When I was a newlywed, the one thing I wanted more than anything was to grow closer to my husband and revel in sharing every part of life with him. The Coast Guard had a different plan, however, and we spent seven months of our first year of marriage apart from each other.
Whether you are civilian or military, enduring separations for any reason can add strain to a relationship. But there are plenty of things you can do to proactively invest in your marriage no matter how many miles are between you and your spouse.
Here are some of my favorites, as suggested by three veteran military wives and writers: Navy wife Marshele Carter Waddell, Air Force wife Tonya Nash, and Navy wife April Lakata Cao. Though these were written to fellow military wives, husbands can find ways to apply the same principles as well.
- Ask your spouse to pray for you. Share with them specific challenges you are facing and allow them to be a part of the process through dedicated prayer. If you can and are both comfortable, pray together by phone weekly or monthly.
- Talk about the future. Make plans for when they come home. Are you looking forward to buying a home or taking a much needed vacation? Is it finally time to give in and buy the kids a dog? Use this time to talk about the many things that you’re looking forward to doing together once the deployment is over. Don’t leave out the details and share your excitement for what God has in store for you once you are together again!
- Ask questions. Now is the best time to ask your spouse questions that you may not think about on a daily basis. For example, “If you could have any super power what would it be and why?” or “What do you think was the best vacation we ever had?” You may be surprised by the answers and find lots of opportunities for further conversation!
- Read together. Couples, marriage or topical devotionals/studies can be a great tool during deployments. Maybe it’s once a week or every other week but coming together in the Word will build intimacy and grow you together spiritually.
- Challenge one another. These next six to twelve months can be a fantastic opportunity to support and encourage the other while you live separately. It can also push you to do things you have been hesitant to try before. Have you started going back to school or is your spouse taking classes online while deployed? Is now the time to take a step out in faith and lead that Bible study group or commit yourself to daily Scripture memory? Challenge each other to live victoriously during your separation. Encourage one another to work towards goals that may have held you back at another point in time.
- Send love letters. I know that in our digital age, everyone uses email, chat services, Twitter, and Facebook. But there is nothing like having a handwritten letter from the one you love. When your husband is deployed, getting mail makes their day. Try writing a series of letters, such as “My Top Ten Favorite Moments with You” or “Ten Reasons Why I Love You” and send the letters one at a time. Sending the letters in order doesn’t mean that your husband will receive them in order. Be sure to number the letters on the back of the envelope.
- Celebrate special occasions. My husband was deployed 8000 miles away on his birthday, but that didn’t stop me! With Skype, he was only a computer screen away. I decorated the area behind my computer with streamers, a happy birthday sign, and balloons. My son and I had party hats and blowers to complete the party look. My husband was so surprised and happy when he signed on and realized that he was having a virtual birthday party.
- Look Your Best. When you get the opportunity to Skype with your husband, be sure that you look good. Don’t come to the computer with rollers in your hair or the same sweats you had on during the last conversation. Do your hair, put on something nice, and give them some eye candy. I understand that sometimes it’s not possible, especially when you have kids running around, but at least put up the effort most of the time. Your husband will appreciate it! Trust me on this one.
- Send surprise care packages. Buy him something he’s been wanting but never officially requested. It’s okay to include art projects that the kids made, but make sure you include a personal gift. Take a current picture of yourself and include it with a nice romantic card.
- Stroke your husband’s ego. Assure them that they are still needed and desired. For example, “Honey I sure miss how you (fill-in the blank)” or “Remember when we (insert fond memory here).” Do this on a regular basis.
- Create your own Web site together. Post all your news and latest photos weekly for your sweetheart. Write a daily online journal to keep your loved one up to date.
- Keep a phone journal. Jot down things that you want to tell your spouse when he/she calls. Rule of thumb: always say “I love you” before anything else, just in case you lose connection.
- Commit to improving your health and physical fitness while your loved one is away. Work out. Buy some up-to-date clothes. Get an edgy hair style and brighten up with highlights. Be sure to tell your honey that you are doing these things for him/her and that you look forward to your reunion.
- Spruce up his home office, den and/or garage work bench while he is away. No mauve or lavender, please. Use his favorite masculine colors and motif. He’ll have a daily reminder of your affection upon his return.
- Reminisce. Scan photos of just the two of you. Write personal captions for each one and send them in your next letter or care package.
Being intentional about fostering your marriage during times of separation can bring couples closer together in ways that simply can’t be simulated when you are together all the time. Take advantage of this time to pour yourself into long-distance love and you’ll be surprised at how you can create intimacy that defies the miles.