Do you or your spouse live away from each other for part of the time? A commuter marriage is defined as a marriage where spouses live apart for reasons other than separation or divorce. Roughly 4 million American couples live apart for some or most of the time. Many jobs require distance at one point or another; the military, pilots, artists, traveling salespeople, linemen, blended families with children in different states, and medical professionals to name a few. How do you keep your marriage strong when you may not see each other every day? And can distance really make the heart grow fonder?
Coping with Distance
Commuter marriages can feel incomplete as they lack the ability to co-reside in the same space. The inability to physically be together everyday is inevitably one of the hardest parts of commuter marriages. While physical touch with your spouse provides for more intimacy and comfort within a relationship, it is possible to feel that intimacy and comfort you want in your relationship without constant physical touch. You will need to get creative, and find new ways to connect daily together. If you need ideas, listen to our podcast here with tons of options to help you grow closer while far away!
When living far apart, the constant travel and the cost of that travel can be overwhelming at times. Setting up a schedule and working travel costs into your budget can help this go a little easier. Like anything in marriage, communication is going to be key to working through the difficulties that come along with living apart.
Remember that it’s going to be hard sometimes, and you need to honor the difficulties that come along with being in a commuter marriage. Recognize what is hard for you, talk it out, and honor the bad. But along with that, be sure to reflect on the good things. Write down the positive moments and parts of your distance. When you’re having a rough day struggling with all the bad, take a look at the good things you’ve written down about your commuter marriage.
Benefits of a Commuter Marriage
Despite all the downsides to living apart, there are benefits as well. Distance allows spouses to focus their attention on profound aspects of their marriage rather than superficial ones. It allows you to grow your emotional intimacy with each other, as much of your communication is done over the phone or video calls. You can really learn how to communicate well verbally, even though you might be missing out on some of the nonverbal cues you might normally pick up on if you lived together the majority of the time.
Having your own space is another perk to a commuter marriage. You can really sprawl out in the bed and take up both sides if you’d like! 😉 Embrace your alone time; take that 30-mile bike ride with your best friend, learn to paint happy little trees, or write that book you’ve always hoped you would. You may have a little more time to yourself when you are away from your spouse. Enjoy it! And if you’d like to learn a hobby together, get creative and find a way to do it together. Maybe you can both paint the same picture while chatting over the phone and then compare with pictures when you’re done, or cook the same meal and enjoy it together!
Another way that being in a commuter relationship can positively impact your relationship is that when you’re together with your spouse, you are TOGETHER. Romance thrives, sparks fly, anticipation rises, and romance intensifies. Here are a few facts that help you see the reality of this in commuter marriages:
- According to research by The Family Institute at Northwestern University, long-distance spouses reported better health in multiple categories, including lower anxiety, depression, fatigue and health. Conversely, the married couples surveyed had more frequent sex and less relationship stress.
- A 2017 study by LeHigh University, “Going the Distance: Individualism and Interdependence in the Commuter Marriage” found that couples in commuter marriages described themselves as highly interdependent despite geographic distances. Yet 66% surveyed felt that they had been judged negatively for their untraditional lifestyle.
Often, couples who are in a commuter marriage report having better health, because they focus more on giving themselves . They also report having time to pour more into their relationships outside of their marriage. So, truly, you can see that it’s not all bad in commuter marriages!
Frequent communication is helpful in bridging physical distance. While there are benefits and hurdles to be jumped in a marriage where you aren’t physically in the same place much of the time, if you learn how to communicate well, your marriage can continue to grow stronger each and every day, and you can have an extremely fulfilling relationship with your spouse.
Talk to one another A LOT. Work together on a project or goal that will require you to talk about it often. Be sure to plan adult time together and take trips to see each other and enjoy physical time with each other. Always have your next flight or trip planned and booked so you have something to look forward to. This is also a great way to constantly be building the anticipation for your physical time together! Always support one another and communicate your boundaries so you know what’s okay and what isn’t in your long distance relationship.
Dating from a Distance
Below are a few date ideas for you to try out if you are in a commuter marriage. Let us know in the comments below which ones are your favorites!
- Watch Netflix or another streaming service together! You can say “1, 2, 3, go!” and press play at the same time, or use an app that allows you to watch it together.
- Play a game called “Who Plated it Best” – pick a recipe together and cook together while on the phone. Don’t show the other person until you’re completely done and have it all made and plated. Take pictures and post them on social media to let your friends vote on who plated it best!
- Make it a double date! Have friends join in on the fun.
- Check out more of this idea here.
- Take a virtual vacation by going to a cool site like the one here that lets you go all over the world from the comfort of your own home. Make your date night themed around the place you choose to go, eating food from that country, music, and more.
- Try a Zoom Meeting where you play online games together. You could play charades, jackbox party games, and more.
A few other great ways to keep the spark alive while apart are sending each other little gifts, writing letters to each other, and finding ways to sneak away and surprise the other. Just hope they aren’t trying to surprise you at the same time! 😉
Just because you aren’t physically together, doesn’t mean that your sex life has to dies while you’re apart. Flirt with each other. Send fun texts with flirty thoughts or silly memes. You can try out a simple version of sexting, describing how much you would love to be together and what you would love to be doing if you were. When trying out sexting, be sure to use an encrypted site, app, or website. Encryption means that your message or photo is scrambled and can only be viewed if you have the key to unscramble it. Your phone or your spouse’s phone or computer will hold that key and no one else’s. We have an encrypted app called Just Between Us that is a safe way to send and receive steamy messages with your spouse without worrying that anyone else is going to see it. Download the app here!
While being a part for some or most of your time as a married couple can be extremely difficult at times, remember that there can be truly wonderful things to it as well. Don’t let your time away from each other drive a wedge between you and your spouse. Instead, use this blog post, ideas in the Intimately Us app, and fun thoughts from our friends Abe and Elaine Romero at Love Is In The Air to grow stronger and better everyday that you are apart or together. Now go and Get Your Marriage On!