Does Distance Make a Spouse’s Heart Grow Fonder?

For more than a decade, I’ve enjoyed meeting regularly with friends whose spouses, like mine, are pilots; we call it Pilot Supper Club. It began as a bimonthly supper and support group with our families, but sometimes we have couple events, or just the men or women go out. We relate to one another’s lives like no other friends can. One interesting quality about the group is the strength of its marriages, despite the fact that all the couples are in the stressful child rearing years.

Maybe that surprises you, because of all the required travel that is a part of every pilot’s life. Most of our friends with spouses outside the industry ask, “How can you stand your husband being gone so often?” But we always laugh and say that’s one of the reasons our marriages are so strong. I asked the wives about this issue at a luncheon last week. They responded that, in all seriousness, the regular opportunities for separation help their marriages immensely.

If you’re thinking they just don’t like to spend time with their spouses, it’s quite the contrary. The couples are great together and clearly in love, even after 10 or 15 years of marriage. It can be difficult to find ample time together; however, there are definite benefits. For one thing, after a trip, both partners are usually longing to see one another. Separation fuels desire to be together, rather fueling the more common frustration at daily annoyances. (Face it, it’s hard to long to see your spouse after only nine hours apart.) Time apart also keeps you from taking one another for granted. And, yes, several said there were times when they were glad their spouse needed to go to work so they could have some space. Whether the spouses are traveling or home, the families work hard to be supportive, affectionate and kind to each other. They follow their dreams as individuals and as couples.

Trustworthiness and fidelity are especially critical in a marriage when one or both spouses travel alone regularly. Couples who are weak in this area might find it more daunting and less beneficial. Another big challenge is the traveling partner remaining active in the children’s lives and activities. (Tools like texting, Skype and Facebook help families to stay connected when apart.) That being said, my friends and I believe a little space and independence can be good for both partners in trusting marriages.

One spouse doesn’t need a traveling job to have these benefits. I have a number of friends who take an annual or occasional girls’ trip or guys’ trip. They enjoy a relaxed vacation or weekend without family responsibilities, appreciate the time away, and are eager to invest their love and energy back in the family when they return. Often, they spend time doing things their spouse wouldn’t enjoy, for example, fishing trips for the guys and shopping or spa trips for the girls.

Last week, Salon Magazine published “The secret to our happy marriage: Traveling alone.” Writer Neal Pollack says, “It may sound odd, but solo adventures give my wife and me our freedom—and the gift of missing each other.” I recommend reading the entire article for some interesting insights on this topic. Pollack also advocates traveling with your spouse, not just alone. I agree; sharing memories together makes traveling most meaningful.

While I’m advocating for some inedependence, there is a risk of running two separate lives, with not enough intersections. Time together is even more important than time apart, in my view, but the time apart can make you appreciate your time together more. You don’t want to become so separate that you no longer depend on and support one another.  Sharing and participating in novel experiences will help you remain bonded and feeling “in love.”

Only you can know how much togetherness or independence is ideal for your marriage. I thought I’d share this viewpoint that “distance makes the heart grow fonder,” since a group of strong, happily married women concurred.

Where do you think the balance lies between togetherness and independence as far as traveling goes? Do you or your spouse travel alone? How does it impact your marriage?

Photo Credit: © Valery Shanin/PhotoXpress.com

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13 responses to “Does Distance Make a Spouse’s Heart Grow Fonder?

  1. “Does Distance Make a Spouse’s Heart Grow Fonder?” was excellent article. Even my first few years of marriage had gone to like this way. My husband and I remained separate because my husband lived in USA and I lived in India. We met every six months and lived together one month. This was continued almost five years. But because of these separations, our marriage life became so strong and we remained more active in each other through phone, text, face book, Skype etc.
    In this post I like so much this line “Time together is even more important than time apart, in my view, but the time apart can make you appreciate your time together more.” On my life experience, these is true.

    • Wow, I have a hard time going a week without my husband. Six months must be a real challenge. The interesting thing is you probably had far fewer annoyances with one another, but you were able to communicate about your day and life. Many couples would have a big challenge with the lack of physical touch and intimacy for that long. The military couples I interviewed said lack of loving touch (not just lack of sex) was extremely difficult. Thanks for sharing your life experience! I’m glad you made it through.

  2. Earlier this year I went travelling to the UK while my partner finished his contract in NZ, 5 months later he came over too. It was hard during those times but texting, skype and other things made it bearable. I think we have become stronger as a couple because of it, we both had some time to chase individual dreams. Now we are back together we occasionally spend weekends or weeks apart doing our own things, its always amazing to see each other afterwards.
    Having a chance to do the things the other person isn’t interested in gives us freedom and a chance to be our own person.

  3. I agree that pursuing your own dreams can be good for your relationship, and feeling fulfilled personally can help your relationship feel fulfilling–as long as communication and intimacy are maintained. That’s not an easy thing from a distance, so kudos for doing it well.

  4. My husband goes on 2-5 week business trips and I think they are too long. The reason is that with pilots, I’m assuming the time spent apart is relatively short, whereas with the gaps we have I feel that the distance actually makes adjusting difficult.

    I think the perfect balance would be around 1-2 weeks, as then we would be able to relax alone, and miss each other.

    We don’t have children yet, but one of my concerns with long breaks is that if we did have a child, my husband would miss out on a lot that’s going on (growth).

    • I agree with you, our breaks are usually only about a week. 2-5 weeks is a long time, especially when you are caring for children and need a break or wish your spouse could participate more.

  5. I like having time apart from my husband, but I have always loved alone time. I think one thing that defines whether separation is good or bad is the understanding that a couple has on where the boundaries lie. For example, is my husband having dinner alone with a female co-worker? Or would I/we prefer that only happens in a group? Do we have an understanding of being sure to check in on each other so we feel connected? Will we make it a priority to have alone time once we are both home together again?

  6. I am engaged and because of past hurts (and the unwillingness to let go of grudges) I have detached so much I’ve done everything but physically leave. He travels a lot for work and I actually find I am relieved when I don’t have to spend time with him. I don’t miss him when he’s gone and I find I don’t have anything to say to him anymore. Absence gives me relief. And that makes me sad.

  7. My husband just started to travel and I have found it very difficult. He is going to be gone a week at the time at the most but will be times when he does not have to travel at all. In trying to deal with this, I am finding out that I feel abandoned every time he has to leave and that turns into anger. I find this group very interesting and helpful

    • Are there some things you can plan to do with a friend or by yourself that will help you enjoy your time and keep your mind occupied? Even a bubble bath and good book or going to a movie are nice ways to pass the time. I also try to remember all the military spouse who are gone for months at a time or more, and it makes a week seem very doable. You don’t want him to think about your last angry conversation when he leaves, so try to make your goodbyes as pleasant as possible. Best wishes.

  8. Thanks Lori. I have a full life on my own, I am about to complete my doctoral thus writing my dissertation keeps me very busy, I practice bikram yoga and have a full group of friends to do different activities. My husband is also sweet and tries to accomodate every bodies needs, he has two children 13 and 12 who live with their mom. Plus he is very active in the house as he likes everything organized. I am dealing with my issues as I think are not so much related to his travelling as they are my hangups…

  9. Wow, you are very busy. I wish you well as you work through. It sounds as if he is being helpful and you don’t hold it against him. It could be that your stress level is very high due to your doctoral work and stress can easily leak into other aspects of our life. Congrats on your great educational accomplishment.

  10. Thanks. Yes, school can be a detriment. I resent his traveling because he is so happy about his job that makes me feel he does not even misses when he is gone. I am also happy for him but I don’t seem to find peace on this!

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