According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of American married couples divorce. Second and third marriages are more likely than first marriages to end in divorce.
That’s a harrowing figure. When even outwardly happy marriages turn sour over time, it’s reasonable to ask why committed couples would knowingly inject any uncertainty into their unions.
One of the most common sources of marital strife is physical distance. Yet many thousands of Americans happily, or at least willingly, live hundreds or thousands of miles from their spouses, sometimes for years at a time.
For the uninitiated, enduring a long-distance marriage sounds like a massive challenge — perhaps insurmountable. But strong relationships can survive and even thrive across great distances. These proven tricks and tips will increase the chances that your jet-setting marriage charts the same course.
1. Give Meaningful Anniversary Gifts
Even when you live with your spouse, it’s never a good idea to let an anniversary go unremarked. That’s doubly true in a long-distance marriage — and triply true when long-distance lovebirds can’t be in the same time zone on the big day.
Use a gifts-by-year guide to familiarize yourself with established anniversary gift-giving protocols. Err toward durable, meaningful anniversary gifts that remain bright in your memory — and, ideally, your home — for months or years. A thoughtful anniversary gift is a great reminder of your loved one across the vastness of time and space.
2. Act Like Lovebirds
When in doubt, channel your inner teenager. Embrace spontaneity. Act like lovebirds.
You can go in any number of directions with this one, but sending periodic love letters (electronically or the old-fashioned way) is as good a place as any to start.
Write from the heart. Be honest, personal, and romantic, even if you haven’t said a sappy word to your spouse in years. Lovelorn communication nourishes the spark that brought you together in the first place and increases confidence in the strength of your relationship — both essential conditions of a successful long-distance marriage.
3. Make Time for the Mundane
Never stop making time for the mundane. That means…
Exchanging banal text messages. Griping about work. Emailing about the weather, or traffic, or whatever else catches even a flicker of your attention. Scheduling regular face-to-face “meetings” via Skype or FaceTime. Watching your favorite shows “together,” minus the cuddling, and debriefing afterwards.
In other words, acting as much as possible as you would were you in the same time zone.
4. Set Expectations in Advance
Know what you’re getting into, and how long it’s likely to last. Set the parameters of your long-distance relationship in advance, including a firm ending date on which you’ll reunite. If you there’s unavoidable uncertainty in your plans, at least firm up the likely ending date and establish a visiting schedule that’s easy to stick to. When it’s time to get together, meet in the middle if you must.
5. Have Outlets and Sounding Boards
Confidence is arguably the most important ingredient in any successful long-distance relationship. Without confidence — that you’ll remain faithful, among other things — your marriage is vulnerable to strife, fracture, and (absent a course correction) dissolution. Seek out peers who’ve been in your shoes before and use them as outlets for your frustrations, sounding boards for your concerns, and guides for the unfamiliar.
How is your long-distance marriage holding up? Let us know in the comments section below.