Long-distance marriage: how we make it work

Long-distance relationships are such a fact of life in our business that I sometimes forget that not everybody lives like this. Lots of married couples get to wake up together every day, eat dinner together after work, and fall asleep watching late night TV. Together. That's not really our life.

We had 2 amazing uninterrupted months together this summer, and I think I got spoiled. Now here I am staring down the barrel of a CRAZY year (no fewer than 3 separate friends have told me they felt tired when I told them my schedule for the season), and I'm trying to remember how to do this long-distance thing again.

I certainly wouldn't claim to be any expert on the subject. We've been spending roughly half the year apart for almost 4 years now, and it's still really difficult to navigate. At the moment I'm having a hard time transitioning, so I thought it might help to write down how we make it work during the best of times.

We keep in contact A LOT.
I know couples who talk once a day or once every few days when they're apart. That would NEVER work for us. We talk in the morning, sometimes on a lunch break, after work, usually another time in the evening, and before bed. We text during the day and email lots. We send pictures of what we're doing when it's something fun. We Skype, and FaceTime, and Gchat. All of the above. On days we can't talk to each other much, I go mildly crazy missing him (and completely irrationally, I assume he's not thinking about me). And because we talk so often…

We make sure to share the little stuff.
It can be tempting when you're not together to skip over the minutiae of your day and focus on the headlines, but I find that doing that leads to a not-so-great cycle. You haven't told one story, so then another one doesn't make sense so you don't tell that one, either, and before you know it you're not bothering to tell something important because you'd have to lead with so much backstory. We have been known to repeat entire conversations and read emails out loud to each other, which sounds boring but is key to feeling like we're in each other's lives. We're also lucky that we're in the same field, because there are all kinds of weird opera things that we don't have to explain, not to mention the enormous pool of colleagues we have in common.

We see each other absolutely every chance we get.
I've come to realize that for us, the total amount of time we spend together is far less important than the length of time we go without being together. So, if I'm looking at being gone for 8 weeks, even a long weekend in the middle of that makes it much, much better (like next weekend!). We used to always weigh pros and cons of buying a plane ticket (and it was especially difficult when he was on another continent), but now whenever we can get a couple days together we buy the ticket and make it happen.

When we're together, we make it special AND normal.
If we wanted to, every long weekend we spent together could be incredibly romantic, all wining and dining and breakfast in bed. We could table all hut talks and errand runs and just focus on having a good time. We've had weekends like that. They make transitioning back to being together for a longer period really hard, because we forget how to live our day-to-day together. I like a mix: one date night, and the rest of the time we pretend we're a "normal" couple—coffee in the morning, laundry, work, TV in bed, the occasional argument, all of it. When I'm away and missing him, it's usually those small moments that I miss the most.

We make the most of our time apart.
Obviously, being apart sucks, and I've been on gigs where I've spent the entire time a miserable, complainy hermit, just counting down the days until I get to go home. Surprise surprise, that doesn't seem to make me any happier. So I try to force myself to take advantage of being on my own. I read. I study for upcoming projects. I go to the movies alone. I have as many girls' nights as I want. I go to bed freakishly early. I keep the apartment warmer than he would like. I do Rosetta Stone in the mornings. I cook fried eggs for breakfast (CM only likes scrambled). When I'm gone, CM watches TV shows and movies I don't love and is much more productive than when I'm home. I know we would both give up any and all of these superficial things to be together, but it helps to remember the upside of this life. Plus, I think absence really does make the heart grow fonder, don't you?

We constantly re-evaluate.
We've made the choice to pursue work that keeps us geographically apart for a lot of the time. Some days it feels like it's worth it, and other days I can't remember why I would have ever chosen that. Being together is great, and infinitely better than being apart. So we talk about it a lot—what our next steps will be, what we want our life to look like, what choices we could make that would keep us together more of the time. Right now this is where we are, and here is not a bad place to be. But we'll keep talking, and when it's no longer the right choice, we'll make a different one.

What are you doing to survive your long-distance relationship? Any tips to share? We're always open to advice!


  1. I think this is great. I think contact more than once a day is the best - and sharing the minutiae of the day. I'm glad you've got it worked out so well for the both of you!

    Some of it is different for every couple - but I think you guys have a lot figured out for what's right for LMB and CM!

    1. You're absolutely right—every couple is different, and even in the same couple what we need and how we get it evolves over time.


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