness in my heart. I missed him so terribly I felt like crying, and that was only Day One of a five-day stretch apart—our longest ever in almost eight years of marriage.

So there’s no full-proof remedy, nothing that makes being apart normal, nothing that can make you miss your spouse less. 

But it IS possible to stay connected and to continue to affirm and love each other well, even when distances separates.

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