When I accepted a teaching position in Qatar, I knew I would be pretty far from anything remotely familiar to me including my husband but I didn’t know I would be 6,770 miles away. I had never been in a long distance relationship and prayed that my relationship with my husband was strong enough that my marriage could survive. I know that distance can make or break a relationship. Well the first year of this long distance marriage is coming to a close and I am happy to say, our relationship is stronger because of it. I will also add, HE IS WORTH IT! Here is how our marriage survived a long year apart and perhaps these tips can help you too.
Make time for each other
Set a specific time of day, each day to spend together. There was an 8 hour time difference between Philadelphia and Qatar, 7 hours during daylight savings. When my day was coming to a close, his afternoon was just beginning. When his was coming to a close, mine was just beginning. So we always made an effort to speak before each of us went to bed. Thankfully he worked from home 2-3 days a week, so some days we spoke a lot more often. We would watch our favorite shows together. We both had an Amazon fire Stick, so we were able to watch episodes simultaneously. Back at home, we always had shows that were ours, that we only watched together. So we stuck to that.
Technology is your friend
We Skyped most times, video chatted on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Those long distance phone calls can really add up so make space on your phone, tablet and laptop for all apps that will allow you to talk free of charge. We kept our Family Plan with T-Mobile when I moved but added the Simple choice plan which gave us free unlimited text messages while living overseas. Also I purchased a Magic Jack before leaving the U.S. With this, I received an American phone number and had the ability to call American phone numbers without extra charges. This came in handy when Wifi didn’t work. While technology is your friend, wifi is not always friendly.
Find an airline and a credit card you really like and stick with it
The amount of points you will get for visiting each other will add up and maybe you could even score free flights or other perks. Right before I left for Qatar, I got an American Airlines credit card because they were offering 44,000 points after you spend $1,000 within 90 days. I figured I wouldn’t use AA much while in Qatar but those points could be used when I came home for a trip for just the two of us or to fly him to visit me. It didn’t take long to earn 55,000 and two free admission tickets to their Admirals club. We will be using those tickets and points this summer to fly first class to Vegas.
My favorite airline to date is Qatar Airways. The service is always top shelf. The longer the flight the better the service. Joining their privilege club has its benefits too. I set up my account to include my food preference of vegetarian and when I am flying they always have separate food for me ready to go. The flight attendants have always been nice, the entertainment on board is good, the food and drinks are free and you’re allowed 2 checked bags, a carryon and a personal item. Sure you will pay more for their flights but with good reason. Eventually if you use them enough, your club status will change and the perks will increase.
Schedule your visits
I missed my husband a lot, sometimes more than others, but scheduling his visits gave me something to look forward to. Planning our time together was fun. You can use countdown apps or a calendar to track the days until you are in each other’s arms again.
Create a ‘thing’
Each night before I went to bed, I sent Darryl a song. I added all of these songs into a playlist called “For Him”. It turned into my favorite playlist of all. It is a good mix of songs that started with the song I walked in on on our wedding day. I started sending him these songs as soon as we were on different continents. After his first visit, I stopped sending them. I thought it was just a small thing that didn’t hold much value. That was until one day he said, “I guess you aren’t sending me any more songs” and I could hear the melancholy in his voice. It was at that moment, I realized how much me sending these songs meant to him and that it was “Our Thing”. Needless to say, I started sending them again. So create a thing for your mate and stick to it. One of my coworkers who is also in a long distance marriage says she and her husband often planned to eat dinner together while on the phone, or cooked together. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it is special between the two of you.
Here are a few songs from “For Him”:
Turning Page by Sleeping at Last from the Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Soundtrack
Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran
A Song for You by Donny Hathaway
I Miss You by Beyoncé
I Miss You by Adele
Your time is precious, don’t sweat the small stuff
The first time Darryl came to visit, we had been apart for three months. I guess within those three months I had grown kind of selfish. He bought me some snacks from the U.S. that I missed, but he was eating them. I got a little upset about this because he could eat these any time he wanted back home, but I could not. The ones he brought with him was all I had and he was eating them. I was so annoyed. I snapped at him. When he left, I missed him so much and I felt really bad about the way I treated him. Another incident happened during that same visit. I have a teddy bear that I sleep with that he purchased for me. When he came into my bedroom, he moved it and when I said something to him about it, he threw it on the floor. I got so upset with him. The next time he visited, I moved ‘Blackey’ the teddy bear from the bed to the chair. I didn’t get upset when he ate my American snacks. I realized that on the last visit, I wasted time being upset over petty things.
Every couple has arguments and disagreements but when you live so far apart, every moment together is precious. Don’t waste time on small stuff. Just remember how much you miss him when he’s gone and all the petty stuff won’t matter.
