How to Make Long-Distance Marriage Work

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When people dream of marrying their beloved, they rarely imagine living apart. But sometimes long-distance marriage is unavoidable. Think about those in the military, who have to leave behind spouses when they are deployed. There are those who have to live on different coasts or in different states because of their jobs. Of course, family obligations, such as an ill parent, sometimes cause one spouse to live far from the other.

Some famous couples have experienced long-distance marriages, including Giuliana and Bill Rancic, who lived in Los Angeles and Chicago respectively in the early days of their union, and Salma Hayek and François-Henri Pinault, who live between Europe and the States and are not always on the same continent.

Even if it is temporary, long-distance marriage can be grueling. Not every couple can handle the difficulties of separation. But an adjustment to your mindset—the way you think of marriage—and a plan for staying connected might be enough to keep your marriage strong despite the distance. Here is what you can do:

Throw out Your Expectations

Yes, once upon a time, a man married a woman, they set up house, started a family, and were happily together for the rest of their days. That was then. Now, the world is smaller. You and your spouse might have even met while you were living in separate countries, or your work has always taken you the world over.

So, forget the old rules of marriage and don't waste any time worrying about how your life and marriage don't fit into a particular mold.

Consider yourself lucky to have found someone who goes far away—presumably, meets other people—and still chooses to be with you and vice versa. Dumping one's expectations of what marriage is supposed to be is a smart move for any couple, even those who live under the same roof all the time.

After all, no one can ever live up to expectations. As a result, disappointment will follow.

Set Rules

Part of what gets couples in trouble when living separately is that there is no way to enforce rules of marriage. It's a given that married people should not go on dates with those who are not their spouse. But things can get complicated when you're not living in the same place. For example, your husband might accept a female colleague's invitation to happy hour because he knows the gang from work will be there and there is no one home with him. The woman might see the evening as a date.

Setting rules with which you're both comfortable and both have to follow can eliminate some of these misunderstandings. One rule might be to never accept a female's invitation to an obvious social outing. Another might be to always wear your wedding ring or inform your spouse of your whereabouts. Nowadays, you have phone, text, and e-mail, so you can definitely stay connected, unless you are in the military and safety precludes you from speaking to civilians. The point is that you have to discuss and determine rules that work for you. When in doubt, spell things out. Get into the littlest details, so there can be no confusion.

If ever you stumble into a situation and you're not sure how your spouse would feel about it, just ask him or her. Then, proceed.

Stay in Touch

Couples who live together can grow apart, and it's that much easier for couples who live separately to move in different directions. One way to prevent this from happening is to stay connected. That means you might decide to talk to each other at least twice a day. Stick to such a goal. Use Skype or a video chat service whenever you can, so you can see each other. Use other technology to supplement when it is impossible to participate in a video chat. Of course, be flexible. If your wife is busy at work one day and texts you instead of calling or chatting via video like she normally does, cut her some slack. What's important is not to let texts become a habit.

If you can't talk much one day, then plan to talk a little more the next day. Maybe she'll surprise you with a sext message

Make the most of your conversations by sharing the details of your day. Discuss what is happening at work and at home. Tell each other about friends and family you might have seen. Express your feelings for one another often because it is the only intimacy you have at the moment. You can try phone sex or cyber sex if you'd like, but don't be disappointed if it's not feasible or pleasurable for you. It doesn't work for everyone. Some find it creepy or unfulfilling. And that's fine. Just make up for the lack of intimacy whenever you are under the same roof. The one benefit of living separately is that you never seem to take for granted those moments together.

Make a Big Deal of Little Things

When you're apart, you might feel all alone despite being married. Making a big deal of little things can help your partner still feel as though you are supporting him or her. For instance, send an encouraging e-card when your husband has a meeting about which he is worried. Or send flowers to your wife just because. These gestures also keep the romance alive and remind your spouse that he or she is number one in your heart even if you're far apart physically. Of course, don't forget to make a big deal of big things, too. Don't forget birthdays and anniversaries just because you're not in the same house with a constant reminder. Make sure that you keep your spouse on your mind and in your heart all the time. And let him or her know it every so often.

Be Faithful

No one should have to remind you that you're married. But sometimes, especially when you're not living with your spouse, you might need to hear it. You are married. Therefore, you can not date other people, kiss other people, have sex with other people, etc. Some spouses find it is best to avoid what some might call innocent flirtation with other people. For goodness sake, never allow a relationship with a member of the opposite sex turn into an emotional affair.

Even if you're not touching each other, you can still be hurting your spouse and damaging your marriage. Of course, temptations are greater when spouses are not in the same home.

There is no denying that any kind of affair would be easier to pull off if you're not living with your spouse. That doesn't make it right, nor does it mean the affair won't have an effect on your relationship. You could lose everything. If you are the type who has trouble staying faithful, you should not have gotten married in the first place. But if you are this type and you are now married, then don't put yourself in a situation where you're away from your spouse for long periods of time. As for others, you are not immune to temptation just because you've always been faithful. But you can avoid temptation, fight it, and make a pact with your partner and yourself to stay true to your vows. Living separately, after all, will never work if one of you is unfaithful.

Face Jealousy Head-On

Remember that both of you will also have to combat jealousy whenever you know your spouse is out and about and you're not there. Be ready for it. Be honest with each other about everything, so that it is easier for your spouse to fight the jealousy. So, if you decide to go to happy hour with that female colleague who invited you, tell your wife about it immediately. Let her know this is what you are going to be doing. Tell her about the person who asked and tell her that this woman will be with you. If you're going together and will be alone in the car, let your wife know. If your wife doesn't like the idea, discuss it. And be willing to cancel the appointment with this woman. Your wife has a right to be apart of this decision. Always, put yourself in your spouse's shoes. What would you do if he or she came to you with a similar request? Would you be jealous? Asking these kinds of questions can help you make a decision that puts your marriage first.