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If you feel like a long-distance marriage sounds pretty daunting, you're certainly not alone. Distance in a partnership can be one of the most challenging things a couple can go through, but the reality is that many people will find themselves in long-distance relationships at some point or another. Life is unpredictable and a huge part of choosing the right person is knowing that unexpected challenges (like distance) will most certainly arise. If you and your partner arm yourselves with the right skill set, there's no doubt that you can make it work throughout the ups and downs of distance.
So, what does it take to make a long-distance marriage work? For one, just like any type of marriage, it takes steadfast commitment; that’s the baseline. If you love someone with your whole heart and want to make the relationship work no matter the miles, it can and will happen—you both have it in you. It just comes down to knowing how to communicate, practicing good problem-solving skills together, and a few other tricks.
Here, relationship expert Liam Barnett provides tips for how to stay happy and healthy in a long-distance marriage.
Meet the Expert
Liam Barnett is a dating expert, relationship coach, and the founder of DatingZest.
Tip number one, according to Barnett, is "frequent and open communication." We live in a day of modern technology—there really is no excuse for going a day without speaking to your partner. While every couple will find their own distinct cadence of communicating, try messaging at least a few times throughout the day to maintain a sense of presence and normalcy for each other. You want to feel connected and close, and messaging gives you that type of regular comfort. "Consider the tools of communication you’re using and their impact on the message of your words," adds Barnett. Sometimes it can be difficult to interpret the tone of a text message, for example, so keep in mind that you may need to choose your words more carefully when communicating feelings like enthusiasm or frustration.
Don't expect everything to come across exactly as you intended—long-distance communication leaves plenty of room for misinterpretation, so try to come to these moments with patience for your partner.
Put in the Face Time
Of course, long phone calls—ideally over FaceTime or Zoom—after work or in the evening are ideal and provide space for you both to debrief about the day, maybe play a game or laugh together, share more intimate thoughts, and connect before going to sleep. Since you’re going to be spending most of your time apart, it's wise to commit to seeing each other over video every single day. Allocating time devoted to your partner is extremely important—and not just a quick chat, but an hour or so. In the same way, we make time for a significant other who lives in the same place, we have to make time for a long-distance partner.
If you're feeling unhappy with the cadence of communication between you and your spouse, don't keep this to yourself. It's important to share with them that you're feeling off—let them know, gently, that you need something to change in order to feel comfortable and supported. The more frequently and openly you communicate about personal and shared challenges, the closer you'll feel.
Make Time for Emotional Intimacy
Barnett stresses that emotional intimacy is not to be ignored when you're in a long-distance marriage. It can certainly be easy to fall into a routine of texting a bit during the day, catching up on the phone at night, and then heading to bed. Trying to find ways to create an intimate emotional connection with your partner at least every few days is important, whether that means turning to deep conversation starters, revisiting your shared hopes and dreams, and or asking them to share how they're really feeling deep down—being a good listener here is key.
Prioritize Sexual Connection
Even though you might be miles apart, and it might not feel as natural as physical touch, "maintaining a healthy sexual dynamic" is of the utmost importance in a long-distance marriage, explains Barnett. Yes, it will take time for both partners to get into a groove—long-distance sexual connection takes practice!—but it's vital to create space and speak to your partner about what you both desire in this department. Maybe plan to have a sexy video call each week—light candles, play soft music, wear something sexy, play a game—and make your sexual connection the priority.
Remember That You're a Team
Everything in your long-distance marriage will feel slightly easier if you continue to remind yourself that you and your spouse are a team. According to Barnett, if you communicate as a team and you problem-solve as a team, you'll be well on your way to maintaining a healthy relationship, despite the distance. Sure, it won't be easy, conflicts will undoubtably arise, and you'll both have tough days, but bringing this philosophy to your relationship and conversations will ultimately only help strengthen your connection, no matter how many miles are between the two of you.