Do some regular things together when he visits
The first time Darryl visited we took a trip to the Maldives. It was so fun. But the next time he came we stayed at my home in Qatar. And that visit was even better. Why? Because we got to do regular, married couple, every day things, that we don’t get to do. None of our time was wasted on waiting on an airplane, or a whole day of traveling. We had some real quality time together. We watched our shows in the same room. We had pillow talk. We cooked together. We shopped. We spent hours upon hours in bed. We went out to eat. We visited friends. He drove! He went to work with me, met my students and read to them. We went to the movies. He went with me to get the car fixed, which was a big deal, because he got to feel like a husband again and I got to feel like a wife. Visits don’t have to be big and elaborate to be special.
Find ways to show him, you love him
My hubby found the holidays specifically depressing. I, on the other hand, was in a country that doesn’t really celebrate American holidays so it didn’t affect me in the same way because there weren’t decorations up everywhere or people celebrating. My most depressing times were right after he left. Anyway, it’s hard to send love through a phone, or celebrate holidays over 6,000 miles away. But we both managed to find ways to show each other how much we loved one another.
A few weeks after Darryl left initially, I found a letter that he hid in the arm of one of my jackets. It was a love letter that he wrote for me before he left. On our anniversary, my son bought me a letter that Darryl had written and given to him to give to me on this day. The thought that he put into that made me teary eyed. Darryl loves watches, so one day I ordered him one and sent it to the house. He was so surprised. These little momentos are everything.
Make the most of your alone time
I’ve never had a lot of friends or had to be surrounded by a large entourage so being alone was not new to me. I actually enjoyed time spent with me, myself and I, so the thought of being without friends, and family didn’t really trouble me. But it had been a long time since I had gone without companionship for more than 2 weeks. In fact, I have been in relationships for the last 17 years with no significant lapse in between. This indeed was different.
But I learned to enjoy my alone time. I watched shows that I liked and ate out when I wanted. I shopped without guilt or hiding bags. I went out for drinks with new friends, without feeling guilty about leaving him alone. I spent a significant amount of time sitting in silence, just being reflective and learning about me. I traveled and spent way too much money. I didn’t take up a hobby but I did get back into writing, this time by way of blogging. I encourage you to take up a hobby or get back into something that you once enjoyed but that fell by the wayside because, well life happens. Learn a new language. Learn to play an instrument. Go somewhere you always wanted to go but the two of you couldn’t afford together. Next year, I do plan on learning Arabic. I also intend to learn how to play the violin. I’ve always wanted to play the violin. I recently bought a membership to get back into yoga. It’s a great way to relieve stress since my other stress reliever is so far away. Make the most of your alone time and time spent making new friends. Which brings me to my next tip…
Trust and Respect each others space
My life did not end when I left and neither did his, so what’s the point of getting upset when he decides to go out with friends instead of being on the phone with me. Living apart is not easy; living over 6,000 miles apart is a challenge. Give each other space. Every free minute does not have to be spent on the phone talking to each other.
What is a relationship without trust? I had to trust that when he went out, it was not to cheat, flirt or meet people. It was for the same reasons I went out, to relieve stress and have fun. It is so important to think positive or you will drive yourself crazy. I remember this one time Darryl didn’t answer my nightly phone call. All kinds of negative thoughts filled my head. Did he have company? Did he have a chick over? Is he ignoring my calls? When he finally called me, he said he was so tired that he fell asleep waiting for my call. If a man is going to cheat, no amount of worrying is going to prevent it. You will drive yourself crazy, worrying about what he is doing. If you love your mate, trust them and respect their space.
Surround yourself with friends that have your relationship’s best interest at heart
I’ve met several females since I’ve moved overseas, some single, some married and their spouse is with them, some in a similar situation to mine, some newly divorced. Who you choose to spend your time with is important. In my experience, partying with single friends is never the best choice. They know that you are married but they still say, “so and so has friends.” That’s nice, but what does that have to do with me. Why even put yourself in that predicament? One of the persons that I chose to spend the majority of my time with, I mentioned her earlier in this post, is in the same situation as me. Her husband lives in Germany and she lives here. I feel very comfortable telling her when I miss my hubby and she doesn’t hesitate to tell me when she misses hers. We understand each other’s feelings. Me and another girl clicked from day 1. She and I started together. She is married and her husband is here with her. We became instant friends. Our husbands are cool too. I like hanging with her for several reasons but one of those reasons is that she loves her husband and keeps me on track. Both of these girls have no problem telling me when they think I am wrong about my hubby and I like that. They don’t try to steer me away or to meet other people. They tell me I have a good husband and I better act right.
Darryl keeps a small circle too. I am grateful for the few friends he has, who try to keep him busy and who check on him.
Living a part from your best friend and lover is not easy. You need a lot of patience. You need to have a goal in mind, that will make it all worth it in the end. You have to believe that it will work and work at it. It can be done!