According to U.S. Census data, more than 3.5 million married Americans lived apart involuntarily in 2005. That number has probably increased as more people are willing to relocate in order to get a job. If this is your situation, how do you keep your marriage satisfying?
Try these strategies for your commuter marriage. They’ll help sustain your relationship with each other and your children.
Steps To Take as a Couple
Empathize with each other. Recognize the hardships you both face. The spouse who stays home gets saddled with additional responsibilities for household maintenance and parenting. The other partner may feel out of touch with the family while they’re enduring flight delays and impersonal hotel rooms.
Take advantage of technology. Obviously, there are more options than ever for staying connected. Keep in touch with video calls, instant messaging, free long distance plans and digital pictures. Communicate about practical matters and set some time aside just for small talk and intimacy.
Simplify your finances. You’ll likely face some additional costs and may even need to keep track of expenses for two households. Save time and avoid stress by reducing the number of credit cards and bank accounts you use.
Build a support network. You may need outside help during your time apart. Look for ways to hire or barter for services like babysitting and home repairs.
Learn new skills. DIY jobs save you money and give you a sense of accomplishment. Read a book on simple plumbing repairs. Take a cooking class.
Celebrate your reunions. Make the most of the time you do have together. Create your own traditions. Separations may help you appreciate each other and your relationship more.
Steps To Take as a Parent
Explain the situation. Talk with your kids in advance if one parent will be away for a significant period. Let them know that your family is still intact even if people are living apart temporarily.
Be prepared for regressive behavior. Kids may still feel abandoned and react by becoming more dependent, depressed, or angry. Encourage them to express their feelings and reassure them of your love.
Present a united front on discipline issues. It’s easy to fall into a routine where the parent who stays at home becomes the disciplinarian and the traveling parent seems like the entertainment director. Make a conscious effort to share the roles and back each other up.
Delay other major changes if possible. It’s helpful to provide as much stability as possible when one parent is away from home. If circumstances permit, keep kids in the same school and residence.
Encourage teamwork. Children can benefit from taking on more responsibility. Pull together to share the chores and give your kids age-appropriate roles in decision making. Family meetings are a great way to learn to work together and keep communications flowing.
Provide additional same-sex role models. The same-sex parent plays an especially important part in a child’s development, and it’s natural for kids to seek gender identification. Additional positive role models can reinforce the messages you want to give your kids.
Invite relatives over for dinner or look for extracurricular activities led by teachers your child admires.
7. Make the holidays special. Traditional events and special occasions can be an awkward time for families dealing with nontraditional living arrangements. Plan ahead so you can be together on major holidays or create your own special family celebrations that work with your schedule.
Whether your commuter marriage has you living in different cities or different continents, your family can stay close by empathizing with each other and communicating effectively.
Be flexible and tolerant while you look forward to the day when you’ll all be back together under the same roof.