Long Distance Marriage: Being the spouse “left Behind”
HELLO! Yes it is me again, your friendly neighbourhood fox! After the runaway success of my last post on this blog (hey when you’re good, you’re good!), I decided to share my unparalleled writing talent with the world once again. (Panda is shaking her head in despair at my pomposity. She is going to remove my contributor privileges from the blog after this, I just know it.)
As most of you probably know, Panda and I are braving the tempestuous seas of a long-distance marriage. This began 9 months ago when Panda boarded a Qatar Airways plane bound for Kuwait (not sure if she will be able to board the same airline back but that is a story for another post). She had reached a point where she needed to take the next step in her career to combat burgeoning professional depression, and to feed her insatiable longing for travel and adventure.
I, on the other hand, had landed one of the best jobs of my career thus far and had found my stride in my field of expertise.
Presumably for many couples, this would prove problematic. Luckily, this was not the case for us. Panda and I have always been supportive of each other’s careers and goals, and this step was testament to that.
It helps that we are both independent and have completely different interests. So different. Unbelievably different. In fact, its actually more surprising that we found each other. But as the saying goes, “opposites attract”.
If you have been following this blog for a while, you will have a good idea of Panda’s year so far, and you will know that it has been a remarkable experience which, like so many of you, I have had the privilege of witnessing through this blog. I could not be happier for her and I am immeasurably proud of everything she has achieved, and super jealous (in the best way possible) of some of the adventures she has had.
For some reason, people refuse to believe that I, as the ‘left behind’ HUSBAND, am genuinely happy for her and with us. Oh yes I definitely think things would different if she stayed and I left. Societal double standards- again, another post for another time. I often receive questions like:
How do you guys do it?
The same way you ask me this stupid question Martha.
Don’t you miss her?
Don’t you have something better to do Martin?
When are you going?
When are you going to leave me alone Matilda?
How can you let her go off without you?
How can you let your mouth betray your idiocy to the world Miranda?
Why doesn’t she come back?
I wish she would and send you away instead Mark.
When will you guys ever settle down?
Why do we have to settle down to anything Melissa?
When are you going to have children?
When its time to have children Mary. Do you know that spouses who live apart also have children? Anyway.
Why are you guys even married if you aren’t together?
Why did you buy your car if you aren’t going to be inside it 24/7? Why did you paint your kitchen if you aren’t going to accomplish every single task of your life in there? Micheal, why are you here and why are you bothering me?!
Laughs and sass aside though, long distance marriages are not for the weak. It is a double-edged sword that can make or break the best of couples. For a modern, progressive couple it can forge an unbreakable bond, built on trust, support and love, where absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.
For some, it can pose too difficult a task to be away from your spouse. Lack of personal interaction, intimacy and little daily impact on each other’s lives can often cause a couple to drift apart.
Thankfully, Panda and I fall under the former.
Don’t get me wrong, there are points where separation and distance feel like the worst things in the world. You will want to crash you car into a wall. You will want to shoot a few bullet rounds. You will want to scream into your pillow. This is the reality and there is no point in me lying to you! There are moments of frustration where you question your decisions and wonder if there would have been a better way to do this.
We don’t always get it right (although I haven’t smashed my car or shot anything yet!) but usually, we find a few simple strategies make it easier to move through these natural setbacks.
Surviving the separation
As any relationship has its ups and downs, a long-distance relationship is also susceptible to issues that may not…umm… be ideal. Unfortunately, you don’t have your spouse right there to resolve issues immediately or to simply kiss and make up. Fortunately, Panda and I have been able to find a solution that works for us. Here are a few suggestions that have made our long-distance relationship a success.
Oh and yes I consider it a success because I am happy and fulfilled despite what other people think/say. When you start paying attention to the opinions of others outside the marriage, is when the problems arise… trust me on this.
Panda may be having a tough day dealing with Kuwaiti bureaucracy, which I have no understanding of. Or she had some disagreement with an obnoxious American colleague about Trump. I cannot even begin to imagine a way for her to resolve her problem, but what I can do, is listen.
Often when she is having an issue, she merely wants someone to listen, and be there for her, not solve her problems (It took me a good 10 years to figure this out). I listen to her and offer her support, not solutions (which I don’t have anyway. Even if I think I do…. she assures me that I don’t!).
Understanding the situation and being aware of how my reaction impacts on her
We live in different parts of the world, in different time zones, we have different lives, different friends, different past times.
If Panda is out adventuring with new friends, or I’m reconnecting with an old one, honesty, openness and support are the order of the day. We wish each other well, give each other space, and check in if necessary. There is no room for jealousy and over possessiveness in our lives. We learnt very early on in our relationship to trust one another and be mindful of what we do, what we say, and how it affects each other. Self awareness is actually a good quality when dealing with everyone not just your partner!
As a man, I must admit that I have struggled with this one. Although it might slip my mind and a simple text message might fall to the bottom of my priority list in light of other more pressing tasks, having scheduled Skype dates, sending each other at least a few messages daily just to touch base, and trying to keep some active communication going is essential.
There are these magical couples who have hour long skypes while one is cooking or, they watch shows together while they are on FaceTime. Although that can’t work for us (seems a bit much), just keep in mind that communication in any relationship is important; in a long distance one however, it is often your only means of interaction for long periods of time and you need to make it work for both of you!
Visit each other/travel together
This may be a foreign concept for some, others may complain that it is too expensive, but- unless your spouse is in the military- where there’s a will, there’s a way. If you have a passport from a third world country like us, it can be the most irritating thing- trying to organise visas and get paperwork together (Luckily I can leave this burden to my efficient wife who fought for my Kuwaiti visit visa at the Ministry in Kuwait and can organise paperwork in her sleep).
Panda and I love to travel and seek out adventure in any way shape and form. This is probably the only thing we have in common! So no matter where we are in the world, we set short term travel goals that we can both meet whether it was a weekend away when we lived apart in South Korea or small roadtrips when we lived together in South Afica and just wanted to reconnect. Since she moved to Kuwait, I have been lucky to visit Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan and Tanzania with her AND all those places in less than a year! Basically, we always try to have several mini honeymoons throughout the year and if that means forgoing other pleasures to do so, we make the sacrifices. What better way to celebrate reuniting with the person I love most, by doing the thing we both love the most….
Enjoying life’s adventures… together.
Of course these are all normal tips for any couple, whether long distance or not; and I am no marriage expert. But I thought I would share what works for us and perhaps it will stop people from asking me insipid questions.
Lastly, it helps me to have an end date for the distance. For those of you wondering, I will finish my contract at my current job in December 2017 so come January 2018- Panda and I will be reunited! Oh but first, she is coming home to me (for a little while) in late June/July/August and I can’t wait for the Panda and Fox reunion.
Panda always passes on the well wishes and supportive messages she receives from you guys, her blogging community and believe me, some days (like when I get asked dumb questions), they make A WORLD of difference! Thank you for that and thank you for loving the things I write (Modesty? What would I do with that?).
To my amazing wife,
Maybe right now I can’t hold your hand…
But I love you with a love
That no one can understand
Distance truly means so little when someone means so much!
P.S. Don’t you like my boyish choice of gifs?!