4 Tips for Staying Connected to Your Partner When Your Time Together is Limited
Updated: Jan 16, 2020
“In a relationship, when communication starts to fade, everything else follows.”
My husband and I have been married 9 years and together 12, and we’ve discovered so much about who we are as individuals and who we are together over this time. My husband was 25 when we married and I was just 21, so we have literally grown side by side throughout our relationship. For a multitude of various reasons, we have had to spend a lot of time apart throughout the years, and through all of those experiences we have learned a tremendous amount about how to keep our marriage thriving through times of separation.
Between different careers, hobbies, and travel requirements (both professional and personal), we have had to adapt and re-adapt countless times to fluctuating schedules. We have spent many lengthy periods of time where our commitments have kept us like passing ships, barely living in the same space together. I cannot stress how difficult this can be on any relationship.
When our relationship was much newer, we both had commitments that kept us extremely busy. My husband spent long hours at work building his business and for a brief stint he took on a temporary additional job where he was working 10 to 12-hour evening shifts. We spent about 4-6 weeks once a year for a few years on completely opposite schedules. I was also working a full-time day job, coaching in the evenings, and finishing my college degree during this time, so my spare time ranged from incredibly limited to completely non-existent.
I’m currently working a full-time day job, coaching on evenings/weekends, overseeing the operations of my state's competitive dance organization as an officer, training for a 10 mile race, managing and working to grow my blog, and attempting to maintain my top priority of being a solid wife and mother. It can be challenging to say the least, and my husband and I have many occasions where we pass each other in the doorway just to trade off our parenting responsibilities. When I was in the middle of my busiest time of the year earlier this year, my daughter actually asked, “Mommy, am I having dinner at Daddy’s tonight?” Umm, HELLO, I know it gets crazy sometimes, but we do still live in the same house!
In addition to our long list of commitments, we are also unbelievably blessed and excited to be in the midst of the huge new adventure of building our forever home. I have to admit that I’m nervous about the distance that this project will soon put between us again. My husband is doing a majority of the work on the house while I’m attempting to maintain all of my commitments, take care of our daughter, and prepare our current house for sale.
If there’s one important thing that we’ve learned throughout our marriage, it’s that “distance makes the heart grow fonder” isn’t exactly the whole story. For our relationship, it takes a serious, conscious, and consistent effort to stay connected through any periods of distance. For anyone who experiences brief or prolonged periods of separation in their relationship, here are my top four tips for staying connected to your spouse when your time together is limited:
1. Make the most of the time you do have together.
This probably goes without saying, but if you have limited time when you are actually present with one another, it’s critical to make the most of that time.
On a smaller sense, that can be through local outings (seriously – sometimes a Sunday cruise or just running errands together is quality time well spent for my family), scheduled meals together as a family, or just sitting down at home having real conversations about what’s going on in your lives. My family has a daily gratitude practice where we share the best and worst parts of our day each day so that we can discuss what’s going on in our lives and feel connected to each other even when we’re often apart. Sometimes we have the opportunity for all three of us to have this discussion together, and often times when we are separate, my husband and I have the conversation with our daughter on our own and with each other together at a later time.
On a larger sense, this can be through date nights out, weekend trips, or vacations. My husband and I plan date nights in advance whenever we can find windows of time that work for us and either of our mothers (our amazing go-to babysitters), and we plan our family trips (big or small) and romantic getaways far out in the future so that we have something to look forward to and daydream about together during the more hectic times.
2. Continue to communicate regularly even when you’re apart.
I can say from experience that, again, “distance makes the heart grow fonder” does not apply when you aren’t making an effort. Distance without communication will just create even more space and further separation in a relationship. In our earlier years together, when my husband and I spent significant time on different schedules and communicated with one another limitedly, it was very difficult to feel connected to each other. We often struggled to feel like we had much in common when we were living seemingly completely different lives. Trying to get back on the same page when our schedules would eventually somewhat re-align was also rocky.
We have found that maintaining consistent communication with each other, even during periods of physical separation, enhances our emotional connection and keeps us feeling more in touch when we do have time together. When my husband goes to Canada for a family fishing trip for ten days each year, he travels to a very remote lake and does not have access to standard technology to communicate during that time. He always leaves me ten notes or sends me ten emails in advance and asks that I open them in order as each day passes, while I also write him at the end of each day to keep him apprised of what went on at home while he was away.
Even when we are in the same country, or county for that matter, consistently leaving each other notes, emailing, texting, and even snapchatting parts of our day are all ways that we continue to keep our communication going and stay active in each other's lives even when we’re on completely different schedules.
3. Offer your support.
Regardless of if you are both busy, if you are the partner who is less busy or home more often, or if you are the partner who is busier and away more often, it’s important to offer support to each other. For the person who is less busy or home more often, you may feel the pressure of having to keep the house running on your own, or simply feel lonely. For the person who is busy or away more often, you might be struggling by feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities or missing out on all the things at home.
I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum, and both are difficult in their own respect. When my husband is the one that is gone, I feel most supported when he spends genuine quality time with us when he’s able to, even if that's just an evening walk or a Sunday cruise as a family. When I’m the one that is gone, I feel most supported when my husband is able to keep the house organized, listen to my occasional rants, and take care of our daughter in my absence. Communicating with each other and figuring out what you can do to better support one another is key to staying connected.
4. Make it clear that you value your partner.
Along the same lines of offering support, it’s important to make each other feel valued for what each of you bring to the relationship. Reassurance and appreciation for what the other person in your relationship is doing goes a long way. Put yourself in the other person’s position and think about the role that they are playing and what they are doing to add value to your relationship, whether that be working to add financial support, staying home to take care of kids or keep the house running, or chasing their dreams to better themselves personally (which ultimately adds value for everyone). Practicing gratitude with your significant other and making each other feel appreciated can genuinely enhance connection whether you’re together or apart.
For all the busy couples out there who have periods of separation for whatever reasons, you’re not alone if you struggle with distance in your relationship. Distance may not always make the heart grow fonder, but from my experience, connection can still exist and even increase over the long-term through these difficult periods with continuous conscious effort and communication.