I grew up in a small town where people really did marry their high school sweethearts – and they stayed married for more than 30 years. I wanted to be one of those couples, too. But unfortunately, when my high school boyfriend and I went off to separate colleges, we didn't last long. Our phone calls grew shorter and shorter and then we only texted occasionally. While our relationship had been beautiful when we were together, we let it crack under the weight of the distance. We just couldn't relate to each other the way we once had because of our very different experiences.
Years have passed since that relationship, but I've been thinking about it more lately because my best friend's husband is considering trucking as a career. Marie* and Joe* have been together for several years and have a young child. Joe doesn't feel that he's making enough money at his current job to support his family and knows that trucking can be a well-paying career.
Marie wants to support him, but she's worried about how the distance will affect her marriage and Joe's relationship with their daughter. I've analyzed my past relationship and read tons of advice on the subject. Long distance relationships can work if both people make an effort. The key is setting a schedule, maintaining contact and showing affection. Here are 5 tips that couples can use to keep their relationships strong despite the distance.
1. Set a schedule – If you just call "whenever," chances are you'll wait until the day stops. Your intentions may be that you want to have the most time available to talk to your partner. But by the end of the day, you're likely exhausted. Complaining about your day for 5 minutes before hanging up the phone to go to sleep is not a good way to keep your relationship strong.
Joe could use his fleet management system to help him keep a schedule with his family. The system would require Joe to stop every so often, and he could make it a point to call his family during one or two of those stops each day.
2. Talk, don't text – According to Buck at Trucker Therapy, arguments due to mis communications are one of the biggest challenges truckers face in long distance relationships. When texting, it's difficult to determine the other person's tone. It's easy to read the message as argumentative, especially if you're already in a bad mood. Send loving messages to each other throughout the day, but save any serious discussion for in-person or at least for a phone call.
3. Discuss loneliness and jealousy – Understand yourself. If you're the jealous type, the distance can make you feel insecure about your relationship. If you're used to being around each other every day, you'll also feel loneliness than can be difficult to cope with. To succeed at a long-distance relationship, you need to have a strong foundation. Make sure you're comfortable discussing your feelings. Setting a regular schedule to talk will help with your loneliness.
4. Have a home time plan – Make plans when you are together. Do something special – even if that's just making his (or her) favorite dinner. You don't want to spend all of your time together running errands, so make sure you're only doing things that are essential when you're with your partner. If it can wait until your partner is gone again, it should wait.
You'll also have to determine what amount of "home time" is appropriate. Is it better to see each other for long stretches infrequently or for a couple days every week?
5. Fall in love again – Did you fall in love by writing notes in the hallways of your high school? Write each other letters in addition to your phone calls. This will make you feel close to each other and can give you a new way to connect with your partner. Send each other flowers or small gifts. These little tokens can mean a lot to your partner. The extra thought will let your partner know that he or she is always on your mind.
Within my own past relationship, I can see where things went wrong. We set a calling schedule of sorts – at the end of the day – but one of us was usually falling asleep or cramming for a test. We didn't make time for the relationship in our new lives and it fell apart. But you live and you learn. Joe and Marie have a solid base for their marriage. I'm sure with a few small adjustments to their communication styles; they'll be able to go the distance.
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