I’m fairly certain that if you or your loved one is in the military, you have most likely experienced long distance at some time or another. Nothing about it is easy… Goodbyes are inevitably the worst, the time apart is full of cravings simply to see one another even if it is just for five minutes, and after months and months apart, Natalee and I have learned that even seeing our significant others for the “first” time might be a little difficult.
Long distance is nothing new to us. Stephen and I spent half of our dating life apart and our entire engagement in very different areas of the country. Natalee and Nikko even lived apart for months after their marriage due to work. That is just the nature of the military. It will never be easy but there is comfort in knowing that we are not going through it alone. While we fortunately haven’t had to experience deployments yet, we know they are on our horizon. Like any long distance situation they will be tough but I’ll speak for both of us when I say that we are thankful for the years of “training” under our belts to make it a bit easier. We know what it feels like to be so numb from the time apart that you start to forget what they act like and how they smell and how they chew their food. Is it okay to feel this way? It is normal to feel this way? As we’re just starting this journey with you all, we thought we’d share some of the biggest tips and wisdom we’ve learned over the years to love our spouses well (and feel loved), even thousands of miles apart.
Communication is Key
I’m sure this comes as no surprise but try to communicate as much as possible! That doesn’t mean you have to text every single thing you are doing… “Honey, I just walked down the hallway.” No. They most likely do not care. However, it is nice every now and then to text your S/O asking how their day is going just to show that you are thinking of them. Sometimes if I’m not having a good day I’ve found that not only does it help me to text Stephen about it but it also makes me feel so needed when he does the same to me. In terms of feeling more connected it also helps to not keep anything from each other. Communication is mainly what we have in order to feel loved so painting the picture of your day/week/month to your S/O in an email, text, call, video, whatever you can use will make you feel as close as possible despite the circumstances. Especially in the military information involving locations, missions, etc. cannot be shared. Do the best you can with the brushes, color palette, and canvas that is in front of you.
As you all know, FaceTime/Skype/Google Hangouts are so incredibly helpful for long distance relationships. I know unfortunately in some situations this is not possible but if it is, definitely utilize them! Instead of texting tons during the day Stephen and I would try to “see” each other even for five minutes every day if possible. The time difference can be a real pain in the you know what during these situations but you just have to make do. If you aren’t able to talk daily I would suggest literally scheduling out the time for a FaceTime date every week just to see each other and catch up. Both of you need to find a time that works and make it a priority by scheduling out that time in your agenda. By doing this you are saying to one another, I want to be with you and spend time with you, even if we’re not physically together.
The Five Languages of Love
Continuing on with communication, I read a book years ago that changed my entire perspective on long distance loving. Maybe you’ve read this book and never really put it into a long distance context or maybe you haven’t read it at all. Of course I suggest that you do but until then, this will help me explain why I think communication is key above all.
Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages”, has defined the love languages as:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
He believes that we all show and feel the most love using one of these languages. Through my experience, I definitely agree. But let’s say you aren’t physically together with your significant other. What language is there left to “speak”? Physical affection is obviously out the window… Maybe I’m alone on this one but I can’t say a virtual hug does much for me. Acts of service is nearly impossible to achieve unless you hire me a chef, maid, and dude to wash my car. While some significant others might have the dough and desire to do this, I can confidently say Stephen will not be doing that for me so that one is out. The three love languages that are left are words of affirmation, gift giving, and quality time.
Words of Affirmation
Before I get into this I think it’s important that you all know my love language(s) so that you have some sort of reference going into this. Side note — if you don’t know your love language, click here. I know some of you out there are those amazing super humans that are made for long distance — you are the gift givers and words of affirmation folk. Even better is if your S/O is the same way. It’s most likely not as difficult for you two to feel so loved and show so much love in a long distance relationship. Well, you know how I just gave that spiel on acts of service? That’s me. I never feel more loved compared to when Stephen (on his own will) goes out to my car and heats it up and scrapes off the ice before I have to leave for work. Sounds stupid but it’s the truth — that’s how I feel most loved. The next on my list is quality time (and at the top of Stephen’s) which luckily, I have some tips for.
The other three on the list, words of affirmation, physical affection, and gifts are all pretty even for me. I definitely feel loved when Stephen “speaks” these languages just not AS loved as when he’s out there freezing his little bum off in the snow and ice for the sake of me staying warm. Long distance throws a curve ball in the whole thing; since acts of service and physical affection are out the window, especially if these are the languages that you and your S/O speak. It’s important to remember, however, that both of you are going through long distance, not just you and if words of affirmation is the next best option to show each other that you love each other, you have to adjust your mindset until you are together again.
