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Are you living apart from your spouse because of your job? Because of their job? Do you or your spouse work long hours and feel like you don’t see each other often? If you’ve experienced something like this, you know it adds an extra layer of stress to your life and to your marriage.
This is common for military families, medical professionals, first responders, musicians, those in law enforcement, business leaders, truck drivers, and others (*this is not a comprehensive list).
It was also a common experience for our CEO, Kimberly Holmes. Kimberly’s husband, Rob, was in the military. During the first 2 and a half years of their marriage, they were separated a full year while her husband was stationed overseas. Later on in their marriage, they had been separated weeks or months at a time due to the demands of work. And most recently, Rob was working 12 hour night shifts as a law enforcement officer. None of it was easy- and it didn’t get easy with time.
We’re going to teach you 3 questions you can ask yourself when you’re separated from your spouse because of work or other obligations.
- How are you prioritizing your time with your spouse?
Are you making it a point to prioritize spending time with your spouse? It’s important to have a planned, set aside time for the two of you to connect- YOUR time together. Why? Because it’s all too easy for this to fall to the side.
You may be thinking, “Isn’t it ‘quality time’ that really matters?” Not necessarily… in a study done at the University of Alabama, along with our founder Dr. Joe Beam, they identified the 7 traits of what makes a strong family. And one of those was actually NOT quality time, but rather how much QUANTITY time you spend together. That being said, try to have as much time together as you can. Schedule it. Protect it.
You may also be wondering, “But what if there’s no way you can be there in person with your spouse?” Here are some ideas:
Date Nights: One couple we knew would have “date nights” even while the husband was deployed! They’d rent the same movie and sit on the phone and watch together; eat dinner together.
Care Packages, Letters, etc.: Another way to prioritize time if you can’t talk to your spouse while they’re gone is to send a care package, or write a letter to them each day to give them when they get back… do something that keeps your spouse at the forefront of your mind.
- How are you prioritizing communication with your spouse?
Another thing to consider is taking a pause before making a big decision without your spouse. Whether you’re in the middle of a crazy life and work schedule, or if you’re physically separated, there’s a need to make decisions and figure things out.
For example, maybe it’s financial decisions, decisions about schedules, or decisions about the kids. When you consider making a decision and it’s difficult to reach your spouse, you may want to make the decision and just keep going… But we want to encourage you to NOT do that. Most of the time, we can actually pause on making decisions. (They don’t actually HAVE to be made as quickly as we think.)
Instead, loop your spouse in. This will keep the bond strong between the two of you, keep a sense of normalcy, and be less of a shock for your spouse when they come home.
Last of all, keep things interesting! If you’re taking up a new hobby, or reading a good book – share that with your spouse! Part of what can keep you from connecting when you’re apart is “business-focused conversation.” What we mean is, when you actually end up talking with your spouse, don’t let the only thing you talk about is business stuff- bills, kids, etc. It’s draining! Let your conversations with your spouse be encouraging, positive, and connection- driven instead of burdening them with a bunch of decisions.
- Ask yourself, do you actually have to be separated?
For example, the first year Kimberly and her husband were separated, they didn’t have to be. She lived with him in Korea the first year and a half he was stationed there.
In Kimberly’s own words:
“I’m gonna be honest, the first year in our marriage was hard. And both of us were kind of looking for a break, though we never would have admitted that then. I decided to start my masters program and moved back to the states to finish it while he finished his time overseas…
The scary part was, it wasn’t hard for us to be apart. It was actually pretty easy… I mean, we both got to do what we wanted, when we wanted. The hardest part of being apart, as we eventually found, was coming back together- re-learning each other’s schedules and preferences and how to interact again. And everytime we would be separated, coming back together was ALWAYS terrible…
After years of this, we knew that if we wanted to stay married and actually like being with each other, then we had to stop being apart. (Even if only for a week!) We made some difficult decisions to make this possible. We moved. My husband exited the military. Even after this, he had to quit another job where he was working the night shift and only saw us 1 hour a day…”
From Kimberly’s own experience, we see that sometimes you have to make hard decisions to prioritize the health of your marriage. If something is important enough to you, you’ll figure out a way.
Ask yourself: “In the end, is money really worth it?” Or, “Could you live differently?” Or even, “Could you live on less?”
Kimberly and her husband’s marriage needed a reset. And that’s the value of what we do at Marriage Helper! Our Workshops, Online courses, and Marriage Coaching are designed to help you with whatever situation your marriage is in.
We’ve had many couples come to our Workshop on the months or weekends their spouse is off work just so they could move past the conflict and tension from living apart. (And it’s been amazing for those couples!)
No matter what, your marriage is NOT doomed. While being separated because of outside obligations/work is hard, it just takes more intentionality. In the end, when you choose to prioritize your marriage even during this season, it can come out stronger than ever before.