Sometimes distance makes the heart grow fonder; I can certainly relate to this. But sometimes, it makes the heart grow distant too. No matter how much you love each other, distance can be vicious in more ways than one.
In a military relationship, there are many ways that we learn to combat these feelings, and resist from dwelling on the separation itself. If you don’t adapt and learn to combat them, you may resort to just coping, instead of being truly involved in your relationship.
Around Thanksgiving when Kyle was in training, I felt like I had hit a wall. I had waited and waited and still, there was a whole month left before I would see him again. It felt like an eternity. We couldn’t see each other on Thanksgiving because he was in Alabama, and was gratefully welcomed into another families home to share a meal with them. I was so happy that he got to be with a family for the holiday, but it was mixed with my own guilt of wanting to see him so badly.
I was frustrated, angry, and sad all wrapped into one mess of self destruction. And in my effort to coped, I began just going through the motions. I said “Good morning” every morning and asked him how his day was throughout the afternoon, and so on. But there was no room for us in his schedule, and I felt myself mimicking that routine.
People would tell me, “You’ve been together for a million years, don’t you love the space?” The answer was no. I could’ve spent every day with Kyle, and been perfectly happy. He’s my best friend, and we truly love each other more than I thought possible. But at the time, I felt like I was losing grips on everything, even him.
Looking back now, I know why I felt those things. I also realize that it was completely normal. I could have handled it better, we both could have. But luckily, we learned from that distance, and the importance of how to keep the spark.
I know, the last thing you would think to be followed by “spark” is the word maintenance. But it’s real! These are the things that we do without thinking, to check up on the other person. It can be as simple as asking if they’re okay, or what you can do to help. This “maintenance” holds the foundation of the two individuals, and their life together.
When you stop participating in this process, you resort to the state of going through the motions that I discussed earlier. You stop engaging and truly listening to one another, and little by little, a carelessness develops. It’s infectious and very easy to get carried away with ourselves, rather than the other person. But it does more damage than we realize.
Sometimes this maintenance occurs within the individuals alone, and can be as simple as thinking to ourselves, “what can I do better?” or “what should I change in this relationship to help us“. After 5 years, I subconsciously perform this behavior every single day without realizing. Try to make it part of your discussion with your significant other, and you may learn things that could help you out of the rut.
Find new ways to be thoughtful
Thoughtfulness and honesty are my favorite qualities in another person. It holds more value than many people realize, but it reveals a lot about who a person truly is. When you’re facing separation, whether it be training or deployment or anything really, always leave room to be thoughtful. When you’re having a particularly tough day, and things are really catching up to you, it’s the small gestures that help us pull through.
When Kyle was at Fort Rucker, he received orders to come home about 3 weeks after our anniversary. I was bummed, and he knew it. So after what I pretended was just a regular day at school, I came home to a box from Kyle. He knew I had gotten really into fitness and nutrition over those past months, and he sent me a juicer! Yeah I know, it probably seems weird to you. But he got me something he knew I would absolutely love. It meant the world to me that he took the time to make sure it would arrive on our anniversary. And it was such a surprise!
Being thoughtful doesn’t have to be a big fancy gift, but keep in mind that it should go both ways. It can be as small as little notes hidden in a coat pocket, or remembering to say goodluck when you know they have a big test that day. Being thoughtful is remembering the things that are important to someone else, especially when they don’t expect it.
Never stop dating
This can be tough when your loved one is thousands of miles away, but that’s what Skype is for! Many people lose that special spark because they fall into a routine with each other. They forget to say and do the things they did in the beginning to win you over, and the spark fizzles out.
So take each other to the movies, dinner, or even just a walk. If that’s not possible, call each other before you go to sleep and talk about the days you had. Send emails or texts, whatever it takes to stay connected and to make sure the other knows you’re listening in some way. Have conversations about the difficult topics, and the ones that are on the lighter side. Don’t let the distance filter out your relationship.
When you’re separated, it’s hard to get into the routine of non face to face conversations. We get spoiled by the ability to talk to each other in person, and nothing prepares us for the struggles of missed phone calls and lost texts. But when technology wants to cooperate, make sure you’re doing your best to listen and participate in the conversation.
Even if you don’t understand their world, or the specifications of their duty, just be open to listening. But at the same time, don’t allow yourselves to be so consumed with whatever is going on at each end, that you forget about the bigger picture. In order to have a happy and healthy relationship each person needs to feel heard, whether what they’re saying is good or bad.
Write each other love notes
This is a tradition that Kyle and I have kept since our first days as a couple. Writing notes allows you to be incredibly open and romantic, without the pressure of having to saying it out loud. And you don’t need a special occasion to do it! Notes can either be in person or mailed, so it works for any situation.
Say thank you
This is one that I’m still learning every day. Don’t forget to say thank you to your significant other, even for things that are expected. Just like anyone, they need to feel appreciated. No one enjoys washing the dishes or doing the laundry, but when they choose to do those things so that you don’t have to, thank them!
When we get the chance, we stay in bed until 10am and just hang out. Sometimes we talk the whole time, and other times we are quietly content with just laying there. It may seem simple and the complete opposite of a spark, but that time together provides you with some balance that you might not have realized you needed.
When you’re in a military relationship, sometimes you can’t help but wonder how many opportunities you have to enjoy that calmness, and the person beside you. The world could change at any time, and he could be called to duty, and I’d really wish I took the time to enjoy that moment if not now. I take what I can get!
What are some ways that you and your loved one keep the spark?