Words of affirmation can come easily for a lot of people but also can be very difficult for others. I’ll give you the short and sweet of it — use your words to express that you love and care for your significant other. Remind them how much you miss them and try to find new, exciting ways to express that through your words. Gentlemen, sometimes all we need is a sweet, “I’m so proud of you for working so hard. I love you!” in order to feel like Superwoman and keep pushing through the day. Ladies! Don’t forget to do the same! Communicating with your S/O using whatever methods you have and providing words of affirmation will be the greatest weapon you have to use during long distance loving.
Another way to show love for your S/O — gift giving. In our day in age, with the wonderful internet and Amazon prime at the tip of our fingers, this language can be spoken pretty easily after dropping some dolla dolla bills here and there. Deployment care packages are always a great option for the men and women overseas. Sometimes all they need is their favorite box of candy or bag of chips to feel so loved. It doesn’t have to be big! I know some people that are gift givers feel so loved just with a little handmade trinket. Some other good ideas — order him/her a pizza. That is the best idea yet.
Make time for each other. Quality time whether or not it’s at the top of your love language list or not is so important. I can’t stress this enough! Let’s face it, we are all so busy nowadays. Nothing says “I love you” like taking the time out of your day to spend with you S/O when you could be running errands, hanging out with friends, studying, working, etc.
Netflix and Chill “Together”
NO I’m not talking about the definition that some people have for this phrase… I’m literally saying sit your behind on the couch and watch some Netflix. Maybe it’s a bit chilly… Get a blanket. Anyway, pick a show/series with your S/O and watch it “together”. Maybe you say, “Okay, this week we’re watching episodes 1-4” or “Since it’s Saturday we’ll binge the entire season” you do you! You can also FaceTime (we highly suggest making sure you’re on wifi so that you don’t drain your data plan) while watching the show so that it’s almost like you’re together while watching it. After you finish it, it gives both of you something to talk about with each other. The together part as you know is not physically together, but after watching the show/series and talking about it, a little tiny tiny piece of you will feel like you were. The same goes for sports! Do you both have a favorite sports team that you love to watch or in my case rivals that you love to see beat up on each other? Watch it “together”!
Our Netflix and Chill “Together” show: The Blacklist
Read A Book Together
This is pretty similar to the last point except for this time you put those bifocals on and you read! Of course you can pick literally anything you want. If you want to read something that will help your relationship in multiple ways, I always suggest reading, “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller. It’s really great if you are soon-to-be engaged, soon-to-be married, dating, etc. Another good one of course is, “The Five Love Languages” military edition. If you are looking for more suggestions feel free to reach out! We have plenty of them. This not only gives you something else to talk about with your S/O but reading relationship books like these can really help you both grow together and learn more about each other.
Here’s a quick little hint if you haven’t noticed yet — all of the tips mentioned above tie back into communication. Do you know what the best part about giving a gift is? Hearing from your loved one that they love it and are so thankful for it. That’s the part that makes you feel like you’re loving well despite the miles apart. The same thing goes for quality time. You’ll notice that during long distance quality time love isn’t felt in front of the screen or with a book in your hand, it’s felt when talking about it.
Visit Each Other
The most obvious and most difficult tip- visit each other. We all know that this isn’t easy by any means, can be very expensive, requires time off of work or school, and unfortunately isn’t even possible for many people due to many reasons including military rules. If neither of you can go all the way there, make a trip out of it and meet in the middle. It most likely will mean pinching your pennies, working overtime or saving up all of your vacation days just to see each other for a long weekend. We’ve learned that planning for these trips and talking about them during the week not only builds up the excitement but makes the time go by faster. Along with the rest of this posts theme- it is not easy, but it is by far the most rewarding.
For when things get really tough: There were times when Stephen and I got really bummed out after being apart for months and months so we started going through our “history” timeline together. We’d literally start at day one and work our way through all five years that we had been together. Highlighting all of the adventures we went on, funny things that happened, people we met, decisions we made, etc. It brought up so many happy memories and gave us the best belly laughs. Disclaimer: You might miss them more while and after doing this but it will make you so happy and remind you WHY you’re pushing through long distance.
Referring back to feeling numb… For me, I’ve learned to embrace the feeling and to roll with it day by day. So yes, if you feel that way too, you’re not alone. Some days are more painful than others but you have to keep pushing through them and stay busy. That is SO important! Embrace your independence! Get your behind off the couch and go do what you love. Heck, if you don’t know what you love then try new things! Join a running club, start an Etsy shop, take a Mixology class, spend time with your friends, whatever! I’ll tell you this right now — it won’t rid of the numbness but if you wake up in the morning with purpose and go to sleep at night exhausted because you’ve been kicking butt all day and you’ll do it again the next day, the days will go by very, very quickly and you won’t have much time to notice the feelings. Lastly, always, ALWAYS remember it won’t be like this forever.